Friday, October 9, 2015

Is today July, 1914?

Fred Kaplan has a good column warning us that the situation in Syria, with combat aircraft of both the United States and Russia flying in the same airspace on behalf of warring clients, is ominously like Europe in July, 1914.
Like the Europe of 101 years ago, the Middle East today is a tinderbox, with plenty of kindling supplied by the combination of weak regimes, millenarian militias, and freelance rebels of various persuasion, each faction backed (or directly armed and aided) by larger powers, some engaged in proxy wars, others drawn in for converging motives while trying to resist the centripetal pull of deeper involvement (with diminishing success). It doesn’t require a wild imagination to envision the lighting of a match—some contemporary counterpart to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
I'm hopeful that Putin will fall short of achieving his maximalist goals in Syria -- as some of his cruise missiles already have -- and that Syria can be stabilized and ISIL contained. That should be the goal of the outside powers, even while they disagree on the role of Iran, the Kurds, Turkey, or the US and Russia. The risks are evident. Statesmanship is required.

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