The More We Pretend Things Change…

A quickie visit to Pravda this weekend notes the historical irony of the fact that our efforts to isolate Syria (in this case, with the help of our newfound friend, France, has led Syria to call on the one country that has remained its ally through thick and thin: Russia.
Lest the irony be lost on everyone, Syria was a Soviet distant satellite/ally back when it first occupied Lebanon in the late 1980’s to calm down the crazed civil war between local Moslems (mostly Shiites), Christians, and Palestinians (mostly Sunnis). Syrian occupation has been problematic, but I think it’s fair to say that Lebanon’s prior civil war (featuring an ill-fated American intervention that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Marines at the hands of Hizbollah guerrillas blowing up a barracks) was worse.
Honestly, I view the Lebanese situation as not so much a rapid response to the assassination of Rafik Hariri, but as another side benefit of last year’s most important event in the Middle East, and the most promising development there in decades: the death of Arafat. You see, Palestinians (still in Lebanon– and Syria– by the hundreds of thousands) now have a light at the end of their tunnel: an eventual overcrowded, poor, but viable Palestinian state.
To me, the fastest way to resolve tension in the Middle East is to (1) get Israel the f*** out of Gaza, ASAP, and then, as soon as Israel is out of Gaza, (2) get Israel the f*** out of the West Bank (or at least, as much of it as was once agreed at Taba), and with (1) and (2) safely in order, (3) force Syria into appropriate agreements regarding the use of the Sea of Galilee and nearby waters, so that (4) Israel will get the f*** out of the Golan Heights. Syria will probably be leaving Lebanon on its own, having mis-played with the assassination of Hariri, and the golem/monster of its (and Iran’s) creation, Hizbollah, may find its pita-bread best hummossed by remaining “neutral” as to Syria.
But the wild card for decades has been piled up Palestinian refugees, and there is now hope that they can, finally, be “normalized”. This is not an opportunity that we should waste because of American domestic political needs to keep our (already overtaxed) war machine primed with stupid attacks against players that don’t really concern us, like, say, Iraq or Syria. And, frankly, given that (as my earlier citations to Pravda have shown us), Russia has a different view of the neighborhood: it thinks helping Iran with its little nuclear project is a good thing (note our complete lack of creativity by proposing a buy-out of that project– which would cost but a few weeks’ worth of our Iraq-adventure). Query whether the post-Cold-War-world is really as radically different, at least in some respects, as we like to pretend it is…
(BTW– Russia’s view is that a few A-rabs, or Chechens, or Shiites, for that matter, while irritating and dangerous, do not present the kind of end-of-the-world existential threat the Cold War presented; the fact is, committed psycho-paths have always wanted to smuggle nuclear weapons in to the First (or Second) World… the only difference is now we can conveniently label the perpetrators (Al Qaeda, or Islamists. or just swarthy people in general), and we have mobilized the political benefit by highlighting the threat, and we may well have, for the first time ever, an American government legitimately too incompetent to combat the threat on its own.)
Russia’s different view is going to make things far more complicated than our idiot war drumbeat. Sure, the 101st Fighting Key-boarders and 50.1% of the American population will think another war is cool and s**t, but we will find that Bashir Assad is not nearly as isolated as we pretend. One hopes we will not have to find this out the hard way.