Last month the first Russian intervention in the Middle East in nearly forty years was initiated, Russian air strikes rained over Syria and with them, potentially the first unforgivingly overt challenge to American unilateral power since the end of the Cold War. Until now the US has been the main determiner of Western foreign policy direction in the Middle East, a ‘liberal crusade’ started by the Bush administration it appears however, is now under assault from a Russia that is ready to display its own form of hellfire ‘righteousness’. To complicate further an already highly tense state of affairs Putin has decided to give his backing in more than word (aerial assaults and military tech and weapons) to the Assad dictatorship, the same one which America is currently supporting local rebel groups to overthrow.
Russia has chosen to intervene at a time when the Obama administration is becoming increasingly reluctant in maintaining a serious military role in the region. Although a commitment has been made to send in 450 more troops to train local troops in Iraq and supply weapons, he has refused to roll in American troops to fight on the front lines. This is seen as a weak strategy by allies both in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, already writhing from the Iran deal this summer and at home including democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton. However this new foreign policy direction should not be seen not as weak, rather instead one where decisions are based more on cooperation rather than on a defensive ideology in America’s relationship with the other countries in the international arena. If America wants to change the unfortunate and destructive reputation it has gained in the Middle East it should not be acting like its cold war enemy, bombing and engaging groups in the name of self-interest, but instead should be aiding those in the region to defeat their own enemies who are also the enemies of free-speech and human rights.
Obama should maintain his resolute stance on not sending in US troops to fight, he should not be drawn into a proxy war with Russia, these will further compound conflict; rather he should continue to and increase infinitely the effort to train local groups in the fight with both Assad’s regime, and the terrorist group IS who cannot be allowed to utilise a power vacuum once Assad is defeated. The mistakes of history should not be repeated, ones of liberal imperialism as in 2001, but also those of inertia which was seen after the Gulf War when America refused to back a Iraqi rebellion to dispose the then leader Saddam Hussein. Deciding which groups actually support the establishment of democratic systems compared with those who just wish to seize power to the benefit of themselves aligns with a horizontal form of programming, it is more difficult and takes more time, but is likely to rebuild a trust with the people of the Middle East that is sorely need.
By Ptolemy Brown