From this morning’s NightWatch:

Russia-US-Syria: Russian relations with the US over Syria continue to worsen.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on 6 October, “Let me remind the so-called US strategists that the air cover for the Russian military bases in Hmeimim and Tartus is provided by S-400 and S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, whose range may come as a surprise to any unidentified flying objects.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West of protecting the al-Nusra Front. She said at a briefing, “So far we see in the actions of Western countries, first of all, not a concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria but a desire to protect Al-Nusra fighters and the forces and groups of fighters affiliated to them. To be even franker, not just to protect them but directly get them away from harm’s way.”

Comment: The statement by General Konashenkov apparently is a pre-emptive response to press reports that the US is considering approving air attacks against Syrian government forces. His response is a dare. The message is that the Russians will shoot first at long distance.

We are playing a very dangerous game here. There is no realistic path that ends in ousting Assad that does not pass through direct combat with Russia. Moreover, even the goal is a foolish one. What do we imagine would take his place?

I must also note the shameful hypocrisy of weeping for Syria’s people (and using it as a pretext for importing millions of them to the West) while having done everything possible to maintain a rough balance of power in this civil war, thereby prolonging it for years — during which time that miserable nation, and the innocent lives of millions of its people, have been blasted to rubble. Had we not stepped in to “help”, the thing would have been over in weeks or months, cities and antiquities now completely destroyed would still be standing, and the chaos of tribalism and jihad would not have had this vacuum to occupy. Whatever you may say about Bashar Assad, it should be obvious to even the most causal observer that life under his rule was better for most people — incomparably so — than life in Syria now. His regime may have been an affliction, but our efforts to cure it have killed the patient. Chaos is death.

A more enlightened worldview would see Russia — a great Christian nation, and one that has made priceless contributions to the treasure-store of Western civilization — as a natural ally in these perilous times. We have much in common, including ancient, existential enemies who gloat to see us fighting with with each other rather than uniting against them. Yet our stance toward Russia has been relentlessly bellicose, with our support of the Ukrainian revolution, and our actions in Syria, being only the most obvious examples.

One might imagine that, standing as we do upon the crumbling lip of a very dark abyss, and with such enlightened statesmen in charge, we would now move cautiously. One would be mistaken.

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  1. Eric says

    Exactly! I’m no fan of Assad, but all of the likely replacements seem far, far worse.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  2. (((the one eyed man))) says

    Maybe the fact that Russia is run by a dictatorial thug who has journalists and political opponents jailed and murdered has something to do with it. Or maybe it’s because he flaunts international law by sending troops to annex sovereign countries, shoots down airliners, engages in hacking and cyber crime, and is the only reason why Assad’s government – Russia’s only ally – didn’t crumble long ago. Or because he drove the Russian economy to the ground while enriching a small group of cronies? Just a wild guess.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    I must have missed something…what’s with the ((( ))) on one’s handle?

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    In other words: “Muh feelz!!!”

    Fantastic, clear-eyed strategic analysis there. Sure, let’s go to nuclear war with Russia over a desiccated scorpion’s nest in the Middle East. Why? Because Vladimir Putin meddles in the affairs of other nations, and flaunts [sic] the law. Because he rose to wealth and political power through cronyism and influence-peddling with amoral oligarchs in a corrupt system.

    Shocking stuff! Mighty glad we don’t have to worry about any of that over here.

    Thanks also for explaining to us that Russian support is why Assad is still around. We had no idea.

    Frankly, old chum, after our exchanges at the time of the Arab Spring — when I predicted that it would lead to chaos, instability, the ascent of Muslim fundamentalism, and even greater suffering in the region and elsewhere, while you chided me for my pessimism and suggested that the “arc of history”, and the hunger of all mankind for democracy, would likely set things right — I think I prefer my own counsel when considering these affairs.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says


    Those parentheses are a signal used by Internet trolls to indicate that the target is Jewish. Peter is Jewish, so in this context it’s an attempt at counter-trolling me, by association, for my right-wing crimethink.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  6. the one eyed man says

    Nobody is suggesting nuclear war with Russia. Do you purchase your straw men at Costco for the volume discount?

    And no, we do not do any of those things here.

    Journalists and political opponents are not jailed and murdered in America.

    We do not invade sovereign countries (at least since we invaded Iraq, with your enthusiastic support). However the Bush administration is sui generis, and the fiasco in Iraq was a grievous aberration of American foreign policy.

    We do not hack Russian organizations and give the stolen files to Assange and his ilk.

    We do not support Assad.

    We have not driven the US economy to the ground. We are in our fourth year of record GDP, with one of the few major economies in the developed world which is actually growing, along with the strongest job growth since the 1990’s.

    American political leadership does not exist to enrich a small group of plutocrats. Rather than enrich the American plutocracy, the current administration has raised their taxes, as have a number of state governments.

    The differences between America and Russia could not possibly be clearer.

    I’m not sure why Trump’s apologists idolize Putin. Perhaps it is their love of authoritarian figures with simplistic solutions. I’m sure that if Stalin were around today, he would be getting rave reviews. (Such a strong leader! I’m sure that Rudy Giuliani would faint with admiration.) After all, he did coin the phrase “American exceptionalism.”

    * * *

    Whitewall: the parentheses are used by the alt-right to identify Jews, much as gold stars were used in an earlier day. Malcolm’s elision of the alt-right with “Internet trolls” is curious. Perhaps that is because when you get down to it, the alt-right is, in essence, a bunch of Internet trolls.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  7. JK says

    “Frankly, old chum, after our exchanges at the time of the Arab Spring …”

    Putin’s Visit and Israeli-Russian Relations is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  8. JK says

    And no, we do not do any of those things here.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says


    Nobody is suggesting nuclear war with Russia.

    On the contrary: the whole point of this post was that many are calling for an escalatory course in Syria that could easily involve direct military combat between U.S. and Russian forces. Go buy a newspaper, for crying out loud.

    Journalists and political opponents are not jailed and murdered in America.

    I didn’t say they were. (Though I am less confident all the time that political opponents are never murdered.) But why bother responding to what I actually wrote? So much easier to respond to a — what was that word you used? — scarecrow or something.

    What I mentioned was: meddling in the affairs of other nations, flaunting [sic] the law, and rising to wealth and political power through cronyism and influence-peddling with amoral oligarchs in a corrupt system. If you actually think that these things are unexampled by those in power here (or those seeking the highest power), I suppose that explains a thing or two.

    Thanks for pointing out again that we do not support Assad, just in case we weren’t clear about that.

    You seem to be saying that I am a “Trump apologist” who “idolizes Putin”. I am neither of those things. It is also false to imagine that the alt-right, and the parenthesis-wielding trolls on its juvenile fringe, are congruent circles. Are all Democrats members of the KKK?

    You can have an idealistic foreign policy or a realistic one. (In rare cases, you can have both, but for that certain conditions must be met that are not met now.) I was idealistic about Iraq. I learned a lesson. Perhaps you need to learn one now.

    The geostrategic policy of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and James Taylor — and our all-new military, whose primary mission is now to provide self-actualization to females and the sexually maladjusted while observing rules of engagement that ensure we will never win another war — have failed, it seems, to strike fear into the hearts of our far more pragmatic foes. We should adjust our expectations.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink
  10. I view this in a geopolitical sense. Russia is Eurasia, meaning part-Europe and part-Asia. Western Europe stands on its own.

    Nonethelesss, the Obama administration has pursued a corrupt foreign policy of destabilizing middle eastern regimes without a plan for what comes after. Democracy? Fat chance. This is dilettante foreign policy.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  11. JK says

    “This is dilettante foreign policy.”

    Yep. In spades. Lets just hope the damned fool can just this once, Get Over It! (it really isn’t “all about you” Well maybe just a little bit this once).

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  12. JK says

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    From the XX Committee post that JK linked to:

    To the hard men in Moscow, who got their schooling in the KGB, our diffident, wordy Ivy League lawyer president is a weakling—almost a caricature of everything they despise about the postmodern West.

    They aren’t the only ones. And as for the “postmodern West” — well, there’s just so much there for a man to despise.

    It’s worth pointing out, also, that John Schindler, who wrote this essay, is no fan of Donald Trump.

    Posted October 7, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink
  14. Whitewall says

    Our “wordy” patrician Sec State Kerry is also in that league. He is perplexed that Putin or any other dictator fails to see the Obama world view. He must think Putin and others attended lesser universities.

    Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink
  15. Whitewall says

    “A more enlightened worldview would see Russia — a great Christian nation, and one that has made priceless contributions to the treasure-store of Western civilization”.

    I like that statement. For years I have admired the artists of old Russia–from writers, to architects and their churches, and to musicians. Sometimes I listen to the male Orthodox choirs singing “old songs” from that religion. The Slavic people must have most of the “basso profundo” market cornered. How can we or anyone bring forth the Russia that is beneath the Putin layer of mis rule. But I guess it needs to be asked, how can we Americans revive ourselves and emerge from under nearly eight years of mis rule we have endured?

    Maybe instead of “make America great again”, it should be “make America ‘America’ again”.

    Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  16. Well said, Robert. The Russian people are a great and ancient nation — warts and all. Yes, they have included Ivan the Terrible, Joe Stalin, and Lavrentiy Beria (among numerous other monsters). But they have also been blessed by millions of hard-working, ingenious, big-hearted, and well-meaning individuals.

    And one must never forget that millions of Russians died in their great victory, over the greatest evil the world has ever endured, on the Eastern Front of World War Two.

    Posted October 8, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says

    Forget Putin. The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the 236 pound orangutan, whose daily offenses against fact, logic, and basic decency have made even Melania speechless. (Not surprising, as Michelle has never been this angry at Barack.) Conservatives are dropping Trump like a flaming porcupine – some out of principle, most out of expediency – to put as much distance as they can between them and the stench of Trump.

    Unless Julian Assange produces a video showing Hillary Clinton performing third trimester abortions at an ISIS training camp, it’s game over. The only question marks are the margin of victory and how deeply it will damage other Republicans.

    The big shift began at the debate, when tens of millions of people saw the candidates without a media filter. Trump revealed himself as an ignorant, bellicose, thin skinned buffoon, while Clinton came across as sane, rational, and – dare I say it? – likable. And oh, that laugh! But I digress.

    Since then, we’ve seen a stream of outrages – a $915 million loss showing his failure as a businessman, his 3 a.m. Twitter insults, his insistence on the guilt of the Central Park Five (exonerated after he took out an ad demanding that the innocent men be executed), and too many others to recount – culminating in this latest one. I guess you can slur Mexicans, Muslims, Ted Cruz’s wife and father, disabled reporters, and pretty much everyone else except white women, and get away with it.

    Trump is left with his core supporters: high school diploma or less, low info, angry male voters. Fittingly, the same group which was bamboozled by George W Bush and Chris Christie also fell for con man Trump. Sad!

    After eight years of demonizing the character of Barack Obama – who has served as an admirable role model as father and husband – conservatives picked a pig to succeed him. We just didn’t know how porcine he was. It is also fitting that President Obama is leaving behind a grateful nation in a far, far better place than he found it, as noted by an approval rating approaching 60% and over double that of his predecessor at the same time in his presidency.

    Schadenfreude: it’s a beautiful thing.

    Personally, I’m having a ball watching the Trump train tumble, to totter towards Trump Tic Tacs. Here at Casa One Eyed Man, we’re going to harvest some grapes from the vines in the back, grill some steaks, and watch the debate. I can’t wait to see if Trump walks on the stage, looks at Hillary, and grabs her by the pussy.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  18. Whitewall says

    “I can’t wait to see if Trump walks on the stage, looks at Hillary, and grabs her by the…” I’d love it truthfully! Probably the first time a male got that close in decades.

    Schadenfreude: can be a two way street.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  19. JK says

    “I can’t wait to see if Trump walks on the stage, looks at Hillary, and grabs her by the pussy.”

    Hillary has a pussy?!!!

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  20. Malcolm says

    In other words:

    “Look! A squirrel! Oh, and by the way, did I ever mention how totally dreamy Barack Obama is?”

    And with that searching and closely reasoned historical and geopolitical analysis of rapidly changing Great Power relations in the 21st Century, we bring today’s show to a close. Thanks for watching, ladies and gentlemen.

    Cue close-up of school-locker door, with smiling photo of 44th president taped to inside, swinging shut.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  21. Yes, it is true. The electorate is the modern version of Rome’s Colosseum crowds watching gladiators getting mauled by lions and other beasts.

    Ask yourselves this, however, “What is the one issue Leftists are loath to discuss during this Presidential campaign?” The answer will be what the Left doesn’t want Hillary supporters to think about, lest they realize they are supporting the wrong candidate for irrelevant and otherwise trivial reasons.

    The only important issue in the upcoming election is — who will get to pick the next 2 or 3 Justices to the Supreme Court.

    It is certainly not about who likes to grab pussy, nor who actually has a vagina or a brain for that matter. Or even a shred of human decency. Certainly not our resident troll.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  22. the one eyed man says

    No, it’s not a squirrel. It’s the sound of a nation which is disgusted by this repulsive man.

    Nice to see that the deckchair-grabbers on the Titanic who still support this vile man not only condone sexual assault, but advocate it. Good for you, amen chorus! So much for the pious declarations of respect for women which appeared on earlier threads.

    Perhaps you should ask your wife and daughter (happy belated birthday, NSP!) their opinions on the subject. You may find it enlightening.

    Within the right wing bubble, any action, no matter what it is, can be excused in the name of tribalism. Principle, dignity, and basic human decency can be cast aside at the drop of a “Make America Grope Again” hat when a man who lacks all three is on the Republican ticket.

    But hey, what do I care? There are enough people in the reality-based community who recognize a race hustler and a con man when they see one, and who will send this failure of a man to a crushing and embarrassing defeat.

    Hope you enjoy the sound of “Madame President.”

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  23. Whitewall says

    “Madame President.” To the chants of “lock her up!” First Gentleman and known rapist Bill Clinton will step forward to defend his pious wife.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  24. Loki says

    Yes, Trump is bad. Hillary is much, much worse.

    You’ve got video of Trump talking about “grabbing pussy”? We’ve got video of Hillary laughing about destroying a 12-year-old girl’s life so that she could get the girl’s rapist off scot-free. Laughing. She knew the man was guilty.

    We’ve got her philandering rapist of a husband, and all the lives they destroyed to protect him.

    We’ve got the director of the FBI explaining how Hillary intentionally put classified information at risk, and tried to cover it up.

    We’ve got evidence of pay-for-play at the highest levels of power. We’ve got scandal after scandal after scandal, and bodies piling up in heaps.

    Yep, pussy-grabbing is a disgusting thing for a Presidential candidate to be talking about. He’ll get my vote anyway.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says


    There’s not really much point in arguing about this. There is even less point in coming here cheerleading for Hillary and Obama.

    There is not a single person (that I’m aware of, anyway) voting for Donald Trump who doesn’t already know that he is a deeply unattractive candidate. As I wrote the last time you popped in here to splatter the walls with your team spirit:

    I’m not here to defend Donald Trump against the many valid criticisms that can be raised against him. He is in many ways a grotesque and unsophisticated man. He’s a vain and preening popinjay, an unlettered boor of low tastes, and far too prone to bullying and childish insults.

    You can now add juvenile sexual bluster to that list of shortcomings.

    So: he’s a preening, boastful, vainglorious dickhead. Check.

    Sadly, however, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. That’s it; it’s that simple. It’s a horrible choice to have to make, but to me, and to million of other Americans, the decision is painfully clear. No tasteless remarks the press may dig up between now and November will change it; the ickiness of Donald Trump is already fully “baked in”.

    I, and millions of others, believe that for all of Donald Trump’s obvious faults, the focused and ruthless malevolence of the Clintons is worse by orders of magnitude, and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a catastrophe from which the traditional American nation, already gravely wounded, would never recover. You don’t agree with this, and the chance of persuading you otherwise is nil. So this is an intractable difference of opinion, and an utterly unproductive conversation.

    So, we get it, OK? You will vote for Hillary. You think Obama was a great president, and everything’s hunky-dory in America and the world. (And wherever things are NOT hunky-dory in America or the world, it’s because of George Bush, Republicans, conservatives, and “low-info” types like me.)

    Right, then. We’ll keep all this in mind, so you don’t have to wear your fingers to the bone telling us again.

    Posted October 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  26. djf says

    I’m a bit mystified by the implication that the ineffectual whining by Obama and Kerry in response to Putin’s flouting of his previous commitments – as described in the Schindler article, which is no way pro-Putin – amounts to warmongering. I’m not sure what course we should have pursued in Syria, but the proposition that the US has not been sufficiently accommodating to Russia’s desire to keep its pet thug Assad in power is not well taken, IMO.

    I fail to see the relevance of Russia’s past cultural achievements to the evaluation of Putin’s present foreign policy, which I very much doubt is motivated either by humanitarian or civilizational concerns.

    It’s darkly amusing to see an Obama fan like OEM talk about the Russian threat four years after Obama snidely derided Romney for the same thing. It is also somewhat incongruous to hear those who call on the US to avoid virtually all foreign military engagements, for any reason (not just “democracy crusades,” which no one wants anymore) extolling Putin’s aggression.

    Finally, the (((parentheses))) business is not confined to trolls. Vox Populi, one of the prominent Alt Right bloggers, uses it.

    Posted October 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  27. “I fail to see the relevance of Russia’s past cultural achievements to the evaluation of Putin’s present foreign policy, …”


    I’m a bit mystified by your implication that my extolling the virtues and achievements of the Russian people was somehow linked to the evaluation of Putin’s or anyone else’s policy. It was simply a combination of facts and my personal admiration for the Russian people.

    Posted October 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink