The niceties -- gripped hands, bared teeth, and high-school style backstabbing -- that characterize the United Nations Security Council may be shaping into an honest-to-goodness battle as the United States has announced it will provide firearms to “moderate rebels” in Syria. In response, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is asking Russia to step up its support of the government.
The Syrian civil war, which was once a part of the Arab Spring, exemplifying the American ideals of democracy and self-determination, will become a proxy fighting ground for two world superpowers to flex their muscles while still smiling at each other across the boardroom, and while civilians die all around them. Both will claim the mandate of “stopping the bloodshed.” Both will, in all likelihood, prolong it; this is now not only a battle of ideals, but another standoff between old enemies who will be damned before they let the other one win.
Russia has supported Assad since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, and, in addition to holding up UN Security Council resolutions aimed at condemning the Assad regime, Vladimir Putin's government has been providing Assad’s forces with various and sundry massively deadly weapons, including some rumored anti-aircraft machinery.
After so many accusations of waffling and being too soft on Assad, President Barack Obama’s red line was crossed, and so we, true to our words, shall unleash the dogs of war. Unfortunately, compared to the Russians, who have stood their ground behind Assad since the beginning, the U.S. already looks like the too-reluctant would-be-savior who came purposely late to the war. And now, with American egos even more caught up in the mix than they were in Libya -- often drawn as the analog to Syria -- the unfortunate idea that we will have to see this through to the end looms large.
I am too young to remember the Cold War. In fact, the Berlin Wall fell almost exactly a year to the day after I was born. But the legacy of that era still looms large in the American conscious; one need look no further than Hollywood, with movies like 2013’s “A Good Day To Die Hard,” the latest in the Die Hard series; 2011’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”; and 2010’s “The Tourist” and “Salt” -- both starring Angelina Jolie -- to see American movies still framing guys named Vladimir as the evil world-dominators. Recently released video games, such as the Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty series, also cast Russians in various villainous roles.
Americans still grow up engrained with the idea that The Reds are The Bad Guys, and Americans like to be The Good Guys who defeat The Bad Guys.