The Lessons of the First Syrian Battle Are Far-reaching

Russia is slowly filling the space that the Americans are leaving behind. Obama and the superpower he leads must decide who they are and where they are headed.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The chemical weapons incident in Syria is very serious. For the first time in a generation, weapons of mass destruction were used against a civilian population and the United States stuttered in the face of the challenge. For the first time in a generation, Russia is the country that managed to save the situation and in so doing, once again became a kind of superpower. The Syrian crisis fundamentally changed the positioning of the Americans and the Russians in the Middle East. We still do not know what will happen in the next battles, but the lessons of the first Syrian battle are far-reaching.

America: Today it is absolutely clear that the United States has lost its imperial passion. In the real world, the United States is still the strongest country. Its economic and military might are greater than those of any other nation. But the United States is suffering from battle fatigue and psychological exhaustion. The unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having their impact on it now like World War I impacted pre-World War II France and Britain. As a result, the American superpower no longer has the will required to use its power decisively and the soberness to use it wisely. The United States is no longer prepared to pay the price of being the world’s emperor. And without an emperor there is no empire. The American century is dissipating before our very eyes.

Russia: After the Syrian crisis, it is absolutely clear that Russia is the mirror image of the United States. In the real world, its power is still quite limited. It economic-military might does not begin to compete with that of the United States. But Russia has what America has lost: imperial passion and imperial understanding. Russia is also unfettered by moral considerations and democratic obligations. It does not turn its back on allies. It does not abandon a single strategic outpost. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cynical despotism dialogues with the belligerent despotism of the Middle East with which Washington does not know how to converse. Little by little, Russia is filling the space that the Americans are leaving behind in Western Asia.

The Middle East: The Syrian crisis proved once again that the historic conflict between the Arab world and the Jewish state is not what it once was. In the face of the radical axis, stands an intimate strategic alliance between Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Emirates. The moderate Sunnis and the sober Israelis have looked on in horror at the way the United States has been acting over the past month. After Syria, the moderate Sunnis and the sober Israelis concluded that they are alone. Utterly alone. Absent a responsible American parent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egypt’s leader Gen. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Arab ruling houses are leaning on each other. The new Arab-Israeli alliance of orphans now becomes the most important force in the Middle East. It could bear some surprising fruit.

U.S. President Barack Obama: The 2008 Democratic candidate’s legendary campaign slogan was “Yes we can.” Following the crisis in Syria, both the powerful players and the Middle Eastern players concluded just the opposite: No he can’t. It makes no difference whatsoever whether Obama acted properly or not. The impression in the jungle is that there is no king because the lion has lost his will to rule. That impression could have serious consequences. As someone who believes in Obama’s wisdom and integrity, this writer prays that the U.S. president will be the one to finally learn the most important lesson from the Syrian crisis: America must come to its senses and its president must lead the nation back to a position of world leadership. A person who acts like Jimmy Carter will end up like Jimmy Carter. A person who acts like Franklin D. Roosevelt will be remembered like Roosevelt. Barack Obama and the superpower he leads must finally decide who they are and where they are headed.

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