Tags: russia | syria | isis | cooperation

Is US-Russia Cooperation on Syria Really So Unthinkable?

Is US-Russia Cooperation on Syria Really So Unthinkable?

The relatives of nine-year-old Syrian Abdel Basset Al-Satuf inspect the damage in his family house in the town of Al-Hbeit, in northwest Idlib province, on February 17, 2017, after heavy air strikes the previous day. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:19 PM Current | Bio | Archive

A cornerstone of American foreign policy has been to free enslaved peoples from despots and murderous regimes. We are a kind and generous people who not only share our wealth with the less fortunate nations around the world but we also use our overwhelming military strength along with equal parts of political and economic influence to topple evil regimes.

So, what to do about Syria?

The Neo-Cons in my party would have the American people believe that Syria is ready for a Jeffersonian democracy (like Iraq, like Afghanistan, et al.) and all we have to do is topple the regime, defeat its army, kill the dictator, wipeout the other bad actors and then liberally sprinkle many, many billions of Keynesian U.S. dollars and, voila, a country like no other. Simple, no?

The Statists in the other party would have America believe that if we just kill off the regime slowly with as few fingerprints as possible, the Syrians themselves will finish the job and reduce the regime to rubble and, like a flower from a seed, a great nation will arise (like Libya, like Syria to date, et al.).

It will just take a few years of passive inattention to the horrors perpetrated by all sides and eventually the death of the dictator will follow as night follows day. Sadly, the Syrians will have to pay the price of this waiting and many tens of thousands will die over the years from the death throes of the regime, drones, privation, and starvation which will embitter and corrupt the population for decades to come leaving them so traumatized that a new, successful nation would be a miracle if developed. Even simpler, yes?

Both approaches are abject failures and a new thinking must be adopted.

Two great powers have manifested an interest in Syria — Russia and the United States. Both have an internal interest in Syria, both have committed forces to the problems of Syria and both have invested in the future of Syria. Why is cooperation between these two so unthinkable?

I recently posed this question to a panel of liberal academics discussing international law and the future of Syria. Their answer was that Russia was untrustworthy and that “if you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” Apart from a “liberal” dose of ad hominem anti-Trump remarks about tweets and unworthy advisors juxtaposed to the “professionals” at Foggy Bottom, they really offered no real reason why this could not be a focus of our Syrian policy.

Is Russia lawless at home as well as abroad as the panel reminded us? Yes it is. Is Russia actively acting in Syria on behalf of the regime? Yes, it is. Has Russia gained by its relationship with Assad? Yes, it has. These are strong facts.

Does Russia have a veto on the Security Council? Yes, it does. Is Russia committed to seeing the Syria matter to a conclusion? Yes, It is. Is there any chance that they will just "walk away?" No, they won’t. These are stronger facts.

We should deal with the Russians as peers on the world stage. For those that think that we cannot possibly lie down with Russia, let me say that we can and should — at least in Syria. We are far from pure and clean — maybe further than killing political opponents and invading neighbors like Ukraine — but not as far as we would like to believe.

NO! I hear you say? Look again. We gave arms to ISIS for goodness’ sake. We deliberately redefined who a terrorist is (all adults near the target) so that we could drone the Mideast with impunity without having to fear retribution from the high collateral casualties — tens of thousands of sorties and many, many "terrorist" casualties. Sure, our motives are better but our actions are pretty bad.

So, let’s climb down off our high horse and resign ourselves to the fact that we already have plenty of "fleas" on us and we need to get to the hard business of dealing with ISIS, Assad, and the future of the Syrian people. Russia will be a part of that future whether we like it or not.

I suggest that that Russia should handle the regime-end of the solution. Russia should move Assad and his cohorts out, leaving the government in place and populating it with agreed-upon actors. Across the country, we should handle ISIS (an existential threat to the United States).

Acting in concert, the United States and Russia could: 1) oversee a planned, brief, and directed reconstruction; 2) mandate and insure Syria’s internal and external security; 3) repatriate the Syrians from around the world to their home; and, 4) allow Syria the breathing time to become the nation that it can be — possibly with UN influence and assistance but certainly under the direct assurance of Russia and the United States.

Is this really so far-fetched?

Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Two great powers have manifested an interest in Syria — Russia and the United States. Both have an internal interest in Syria, both have committed forces to the problems of Syria and both have invested in the future of Syria. Why is cooperation between these two so unthinkable?
russia, syria, isis, cooperation
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:19 PM
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