Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chickenhawk Distractions

On a day when Wall Street will still be swooning over record highs, some Republicans will be attempting to gloat over a special election in South Carolina, and the long neglected issue of sexual assault in the U.S. military has finally received a small bit of attention, what you won't likely hear enough about today is the real issue Americans need to pay attention to in the Middle East - Syria.

We're well aware of what the right-wing extremists will be screaming about today, including those in Congress who will be holding yet another pointless hearing on Capitol Hill. For all the pearl-clutching and empty threats the right-wing nuts have thrown at President Obama, the facts behind the Benghazi, Libya incident of 2012 still don't rise to the level of a cover-up - and have less to do with Obama in 2013 than they do Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The truly important focus point in the Middle East right now - the one where both neo-con chickenhawks and liberal interventionists are squawking at President Obama that he should jump into another war - is already beginning to to be aimed towards a resolution in Moscow.

In case you missed it, Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Moscow Monday. By Tuesday, Kerry and Russia's current Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, had already announced a diplomatic conference in the coming weeks to push the warring factions in Syria into peace.

Few Americans seem to understand Russia's position in the Middle East is very similar to the U.S. position, politically. That hasn't changed much, even with the end of the Cold War, and the changes inside the Kremlin. While the U.S. held up dictators like Mubarak in Egypt for 30 years, the Russians have propped up the Assad family in Syria for just as long.

The difference now, however, is that the biggest political players in the region are no longer just Russia and the U.S.

Hezbollah has made significant political gains in the region over the last few years, thanks in large part to Iran. Militant Islamic groups like Al Qaeda have also gained power in the region over the past few years, as has Israel, the dominant power in the area at the moment.

All of this adds up to a political conflict that isn't simply a proxy war between two groups of old intelligence members - a group of old Russians and a group of old Americans, many of whom are still fighting the Cold War. Instead, helping settle the Syrian conflict has become a multi-team challenge, with plenty of extra wild cards in the deck.

There are plenty of reasons for President Obama to be both cautious and skeptical of involving the U.S in Syria, not the least of which is the still ongoing military mess in Afghanistan.

Some of the best reasons though, were outlined by the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who asked all the armchair chickenhawk generals the questions they've tried hardest to avoid.

Most importantly, Robinson asks, "Have we learned nothing at all," from the last decade-plus of war?

It seems that President Obama may have learned a least a few of those lessons, even if the chickenhawks urging him to go to war haven't learned a thing.