This is the long game, an endurance test. It is timeless, devoid of tempests on Twitter. Instead of a meltdown, the world observes a wearing down. Putin is the man, the American, the chump, who has turned out to be nothing more than a leadership lump.
Today it is the Middle East and Syria, which according to an opinion piece by Jonathan Spyer titled, “Putin is the new king of Syria, the arbiter of everyone’s interests including Israel’s” (the Wall Street Journal, October 16). This will not be allowed to stand for long, not with that omnipotent Jewish Lobby in Congress. There is, and will be, fear and trembling for what is the combined might of the collective agency and will of that group. Especially when the interests of Israel are endangered.
Now that Comrade Putin has gained the upper hand in a battle of attrition in Syria, that wider region is due for keener recalibrating. As Mr. Spyer pointed out, “Vladimir Putin is now the indispensable strategic partner in Syria. None of the remaining pieces on the broken chessboard can move without his hand.”
Recalibration is what promises to follow in due course, through increasing big power stretch, and the great game for hegemony in the Middle East. Think the Eastern kind, which has long been denied. Regrettably, the same fate hangs over the lands of this region. For the Latin Americas are similarly menaced. Just look at neighbouring Venezuela. All that is required is the welcome of a toehold. Senor Chavez followed by Senor Maduro did roll out the carpet. A red carpet for a red wave that could turn into a red tide. Guyana better watch out. Mr. Putin has company here, who would relish any such ascendancy in this neck of the woods.
The odds are favourable for Mr. Putin (and his ideological friends), who sense a wounded red, white, and blue eagle which flies on one wing and with many a screeching, snarling squawk. More about the non-threatening, they have found.
All sound and mainly minor muscle. Still, it is a formidable and fearsome enough presence that the greatest of cautions must be exercised. The biggest asset gained, the largest lesson learned, from the very actions of a disturbed and unsteady adversary is this: keep calm, plan for the long haul, stay the course, outlast, reap the rewards. Syria and, possibly, the never still, always volatile Middle East proves the wisdom of such slow, methodical strategizing and executing. Let the other man fume and flare into many a frenzy on Facebook. That’s a fool’s game in the rarefied world of superpower chess moves. There is no Bobby Fisher bringing fame and glory on this occasion.
Scant comfort is that for the peoples and otherwise inclined leaders of more than a few nations in the neighbourhood. They like democracy, as porous and demanding as it can be at times. As Sir Winston Churchill did remind: “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” That is the specter that is stark -the others.
For there is growing impatience in Washington with the dogged immovability and threatening longevity of the existing Venezuelan political hierarchy. Exit strategy, anyone? Though not a quagmire to outsiders, by any measurement, it is distracting and draining to those with limited attention spans. New Yorkers are well known for the opposite: the hurried and on the run action, the rush for rewarding results, the closure of one deal and quickly moving onto the next one. The problem is that global leadership is not about the art of the deal. Nor can it be reduced to the cheap commerce of easy bartering, through the battering that flows from verbal bullying.
As the WrestleMania that is White House leadership enthralls the lesser nativist lights, more and more ground is surrendered to strongmen (like Vladimir and Nicholas), who have mastered the fine art of stooping for conquering, silence is golden. Syria is in tatters, the Middle East is combustible, and the Western world seems more and more rudderless. Tweets are useless. Intimidating is senseless. And brawling yields nothingness. Yesterday, it was Syria. Soon it could be South America. Who is awake in Guyana?
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