Few will say it, but the facts are indisputable: America’s war in Afghanistan has failed. There comes a time when persisting in a lost cause amounts to foolishness, indeed irresponsibility. That time has arrived.
Washington’s minimal goals were to vanquish the Taliban, root out Al Qaeda and build a stable, effective government whose army and police would eventually fight the Taliban independently and successfully while maintaining law and order across the land. These objectives have not been meet.
Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair in Political Science, and the author of new book, The Conceit of Humanitiarian Intervention, recently spoke with Carnegie Corporation’s Eugene Scherbakov about recent Russian actions in Syria, the state of U.S.-Russia relations and the way forward in Ukraine.
What are Russia’s strategic intentions in Syria?
Putin intervened because he concluded—as did Iraq and Iran, which together with Hezbollah allies were already helping Syria’s army—that Assad’s state was on the verge of collapse. By the fall of 2015, the Islamist resistance—which is the strongest component of the opposition, not moderates and secularists—had made major inroads into Aleppo and Idlib province and had also begun to move into the coastal zone, the homeland of the ruling Alawite minority. Had Assad fallen, Syria, as Putin saw it, would have eventually been ruled by Islamists bent on creating a caliphate. This he was not prepared to let happen. The Syrian war has already attracted thousands of fighters from Russia’s war-torn North Caucasus, so the possibility of a caliphate in Syria had internal ramifications as well for Russia.
Addressing the crisis in Ukraine, Professor Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Chair of Political Science at the Colin Powell School, has published commentary on a number of blogs in the last couple days.
“Even as I write these words, President Obama, who probably hasn’t slept much lately, is being bombarded with advice on Ukraine: Do this. No, don’t; do that instead. Do that, but not yet.
Apart from the pressure the president is under, it must be galling to be criticized by, and receive counsel from, individuals who have far less information than he does about what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine and until recently (if then) couldn’t spot Balaklava or Simferopol on a map.
Here’s the thing: Many people are outraged, and justifiably, by Vladimir Putin’s risible claim that he was forced to act to defend Ukraine’s ethnic Russians (who exactly has been attacking them?). But there’s nothing Obama can do to get the Russian soldiers, now patrolling various parts of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, back in their barracks….” Continue reading “Rajan Menon: On Ukraine and Russia”