Links – November 15, 2015

After the appalling attacks in Paris on Friday, we wish for recovery and healing.

Equally appalling are some of the responses, which I won’t quote here. The desire for more war, which is the generator of ISIS and other pathologies, seems insane to me. The image at top of the post is by Jean Jullien. Can we take its widespread adoption as an indication that most people want peace? Read More

Russian And American Interests In Syria

Realist political thought is said to focus on national interests. But you wouldn’t know that from recent commentary, like Stephen Walt’s piece touting Vladimir Putin as a master strategist and Barack Obama as bumbler. Or Edward Luttwak’s paen to Putin’s strategic brilliance. Both Walt and Luttwak are regarded as being of the realist foreign policy school, but neither seems to consider national interests. Rather, they focus on – well, both articles are conceptual messes, so it’s hard to tell what they are focusing on. But it’s not national interests, unless you define national interest, as many are doing these days, in terms of the nebulous “reputation.” Read More

Links – September 27, 2015

Russia is moving troops and equipment into Syria, for what purpose nobody but the Russians know. And that probably includes the Syrians and Iranians, although they have been told some plans. Russia will act primarily in what it conceives to be its own interests, though.

What will Russia bomb? Vladimir Putin says that it will be ISIS, but it is more likely to be other regime opponents who are more immediately threatening. The United States has been aiding some of them.  Read More

Russia: Looking For A Grand Bargain In Syria?

Why is Vladimir Putin announcing increased Russian involvement in Syria? He still denies Russian involvement in Ukraine. Why is Syria different?

Let me first say that I think that trying to figure out what is in Putin’s head is of limited value.  “What is Putin thinking?” is, nonetheless, an intriguing parlor game.

The reasons Russia is becoming more and more publicly involved in Syria are many: continuing to prop up their only remaining dictator in the region, wanting to be in on any settlement that is reached, and so on. Of the possibilities that have been suggested, most are not mutually exclusive; a strategic move can include multiple objectives. Read More