The Russian air campaign in Syria is netting some impressive gains – for Russia, Syria, and – although many of us are loath to admit it – the West: Russian air power, working closely with the Syrian Arab Army, has stymied the efforts of ISIS and other violent extremists to overthrow the secular, religiously tolerant, multi-confessional government of Syria. Gains have been made on the ground in and around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Latakia. And there is evidence the Russian campaign was instrumental in the victory of US ally Iraq in Ramadi. That’s good (but then I speak as a Christian who believes the moderate, secular government of Assad is better for Christians than the horrendous US-backed jihadis who would replace it).
Not least among the happy consequences of Russia’s intervention has been its impact on US politics: recent polls reveal that close to 60 percent of Republican voters support candidates (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee) who think Assad should stay. The latest Reuters’ rolling 5-day poll (January 4, 2016) gives Trump (41.7 percent), Cruz, (13.2 percent), Paul (2.6 percent), and Huckabee (2.4 percent) for a combined 59.3 percent.
This represents an increase over other recent Reuters polls. A CNN/ORC poll published December 23rd gave Trump and Cruz alone a combined 57 percent of the poll (39 percent and 18 percent, respectively). Both candidates forthrightly expressed their support for Assad in the most recent Republican presidential debate (December 15th).
Since that debate, Trump and Russian President Putin have mutually “endorsed” each other – with Trump continuing to surge regardless. The vast gulf between Republican voters and the party’s leadership – which goes back to the Taft/Eisenhower conflict – continues to obtain with no end in sight.
Neo-con senator Lindsay Graham, whose campaign for the presidency started out weak and gradually tapered off, was perhaps the most truculent supporter of jihadi-backed regime change in the Middle East. Happily, Republican voters weren’t buying.
Our neocons are still calling for an Islamic religious reformation (most recently on Fox News Channel on December 27th) along the lines of the Protestant one of yore – even as they support the serial overthrow of secular regimes in Moslem-majority countries often by jihadi forces with US and coalition support. Go figure. Jeb Bush has spoken of the need to protect Christians in the Middle East, then insists Assad must go. He seems blissfully unaware of the contradiction – which may explain why voters are avoiding his campaign in droves.
Steve Hayes of Fox News was visibly chop-fallen at the fall of Ramadi believing it would prove a boon to Iran and Bagdad’s largely Shiite military. I hope I’m not being unfair to Mr. Hayes, but I had the distinct impression he believes the success of Shiite-dominated Iraq (which, of course, our servicemen died to create) is more to be regretted than the triumph of ISIS.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, is getting it right: if the goal is to wipe out ISIS, al Qaeda, al-Nusra, and other jihadis, Americans should welcome Russia’s efforts to at least stabilize Syria and bring an end to the civil war.
The United States needs a new foreign policy that strives not for a unilateralist empire that rules by global diktat, but seeks a new pan-European entente based on shared Christian (and, if you must, Enlightenment values). This is the surest, most cost-effective and least violent way to short-circuit the rise of radical ideologies.
The key to a pan-hemispheric entente is the US-Russian relationship. Donald Trump has said he can talk to President Putin and arrive at understandings. Trump and Putin are both intensely pragmatic men keen on arriving at stable deals in the mutual interest of both parties.
The US establishment understands this, which is one of the reasons why it is so desperate to topple Trump. What we are about the witness will not be pretty, but it will be entertaining.
Salvia was Special Advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs under Ronald Reagan, director of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Moscow bureau, and now Partner at Global Strategic Communications Group, a firm devoted to governmental relations and public advocacy.
Reprinted with author’s permission.