I’m a broken record on the topic of the war in Syria, and especially its Russian component. But this issue waxes and wanes from the public discussion. We seem prepared to hurl service members into a war we haven’t yet adequately analyzed. What would be the real gain by committing to this war? This doesn’t feel like the right time to plunge ourselves into a new one given how we’re already involved in another war. We’re in a transition period.

There will no doubt be an effort by influential members of the Syrian diaspora who are now Americans to advocate for a no-fly zone. Why shouldn’t they? Their people are being slaughtered, and who would not sympathize with that? However, just as not all veterans are foreign policy experts, all diaspora Syrians aren’t objective observers, nor do they necessarily have the U.S.’s best interests at heart. Europe is suffering due to our sanctions on Russia, limiting the resources Russia provides as exports. For our part, U.S. policy with Syria hasn’t made sense.

We need to make a decision: war or not. A no-fly zone isn’t going to work, and would just provoke a confrontation with regime-sided forces in Syria. No doubt foreign policy wonks masquerading as experts will claim a UN solution can effectively provide a ‘no-fly zone.’

However, this would require removing the ADAs of both Russia and Syria, which would require a diplomatic miracle or serious military action. Then, the ‘no-fly zone’ would have to be maintained. By the UN? Not likely. Then, there’s the wild card: MANPADs floating around the region that could further complicate the situation. In a UN no-fly zone, will there be adequate CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue)?

Is the humanitarian crisis enough to pull us into Syria militarily? As an American, are you willing to join the effort? Is the price of democracy not, for lack of a better term, to pay attention to these things?

The Russian factor

There was a nationwide emergency preparedness drill in Russia, according to some reports. The Russians believe the West might attack their land. Russia needs the warm-water port that Syria provides. It’s critical for them. This gives Assad serious leverage when dealing with Russia. We need a diplomatic and political solution. Anything else will lead us toward a bewildering, complicated conflict.

The situations in Ukraine and Syria are both seen as examples of Western aggression to Russian eyes. They think we’ve gone off the rails. To be clear, America isn’t a rogue nation. NATO and our partner nations matter. They lobby and push for what they want, too. I mean, we aren’t acting alone. Our actions represent a consensus of the West, more or less. That’s the beauty, and the downfall, of NATO. We’re tied to one another. For example, Lithuania views Russia as the greatest menace on the planet and would support any effort to undermine them. Lithuania is beyond happy we’ve increased our presence in the Baltic States. In fact, they wish we did more training, planning, and work to subvert Russia. But to the Russians, this maneuver could precipitate a world war.

Does anyone think the average Russian wants a world war? The last one was devastating. On a macro scale, this should make you want to s%^& your pants. The rhetoric and military maneuvers have escalated to a point not seen since before WWII. It’s remarkable.

It is fascinating how we’ve gone from where we were during the election in 2008, where Russia was widely dismissed by the current administration, to potential war. Are we naive enough, the West as a whole, to think we’re the only ‘good guys’ on the planet? Does that belief absolve us from doing things that others perceive as aggression and encroachment? We’ve demonized Putin, and the narrative is so set in stone there’s no turning back. He’s now a Bond villain/celebrity. It both gives him unnecessary ability to influence domestic politics and also deepens his image as a madman villain. He’s got to be a person, right?

Many maintain an extreme view of President Obama, too. People thought terrible things about President Bush, too (and the run-of-the-mill reptilian gets a terrible rap). These people all have positives and negatives, some more than others. But they’re human beings, nonetheless. (Except reptilians. They’re just reptilians.) There are larger forces at work than Putin alone. It’s not ‘us’ versus him.

This cold war is turning hot. If we move to bomb Assad, we all suffer. What’s next after that? Because Europe, whose economy many believe to be larger than the U.S. economy, is largely dependent on Russia’s natural gas. If we move forward against Assad, Europe’s flow of resources coming from Russia will be shut off. Europeans have a vested interest and desire to see the sanctions lifted. They need Russia, but this is not something felt by Americans. Instead, chickenhawks who won’t have to carry out their policies think they hold the ultimate leverage over Russia. How did we get here? These are the few moments in life when one questions whether or not reptilians really are in charge. For what reason would we push ourselves to such a state?

Now we’re trying to help rebels whittle down the Assad regime. But there is no clear goal because ISIL is in the battlespace. We have the military objective of defeating ISIL’s army and removing their occupied land. On the ground there are Iranian troops. In the air, Russian jets. Russia is attacking rebels and terrorists alike, because to the regime, they’re both insurgents. Their greatest threat, however, are the rebels and affiliated groups. Whether or not they’re moderate, they pose a threat to the Assad regime. Additionally, Russia’s security is threatened by Islamist terrorism, so they’re fighting al-Nusra, too. Their policy has known objectives; it’s our policy that doesn’t quite make sense. What’s the plan post-Assad? What’s our policy beyond that he needs to go?

Something to consider: Maybe the only thing Russians actually respect and respond to is the credible threat of action, which we lost post-red line debacle. Perhaps action will open the diplomatic channels we desire. But it is still a gamble.

The longer we meddle in Syria without being decisive, the more we weaken our national security and that of the entire region.