Wednesday, October 14, 2015
A Radical Proposal For Russia (And Reflections On Mom)
So, yesterday morning, my mother finally passed away from Alzheimer's disease - something no human being should ever have to endure. And consequently I find myself mulling things over, taking some time off from work, and reassessing a lot of things. Who wouldn't? And perhaps that's the sort of thing that causes me to write a blog post, not about my own mother, but about (oddly enough) foreign policy. Not that my mother doesn't deserve a write-up; believe me, she's going to get a big one, and not on something so deliberately tainted as this blog of mine. Rather, everything that she went through brings into focus how much I just plain see things differently than everybody else, and probably a lot clearer.
I could complain about how unintentionally condescending people have been, telling me to do this or that to help care for her - as if somehow she were somehow still there after her brain had gone. Or I could do a rant about how people actually dared to speak to me of spiritual matters in regards to her soul being at peace, as if somehow I didn't know far more about the subject than they do. Hell, I could decide to go off about how absurd it is for our culture to object to euthanasia in the face of such travesties as Alzheimer's. Certainly, were I to be diagnosed with the disease, I would join the Hemlock Society the very next day. Is the world really filled with that many imbeciles?
Then again, I really think I shouldn't be so cavalier. It's not like I don't suffer from my own delusions regarding what my mom went through. After all, I understood on an intellectual level that my mother's brain was gone long before her body was, and yet I scolded numerous hospital doctors for talking about her when she was right there in the room with us - people of science; people like me. They knew far better than I did how dementia worked, and yet I presumed to argue with them on their own turf! How arrogant of me! I understood perfectly well that science said she wasn't really there. But damn it all, that was my mother's face looking at me! I wanted to scream, "Couldn't we at least try to be polite and talk about her outside in the hallway?"
I guess I'm an imbecile too, sometimes.
No, I have my non-intellectual, emotionally driven moments, just like everybody else. So I'm not justified in going off on other people acting human in front of me. I therefore shrug it off when people say that they're "praying for me," telling me that mom's "happier now," or saying any of the other unintentionally insulting shit that goes along with learning someone has had a death in the family. They're not being stupid. They're just being human. Ultimately, I'm only human, too.
Which brings me, jarringly, to Russia.
Why? Well, the subject of Russia intervening in Syria has been something I've been pondering for quite some time. But when your mother dies and you take time off from work, one of the consequences is that you find yourself watching the first Democratic party presidential debate on CNN, and you see that nobody on the stage, not even Hillary Clinton, has as effective a plan for dealing with Russia's incursion into Syria.
And I do.
When my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I moved back home, and the Obama economic recovery was being hampered by Republicans, and thus moving too slowly to have caught up with the accounting trade. Hence, I found myself living at home, in my parents' basement, turning 40, making very little money, and having very little prospects of pulling myself out of that hole anytime soon.
So I started writing. Honestly, what the hell else are you going to do in that situation?
And now, at my mother's death, I am again driven to catharsis, and find myself sharing the brilliant thoughts I had during the Dem-Debate. Hence, I'm sharing them. (Thanks again, mom.)
So why would Russia be so anxious to get involved in Syria? As is often the case, it comes down to money and resources. Syria is one of the few nations willing to trade with Russia in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine. While other nations are slapping sanctions on Putin, Syria is willing to provide much-needed oil - below market. Russia depends heavily upon oil exports because it is one of the few resources that gets around trade sanctions, and the Syrian oil fields would go a long way to sustaining the Russian economy. When trade sanctions are lifted on Iran, Russia will be able to compete for Iranian oil, but this additional resource will also flood the market, driving oil prices down. With lower oil prices, one of the only commodities left to Russia for export will become a lot less profitable.
So! Into Syria Putin goes! His goal? Well, he says there are only two options: The Assad regime, or ISIL. He sides with Assad, and is currently trying to rescue his rule from rebellious factions which seek to oust him.
But oddly, he isn't bombing ISIL targets just yet. Why? Well, he doesn't want an incident between Russian and American planes, to be sure. But also, ISIL sustains itself primarily from oil sold on the black market at a discount.
And Russia is undoubtedly a primary buyer!
So, what Putin really wants is the oil. He will eventually target ISIL. But he'll seize the oil wells before he targets the troops.
Our goals in the region are to oust the Saddam-Hussein-like Assad, and then encourage the region towards democracy while simultaneously eroding ISIL and driving it to extinction. Easier said than done. And the real problem is that Putin has a valid point. There really isn't a pro-democracy force with the military strength or political will to guide Syria to democracy.
Which is where my radical proposal comes in: How about we ask Putin to oust Assad and temporarily rule Syria while guiding it to democracy?
Yeah. I know. That's big. It's huge. It's a real gamble. And it just might fucking work!
But what can we offer in exchange? Why would Russia be willing to get even deeper into a military quagmire in a middle eastern country just for us?
My second proposal regarding that is even more radical: In exchange, we push for partitioning off a portion of Eastern Ukraine for autonomous rule. Possibly even a newly annexed Russian territory.
Am I seriously proposing the violation of the sovereignty of two nations in order to permanently end the conflicts in both? Yes! It's not fair to the people of Western Ukraine to lose another region in addition to what they've already lost in Crimea, and it's not fair to see Assad given a golden parachute to live out his days in the lap of luxury in Petrograd. But at a stroke, it achieves peace in two regions of the world while satisfying democratic freedom in both. I think that's worth it.
It might be a tough sell in the U.N., but I think the nations of the world would be willing to forgive another Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory if it meant building a new democracy in Syria. Trade sanctions on Russia could eventually be relieved, and the U.S. and Russia together could tag-team to defeat ISIL. (It would mean a new Republic of West Iraq, but that's a subject for another blog post.) Putin may be mad, but give him an opportunity to play the role of international hero, and he may very well jump at the chance.
Like a patient with Alzheimer's, we could let the whole thing fester until it dies horribly, or we could end the suffering quickly.
I argue for the latter - for reasons of regret as well as realization.