On Tuesday November 3rd, U.S. Defense Department spokesperson Laura Seal told The Daily Beast that twelve F-15C air-to-air combat planes are being sent to the Incirlik Turkey Air Base for deployment in Syria against Russia’s Su-30 air-to-air combat planes. Neither the F-15C nor the Su-30 can destroy ground-targets, only air-targets — enemy planes.
In other words: U.S. President Barack Obama is telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that unless Putin is willing to go to war against the United States, he must stop what he’s now doing in Syria. Obama is saying this in the only language whose meaning cannot be denied or misinterpreted: sending in counter-force to specifically what Russia has already sent into Syria.
If it were not the case that both the F-15C and the Su-30 are equipped only for air-to-air-combat, then the meaning of Obama’s move here wouldn’t be so clear and unambiguous. Ms. Seal made her point even clearer by volunteering to tell The Daily Beast’s reporter David Axe, “I didn’t say it wasn’t about Russia.” Axe then commented in his article, that this statement of hers “hinted at its [the deployment’s] true purpose.” But one would need to be a fool in order to deny it. The only real question here is why Obama has made this decision, which is quite likely to be fateful. So: that’s the subject: Why did he do this?
On 11 October 2015, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired a segment, “Steve Kroft questions President Obama on topics including Russia’s incursion in Syria”, and the U.S. President was challenged there by Mr. Kroft regarding whether he’s “weak” on the Syria matter:
Steve Kroft: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it’s also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States — America leads. We’re the indispensible nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
President Barack Obama: In what way? Let — let’s think about this — let — let —
Steve Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II —
President Barack Obama: So that’s —
Steve Kroft: — bombing the people — that we are supporting.
President Barack Obama: So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine —
Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership —
President Barack Obama: Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we’ve got a 60-country coalition that isn’t suddenly lining up around Russia’s strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.
Steve Kroft: My point is — was not that he was leading, my point is that he was challenging your leadership. And he has very much involved himself in the situation. Can you imagine anything happening in Syria of any significance at all without the Russians now being involved in it and having a part of it?
President Barack Obama: But that was true before. Keep in mind that for the last five years, the Russians have provided arms, provided financing, as have the Iranians, as has Hezbollah.
Steve Kroft: But they haven’t been bombing and they haven’t had troops on the ground —
President Barack Obama: And the fact that they had to do this is not an indication of strength, it’s an indication that their strategy did not work.
Steve Kroft: You don’t think —
President Barack Obama: You don’t think that Mr. Putin would’ve preferred having Mr. Assad be able to solve this problem without him having to send a bunch of pilots and money that they don’t have?
Steve Kroft: Did you know he was going to do all this when you met with him in New York?
President Barack Obama: Well, we had seen — we had pretty good intelligence. We watch —
Steve Kroft: So you knew he was planning to do it.
President Barack Obama: We knew that he was planning to provide the military assistance that Assad was needing because they were nervous about a potential imminent collapse of the regime.
Steve Kroft: You say he’s doing this out of weakness. There is a perception in the Middle East among our adversaries, certainly and even among some of our allies that the United States is in retreat, that we pulled our troops out of Iraq and ISIS has moved in and taken over much of that territory. The situation in Afghanistan is very precarious and the Taliban is on the march again. And ISIS controls a large part of Syria.
President Barack Obama: I think it’s fair to say, Steve, that if —
Steve Kroft: It’s — they — let me just finish the thought. They say your —
President Barack Obama: You’re —
Steve Kroft: — they say you’re projecting a weakness, not a strength–
President Barack Obama: — you’re saying “they,” but you’re not citing too many folks. But here —
Steve Kroft: No, I’ll cite — I’ll cite if you want me, too.
President Barack Obama: — here — yes. Here —
Steve Kroft: I’d say the Saudis. I’d say the Israelis. I’d say a lot of our friends in the Middle East. I’d say everybody in the Republican party. Well, you want me to keep going?
President Barack Obama: Yeah. The — the — if you are — if you’re citing the Republican party, I think it’s fair to say that there is nothing I’ve done right over the last seven and a half years.
Apparently, the U.S. President is taking this matter so much to heart, he’s now willing to start World War III over it, so as to prove that he’s not “weak.”
The Cold War was never this hot except at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. But in that particular instance, the U.S. faced a potential Soviet nuclear attack upon the United States, by Soviet missiles being placed near the U.S. in Cuba. This time around, it’s starting very differently: there is no danger that Russia is posing to the United States. Indeed, Putin had repeatedly requested the U.S.’s cooperation with the war against jihadists in Syria, but Obama has repeatedly refused.
Now, Obama is going farther than merely refusing to cooperate: he’s ordering Putin to stop. Obama is doing this by his action, demanding that Putin allow Sunni jihadists to take control in Syria, a nation that under Assad has a secular non-sectarian government, most of whose chief officials are Shiites (though the Prime Minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, is Sunni), and where the Constitution is entirely non-religious and keeps a wall of separation between church-and-state (the only one like that in the entire Middle East) — which all of the opposition-organizations that are warring against it oppose, because they’re all jihadist Sunni organizations.
Obama is, in effect, now telling Putin that the United States is willing to go to war against Russia in order to be able to eliminate Syria’s non-jihadist government — a government that was founded not only as anti-jihadist but as entirely non-religious. He’s saying this in the clearest language possible, but Putin could simply ignore it. What then will be the response when American and Russian fighter-pilots fire at each other in a Syrian sky, and one of them gets killed in the process, and his plane goes down, perhaps in flames? Will the loser (either Obama or Putin) of that battle, simply quit World War III immediately after it started, before it goes nuclear? Or, will he not? And, if not, then what will his response be? And when would that mutual test of “strength” end — and how would it end?
This could get interesting. It might even get catastrophic.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.