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Russian President Vladimir Putin may yet turn out the bad boy who knows more about good than so many goody two shoes arching up on their hind legs over the seemingly endless tragedy in Syria.

What Putin knows, I am sure, is from where has come from, the ingredients of his own frame, from poverty to KGB, from Soviet Russia to the post-Soviet FSB of his own making, from Russian heroic sports culture to the more measured testing of waters to, perhaps, restore Russian pride in empire.

Take the Tale of the Pocketed Superbowl Ring and a fast denial plus offer of complete restitution as signal of a different kind of explorer, albeit a shrewd autocrat on the make for a good deal, cash to swell out a country, a new energy industry with clout, and a little respect even from his critics.

This month’s imbroglio over anti-Gay legislation hasn’t helped Putin with either western or progressive audiences — I am certain of that — but it too may symbolize the difficulty of parting with yesterday’s story.

And Syria is all about the entire host of interests parting with yesterday’s story.

Putin first.

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Throughout the Cold War, third world actors could and did manipulate Eastern and Western patrons to further their own parochial objectives or regional ambitions, and Baathist Iraq was no different in this respect.

Hughes, Geraint.  “Who used whom?  Baathist Iraq and the Cold War, 1968-1990.” The Cold War, History in Focus.  Spring, 2006.

Currently, the Syrian Communist Party officially supports the Baathist regime, although it follows the Soviet line on certain key political issues.  The party, for example, recently urged Arab terrorists to be “more responsible” in their political activities, and its delegation to the recent  international Communist conference went along in supporting the Security Council resolution of 1967 for a political solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis.  The party’s 3,000 members make it the third largest Communist Party in the Arab world, and a Communist now holds a cabinet post as minister of communications and foreign trade.

CIA Directorate of Intelligence.  “Soviet Relations with the Baathists in Iraq and Syria.”  Special Report, Weekly Review, June 27, 1969.  Approved for Release: May 2002.


What a yesteryear.

Call it a reunion: “You haven’t changed a bit” one always says, but with these –Russia and Syria, Great Britain and Saudi Arabia, Israel and God (maybe) — time has changed them some or altered their surrounds, and the bulwarks in power and sustained relationships have been eroded, and no more so than in long neglected Syria where forty-four years of competition, cultural evolution, and diplomacy on its flanks have turned a family’s military dictatorship into a merely and deeply selfish anachronism.

While RT screams bloody murder over Islamists murdering Kurds (recently) and CNN continues hammering on Syrian jets crushing targets of uncertain military validity, few, it seems, wish to take this step away from the traps laid so many decades ago (or fourteen centuries ago for Shiite and Sunni fighters motivated by what they believe about their respective labels).

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I’ve no friends for whom the end of a marriage or other long-lived relationship has been not only traumatic but life changing.

Such events are not about the one thing.

Everything comes under review, and while most don’t beat themselves up with “should have done this” and “should have done that” — and they shouldn’t — they may change some principles in what I’ve come to call “social grammar”, i.e., inevitably frozen in language, the most deeply ingrained ideas and rules by which they have maintained their own program.

Even so civil a split — cloaked in mystery and, beneath the Al Jazeera clip on YouTube, accompanied by a relatively gentle public humor — would seem to support this view.

Something has changed and done so in some unalterable way.

One floats free of the past after a while, but perhaps it takes a while to do that.

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Syria’s civil war, already irreversible in its effects — more than 106,000 Syrians dead because of it; more than 1.7 million refugee in surrounding states; add some more millions for displaced and homeless; cities like Aleppo and Homs ravaged or razed — should close a chapter that in retrospect may be seen as having been about several forms of intellectual poison, an aspect of conflict I suspect Putin recognizes, being himself so public, so accustomed to the development of information and the projection of image.

This too comes from the 1969 CIA report released in 2002:

“Moscow has never had much political influence in Syria, a xenophobic country that has known little other than periodic power struggles over the past 20 years.  Moscow’s virtual inability to moderate Damascus’ hard-line posture has been, in fact, the only constant factor in the shifting Soviet-Syrian relationship” (page 7).

Fourty-four years of that same old same old.

Time for a change?

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No longer completely opposite the Russian course and sensibility, Cameron and Obama may have to tell Qatar that it may not always get what it wants.  That too would depart from yesterday, but as much Qatar may already know, having rushed an heir to the throne.

That too may depart from yesterday’s story, one of several that have been run to ground and drowned in blood and suffering for years to come.

The World Wide Web has changed how the world experiences its one separable experiences: now we can see what we are doing in light of what we have done, and we cannot but help see all of that laid out in the sun together.

Reference – Odds and Ends

Curry, Ann.  “Putin’s marriage to end after nearly 30 years.” NBC Nightly News, June 6, 2013.

Malpas, Anna.  “First Gagarin film turns Soviet idol into new Russian hero.”  The Daily Star, June 19, 2013.

RT.  “Russia won’t supply outstanding S-300s to Syria until mid-2014 – report.”  August 9, 2013.

RT.  “Syrian split a real danger due to wars within war.”  Interview with Phyllis Bennis.  August 9, 2013.

RT Russiapedia.  “Prominent Russians: Vasily Zaitsev”.

Sargsyan, Irena L.  “How to End the War in Syria.”  The Daily Beast, August 13, 2013.

Wikipedia.  “Heroic realism”.

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