Dancing to Russia's Tune--is the title of the latest "analysis" from Foreign Policy magazine which pretends to be an expert publication on foreign policy subject and this "analysis" is nothing more than lament. As any recent laments from US media and "analysts", this piece is an exhibit A of most of American "elites" lack of any grasp of the nature of military power and of its appropriate application. It is not surprising for the environment which still continues to sincerely believe that the United States defeated Hitler in WW II and that, as some propose, was very successful in Iraq and Afghanistan. I derived (it was easy) long ago an obverse of classic Clausewitz's dictum that diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. For people who really care about causality, that is about relation between cause and effect, it is not difficult to understand military-political dynamics in Syria. One doesn't have to be a military professional to understand a simple fact that, apart from Syria's and Iranian efforts, it was Russia's entrance in the conflict in Syria which completely changed the balance of power there and defeated a terrorist international there. Of course, Russians were diplomatically active on Syrian "front" even before entering the conflict. But no matter how one extols, deservedly so, diplomatic abilities of Sergei Lavrov, even his virtuoso diplomacy means nothing without military force. As Russian strategic dictum goes: if you don't want to speak to Lavrov, you will speak to Shoigu. Here, what is stated by FP pundit:
Moscow’s growing diplomatic clout in the Syrian endgame has been made possible, in part, by Washington’s passivity. The Donald Trump administration has focused more on fighting the Islamic State and fending off Iran than on shaping the political future of the war-ravaged country. “Syria is an example of how U.S. diplomacy is not front and center,” one U.N. Security Council diplomat said. “The U.S. has lost ground to Russia on that issue.”Even if the United States wanted to play a bigger role in postwar Syria, its disengagement has weakened its ability to do so, said retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the former U.S. envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition. “In many respects, the political trajectory has been decided by the Russians,” Allen said last month. “And sadly, the United States has little capacity now to exert leadership in this process or to participate.”
The "growing Moscow's diplomatic clout" in Syria has nothing to do with "Washington's passivity". In fact, Washington was extremely active in Syria supporting and arming a variety of anti-Assad forces (including Al-Qaeda affiliates) and was not "focused" on fighting Islamic State. The "focus" description is a hilarious statement. Washington was busy with wrecking Syrian State under, what's new, completely false "assumptions". In reality, of course, the main driver behind Washington's effort was and remains mostly Israeli and Saudi interests in the region, which can not tolerate any kind of secular Arab government. US didn't lose ground diplomatically--diplomacy as such, as a civilized, peaceful negotiated firm promotion of national interests does not exist in Washington anymore. FP author, obviously, is not well-versed, despite being some "diplomatic correspondent", in the art of diplomacy, which is also a euphemism for a compromise. American so called "diplomacy" today has nothing to do with diplomacy-proper. Most American "diplomats" are trained in only one thing--to give ultimatums and blackmail. They are utterly unqualified to conduct foreign policy in civilized and sensible manner. In fact, most of them are not diplomats at all, as James Bruno described Obama's State Department in 2014:
Three-quarters of the top policy and management positions at the State Department currently are occupied by non-diplomats, mainly Democratic Party activists or liberal think tankers. “Most are competent, but must pass an ideological test to be appointed,” a former senior official who worked with Obama’s appointees at State told me. “These positions,” she added, “are handed out based on party connections and loyalty.” In the hands of these decision-makers, all major foreign policy issues are viewed through an “ideological prism as opposed to an eye toward the long-term interests of the United States.”
I may add--most of those people have not a clue about the role military power plays in international relations--such obliviousness is expected from people most of whom always were and are completely detached from any realities of the warfare and its effects. In this sense it really makes no difference what party affiliation those people have--the cancer of exceptionalism and illiteracy in war metastasized by now into most American government and media institutions. Foreign Policy magazine, once one considers a tripe it publishes regularly, or gives a tribune to such insane neocons as Max Boot, is one such institution. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that instead of looking deep into the real reasons for, as they formulate:
But with the United States taking a back seat in Syria, a parallel diplomatic push seems to be exactly what is taking place.
They continue to provide platitudes dressed in some media lingo reminiscent of speeches at the Communist Party Congresses without naming a single real reason for why the US foreign policy is an unmitigated disaster both for the outside world and the US itself. The United States took a back seat because it's effort to destroy Syrian State was defeated militarily. It was defeated by doggedness and, often, heroism, of the Syrian Arab Army,which bled white for years but still offered some resistance to Jihadist armies on service of the US and its "allies" in the region. It was defeated by support of Iran and Hezbollah to Syrian government. In the end, it was decisively routed when Russia stepped in militarily and ensured that enough amount of high explosives was delivered with precision to the jihadist to reduce their numbers and capabilities in such a way that no amount of foreign "aid" will change the outcome. Judging by the latest news from the fronts--the process of removal is ongoing and is very successful. Moreover, refusal of Saudi Arabia to support those "rebels" pretty much closes off any legitimization of Jihad in Syria. In this sense, especially after Vladimir Putin's talk on the phone with Saudi King on 21 December 2017, the endgame does indeed plays out to a "Russian Tune". But it should be understood that this tune is not a sound of Lavrov's voice, however important, but of the Russian munitions hitting terrorist targets. The distinction is crucial precisely for the reasons of letting diplomacy not war decide the issue. In the end, if you don't want to speak to Lavrov, you will speak to Shoigu.