Saturday, September 27, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, September 27

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:
A persistent confusion during the Arab Spring interpreted by baby-boomer diplomats and journalists has been a preference for the "people" over the government, an identification with NGOs over nations, and a preference for the voice of dissidents over the actions of authorities.  A coalition against ISIS will involve real states with real leaders. Proposing that most men in civic authority are wolves is not religious insight but adolescent posturing.  The Kingdom of God is not served by a growing chasm between religious discourse and the intercourse of nations.

Among diplomats who came of age in a certain era there is similar disconnect in their understanding of statecraft. The saga of a civically immature ambassador to Russia from 2012-2014 is told here with no hint of remorse or self-reflection. The article helps us understand a disturbing aspect of American baby-boomer foreign policy, while also presenting a straightforward if unsympathetic explanation of Putin's Eurasian dream for Russia.

We agree with President Obama in his pre-beheading interview with Thomas Friedman of the NY Times that this is no time to be assembling a new Continental Army from good-hearted Syrian citizens. We will need states as our allies who have a fighting interest in eliminating ISIS. Not Saudi Arabia, but Iran. Not Qatar, but Russia (see also: Georgetown Professor on US Russia partnership, and an American Conservative Journalist on Crimea, Ukraine and Russia). It will not be a Saudi-trained free Syrian army but the remnant State of Syria who will effectively fight ISIS... as they already are.

What the Sunni element will be (and that is exactly who, eventually, will govern this region) is not clear. Jordan and Turkey will play key roles, as will the Sunni tribes enlisted in the "surge." The Maronite/Shiite/Sunni coalition that once was Lebanon must be reformulated, and hold a significant end-stage position. There are people who know much more than we do about the strategic lessons of the last decade. Their clarity in explaining these lessons will be needed in the diplomatic work ahead.

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