It’s really going to hit the fan after Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-interceptor jet for allegedly violating its airspace on Tuesday. Both the Russians and the Turks are madder than wet hens with Vladimir Putin calling it a “stab in the back by accomplices of terrorists” and other less-than diplomatic niceties, while Turkey rattles its sabers over the territorial integrity of its long border with Syria.
According to the Turks, the Russian aircraft repeatedly was warned by ground controllers that it was slopping over the border, but the warnings were ignored. As a result, two Turkish F-16s were sent up to take care of business.
Numerous reports have the two-man crew bailing out with their fate uncertain, although some say one crewman’s body was discovered by Syrian rebel forces operating in the area. ISIS does not control that portion of Syria.
Russia must be getting pull-the-trigger tired of having its aircraft blown out of the air. What is this – second one in less than a month?
Whether the plane did violate airspace and whether Turkey’s response was appropriate are open to the kind of interminable debate over disastrous situations with unforeseen consequences that result from wild and crazy forces that barely tolerate each other being allowed to bump into each other in a night caused by the creation of a leadership vacuum.
In other words, President Obama, despite it being a Russkie plane shot downs by the Turks, this Thanksgiving mess with Russian Dressing is on you.
The failure of the Obama administration to show strong in-person leadership over the mess that Syria and Iraq have become since the rise of ISIS was better than an engraved invitation for KGB-to-the-bone Putin and his cronies to come in and set up shop as the major player and new sheriff in town.
Putin wants influence and a foot in the door. With Syrian Presi-thug Bashar al-Assad, the Russians have the perfect client. He’ll do their bidding, and they’ll cover his ample behind and thwart the efforts of any who oppose him – including the United States.
In the meantime, the Turks use the alleged “air campaign” against ISIS as an excuse to bomb the ever-living snot out of the Kurdish forces that are one of the few potent anti-ISIS forces in the region, but which also inconveniently happen to be a decades-long thorn in Turkey’s side.
Nobody’s hands are clean.
What are supposed to be international efforts against ISIS – remember them? – turn into a cover for one party to weasel its way further into becoming a player in the game with a seat at the table and another to play both sides against the middle while putting a serious beat down on a long-standing nemesis.
The Obama administration fiddles while the Middle East burns.
The president brags about his air campaign against ISIS, but the ugly reality is that it’s likely that the effort is more like using a squirt gun to put out a fire. With onerously restrictive rules of engagement that, according to Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., result in 75 percent of the few aircraft sent out on sorties returning without dropping a bomb or firing a shot, nothing gets done. If there’s even a chance of hitting some terrorist’s innocent dog, don’t drop your ordnance.
American diffidence evidenced by a lead-from-behind commander in chief results in every-man-for-himself chaos. The Russians move in because Putin has called Obama’s bluff time after time and he knows the president isn’t a serious man and can easily be rolled. The Turks recklessly use American-supplied aircraft because they know that, given their legitimate post-Paris-attack preoccupation with internal issues, European NATO allies – how crazy is it that Turkey is a NATO partner? – won’t complain.
Had there been a robust, active and engaged American presence in the region, a lot of this wouldn’t have happened. This isn’t to say a big ground-troops presence, although that will probably be necessary, but at least a reminder to one and all that Uncle Sam is around. Sometimes having the big cowboy in the room keeping an eye on things is all the deterrence you need.
God only knows where this will go, and God help us all if it goes much further.