Blog 345 April 10, 2017
A number of years ago, I spent time in Syria and stayed in Damascus, wandering around the municipality and spending time in the ancient city. Walking down the street called Straight (Acts 9:11) proved enlightening. A number of years previous to this experience, I traveled to the Soviet Union (1985), visiting Moscow, Minsk, etc. Like Damascus, wandering down the streets and talking to the people brought insights I never would have expected. These two experiences continue to run through my mind as I listen to media reports about this week’s U.S. Tomahawk and Scud missile attacks in Syria. The past gave me perspective for today.
With the lowest approval rating of any American president in memory, Donald Trump appears to have dug himself out of a hole with the unannounced successful attack on the Syrian base from where Bashar Assad’s air force jets gassed their own people. Outside of Russia and Iran, the world applauded this attack on Assad who is unquestionably a war criminal.
During my time in Syria, I recognized the dictator’s grasp on the Syrian people. Everywhere I went from Taxi cabs to bathrooms, there were two pictures: Hafez Assad, the father smiling; Bashar Assad frowning. Their faces were unavoidable and no one would talk about the pictures or them. Bashar’s brother is a ruthless general leading many of the deadly attacks on civilians. Hafez, the father, rose to power through his military position as a general. I quickly learned that the citizens knew better than to speak ill of the Assad regime.
Could Bashar Assad kill women and children? He and his family history demonstrate they have and will – possibly again.
Russia was a different type of dictatorship that worked at being more of an enigma. From the time of the Czars, the Russian government functioned with deception. When the Soviet System collapsed, the art of deceit didn’t miss a lick. Out of the ashes of the Russian Revolution, the practice of illusion sprang back to life. Putin continues the swindle.
Apart from all of Putin’s huff and puff, Russia is not in a good place. Their economy is in trouble and the drop in oil prices has seriously impacted them. Yes, they have the big Bomb, but even Putin understands the risk of a nuclear threat.
Now, Russia is caught with its pants down in Syria. They either knew about the chemical weapons or were incompetent in handling the situation. Assad promised Obama he would get rid of chemical weapons—which he didn’t. Putin’s efforts to prop up Assad amounts to selling a Sunday School class on the idea of having Al Capone teach on kindness.
Russia will continue to scream and holler – but little more as they have no idea what Trump will do next. Syria is now back in a more defensive posture and Assad is in a kettle of hot water.
Stay tuned. More to come.