Republicans are now openly campaigning on the fact that they want to shoot down Russian planes over Syria and seem to be trying to out tough-guy each other for who would be willing to start a Third World War the quickest.
At least that’s what it sounds like from their comments in the past week, where most of them have stepped up their advocacy of a no-fly zone (and ground troops) in Syria, while bragging that they have no problem shooting down Russian fighter jets to enforce it.
The still-somehow Republican frontrunner Ben Carson said of his call for a no-fly zone and Russian planes: “You shoot them down, absolutely” then added “Whatever happens next, we deal with it”. No word on what he would do if “Whatever happens next” involves some of the thousands of nuclear weapons Russia still has in its arsenal.
Carly Fiorina said “I think we must be prepared” to shoot down Russian jets, saying separately that she would never talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin beforehand (while at the same time bragging that she talked to him before). Lindsey Graham, an asterisk in the Republican polls who’s never met a war he didn’t like, opined that he “would shoot [Putin’s] planes down, I would literally shoot his planes down”.
Chris Christie said he would “call Putin, and tell him, ‘Listen, we’re enforcing a no-fly zone against everyone, and that includes you. So: don’t test me’”. After being asked, “And then he flies through your territory?” by a reporter, Christie responded: “You take him down.” Just in case there was any ambiguity, he confirmed he meant shooting their fighter jets out of the sky and potentially starting a hot war with Russia because “we spent untold American treasure and blood to eliminate the Soviet Union. We should not let it come back”.
The smarter candidates don’t say that they would shoot down Russian planes out loud — since that is insane — they just call Putin “a gangster”, like Marco Rubio did during the most recent debate, and insist on a no-fly zone that would inevitably lead to such a confrontation. Jeb Bush too called for a no-fly zone during the Fox Business debate this week, then two minutes later declared that the US shouldn’t be “the world’s policeman”, apparently without a hint of self-awareness.
Amazingly, the rest of the candidates are making Donald Trump’s position on Syria — that he backs Putin’s air strikes in Russia, saying “I am all for it, 100 per cent” — look almost sane in comparison. That position on Syria is disturbing too, just not as disturbing as the rest of the Republican field, who are itching for full-scale war with Syria and Russia.
The sole Republican exception to all this is Rand Paul, who was the only one who gave a rational and logical answer to the question of what the United States should do in Syria. He claimed that shooting down Russian planes is a dangerous idea and that continuing to arm various factions associated with Al Qaida in a civil war is only going to lead to more long-term problems for the United States. He deserves more credit for being so honest. Unfortunately, he’s being drowned out by those itching for another Cold War.
No ‘magic’ zones
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is at least being somewhat less apocalyptic in her call for a no-fly zone, saying that it would need Russian support or it wouldn’t work. But while her plan is not as calamitous as those of her Republican counterparts, it is still a dangerous idea for the region and almost certainly will ensnare the US troops in Syria for years to come.
As journalist Adam Johnson has continually pointed out, it seems most people think that no-fly zones are enforced by magic. But they aren’t: They involve destroying the air defences of the entire country. That means the US will have to take out Syria’s air force and ground artillery for it to come close to “working”.
That will require tens of thousands of troops (General Martin Dempsey told US Congress it would take 70,000), untold billions of dollars and an outright war with the Al Assad regime on one side and Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) on the other. Virtually every no-fly zone in the past — the 2011 military intervention in Libya, for example — has led to direct war. And there’s no game plan for what comes next if and when that happens.
So while Republican candidates are itching for war with one of the world’s biggest military powers, with one of the largest arsenals of nuclear weapons in the world, I guess there is one silver lining: They’re finally being honest about what a no-fly zone entails.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd