Scrolling through the many brigades and groups participating in the Syrian Civil War is like scrolling through all the football clubs in the UK, except in this case, team members are always swapping sides, team names are constantly changing, sometimes teams come together to form a single team, sometimes they disband and everyone joins other teams, and sometimes the teams abandon the league altogether to go play in Latin America.
Putin has been tsk-tsk’ed by the White House for dropping bombs on the wrong football teams, but can anyone keep track, given the tenuous nature of “teams” in a region built on consanguinity and religious zealotry? The real teams consist of people who are most related to you and who think most like you. All other social aggregations are ad hoc affairs.
For example, Joshua Landis has recently profiled the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, who were at one time affiliated with the Southern Front, who are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the “good guys” Obama is supporting against Assad and members of whom Putin bombed.
But the YMB, it turns out, has begun to align more closely with ISIL. So perhaps Putin wasn’t bombing American-supported Syrian rebels. Perhaps he was preemptively bombing future ISIL combatants who haven’t announced it yet.
Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge YMB. They are, after all, also fighting al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria), a designated terrorist organization.
Then there’s the fact that YMB has also been in conflict with Jihad Army (which sounds like a punk band but isn’t), which has also been suspected of ISIL ties. So maybe YMB are the good guys after all?
But wait. Didn’t we start with YMB’s close ties with ISIL? How can YMB and Jihad Army both have suspected ties with or affinities for ISIL but also be in conflict with one another?
The Western elite in all its wisdom is surely not confused, because it continues to send money and arms to the region, confident that said dollars and munitions will wind up in the hands of the “right team,” a winning strategy for many decades now.
I would very much like to claim that USG and her European handmaidens are simply following a plan in the Middle East that was devised in 2001: exacerbating all the ethnic and religious tensions in the region, then sending money and arms to all sides until all the jihadists and potential jihadists have killed one another.
But that would be too brilliant a strategy. In the end, we have to accept that Western political and military leaders are just stupid. We have to accept that out there, right now, living and breathing and calling the shots, are men and women who think more dollars and bullets sent to the Middle East is really the best possible strategy for regional peace and the spread of global democracy. It hasn’t worked before, but maybe this time, we’ll get a different result.
What is that saying about insanity . . . ?