By late 2014, Republican affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the wane. After months of gushing praise for the autocratic leader, American conservatives saw Putin struggling and isolated, prompting his GOP fan club in the United States to fall quiet.
That is, until a few months ago, when the Russian president deployed forces to Syria, rekindling the American right’s love. Republican White House hopefuls once again praised Putin’s bold “leadership,” as did like-minded pundits. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin argued, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”
Remind me, how’s that working out for the Russian president?
Putin had hoped his late September intervention would kick off a decisive three-month offensive producing major territorial gains for the Syrian regime, according to Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. […][I]ndependent experts see trouble signs for the Russian president, including a surprisingly stiff response from Syrian rebel fighters.
The Politico piece quoted the Israeli defense minister saying about Putin’s military offensive, “It seems to be a failure.”
Bloomberg also reported this week that Russian officials “underestimated” what the mission entailed. Putin expected the offensive to last a few months, but officials in Moscow are now left to hope “it won’t last several years.”
And who predicted this exact outcome? That would be President Obama and his administration’s foreign-policy team. From the Politico piece:
…Obama officials increasingly offer a “told-you-so” line towards Putin’s intervention, which caught the White House off guard when it began in late September. At the time, Obama warned that Putin risked getting caught in a quagmire abroad while courting terrorism at home. […]Now Putin confronts a stalemated battlefield and, according to some sources, tensions with his allies on the ground in a Syrian war theater that U.S. officials liken to a concert mosh pit.
And wouldn’t you know it, many of the American conservatives who thought Putin was the tough, strategic mastermind, showing that rascally Obama who’s boss, have again decided to lay low, putting their praise for the Russian leader on hold once more.
The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote two months ago, “[T]oday’s reigning cliche is that the wily fox, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has once again outmaneuvered the flat-footed Americans, by deploying some troops, planes and tanks to Syria to buttress the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and to fight the Islamic State forces threatening him. If only we had a president who was so daring, so tough, so smart…. Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power.”
Friedman was right. More importantly, so was the Obama White House. Republicans, meanwhile, who always seem to assume military adventures in the Middle East will turn out well, were not.
It’s a familiar dynamic, isn’t it?