It’s all about winning and losing, but the best man doesn’t always win, and outcomes frequently have more to do with luck than with merit. Brilliant strategies fail, and fools stumble into glorious victories. Napoleon preferred a lucky general to a brilliant one.
Which brings us to today. The headlines are grim, the pictures from Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are blood-chilling, executions and demonstrations are mounting in Iran, and Obama doesn’t know what to do about anything. So he doesn’t do anything; he and his strategists just dither. And yet…
And yet, our enemies may be on the verge of losing. Big time.
Maybe the elimination of the Russian Olympic hockey team was an augury, foreshadowing a shift in Putin’s destiny. Up until quite recently, he waved his mailed fist and barked out commands that were obeyed from Georgia to Syria. He, along with the Syrian, Iranian, Nicaraguan, Honduran, Venezuelan, Cuban, and Bolivian dictators and would-be dictators, was forging a global alliance aimed against the West, and nobody in the West seemed to notice, let alone take steps to combat it. The global alliance consists primarily of jihadis and radical leftists, the two principal forces committed to the destruction of what is sometimes known as the Western world.
That alliance is cracking, because many millions of people are fighting the anti-Western tyrants. They aren’t pundits, and they haven’t calculated the odds on success. They just fight. Almost none of the major events of the past few years was foreseen by the deep thinkers, most all of whom thought that Egypt was lost to the jihadists, Assad was firmly in control of Syria, and Chavismo was destined to rule in Venezuela for years to come.
But in Egypt, where the Muslim Brothers took over the most important country in the Muslim Middle East, they lost it within a year. They were brought down by what the BBC called “the largest demonstration in human history.” In Tunisia, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring,” the radical jihadists were briefly in control, and then lost to more moderate forces, including secular leaders. The fighting in Syria began when members of the nation’s armed forces–neither religiously nor ideologically radical–rebelled against the Assad tyranny. I don’t know more than a couple of people who thought the opposition would endure…until they did an about-face and told us the opposition was unbeatable and Assad was about to fall. In Ukraine, the people have risen against a government that was clearly a marionette of Moscow. And in Venezuela, the streets of the major cities are filled with people fighting against a failed Cuban-style dictatorship.
The Ukrainian government is now technically a minority in Parliament (some of its members having defected), and there are reports that the rats are scampering away, loading expensive automobiles and containers full of cash onto airplanes at the Kiev airport (like you, I want to know where those planes are going to land. We’ll know shortly, I have no doubt).
The Venezuelan demonstrations don’t seem to be getting any smaller, and when the Maduro regime arrested the opposition leader, it backfired, as even more people took to the streets.
For those keeping score: the enemy alliance has lost in Egypt and Tunisia, is losing Ukraine, is in great peril in Venezuela, is losing men and money in significant quantities in Syria, and faces determined opposition inside Iran.
To be sure, there’s bad news too, as you’ll see on the next page.
Lebanon and Iraq are increasingly under Iranian domination, but then again Hezbollah, the main Iranian instrument in Lebanon, and, along with the Revolutionary Guards the Iranian expeditionary force in Syria, is taking casualties, and the body bags are smuggled home in secret. There’s lots of popular anger at the regime for its Syrian adventure. Some of the anger comes from with the Guards themselves, who see themselves used as cannon fodder by a regime that keeps raising the stakes.
It’s like the case of the bumblebee, which, the engineers patiently explained to us, cannot fly (wrong ratio of wingspan to body mass, etcetera). But the bumblebees don’t know that, and so they fly. And even make some honey. The geopolitical pundits did not expect the Syrian opposition to last, any more than they foresaw the Iranian uprising of 2009-2010, or the mass demonstrations in Venezuela, or the revolt against the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, or…
Life is full of surprises. It’s better to admit we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But there are some basic rules, usually ignored by the strategists and intellectuals, of which the most important has a place of honor in Machiavelli’s writings: tyranny is the most unstable form of government. Intellectuals have self-interested reasons for rather liking tyrants (especially when ideologically congenial–leftist intellectuals like leftist tyrants, rightist intellectuals admire ideologically like-minded rulers), but the air can go out of tyrannical balloons with amazing speed.
The flip side of that coin is that democracies and republics are far more durable, even though (maybe even because) they are fractious, sloppy, inefficient and, especially in foreign policy, typically indecisive.
Rule number two is that the world is slow to change. Except when the world is seized by convulsions and rapid change is the order of the day. We’re currently in a period of profound change, from the bipolar Cold War world to…we know not what. But all those who advocate “stability” have failed to understand this moment.
Rule three is that this world is tailor-made for the American mission, which is to support freedom. Our current leaders can’t understand this, because they view America-in-the-world as a bad thing, as the root cause of most of the world’s problems, and they have been in cahoots with the anti-Americans. You know the litany by now: appease or embrace Iran and Putin and the Chavistas and the Brothers and the Castros. They are failing. See Rule One.
So maybe it’s a race for the booby prize, a mad dash to see who can lose first.
Except (let’s hope) the freedom fighters. You never know.