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What did the Russian foreign minister say to the American secretary of state when they met yesterday?

“Hey bud, what’s up?”

I have to ask you a question, now that over a month has passed since the gassing and murder of over 1,400 civilians in Damascus. It sounds no more serious than the “ask me a dumb question, I’ll give you a dumb answer” question above, but I mean it. What’s going on here? Do we even know how to carry out diplomacy anymore?

The people who act for us in Washington claim that they’ve scored some impressive victories for team America here. The Russians are helping us bring the Syrians to heel. The Syrians admit to having chemical weapons, and have agreed to destroy them under international supervision. We used threats of force to make it all happen. Give us a few more opportunities to shine, and we’ll show we’re the best team around. We play to win.

Meantime, the Russians, good sports that they are, congratulated us on our professional approach to the game:

The Kremlin on Sunday accused Washington of trying to sabotage a U.S. – Russian agreement for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical arsenal. “Our U.S. partners are beginning to blackmail us,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday in an interview.

Secretary of State Kerry must feel great about that one. Lavrov gave Kerry a good pat on the back to thank him for all he did to make Moscow look good as a capable, trusted broker between Syria and the West. Lavrov and Kerry are starting to look like the two stooges here: one week they have their arms around each other’s shoulders, the next week one of them pokes the other in both eyes.

Moe and Curly do their thing.

If we had a clear goal, or set of goals, in our Middle Eastern diplomacy, we could measure our performance against those goals. As it is, we invaded Iraq ten years ago to change the regime to one more friendly to the United States. We stirred up an incomprehensibly destructive civil war. We see the results now, in Iraq and in other countries. These results will continue to unfold. They won’t get better.

If you want to understand why our ability to influence outcomes in the Middle East has become so limited, you can pay attention to the public statements of people like Lavrov and Kerry, or you can watch the larger disaster unfold. We cannot control or even influence outcomes in the Middle East. We have started a rolling catastrophe that someone, perhaps high on Afghan poppy, decided to call the Arab Spring. Let’s give that someone this much credit: you can’t go wrong with a phrase that catches on.

It’s not springtime for residents of Damascus. It’s not springtime for the two stooges, either, though they run no risk of dying in a sarin gas attack. We know one thing: Russia and Syria buffaloed our people in Washington, and it’s not even clear they know what happened to them. They continue to shine.


Enter John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Google Images: see the results here. Quiz question: which one is Moe, and which one is Curly?