Vladimir Putin’s triumphant
arrival to Syria today reminds one of the moment in 1991 when the US President George H. W. Bush declared that he and his
country, because of its quick victory in the Gulf War, had kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all. In retrospect the
diagnosis is rather debatable, after what his son and others managed to do in the same part of the world.
One wonders also whether the Russians will experience the same feeling
now. In contrast to their humiliation in Afghanistan some thirty years ago, and to a lesser extent in Chechnia, their work
in Syria – with roughly the same goal as the US had in Vietnam, that is, propping up an ally in the midst of an insurgency
to the point that it could declare ‘victory’ in being able, at least ostensibly, to defend itself – has
But also like Indochina and Afghanistan
(and Chechnia, for that matter), Syria is a hard, messy place, and not much celebrated for gratitude or absolution.