it looks more or less like russia will fully engage in the ground war in syria, with troops, etc. no doubt they can quickly transform the balance on the ground.
i've been listening to lindsey graham on cnn. his view is that russians are assembling a regional force - assad's alawites, iran, hezbollah - and launching a ground war to prop up assad. in short, "russians and shiites". then he gives this: the russians are sort of doing what i thought we should do: form a regional force (in this case saudi arabia, jordan, kurds, turkey). he said the russians will destroy everything we've tried to do, rip up various cia programs. (that appears to be accurate).
so this raises the specter of shiite/sunni regional war (already well underway) now driven by one non-local, christiany superpower on each side, or images of world war 3 blossoming out of the middle east.
our policy has been insane, actually. we have fueled the sunni/shiite religious war by forcing a shiite/iranian regime on iraq, and we are de facto allied with the shiites of iran. and then we're trying to assemble a sunni force to take out isis, even as sunni regimes implicitly support and covertly fund isis. saudi arabia is running a savage bombing campaign in yemen with our materiel against iranian-backed rebels, etc. whatever obama says, we've essentially let assad proceed, hoping he'll take out isis; we've been 'coordinating' with assad, and with iran. and saudi arabia. and we have soaked the whole region in weaponry thoroughly and for a long time.
we even, i think, implicitly approved a russian intervention, until it started to become evident what shape it would take. we're arming and funding both or all sides, just as though we hope for maximum chaos and are intent on taking practical measures to achieve it.
i think this situation is something we fundamentally created or at a minimum made possible and set off, with policies of mind-boggling idiocy starting with the iraq invasion. the only hopeful thing i can think of is that we are too, um, chickenshit actually to commit ground troops, or actually to confront russia (on ukraine/crimea, all we did was yap, e.g.).
on the other hand we are very likely to have a republican president, and if it's anyone but paul, that pres is liable to be belligerent and intent on restoring american pride, superduperpower status, and so on. e.g. kasich in the last debate squarely portrayed a worldwide struggle between islam and 'jewish and christian values.' we're still not all that good at distinguishing between muslims. well, they might not be too swift at distinguishing among non-muslims.
you really could get a pretty direct spread into europe and europe is already engulfed by refugees and russian expansion. it is embroiled, and could easily become much more embroiled.
then there's israel. it wouldn't be shocking if they more or less approved of the conflict, or are taking measures to keep it going (we're doing the same, but our motives are not sensible; theirs would be watching their enemies destroy each other). i don't think we have a clear picture of what they're doing in syria. but i do know this: if there's a republican pres (again, other than rand paul), s/he will do whatever israel tells himmer to do. this is another way you might get a explosive expansion of an already explosive situation. why are republicans the servants of israel? wackily enough, because of a protestant christian interpretation of the apocalypse. plenty of islamists are throwing down the apocalypse too, oh and probably some jews are too. this may appear demented, and yet expecting armageddon seems a little less fantastic every day. a key factor in putin's regime is the revival of the russian orthodox church. quite the complex little religious situation.
then again, perhaps israel is lending substantial support to assad and the russian incursion. astonishingly, their interests align somewhat with iran's. then again, maybe they are also helping sisi and the saudi royal family against their islamists. the israelis would be trying to keep the armed conflict or isis from washing up right on their border. it's close. what happens if it gets closer?
and the situation is even more complex than that, because you have intra-religious conflicts, christian on christian (usa v russia), and intra-sunni civil wars in afghanistan, egypt, and libya.
republicans love to say that iran is the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism, but it's really sunnis who are reaching into the west with a constant dripdrip of terrorism. this is a way various countries including the usa, can get sucked in, or how the front comes to calgary and marseilles and adelaide and xinjiang and both birminghams. we've already pretended that we've been in a 'war on terror' for 14 years, and a spectacular attack (perhaps a couple of assassinations) would be one way we get sucked in fully to a real war.
so, if there's a world religious war, how does that comport with everyone's idea of what the shape of history looks like? remember last week, when it was obvious that we were all engaged together in a progress toward secularization, freedom, and so on? univocal, progressive, or teleological conceptions of history are simplistic, self-congratulatory, and false.