It should have been a no-brainer for the U.S. and Russia to cooperate to fight Islamic radicals in the Middle East. But even if you place the high-jump bar on the ground, some people will still manage to trip over it -- then insist on going back and tripping over it again.
Everything was perfectly set up for a strategic partnership. Both countries' special forces had long been conducting joint counterterrorism exercises. Some were even conducted on American soil, at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs. The Winter Olympics earlier this year in Sochi, Russia, not far from the Islamic-terrorism-plagued Northern Caucasus region, should have provided the perfect pretext for the start of operational cooperation -- particularly given that the Caucasus Emirate, a jihadist group that claimed responsibility for deadly train station and bus bombings shortly before the start of the Games, has traditionally been backed by the same Gulf states that have been instrumental in funding the Islamic State.
But instead of working with Russia to eliminate the problem, the Obama administration went in the opposite direction. Not only has it fostered a whole new jihadist problem by blindly tossing resources and training at any ragtag rebel who could hold a weapon, but it has also taken a diversionary detour of questionable long-term value through Ukraine -- attempting, against hard geopolitical realities, to carve out a bigger economic share for Western interests at Russia's expense through a grotesquely unsophisticated coup d'etat.
The bill for this administration's chronic lack of strategic foresight is coming due:
-- The Pentagon has authorized the use of reconnaissance drones over Islamic State territory (which includes Syria) in preparation for airstrikes against this now-common enemy of Syria, the U.S. and Russia. How awkward. It's like trying to convince someone that you'd like to mow their lawn a year after you tried to burn down their house. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem issued a "get off my lawn" warning that "any strike which isn't coordinated with the (Syrian) government will be considered as aggression." Success of this U.S. mission now hinges largely on the goodwill of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Barack Obama wanted to depose a year ago.