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Washington's 'Bravado' Risks Sparking War With Moscow

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The US political establishment views the world along black and white lines, which could lead to a (possibly military) confrontation with Russia, British diplomat Alastair Crooke asserted.

"We all know the narrative in which we (the West) are seized. It is the narrative of the Cold War: America versus the 'Evil Empire.' And, as Professor Ira Chernus has written, since we are 'human' and somehow they (the USSR or, now, ISIS) plainly are not, we must be their polar opposite in every way," he wrote for the Conflicts Forum's website.

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This concept lies at the heart of America's perceived exceptionalism and leadership, he added. US leaders also use it to explain why they don't want to negotiate with anyone they perceive as evil or to avoid responsibility for playing a part in the evil's rise, as is the case with Daesh, also known as ISIL/ISIS.

This narrative "has precluded America from ever concluding any real ability to find a mutually acceptable modus vivendi with Russia," Crooke observed, citing Professor Steve Cohen, one of America's leading experts on Russia.

In the last two decades, the US, according to Cohen, has made every effort to launch a new Cold War era in US-Russian relations. The problem is Washington needs Moscow if it is truly determined to destroy Islamists or bring peace to Syria.

"President Obama is no neocon, but he is constrained by the global hegemon legacy, which he must either sustain, or be labeled as the arch facilitator of America's decline," Crooke noted. Among other things, this is reflected in Washington's 'Assad must go' mantra.

In practice, Assad's removal from power would most likely "empower" Daesh, not destroy it, the same way the terrorist group strengthened its positions when Nouri al-Maliki stepped down as prime minister in Iraq.

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The consequences of Assad's ouster, according to Crooke, "will ripple across the Middle East – and beyond." Washington's inability to understand the implications of its proposed strategy reflect "the danger of becoming hostage to a certain narrative, rather than being willing to examine the prevailing conceptual framework more critically."

The same mechanism is driving the US and Russia further apart.

"Russia's call to co-operate with Western states against the scourge of ISIS; its low-key and carefully crafted responses to such provocations as the ambush of its SU-24 bomber in Syria; and President Putin's calm rhetoric, are all being used by Washington and London to paint Russia as a 'paper tiger,' whom no one needs fear," the British diplomat noted.

In other words, Moscow seems to be offered a choice between backing the "hegemon" or preparing for war, Crooke concluded.

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