Vladimir Putin Thought His Boys Would Be Home By Christmas

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BloombergBusiness reports on the Russian mission in Syria:

Many senior officials in Moscow underestimated how long the operation in support of Bashar al-Assad would take when Putin entered Syria’s civil war on Sept. 30 and no longer talk in terms of just a few months, with one saying the hope now is that it won’t last several years.

With the mission in its third month, Putin is pouring materiel and manpower into Syria at a pace unanticipated by lawmakers already struggling to meet his spending goals….“This operation will last a year at a minimum,” said Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament. “I was expecting more from Syria’s army.”

….While Syrian forces backed by Russian firepower have had some successes, such as breaking Islamic State’s two-year siege of a strategic air base near Aleppo, Putin is only now starting to realize that he can’t defeat the group through air power alone, said Anton Lavrov, a Russian military analyst….Russia now has as many as 5,000 servicemen on the ground, more than double the original estimate of 2,000, according to RUSI researcher Igor Sutyagin. While Putin continues to rule out a land offensive, hundreds of advisers are already embedded with the Syrian army, he said.

I suppose I should be immune to this kind of thing by now, but did Putin seriously think he’d wipe out ISIS and the Syrian opposition in a few months? It’s not as if Russia doesn’t have plenty of recent experience with long quagmire-ish campaigns—in Afghanistan in the 80s, in Tajikistan in the 90s, and against Chechen rebels in both the 90s and aughts. After the United States spent over a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq without winning a decisive victory, did Putin really think that Syria would be just a bit of military muscle stretching, like South Ossetia?

Beats me. And I love Klintsevich’s comment: he was “expecting more” from Syria’s army. Join the club. For more than a decade we’ve been expecting more from the Iraqi army and the Afghani army and every other army in the Middle East. Oddly enough, they’re all poorly trained and riven with sectarian tension. Who could have predicted the same would be true in Syria?

Blowhards are the same the world over, I guess. Always convinced that their wars will be short and victorious, and never willing to listen to anyone else. They just don’t learn.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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