Vladimir S. Patton

Patton’s legend was forged when he bulldogged U.S. armies across Europe. Although America was aligned with the Soviet Union, by the end of World War II Patton had come to believe that he’d someday have to fight the Soviets. He died in a 1945 automobile accident before he could agitate further on this subject, but America’s erstwhile ally was already morphing into a bitter adversary. The upshot was the long, tense, and expensive Cold War.

Although the Soviet Union is no more, today’s Russia is controlled by a former KGB man who’s reconstituting what he considers his country’s good old days. In Barack Obama, Putin apparently believes he has a pliant partner. General Patton would not have approved. “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way,” he was fond of saying. If here were alive today, the career military man would be directing that sentiment toward the White House.

As Russian warplanes began sorties in Syria, refugees from that cursed country continued to stream into Europe, and Syrian government troops renewed barrel bomb aerial attacks on civilians, another expression employed in Patton’s Army comes to mind: FUBAR, “fouled-up beyond all recognition.”

Even as Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter sniffed that Russia’s military actions were “doomed to fail,” Secretary of State John Kerry was suggesting at the U.N. that more U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State were being planned. But no sensible person believes that airstrikes will be enough to rout the Islamic State, any more than mere talk will get rid of Assad.