Two major powers–whose goals are not aligned with each other–have not occupied the same war zone since the end of World War II, some 70 years ago. But as of several weeks ago, the two Big Kahunas–Russia and the U.S.–are both flying airstrikes in Syria. In effect, there are actually several wars going on at once. Syria, by the way, is roughly as large as the American State of Washington, and half the size of Germany.
Besides the two unquestioned super-powers, Iran, Turkey and Syria, as well as various Western Allies, Arab allies of the U.S, “Islamic” State, the al-Nusra Front, and various other Jihadist and rebel groups are all taking part. It is so confusing that some of the belligerents are fighting as allies in one area and enemies in another. This makes for a strange brew that can potentially lead to open warfare between the two Super-Powers.
Russia has already committed two questionable acts that could have had devastating consequences. Two of their jets intruded into (NATO Ally) Turkey’s airspace, only to be chased out by Turkish jets. Moscow also fired 26 cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea, almost 1,000 miles away, traversing Iranian and Iraqi airspace, at targets in Syria. The Pentagon reported that four of the missiles landed in Iran; however, both Russia and Iran deny that claim.
So far, nothing has caused the two powers to face-off against one another. But didn’t Moscow and Washington already learn from their long and costly wars in the Middle East? Outside invaders, no matter their firepower, cannot win a guerrilla war against local people who are fighting to protect all that they have–their way of life, their homeland. That’s what the Jihadists and rebels are fighting for–against the minority Syrian regime and the multitude of outside armies, and also against each other.
The super-powers, on the other hand, are merely fighting to protect their egos. That’s why the U.S. stayed so long in Vietnam, during the 60s and 70s, and more recently in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Powers fighting even the most primitive opponents will never win; because, they are really fighting something that they do not understand and, thus, they have nothing to actually fight for. So, why are they risking a direct confrontation?
NOTE: The linked article, from the NY Times, provides some inter-active charts as to the confusing combination of conflicts that are going on in Syria: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/16/world/middleeast/untangling-the-overlapping-conflicts-in-the-syrian-war.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.