Putin has intervened militarily in Syria to save his fellow dictator, and increase the probability of global war. The plutocratic principle says that evil rules best. The worst dictators embrace it wholeheartedly. But it’s not just that. It’s also how bad Putin’s rule is doing in Russia. This was all highly predictable. The Russian economy is doing terrible, the part of Russian society which dares express itself, has turned into a Putin adoration cult, and the Master cannot let go, he has gone too far, things are too bad, and too fast. All he needs is war. War in Ukraine has become bogged down by Western, and Ukrainian, resistance. Time to relaunch it somewhere else. What should the West do?
Certainly no-fly zones ought to be imposed by the Western democracies on the bloody, mass murdering dictator Assad (and his Putin ally) in areas where non-Islamist rebels dominate. Any helicopter showing up (to drop barrel bombs or not) ought to be shot down. Similarly non-Islamists rebels ought to be supported maximally (weapons, advisers, etc.) The military means exist to do all of this, the sooner, the more moral.
What does Putin want? War. Ever more of it. As a fascist dictator, he needs war to justify his fascist rule in Russia. That is spooky: it means that Putin will welcome acts of wars between the Western powers and Russia in Syria. However, there is little choice.
Putin is crafty: he is a trained killer, a KGB master mind (he led the KGB), and his hands are very bloody in Chechnya (where he contributed to kill 20% of the population… and the word “contributed” is kind: Putin may well have instigated the second war there). Putin has just built a mosque in Moscow… where there would be 2 million Muslims. Putin does not want a Muslim problem, so he wants to show those he subjugates he fears nothing, and the West considers him, Putin, a great war chief, whose cause is just.
If one does not fight a small evil, it may amplify, and become uncontrollable. Obama refused a small war. Now he may get a very big one. Meanwhile, Putin will keep pushing.