After the fall of the Soviet Union and before the rise of China, the world went through a scary phase. The Anglo-American-Israeli empire ran roughshod around the world. They destroyed Iraq and set the Middle East on fire, staged a failed coup in Venezuela in 2002, bombed multiple Balkan countries, and invaded Lebanon all with very little pushback. Newly radicalized Wahhabi cells got bored with no communists to fight and turned their sights on secularists, Christians, and each other.
Compare this to the empire’s recent failures in Syria and Venezuela. To be clear, the 2002 Venezuelan coup was a failure, but they did succeed in removing Chavez from power, if only for a short time, but Chavez maintained control due to the intervention of the Venezuelan military and people, not foreign powers.
Make no mistake, the powers that be have wanted to overthrow the Syrian government for decades. While it’s true that they didn’t commit to a full-on US ground invasion, they had more than enough proxies on the ground to get the job done. They probably would have been successful had it not been for the intervention of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. By contrast, there was no international pushback in Iraq, in fact Iran welcomed it and even offered to help.
I must also give some credit to Trump and Obama’s restraint on this issue, because there are definitely some people in Washington and Israel who would love to see the black flag fly over Damascus. If their resolve was strong enough and they had their key players in positions of power, they could have accomplished this even with Russian involvement. Anyone who thinks that Hillary or Jeb Bush would have been a better choice than Trump is not truly considering the weight of the international clusterfuck that would have resulted from Hillary’s more aggressive policies towards Syria. If she would have implemented a no-fly zone, as she proposed, that would have brought America into direct conflict with another nuclear power. And if, god forbid, the black flag would have been raised over Damascus, this would have been a geopolitical disaster that is almost without parallel. A Wahhabi terror state being planted between Iran-allied, Shia Iraq and the diverse, secular state of Lebanon is scary to imagine. Israel would have gone insane, because they would have had REAL terrorists on their border instead of just kids throwing rocks. Millions of Christians, Druze, Alawites, etc. would have fled northward, making the current refugee crisis look like a picnic. Right-wing demagogues like Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbon would have likely swept into power in many European countries.
You might say that Iraq and Syria are totally different scenarios, and you may be right. After all, Saddam had almost no allies and there was a majority population of moderate Shiites waiting in the wings to take over. Russia has it’s own fossil fuel interests in Syria plus it doesn’t want to see the Middle East destabilized anymore than it already is. A destabilized Middle East can affect Russian and Chinese politics directly, especially in places like the Caucuses and Xinjiang. But Russia and China’s involvement in Venezuela is even more reassuring since there isn’t such obviously selfish motives. Venezuela is on a totally different landmass, and Chavismo’s populism isn’t really any more friendly towards Russian and Chinese oligarchs than it is American.
Russia and China’s military presence in Venezuela is a ray of hope. It’s clear that the US will no longer be allowed to exert its will around the world without consequences. The US has a long and ugly history of coups, death squads, and puppet dictators in Latin America. Hopefully those days have come to an end. They have Maduro surrounded by friendly South American leaders like Duque and Bolsonaro, but people from the other side of the planet are stepping in and saying “not so fast.” This is a development that should be cheered on by all caring people.
If the US-Israeli-Saudi alliance decides to aim for regime change in Iran, that could likely lead to World War III, because you can bet that China and Russia would not sit idly by as they did with Iraq. This makes such an operation much less likely. Instead, they will try to economically starve the country and try to inspire a revolution from within. The boldest move I can imagine them doing is occupying the oil-rich region along the Persian Gulf, but leaving Tehran to stand minus its main source of revenue.
I think the world is a bit safer under these circumstances. I’m not confident that the depraved Western establishment wouldn’t go for all the marbles in Iran if Russia and China didn’t have to be considered. This is a reason to be optimistic in a world where there are few such reasons.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t want Russian or Chinese military presence in Syria, Venezuela, or Iran. But in a world where imperialism is still a thing, I’m thankful for it. If the Western Empire were allowed to run rampant with no resistance, the world would be a much worse place. I would prefer to live in a world where there are no imperial powers, but I know it’s better to have two or three than it is to have just one.