The Russians are coming!

Here's an interactive map of the world. It's got the names of countries and everything:

The U.S. response to Russia’s entry in the Syrian Civil War has been typically irrational. Presidential candidates have been calling for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria and a completely fantastical “Safe Zone” on the ground. These proposals are as unrealistic as the U.S. attempts to arm a “moderate” opposition to Syrian President Assad. Clinton and Rubio have been particularly strident.

Any day now, I expect Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain to rise on the Senate floor and blame Russian President Putin for putting his country so close to our military bases.

Only Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Rand Paul have shown any understanding of modern Russia. After the usual Jeb Bush/Marco Rubio/Carly Fiorina hissy fits over “leadership” and “vacuums,” the Donald simply said he didn’t have a problem with Russia going after ISIS. Paul correctly pointed out No Fly Zones were not only dangerous but a violation of international law because Syria and Iraq had invited Russian help.

Russians are a naturally conservative people. They like Trump. Maybe the Donald just wants to open a string of hotel casinos in Russia, but economic cooperation is better than sanctions and saber-rattling. Say what you will of Trump, he does not appear to be a neocon.

Putin is a very popular strong-willed leader, everything Republicans claim to admire. His government has close ties to religion and is not gay friendly. Russia has a somewhat poor record on civil liberties and can be thuggish to the opposition press. Russia has little debt, has an oil-based energy sector, low taxes. Why don’t more Republicans like Putin and the new Russia?

The reason is Empire. America, after mostly keeping to itself militarily for its first century, suddenly became the free world’s major power after WWII, the Eagle armed with nuclear claws and ready for battle against the Soviet Union, a.k.a. the Evil Empire.

After the fall of communist Russia in 1988-91, President George H.W. Bush declared a New World Order, with America the sole world superpower.

Now Russia is demonstrating those days are gone. Putin described our invasion of Iraq as mushy headed, and he is right, just as the Donald and Rand Paul have been. The Donald even called out Jeb for saying his brother kept us safe after 9-11.

Why can’t America be a normal country? After World War I, a Republican became president under the slogan “Return to Normalcy.” That slogan could win again today.

Damascus is only as far from Russia as Reno is from Phoenix. Russia has as much right to influence the region as we have under our Monroe Doctrine to influence Latin America. Russia, unlike America, has been fighting real jihadis (not just a few “lone wolves”) in Chechnya for years. Russia considers herself a protector of Christians in the Middle East, while American policies have led to thousands of displaced Christians.

Putin talks with everyone—Sunni, Shiite, Jewish, Kurd, or secular—because he rules a nation with over 20 million Muslims. Some of the world’s largest mosques are in Russia. Putin, likes all Muslims except Wahabi’s, the Saudi Arabian- and Qatar-funded extremists who comprise Al Queda and ISIS—as well as the fictional “moderate opposition” to Assad.

Russia has unveiled sophisticated cruise missiles and will gain a strategic warm water port in Syria. The Russian air force and the Syrian army will slowly roll back the jihadis, including the “moderates.” They will shave their beards and melt back into Turkey. Putin will make those beards a mortal liability. Go Vlad!