For Independence Day 2013

As World War II raged in Europe, the singer Kate Smith resuscitated a discarded 1917 song by Irving Berlin to raise the spirits and stir the patriotism of her fellow citizens, reminding them of their country’s founding creed. (Video)

Read more at Dayton Opera

More about: American Jewish History, American War of Independence, Irving Berlin, July 4, United States, World War II

Russia Won’t Help Bring Peace to Syria

The U.S., Russia, and others agreed in November to the so-called Vienna principles, aimed at negotiating an end to the Syrian civil war. That result seems as unlikely as ever. Dennis Ross argues that to bring a resolution to the conflict, America must cease to delude itself about Russia’s intentions:

Russia agreed to the so-called Vienna principles without having any intention of implementing them. Indeed, at the very moment the negotiations were to start, the Russians intensified their bombing and even used . . . special forces to back [Syrian] regime and Iranian/Hizballah offensives around the country. If Vladimir Putin’s priority had been the diplomatic process, he would have acted to promote the cease-fire, not increased the tempo of Russian military operations. . . .

The nature of the Russian strikes makes clear that Putin was not just trying to improve Assad’s leverage before negotiations. No, he was intent on changing the balance of power fundamentally on the ground and sending a message to Arab leaders, namely: you may not like our support for Assad, but unlike the Americans we stand by our friends. If you want to deal with problems in Syria or in the region, you deal with us.

Putin aims to demonstrate that Russia, and not America, is the main power broker in the region and increasingly elsewhere. And he is leaving no doubt that his priority is to use the Syrian conflict for his purposes—not to pave the way for an end of the war. . . .

Rather than being opposed to the Russian efforts, we look to be in league with them. We press for the diplomatic process even as Russian military strikes undercut the prospects for diplomacy. . . . Unless we are prepared to use more leverage against what the Russians are doing, . . . there will be little prospect of diplomacy working.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

More about: Hizballah, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin