Australia’s opposition leader (running for prime minister) has gotten flack for describing the Syrian war as baddies vs baddies and being circumspect about any role for Australia. Yet, it’s a reflection of the new realty the west faces, argues Hugh White. Underpinning this realization is the economic reality, of a more powerful set of BRICs nations – that is Brazil, Russia, India, China. If the US and UK saw the Syrian conflict against the backdrop of weak global competitors, calls for action would be more strident. Instead, it is the recognition that the conflict is baddies vs baddies. And two of the biggest countries on the UN Security Council (China, more powerful, Russia, clinging to power) guaranteed to stand up for the interests of Bashar Assad. But as the leaders of China and Russia would certainly agree, sometimes you just have to murder your citizens by the thousands (or going back to the 20th century, tens of millions) just to stay in control. Worth noting also that Germany, which has a larger stake in a secure Syria than the US, has vowed not to get involved. Anyway, this is the new reality, US and UK. Draw up the moat bridges. There are lots of baddies out there. And the US, would be wise to stay out of Syria, as it was wise to stay out of Spain in 1936.