A word to look out for these days is narrative. Although it might be defined differently in dictionaries, the word narrative has come to mean: an analysis or explanations – in short, a storyline – from a party with whom you tend to disagree on most but not all points. In other words you will not use a frankly derogatory term to dismiss the analysis or explanation in question, but you are subtly letting people know you don’t think much of it.

More importantly, you will find that a narrative, as the term is used today, will tend to be a little tricky to refute.

To wit, it is one of the preferred terms used about references to the Russians’ stand on the war in Syria. The thing is, we (i.e. NATO countries, the EU) need the Russians in Syria, so we can’t tell them to piss off, but we don’t quite agree with them. Why don’t we “quite agree” with them? Well, it’s all a bit awkward: After all, it is true, is it not, that when we (see definition above) did it our way, we made terrible messes of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya? Also: We are increasingly resorting to surveillance of the general public at a level that we associate with the former Soviet Union and the present Russia.

You won’t hear any reference to “the US narrative”, except perhaps in Russia. I put it to you that the US narrative is: “the Russians are supporting Assad in order to gain hegemony in the Middle East.” Mind you, I am in no doubt that the Russians are attempting to gain or maintain hegemony here and for that matter there. But are not the US Americans also doing their damnedest to do so too? Why else are we all (see definition of “we” above ) such great buddies with, say, Saudi Arabia, where they publicly flog dissidents, not to put too fine a point on the Saudis’ human rights record?

The US narrative may be subtle since it isn’t strictly speaking incorrect, but it is misleading and beside the point.

Had Assad’s so-called “moderate” detractors somehow miraculously won the Syrian civil war, Syria would most certainly not have become a democracy. Assad’s “moderate” detractors may have been moderate, but their opposition was basically only anti-Assad (understandably, to be sure). Theirs was not a coordinated movement to create a “democracy”. Had it been so, they would not have demanded such sacrifices from the Syrian people.

You don’t create democracies through civil wars, at least not in our day and age, when there is no limit to foreign intervention, arms deals and transnational financial cynicism. There is absolutely no denying the Russian narrative as far as this point is concerned.

I wish our own “narrative” were a little more credible.