President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands...

President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. (June 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Mr. Assad, tear down your chemical weapons! Mr. Putin, tear down these murderous allies of yours!

The old tear-down plea worked pretty well for Ronald Reagan, back when he was beseeching the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev to pressure his pesky allies in East Berlin to dismantle the Cold War's infamous wall. Can the same direct beseeching work on Russian President (and freelance op-ed columnist) Vladimir Putin?

Probably not.

For one thing, Syria is a far less compliant ally than East Germany ever was, even in the days before the wall fell. For another, Bashar Assad has at least some oil under his feet. The only natural resources East Germany had were gray skies and dour facial expressions.

Superpower domination was so much easier in the bad old days!

If this were 1987, Gorby would bark an order at Assad's dad, Hafez Assad. "Dump the chems -- or at least hide them better!" The order would be executed promptly. And the newspaper Pravda would write it all up as another triumph of the peace-loving Soviet empire and their peace-loving friends in the Middle East.

We'd know it was all a pile of East Bloc propaganda. But Washington would be secretly happy that the leaders in the Kremlin were capable of rational self-interest and at least some inclination to clean up their own mess.

Now? Who knows?

Today's petty dictators have far scarier weapons and far stronger independent streaks.

Doesn't Vladimir Putin know how to boss anyone around?


1. Caviar cavalry

2. Borscht brigade

3. Vladimir vodka gimlet

4. Ghoulish goulash

5. Sarin Stroganoff

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Harborfields High's new anti-texting-while-driving program is called "It Can Wait"? Isn't "It Can't Wait" the official slogan of 16-year-olds everywhere? . . . Are the organizers of Friday's first yearly Car Free Day Long Island thinking too big? Should they start with Car Free Afternoon? Or Car Free Hour and a Half? For better or (often) worse, cars built this Island, you know . . . Celebri-mom Dina Lohan, exercising poor judgment behind the wheel? Why should she stop just because she's driving? . . . Vladimir Putin, Steve Israel -- is everyone an op-ed columnist now? . . . Smithtown public-safety officers spent four months staking out a marijuana farm inside a water-recharge basin off Commack's Motor Parkway? And they discovered -- what? That agriculture is still thriving on Long Island? . . . Who is KJ-FIDO? And why would he/she/they choose to hack the Sag Harbor Village website? Can't today's East End cyber guerrillas find targets any sexier than village hall?

THE NEWS IN SONG: There's no such thing as a winnable war: Sting's "Russians":

They may be a little ahead of the curve at Farmingdale State College. Not too many students are pulling up on campus yet in fully electric vehicles. But the college is definitely ready for them with the state university's first solar carport and charging station. It's one piece of the $24 million Long Island Smart Energy Corridor, supported by LIPA, Stony Brook University and the U.S. Department of Energy. The dean of Farmingdale's Engineering Technology Department, Kamal Shahrabi, says the college's Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center reflects a 101-year legacy of pioneering green technology. Green then, green now, green whenever electric cars finally fill the Farmingdale parking lots.

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