As has been widely reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Secretary John Kerry of lying.

“It was unclear exactly what Putin was referencing, but Kerry was asked Tuesday while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if the Syrian opposition had become more infiltrated by al-Qaida. Kerry responded that that was ‘basically incorrect’ and that the opposition has ‘increasingly become more defined by its moderation.’ When asked if a strike would make al-Nusra and other extremist forces stronger, Kerry responded, ‘No, I don’t believe you do (make them stronger). As a matter of fact, I think you actually make the opposition stronger. And the opposition is getting stronger by the day now.’”

On the face of it, if one simply follows the media reports, I think one would assume that Putin is telling the truth and Kerry is lying. Al Qaeda forces are thoroughly involved in the Syrian “rebellion.” This has nothing to do with deciding which of the two men is morally superior. We can assume they are both willing to lie when they think it is profitable to do so. But the reports line up much better with Putin than Kerry.

But what if the reports are inaccurate? Does Kerry have better intel?

One way to test the theory is simply what we know about war and human nature. Is it likely that, in a protracted civil war, that the rebels would “increasingly become more defined by moderation”?