Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sotto Voce: Syrian Civil War Edition

Probably Obama's jerkiest moment during the 2012 campaign was when he smirked during an interview on 60 Minutes that his opponents were "new" to foreign if a globe-trotting financier and the chairman of the House Budget Committee were rubes who had never crossed the county line. F*** you very much and enjoy your crow, jerk.

Actually, I remember being impressed with Paul Ryan's contributions to the foreign policy portions of his VP debate with Joe Biden. It really brought home the fact that foreign policy skills are more about having the right principles, rather than knowing who is president-for-life in this or that particular hellhole.

And, am I the only one who remembers "Scranton Joe" faux-bellowing, "Oh! So you want to start another war!" in response to some point Ryan made about the Obama administration's feckless retreat from Afghanistan? It's just amazing how these preening liberal peace-niks want to start major combat operations within a year of their successful election victories premised, at least in part, on "keeping up out of war."

It shouldn't be that hard to make political hay out of this fundamentally political duplicity, but the best the GOP has been able to come up with in the past 100 years has been Bob Dole's bicentennial-era crack about "Democratic Wars." (forehead slap)

(And let's hear it for our history of victorious "Republican Wars" back in the 19th century!)

Should Republicans vote to support Obama's vague proposals for punitive strikes against the Assad regime? Hell if I know, but I do know this: if all Obama wants to do is lob some cruise missiles or lead an air campaign, he doesn't need Congress to approve that.

I mean, Reagan invaded Grenada on 48 hours notice without asking permission, even killing some Cuban military "advisers" along the way. He also sent a punitive air strike against Libya, (remember Qaddaffi's "Line of Death?"), and waged a naval campaign in the Persian Gulf that decimated the Iranian navy.

On the other hand, when Iran (booooo!) and Iraq (booooo!) used chemical weapons on each other, Reagan did precisely nothing except let them bleed one another dry. That's an option, you know.

Also, I don't have time to look this up, but I am 99.99% sure that Bush 41 invaded Panama*, ostensibly an ally, without any great debate beforehand.

Not coincidentally, this was a time when America's international standing and military might was unquestioned.

Now we've got a president of the United States who acts like a senior associate who missed a filing deadline, and whom we're all supposed to treat as the smartest guy to ever hold the office.

The argument that we need to support Obama in order to preserve the prestige of the office of the President is falling on deaf ears here at Free Will HQ. Obama's the only guy whose prestige is on the line, and everyone knows it.

And put away your columns about "Munich moments" and how this is "like" the Spanish Civil War. It's nothing like the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War featured two cognizable adversaries whom you could support or work against depending on your ideological leanings. Who in Syria is the Franco? There is none.  

The effort to define some of the rebels as "moderates" is little more than desperate spin. Do we even know these peoples' real names?! At least when America had a civil war, curious Europeans could visit Washington and Richmond and get a sense of how the two sides were thinking and doing. John McCain visiting some desert encampments doesn't do that. (although all credit to him for actually going over there).

And, I hate to be politically incorrect, but Arab militants have a well-deserved reputation as fabulists depending on which set of westerners they're talking to.

Most important, there is no way our "intelligence," such as it is, can pinpoint who unleashed the chemical weapon attack that crossed Obama's red line. It very well may be that it was rebels, not Assad, who launched the attack. Looping YouTube videos of dead children won't change that. We have no business doing anything militarily on anything less than evidence that establishes Assad's fault beyond a reasonable doubt.

I continue to hold out hope that Obama might surprise us all either by (1) leaving Syria alone or (2) actually launching an effective attack that bloodies Assad enough to chasten him, but doesn't give the Islamists among the rebels the opportunity to seize power. Please at least tell me that they have been monitoring traffic around suspected WMD sites and that we have a vague idea whether Assad's stockpiles are being moved around!

This is, needless to say, a priceless opportunity for Republicans to use Obama's shrunken international standing (and the public's angry opposition to any proposed Syrian attack) and derail or roll back all of Obama's noxious domestic "achievements." That's certainly what liberals did when Nixon, Ford, and W were president. I'm sure the GOP has absolutely no intention of pursuing this for fear of harming the prestige of the office of the president during wartime.

It's just amazing how quickly Obama's fortunes have turned. A month ago, I don't think anyone would have guessed that a Syrian chemical attack would lead to the very real prospect of the president losing a congressional authorization vote opposed by dozens of members of his own party, not to mention conservative "warmongers" (who are usually skeptical of military adventurism, too. It's the moderates like McCain and Colin Powell who like to get gung ho). You can call people isolationists all you want, but the fact is that the US doesn't literally have an interest in every stupid conflict on the planet.

* yes, kids, this really happened.

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