Even if I weren’t opposed to American intervention on the side of Sunni Islamic supremacists in Syria, I’d be inclined to agree with the bottom line of John O’Sullivan’s characteristically wise weekend column: the United States should not act unless we are willing to act decisively. There is clearly no public appetite for doing so. I believe this is prudent on the public’s part.
John seems more agnostic on that point. He packs some telling observations in the thrust of his argument that are very much worth considering further:
- President Obama seems to have reached the conclusions that American voters will go no further than supplying lighter and less advanced weaponry to the rebels. Others — Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, and former president Clinton — argue that they would support a higher level of intervention once the president (any president, apparently) ordered it. But experience suggests that even if that were so, public support would evaporate unless the rebels looked like scoring a victory in reasonable time. And that would be a plausible outcome only if U.S. intervention were bold and substantial[.]…
Three noteworthy things here. First, Obama probably has concluded that voters will go no further than supplying insignificant arms. This, however, is not to say that votersaffirmatively support such a policy. Rather, it means that this is the most Obama believes he can get away with given that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to any U.S. military action (almost 3-to-1 according to Gallup).
Second, notice the joint position of McCain, Graham and Clinton (as I’ve argued repeatedly, the transnational progressivism that steers U.S. foreign policy is a bipartisanphenomenon). It is reminiscent of the same arguments made by the GOP’s McCain wing and the Obama administration in connection with the Libyan debacle: No need for the president to go to Congress for authorization to launch an unpopular war; he should just order it and the public will come along.
This is how we get into, and double down on, so many failed foreign policy experiments: The president unilaterally orders them and then those who favor them say, regardless of the naysayers’ misgivings or the objective foolishness of the policy, that we are now obliged to support it because presidential (and thus, American) credibility is on the line. This is especially the case when American troops are put in harm’s way — even those who oppose the commitment of our forces do not want to undermine them, no matter how wayward the mission.
The answer to this is to go to Congress. If there is a congressional debate – such as the ones President Bush 41 and President Bush 43 wisely encouraged rather than unilaterally using force against Saddam Hussein’s regime – the interventionists can make their case and, should they prevail, rally crucial political support for their cause. As I notedelsewhere over the weekend, GOP Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee have joined two Democratic counterparts, Senators Chris Murphy and Tom Udall, in offering legislation that would block direct or indirect aid for military or …read more