Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



September 2013

Syrian Intervention Reveals Central Foreign Policy Divide

Written by , Posted in Foreign Affairs & Policy

When Obama was elected, I noted that his soon-to-be Ambassador to the U.N and now National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, had previously argued for unilateral military action in Darfur and represented a kind of left-wing humanitarian interventionism that those preoccupied only with the most current of events might not have been familiar with:

Left-wing interventionists are actually more common than right-wing ones. Before the neoconservatives had won the day in establishing Republican policy, there was Secretary Madeliene Albright, who asked Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” The ironic difference between the left and right interventionists is this: on the left they only want to use force when U.S. interests are non-existent. Boondoggle that Iraq was in many ways, at least there was a debatable, though certainly plausible, claim of serving U.S. national interests in deposing Saddam. One can’t even make a pretense of serving U.S. interests in Darfur.

I assumed this information would come as a surprise to many given the dominant opposition rhetoric of the Bush years. Many had also forgotten that Bush ran a campaign opposed to interventionism and nation building, which contrasted with Clinton’s international adventures as world police. But like so many politicians, Bush reversed position upon entering office.

We’ve since witnessed Obama’s unilateral interventionism in Libya, an adventure conjured for the specific purpose of revitalizing the image of humanitarian interventionism post-Iraq. And now we see the same thing happening with Syria, where once again there is no credible argument of a U.S. interest at stake. Matt Welch at Reason does an excellent job of exposing the administration’s dissembling via Secretary of State John Kerry, who was against military mistakes before he was for them.

While the public overwhelming opposes a pointless strike on Syria, Republicans are nevertheless providing the President political cover. Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor have endorsed a strike, while John McCain is once again one of the loudest voices calling for insertion of the United States into a Middle Eastern civil war, suggesting it would be “catastrophic” should Congress decline authorizing force.

The position of Republican leadership and the GOP old guard contrasts with more stridently small government newcomers Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Justin Amash, and they’re joined by true anti-war liberals (as opposed to those, like Nancy Pelosi, who apparently just took positions for convenience because they were against Bush). All of this makes for a lot of political intrigue surrounding the vote over a resolution of force.