Regarding the resolution approved by Senate committee yesterday, be afraid:
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona joined seven Democratic senators, including Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Bob Menendez of New Jersey in approving the resolution.
I’m saying anything McCain, Corker and Flake approve can’t be good. On the other hand, the specimens voting against the resolution included Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. So we were screwed either way.
Seriously, my take on where the progressive/liberal/left is on this issue is that the range of opinions mostly falls from “Why are we doing this, again?” to “Hell, no.” I fall somewhere in there, myself. There are a few exceptions, mostly holding the opinion that “It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.” Not a lot of enthusiasm for bombing, in other words.
The Right is more interesting on this issue. At one end of the spectrum is Grandpa John McCain, who seems to want to nuke the entire Middle East so it will stay off his lawn. At the other end are paleo-isolationists like Rand Paul. Oh, and there’s also the genius who thinks all this hoo-haw over Syria is just to distract us from Benghazi. Idiots in clown shoes, indeed.
Assuming this resolution passes in the Senate, it’s likely to run into a brick wall in the House. Whether you are a House Democrat or a House Republican, right now I see little political risk in being against the thing. It may be that the teabagger/isolationist Right eventually will be brought to heel by the old-school neoconservative Right, but not easily, and not without considerable mess. And I don’t see opponents on the Left changing their minds, either.
A few days ago I wrote a post complaining that too much of the “debate,” such as it is, on Syria amounts to re-arguing Iraq. Whatever the merits or de-merits of bombing Syria, Syria is not Iraq any more than Iraq was the earlier Gulf War, the earlier Gulf War was Vietnam, and Vietnam was World War II. It would be really nice if people could clear their heads and look at situations as-they-are without replaying old tapes.
For example, a commenter this morning looks at the Obama White House on Syria and sees Condi Rice warning about evil centrifuge cylinders and mushroom clouds. Clear your heads, people. Don’t imagine ghoulies and beasties that aren’t there. One of these days — and I’m not saying Syria is it, because I don’t think it is — the U.S. may really need to intervene in something, and lefties will oppose it because Bush lied.
On the other hand, the Right finds itself in the unaccustomed position of being cautious. Even Liz Cheney says she opposes bombing Syria. But do they mean it? Dave Weigel writes,
This probably isnâ€™t the curtain call for neoconservatism or for Republican interventionism, however. On Wednesday interventionists led by John McCain got the resolution they wanted through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after their preferred amendment strengthened it. But they had to overcome a growing conservative consensus that intervention doesnâ€™t bring the results America wants. Itâ€™s a delayedâ€”long-delayedâ€”hangover from the debacle in Iraq.
Well, that and the fact that making President Obama look weak and ineffectual is what they live for.
Anyone looking forward from 2002 would find this party unrecognizable. Back then only six Republican members of the House, and zero in the Senate, opposed the authorization of force in Iraq. â€œYou still had the aftertaste of 9/11, and you had popular support for it,â€ remembers former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis. â€œEveryone’s a little more war-weary after Iraq. America is out there by itself, basicallyâ€”you had a coalition of the willing in 2002, and now it’s just France and the U.S. going it alone. You’ve even got some of your right-wing organs coming out against this.â€
What you have is a return to the politics of 1999, when most Republicans opposed the Clinton administrationâ€™s requests for intervention in Kosovo. Kerry harked back to that war after Marino pledged not to send any more troops to their graves. â€œWe had a 28-day campaign, there were 30,000 sorties, none of which is contemplated here, and there were zero casualties,â€ said Kerry. That just didnâ€™t move Republicans at the time. â€œI was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for Kosovo,â€ remembers Davis. â€œThe reason I did is that I didn’t want to undermine the president, and actually it worked out pretty well. You take that same rationale to Iraq, though, and you can get embarrassed.â€
I’ve also read, somewhere, that some righties oppose bombing Syria because they are afraid that what happens there will reduce their chances for getting the war they really want, which is with Iran.
My prediction is that after a messy fight in the House the President will get either no authorization or one that is so restricted it amounts to no authorization, after which he will either throw up his hands and say “all right, whatever,” or choose to ignore it and bomb Syria anyway.
See also Dana Milbank, “The GOP wants to have it both ways on Syria.”