Late last week, with tenuous evidence emerging of the Assad regime possibly having used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed his ongoing frustration with the Obama administration. “I’m worried that the president and the administration will use the caveats as an excuse to not act right away or to not act at all,” he told Fox News.
McCain’s not the only Republican who feels this way – the fact that President Obama may look for “excuses” not to use the U.S. military to intervene in an another Middle Eastern country is a growing point of conservative consternation, as opposed to relief. On “Fox News Sunday,” Brit Hume sounded pretty disappointed when he described Syria as “a costly military enterprise of the kind that this president now seems to loath to undertake.”
As if that were grounds for criticism.
On the same program, Bill Kristol went further:
“This is not a president who wants to start another war, that’s the way he sees it. I think it’s totally irresponsible for the American president to have that. Nobody wants to start wars, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
I’m not entirely sure “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do” is a sensible principle for U.S. foreign policy as it relates to launching yet another war in the Middle East, but Kristol seemed rather confident in his position. And it’s not like Kristol has a tragically awful track record on these issues, right?
And on “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went just a little further still.
“[F]our things are going to happen if we don’t change course in Syria. It’s going to become a failed state by the end of the year. It’s fracturing along sectarian/ethnic lines. It’s going to be an al Qaeda safe haven.
“The second thing, the chemical weapons, enough to kill millions of people, are going to be compromised and fall into the wrong hands. And the next bomb that goes off in America may not have nails and glass in it.”
Yep, it sure sounds like Graham believes the U.S. has to intervene in Syria or we’ll face a chemical weapon attack on American soil. The “smoking gun as a mushroom cloud” argument didn’t go away; it just evolved.
For his part, John McCain, making his ninth Sunday show appearance of the year – the most of anyone in the country – now believes President Obama is to blame, at least in part, for the Assad regime’s offensives.
“What has happened here is the president drew red lines about chemical weapons thereby giving a green light to Bashar Assad to do anything short of that – including scud missiles and helicopter gunships and air strikes and mass executions and atrocities that are on a scale that we have not seen in a long, long time,” McCain said.
The senator, who has the misfortune of being wrong about nearly every foreign policy conflict of the last few decades, added that he does not want the U.S. to invade Syria, but prefers to give “assistance” to rebels fighting the Assad regime.
Many of those same rebels, it’s worth emphasizing, have already pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, a detail McCain generally prefers to overlook when he argues we should give them resources and weapons.