At a right-wing forum last week, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said he feels “duty bound” to authorize the use of force against Islamic State targets, but he’s conflicted. The far-right lawmaker argued, out loud, that he fears President Obama may be “working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.”
It sounded an awful lot like the Republican congressman was accusing the war-time Commander in Chief of being some kind of traitor.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker added that he wasn’t sure how he could vote to give the president the “power to take action” when he knows in his heart “he won’t.” On the contrary, Perry said. Obama might use his power “to further their cause.”
A day later, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) argued, “I don’t believe that the president really wants to prosecute a war that would truly destroy ISIL, I don’t think he has any intention of doing that it.”
Yesterday, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lent credence to these bonkers perspectives.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Sunday that he doubted the administration’s “commitment to dealing” with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). […]Corker said, “I think there is a lot of skepticism about the administration’s commitment to dealing with ISIS or Daesh or ISIL or whatever you want to call them.”
It’s become increasingly difficult to understand which reality congressional Republicans have been living in the last several months.
There is, of course, ample room for debate about the merits of the White House’s national security strategy, but it seems GOP lawmakers have lost sight of the broader dynamic here. On one side we see President Obama, who launched a military offensive against ISIS targets last August and who took the lead in assembling an international coalition to go after the terrorist group.
And on the other side we see the Republican-led Congress, which has done … nothing. GOP lawmakers seem eager to cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but when it comes to policy efforts on national security, Capitol Hill has been awfully quiet.
Who’s demonstrated an actual “commitment to dealing with ISIS” and who’s done a lot of talking without doing any actual work?
To be sure, it’s entirely possible Obama’s actions won’t have the desired effect. It’s the sort of thing a functioning Congress might want to, I don’t know, debate or something.
But that’s not what’s happening. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) seems to think Obama “won’t” act, even though he already has. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) believes Obama doesn’t have “any intention” of prosecuting a war against ISIS, even though the military offensive has been underway for six months. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is skeptical of Obama’s “commitment to dealing with ISIS,” even though it’s only the White House, not Congress, that’s making any effort to deal with ISIS.
This keeps happening. The Republican rhetorical strategy seems predicated on the assumption that thousands of airstrikes haven’t actually happened.
Even by 2015 standards, this is a bit bizarre. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, I’m all for Republicans – and Democrats, and journalists, and the public, and our allies – asking questions about the U.S. mission. Is it working? What’s the endgame? Is it realistic? Should the mission receive congressional authorization? What will it cost? Who’s likely to benefit?
But the prerequisite to having a credible debate about U.S. military intervention abroad is acknowledging that U.S. military intervention abroad exists. It’s on this point that conservative lawmakers seem lost.