McCain says congressional inaction could prove ‘catastrophic’


When it comes to rallying political support for military intervention in Syria, President Obama could use more friends. And in theory, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) could certainly fit the bill – the Republican has been pushing the White House to use force in Syria, and as of last week, that’s precisely what the White House is prepared to do.

But it’s not that simple. While many skeptics of military strikes in Syria fear Obama intends to do too much, McCain and his allies have blasted the president from the other direction, insisting Obama isn’t doing enough. Indeed, almost immediately after the president announced his intention to seek congressional authorization for the use of force, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement saying they “cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria” if the mission is too “limited.” McCain and Graham want a full-fledged war, not targeted strikes.

Yesterday, the senators seemed ready to change their mind.

The White House’s aggressive push for Congressional approval of an attack on Syria appeared to have won the tentative support of one of President Obama’s most hawkish critics, Senator John McCain, who said Monday that he would back a limited strike if the president did more to arm the Syrian rebels and the attack was punishing enough to weaken the Syrian military.

In an hourlong meeting at the White House, said Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, Mr. Obama gave general support to doing more for the Syrian rebels, although no specifics were agreed upon.

“A vote against that resolution by Congress,” McCain said, “I think would be catastrophic.” He added a congressional vote against authorizing force would “undermine the credibility of the United States.”

There are a couple of important problems with this.

First, McCain’s approach seems poorly thought out. By his reasoning, any time any president prepares to use military force abroad, Congress must agree or risk undermining the credibility of the United States. But what if lawmakers have sincere policy differences with an administration and they’re right to oppose intervention abroad? To hear McCain tell it, that wouldn’t much matter – lawmakers should feel an obligation to approve a resolution anyway.

That’s a recipe for Congress serving as little more than a rubber stamp.

Second, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports this morning that McCain appeared on the “Today” show and said he may still oppose authorization if he believes the president’s intended strikes are too limited.

In other words, over the last three days, John McCain, who’s been consistently wrong about nearly every major foreign policy decision the U.S. has faced in recent years, has said he wants U.S. military strikes in the U.S. … but not if they’re too limited … unless that’s all he can get … because opposing a congressional resolution could prove “catastrophic” … though he’s prepared to oppose it anyway.

Reports of McCain’s expertise on matters of foreign policy and national security have been greatly exaggerated.

Foreign Policy, Syria, John McCain and Lindsey Grahan

McCain says congressional inaction could prove 'catastrophic'