The right struggles to hide its disappointment with diplomatic progress

Updated

A couple of years ago, after the United States and its allies used military force to help remove the Gadhafi’s government from Libya, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued one of my favorite Republican press releases ever. The two senators, who had eagerly spent months touting U.S. military action in Libya, issued a joint statement commending the “British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE.”

McCain and Graham eventually said Americans can be “proud of the role our country” played, but they nevertheless condemned the Obama administration’s “failure” to act in Libya the way the GOP senators preferred.

It was striking at the time for its bitterness – the United States had achieved its strategic goals, but instead of celebrating or applauding Obama’s success, Republicans pouted and whined.

It’s funny how history sometimes repeats itself. Over the course of six days, the Obama administration pushed Syria into the chemical weapons convention, helped create a diplomatic framework that will hopefully rid Syria of its stockpiles, successfully pushed Russia into a commitment to help disarm its own ally, quickly won support from the United Nations and our allies, and did all of this without firing a shot.

Republicans are outraged.

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement on the U.S.-Russian agreement on Syria:

“What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement – they see it as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part.”

McCain wasn’t scheduled to appear on “Meet the Press” yesterday, but he was nevertheless added at the last minute. It was, after all, a Sunday.

It’s not just McCain, of course. Over the weekend, it seemed as if much of the chatter out of the Beltway was an effort to spin a diplomatic resolution as necessarily disappointing and evidence of a presidential mistake, if not outright failure.

It’s difficult to take such talk seriously.

In fact, Fred Kaplan’s take seemed compelling to me.

And so, assuming all goes according to plan, Assad loses his stash of deadly chemicals – but he stays in power, at least for the time being, and the Russian Federation re-emerges as a serious player in Middle Eastern politics. A win-win-win for Putin.

At the same time, Obama can cite his threat to use force as the reason Putin suddenly swung into action (this might even be true, to some extent). He can thus take at least joint credit for ridding Syria of chemical weapons and upholding international law. And he is saved from having to make good on letting Congress vote on whether to authorize the use of force – a vote that he seemed all but certain to lose. A win-win-win for Obama.

I’d just add that Obama also gets the benefits that come with not using military force – while the diplomatic course moves forward, the White House won’t have to fear the unknown and unpredictable consequences of dropping missiles on another Middle Eastern country.

At this point, Republican complaints made a right turn at unpersuasive and landed at unseemly. Many on the right urged Obama to engage in saber-rattling against Syria, then complained when the president did just that. Many on the right urged Obama to take the issue to Congress, then complained when the president did that, too. Many on the right said they supported military intervention, right up until Obama agreed with them. Now Republicans seem to be complaining … just for the sake of complaining.

Neil Irwin had a worthwhile item over the weekend, asking, “Was Obama’s Syria strategy brilliant or lucky?” It’s not an unreasonable question, but note that the choices are predicated on an assumption: the outcome is good for the U.S. in general and the Obama administration in particular.

If the right could at least try to hide their disappointment, it might be easier to take their views on foreign policy seriously.

Lindsey Graham, Foreign Policy, Syria, John McCain, Russia, Barack Obama and Diplomacy

The right struggles to hide its disappointment with diplomatic progress

Updated