Obama himself now insists that he never even set a “red line” in Syria, and is setting Congress up to take the fall if it decides against military action — action he even admits is unlikely to make any difference in the war. This is a man Americans should trust to involve us in yet another war in the Middle East? This is a man conservatives should support?
Barack Obama has approached Syria with none of the seriousness that such a grave decision deserves. He has failed to build a serious international coalition to back the U.S. He has failed to make the case for action to the American people. He is even today putting politics ahead of national security, huddling first with his former campaign officials and then with left-wing bloggers and columnists to sell the Syria war to his base. This is not leadership or statesmanship. It is mere salesmanship. Barack Obama is proving, so far, that he isn’t even very good at that, and needs Bill Clinton to save him.
I am very familiar with the history that Radosh and Stephens cite to persuade conservatives to support action. I don’t find it persuasive. It is not “isolationist” or being a “Taft Republican” or a “paleocon” to view Barack Obama, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and the rest of this president’s advisers and lieutenants — Valerie Jarrett, James Clapper and so forth and so on — with deep suspicion and apprehension. None of them have shown consistent and knowledgeable opposition to the global jihad, its violent actions overseas or its stealthier actions here at home. None of them have shown the kind of resolute pro-American leadership that we will need if we choose the path of war. All of them have shown varying degrees of hostility to the American position in the world. None of them have earned America’s trust on this. They still may, but have not done so yet.
I consider myself an internationalist and usually favor American military action against our enemies, and Bashar Assad is an enemy of the United States. I served overseas in the United States Air Force and saw firsthand how the U.S. military’s global presence serves as the greatest force for global peace the world has ever seen. I supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am also chastened by the reality of those wars. American troops fight and die for others’ freedom, only to have Iraqis and Afghans write sharia law into their constitutions and Islamicize their institutions. Given the choice of freedom and pluralism for the first time in living memory, they freely reject it. We should learn from these experiences and apply what we learn to conflicts like Syria’s civil war. What will a half-hearted U.S. military intervention really accomplish?
The Middle East is undergoing what might be called a religious revival, but not in the Jonathan Edwards “Great Awakening” sense. The Middle East’s revival is Islamic and therefore Islamist, and jihad is on the march around the globe. In Syria, jihad is powering the rebellion against the Baathist thug Assad. Any American intervention will end up either doing nothing — in which case, what’s the point? — or it will aid the jihadist rebellion. Neither is in the American national interest. We cannot impose Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East, not even with hundreds of thousands of troops — the “boots on the ground” that Obama is already ruling out for Syria.
I agree with Stanley Kurtz that President Obama drew his Syria “red line” in in the wrong place, at use instead of proliferation. The United States should not wage any military action based on that fundamental error. If Obama chooses military action, conservatives should not support him.
It is not “isolationist” to mistrust the Obama government and to see where its adventure in Syria is likely to lead. It is not “isolationism” to see the Middle East for what it is. It is common sense.
With all due respect, Barack Obama has not earned conservative support for action in Syria and does not deserve it.