The Daily Debate - 9/4/2013

By Robert Tracinski

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September 4, 2013

1. Non-Interventionism

3. Dispatches


1. Non-Interventionism

Ah, those skeptical anti-war Republicans and those hot-headed neocon warmonger Democrats.

Wait, what?

Welcome to Etchasketchistan, the new foreign policy world in which everyone has decided to switch sides since the last go-around, just to keep things interesting.

But for all the contentious debate over whether to intervene in Syria, there may not be much difference between the two sides after all. One side wants us not to intervene, while in a bold contrarian stand, President Obama wants us to intervene without really intervening.

The most compelling argument against authorizing the president to use force is that he won't really use it. That is, he will use it only symbolically, dropping a few bombs to make a show of doing something without actually accomplishing any measurable result.

The best evidence for this is that the administration keeps declaring that it doesn't want to accomplish anything.

What would air strikes on Syria do?

Would we protect civilians from being slaughtered by the Assad regime? Well, no. This is not a strictly humanitarian mission, which is why we didn't step up while the first 100,000 Syrians were murdered.

Would we tip the balance against the regime and finally get to see Bashar Assad swing from a lamppost in Damascus? Well, no. The air strikes would be carefully tailored not to tip the balance of power in Syria's civil war.

Would we decapitate the regime, taking out its top leadership? Well, no. Even if we had the intelligence for such precision strikes—and we tried and failed with Saddam Hussein—that doesn't seem to be on the agenda.

Would we at least seize or destroy Assad's chemical weapons, so they could no longer be used by him or anyone else? Well, no. The weapons are too broadly dispersed, Assad has had too much warning, and we're not committed to putting troops on the ground. All we are told is that air strikes will "degrade" Assad's chemical weapons capacity, a goal so vague and ill-defined that it cannot possibly be said to have failed—or succeeded.

A British member of Parliament, one of the ones who voted "no" on intervention in Syria, sums up the Obama administration's strategy: "hit, and then hope."

This is what happens when you design a military strategy around the goal of not being the Iraq War. This is not about picking an end result we like in Syria and taking the first steps to achieve it, to be followed by other steps as necessary later on. This is the opposite: a limited, one-time effort with limited impact. It is specifically designed to be an action without consequences.

Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to military action against the Assad regime. I'm just waiting for someone to actually propose it.


2. Dispatches

Ah, the rich ironies of John Kerry's testimony advocating war in Syria.

President Obama declares, "My credibility is not on the line." Which is exactly the sort of thing you say when your credibility is on the line.

Debunking the idea that Republicans and Democrats have different brains.


—Robert Tracinski

The Daily Debate

edited by Robert Tracinski

Brought to you by RealClearPolitics.

Robert Tracinski is also editor of The Tracinski Letter.

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