WaPo: Where are the liberal hawks on Syria?

posted at 9:21 am on May 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Good question.  Clearly, the Obama administration wants to build up some kind of momentum for another intervention in the Middle East, and has Republican hawks like John McCain on board already — but interventionism has waned in the GOP thanks to the influence of the Ron/Rand Paul movement.  The Washington Post says that liberal hawks may be reluctant to commit and give Barack Obama enough support to make a robust intervention because of being burned on Iraq, but that’s the wrong lesson and the wrong model:

For interests on both sides of Syria’s civil war, this has been the week to increase the pressure. Hezbollah sent reinforcements to the troops of President Bashar al-Assad, and Russia reiterated its intention to furnish the regime with weapons. At the same time, Republican Sen. John McCain secretly visited rebels and promised to push the Obama administration to arm the retreating forces. The European Union allowed its weapons embargo to lapse as nations such as Britain and France appear increasingly eager to aid the opposition fighters.

But amid the burst in outside engagement, one influential group seems noticeably silent. The liberal hawks, a cast of prominent left-leaning intellectuals, played high-profile roles in advocating for American military intervention on foreign soil — whether for regime change or to prevent humanitarian disasters. They pressured President Bill Clinton to intervene in Bosnia, provided intellectual cover on the left for President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and urged President Obama to engage in Libya. But even as the body count edges toward 100,000 in Syria and reports of apparent chemical-weapons use by Assad, liberal advocates for interceding have been rare, spooked perhaps by the traumatic experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and the clear reluctance of a Democratic president to get mired in the Middle East. Call them Syria’s mourning doves.

I’ll take a pass on that awful terminology, thank you very much.

The lesson in this case isn’t Iraq, except perhaps politically at home for the liberal hawks who got pilloried as dupes for George Bush.  It’s not even the correct model.  In both Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention came with a robust American presence on the ground to dictate outcomes — although in retrospect, not robust enough in either theater at first.  It took years and plenty of fighting with insurgents and tribal militias to allow a central government and a security force to take shape and control the ground.  In neither case did that mean an end to violence, but at least in both cases it didn’t mean a failed state — yet, anyway, and it’s unlikely to happen at all in Iraq, at least.

The intervention model in Syria, on the other hand, will be Libya.  Obama and the EU (through NATO) conducted a 30,000-foot intervention that succeeded in decapitating a tyrannical regime but created a power vacuum on the ground in eastern Libya.  Not only did that result in the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi — which was preventable even under the circumstances had the threat been taken seriously in Washington — but it also allowed al-Qaeda to organize a war in Mali.  Only a French military intervention, this time with boots on the ground, managed to push the radical Islamist terrorists back.

On top of that disaster, Obama burned his bridges with hawks of both liberal and conservative stripes on his Libyan intervention by refusing to get Congressional approval for the war on Moammar Qaddafi.  Had he done so, Obama would almost certainly have won approval; at the time, the skeptics were outnumbered by Arab Spring cheerleaders, with the liberal hawks in the vanguard.  Instead, he stiffed Capitol Hill and played a shell game with NATO to claim that Congressional approval was no longer necessary.  After getting burned by Obama, the liberal hawks aren’t going to be lining up to provide Obama political cover on Syria.

The only way a Western intervention in Syria makes sense with Assad on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other is with a massive land invasion that wipes out both. If the West isn’t ready for that kind of commitment — and it’s clearly not in the range of possibilities — then we should stay out of it and let the Syrians et al fight it out among themselves.

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Where are the liberal hawks on Syria? Look to the senior senator from AZ, WaPo.

levi on May 29, 2013 at 9:24 AM

You would think that Bark’s Nobel Peace Prize would be all the justification that lefties need to support his military intervention in Syria.

Nothing says “blowing little brown people to bits” quite like a Nobel.

Bishop on May 29, 2013 at 9:30 AM

To paraphrase Kissinger, it’s a shame that Assad, Hezbollah, and Al-Quida can’t all lose. Yes, let them fight it out among themselves. For a long, long time.

Agent of the Cross on May 29, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Let Syria burn.

The only way a Western intervention in Syria makes sense with Assad on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other is with a massive land invasion that wipes out both.

Which would leave a body count in the millions. And while a new crusade might dampen jihadist attacks in the West, looking at our national checking account, the money just isn’t there.

rbj on May 29, 2013 at 9:34 AM

My vote is in for letting them fight it out.

docflash on May 29, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Can anybody say “Wag the Dog?”

jerryofva on May 29, 2013 at 9:36 AM

$ to Assad’s chemical warriors…or $ to al Qaeda’s ritual cannibals?

great choices there.

workingclass artist on May 29, 2013 at 9:41 AM

The urge to “Do Something” is almost overwhelming, it seems. I see more evidence that says “doing something” is probably the worst possible decision out of all of the bad decisions on the table.

This urge to “Do Something” has led this country to the brink of financial collapse and the worst economy in our history with no effective options remaining.

Mord on May 29, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Mord on May 29, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Can’t let a crisis go to waste.

kirkill on May 29, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Syria could end up being another European war that we get dragged into, in a sense. Libya was more a Euro concern than one of ours, because of how much oil the Continent gets from there (the US only ever got 5% of our total consumption from Libya).

How much oil does Syria provide to Europe, and why do we have to save Euro interests (and azzes) yet again?

Obama is going to make liberals look like fools-in-love again if he intervenes and they feel compelled to support him. Of course, if it all turns out badly, we can be sure the LSM will be saying, “Under pressure from Republicans, most notably Sen. John McCain, Obama was pushed into an action in Syria he did not want.”

Liam on May 29, 2013 at 9:51 AM

That picture looks like Obama is holding Kerry back from a fight.

Ditkaca on May 29, 2013 at 9:51 AM

I’m thinking the model is more our proxy intervention in Afghanistan following the Russian invasion except this time Russia is smart enough to fight it as a proxy war too. We arm the Syrian rebels and within 20 years those American weapons will be used against US troops and aircraft just like the small arms and Stingers we provided the Mujahadeen are used against the US in Afghanistan.

deepdiver on May 29, 2013 at 9:53 AM

split the atom.
right over their heads.

dmacleo on May 29, 2013 at 9:55 AM

dmacleo on May 29, 2013 at 9:55 AM

We can’t do that.

Defense contractors don’t make as much money on your suggestion.

IlikedAUH2O on May 29, 2013 at 9:58 AM

The only way a Western intervention in Syria makes sense with Assad on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other is with a massive land invasion that wipes out both.

Even that wouldn’t work. Whoever is left would rile people up by saying, “Look what these infidels did to our people!” and some horrible new jihadist groups would fill the anti-civilization void vacated by the previous batch of degenerates.

forest on May 29, 2013 at 9:58 AM

That picture looks like Obama is holding Kerry back from a fight.

Ditkaca on May 29, 2013 at 9:51 AM

No John, the bathroom is thataway…

Turtle317 on May 29, 2013 at 9:59 AM

OT: Did anyone hear that the Saudi Arabian king died? I was speaking with a colleague in SA and he said he had heard that.

hip shot on May 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

The only way a Western intervention in Syria makes sense with Assad on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other is with a massive land invasion that wipes out both. If the West isn’t ready for that kind of commitment — and it’s clearly not in the range of possibilities — then we should stay out of it and let the Syrians et al fight it out among themselves.

Exactly. As with Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988, this is a case where, from our POV, the ideal situation is the destruction of both sides.

On the plus side, whoever “wins” will be achieving a Pyrrhic victory at best. Syria’s society and infrastructure will have been sufficiently ravaged by the conflict that the result will probably look like Lebanon. Which, to the Lebanese, will probably be defined as sweet revenge.

Furthermore, even with an influx of Russian arms, whatever Syria results from this will likely no longer present a credible threat to Lebanon and, by extension, Israel. It will be too shattered to be able to mount or sustain “foreign adventures” (to borrow a term beloved of neocon-hating progressives). This might grant Lebanon at least a few years to rebuild something resembling an independent state.

The one real danger here is foreign intervention, from a direction seldom considered in the region. Namely, the northwest. If Erdogan in Turkey decides to “solve” that country’s “Kurdish problem” once and for all, he might start by sending the Turkish Army in as “peacekeepers” in Syria. This could set up years, or even decades, of conflict in that area, which has been relatively quiet for the last century.

More and more, it is looking like the “Mideast conflict” could metastasize in directions eerily reminiscent of the runup to World War One.

clear ether

eon

eon on May 29, 2013 at 10:08 AM

In neither case did that mean an end to violence, but at least in both cases it didn’t mean a failed state — yet, anyway, and it’s unlikely to happen at all in Iraq, at least.

Jesus Ed, sometimes your intellectual bankruptcy is truly frightening. Iraq not a failed state? Good lord……

libfreeordie on May 29, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Move all the Palestinians into Syria.

albill on May 29, 2013 at 10:24 AM

The European Union allowed its weapons embargo to lapse as nations such as Britain and France appear increasingly eager to aid the opposition fighters.

If the British and French want to intervene in Syria, let them do it themselves. It was originally France, under then-President Sarkozy, who pushed for the no-fly zone in Libya, supposedly to protect the people of Benghazi, which then developed into a full-scale war to depose Gaddafi, then the French had to bail out Mali. Meanwhile, the French and British pulled their diplomatic personnel out of eastern Libya, leaving Chris Stevens and the Americans on their own in hostile territory.

France now has a Socialist President whose popularity is sinking, and he may be looking for a military intervention to bolster his popularity. In addition, many French people are sympathetic toward the Christians in Lebanon, who have been persecuted since Assad’s troops invaded Lebanon. The civil war in Syria may provide an opportunity for French troops to liberate Lebanon, perhaps with the help of Britain and/or Israel, and the French people may support such an intervention. However, they may not support an all-out war in Syria, especially since their is no guarantee that Assad’s replacement will be an ally of France.

Libya must be our model here, not Iraq. In 2003, Saddam Hussein had accumulated chemical weapons, stolen Oil-for-Food money, and had threatened Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (after having invaded Kuwait in 1990), as well as the Kurds and Shiites in his own country. Although establishing a stable central government in Iraq took longer than expected, the “surge” strategy of 2007 enabled American forces to befriend the peaceful elements of the Sunni Triangle and root out the Al Qaeda fighters there, and the Kurds have established a semi-autonomous region at peace with Baghdad.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi unilaterally got rid of his WMD (possibly out of fear of invasion by the US), and was basically “contained” (not a threat to other countries) without being deposed. Obama’s mistake in Libya was not getting to know who we were fighting FOR, and who would replace Gaddafi once he was out of power. So we intervened to “save” the people of Benghazi, who then killed our Ambassador and his guards. If the American soldiers had been on the ground and working with the anti-Gaddafi rebels, they could have sent back reports on who could be trusted to establish the new government of Libya. Or if no one could be trusted, a stalemate could have been the best solution.

Assad is a Baathist clone of Saddam Hussein, and no friend of the United States, but he is less of a threat to other countries when he is weakened by a civil war in his own country. Syria might be a humanitarian disaster, but we have no real friends there. Why should Americans sell weapons to people, or fight for people who will use them against us later?

If the French and British want to take advantage of Assad’s relative weakness to liberate Lebanon, let them, and this will create more space between Israel and one of its enemies. But our soldiers don’t need to intervene in a war to create North Benghazi or West Tehran.

Steve Z on May 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Muslims killing muslims looks like a win-win for us. Let it go on until there’s nothing left. No matter who wins, they’ll be our enemy when its over, so better they continue to expend all their homicidal energies on each other.

Kinda funny that Obama, who promised them support and “understanding”, is going to be the one who guarantees their destruction through his own cowardice and double dealing. Some people would call that Irony, but I call it Justice, all the way around.

Tom Servo on May 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM

“Don’t just do something,” Buddha said, “Stand there.”

Kenosha Kid on May 29, 2013 at 10:35 AM

The intervention model in Syria, on the other hand, will be Libya

…so how long will it take… before our Ambassador is sodomized…and killed?

KOOLAID2 on May 29, 2013 at 10:38 AM

More rubble, less trouble. Stay out of it, and if the CiC is determined to wag the dog, Congress should make him pay dearly this time, or get used to it.

drunyan8315 on May 29, 2013 at 10:41 AM

The only way a Western intervention in Syria makes sense with Assad on one side and Jabhat al-Nusra on the other is with a massive land invasion that wipes out both.

As Henry K. once put it, referring to another baddy-versus-baddy conflict, “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”

Tzetzes on May 29, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Why do we even have to go into Syria!. Let them kill themselves-Who cares about the rebels-they would only turn against our Jewish brothers and sisters when given the chance to do so.

hawkman on May 29, 2013 at 11:12 AM

I’m thinking the model is more our proxy intervention in Afghanistan following the Russian invasion except this time Russia is smart enough to fight it as a proxy war too. We arm the Syrian rebels and within 20 years those American weapons will be used against US troops and aircraft just like the small arms and Stingers we provided the Mujahadeen are used against the US in Afghanistan.

deepdiver on May 29, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Significant difference: when we did the proxy war in Afghanistan (1980), we were arming rebels to fight the USSR – something that definitely was in our national security interests at the time. Our screwup there was to not clean things up properly with the rebels after the Soviets withdrew in 1987.

This time around, both sides of an internal conflict are dirty, and there is no pressing national security interest for the US to become involved in Syria: the Russians have not invaded Syria, and neither have the Iranians. Since the Iranians have plenty to lose if their proxy Hezbollah gets its ass kicked in Syria, and the Russians have plenty to lose if Assad gets his ass kicked, we should simply ensure that the conflict neither spills over into Israel, nor allow Turkey to jump into the fray.

As others have said, the absolute worst thing we can do is to do another “30,000 ft intervention”, Libyan style, thus creating a power vacuum that allows al-Queda and God Knows Who to get a foothold in Syria and further threaten the safety of Israel.

But then, come to think of it, this may be what Obama is aiming for all along…
/file under: things that make you go, “Hmmmmm”

Wanderlust on May 29, 2013 at 11:18 AM

If the French and British want to take advantage of Assad’s relative weakness to liberate Lebanon, let them, and this will create more space between Israel and one of its enemies. But our soldiers don’t need to intervene in a war to create North Benghazi or West Tehran.

Steve Z on May 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

If I were Bibi, I’d be very worried if the French and British idea of “intervening” was a repeat of their performance in Libya. That would be very bad for Israel.

Phucking leftist bleeding hearts that think we should “intervene” every time they see a picture of someone getting hurt somewhere in the world…Clinton was famous for it, and this crap got us nowhere from a national security perspective.

/rant OFF

Wanderlust on May 29, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Jesus Ed, sometimes your intellectual bankruptcy is truly frightening. Iraq not a failed state? Good lord……

libfreeordie on May 29, 2013 at 10:10 AM

If Iraq is a “failed state”, there is only one place to lay the blame: at the feet of your hero, President Obama. He gave it away.

But, before you go ahead with that assessment, you might want to do a little homework on oil production there – especially the Southern Field- and how well the Chinese are profiting by their work with that “failed state”.

And a little acknowledgement of how you Libtards made the Chinese presence possible might be nice, as well.

Jacka**.

p.s. I was there for all that, and witnessed it firsthand.

M240H on May 29, 2013 at 11:26 AM

It’s (Iraq) not even the correct model.

In addition to those stated, other differences between Syria and Iraq …

- Saddam did not have any allies, only enemies and neutrals. Assad has major league allies in Russia and Iran, with China as a silent partner.

- When we toppled Saddam there was not a semi-organized Islamist terrorist faction waiting in the wings. It grew organically and quickly afterwards, but it wasn’t already there when Saddam was toppled. There is already an Islamist faction in place in Syria, with Assad is still in power.

- We had a no-fly zone in place for twelve years prior to toppling Saddam, and Saddam’s air force and air defenses were essentially non-existent. In Syria Assad currently rules the sky. And he has a robust air force and air defense system in place.

And there are major differences between Libya and Syria that make Syria a much more difficult intervention, including the size of the population, the population density, and the strategic location Syria has in the region. Also, Syria could, and probably would, take a much longer time and require a much greater military commitment. It also has the potential to escalate in unpredictable ways, considering Assad’s allies. There would be no easy way out of Syria once we intervene in a major way. We could easily get bogged down there. Russia and Iran would love that, and would do all they could to make that happen.

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 11:41 AM

M240H on May 29, 2013 at 11:26 AM

The intellectually bankrupt Marxist troll doesn’t really know what a “failed state” looks like.

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Phucking leftist bleeding hearts that think we should “intervene” every time they see a picture of someone getting hurt somewhere in the world…

Wanderlust on May 29, 2013 at 11:22 AM

With one exception, Iraq.

There were lots of pictures of people suffering and being tortured and murdered by the regime in Saddam’s Iraq, a place where we were already militarily engaged in a warm, if not hot, conflict.

And there were plenty of additional reasons for intervention, including over a dozen violated UN resolutions and over a decade long expensive US military commitment on the ground in neighboring countries, for the purpose of containing him and making sure he couldn’t cause more trouble.

Yet all leftist bleeding hearts condemned, and still do condemn, our intervention to topple Saddam. Plus, as a reward for our trouble more Muslims in the region hate us more than they ever did.

And now we are supposed to entertain intervening in Syria in a big way to topple Assad, in partial support of Islamist Muslims, just because a socialist bleeding heart liberal President says it’s the right thing to do? And because France, who opposed toppling Saddam, does too?

That’s insane.

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 12:03 PM

So, on one side, you’ve got Bashar Assad and his thugs, backed up by Lebanese Hizballah and Iranian Quds Force… and on the other, you’ve got the Muslim Brotherhood, plus our dear old friends Al Qaeda and various and sundry jihadi nutjobs… and they’re killing each other by the bushel and stacking bodies like cord wood?

Umm… and the downside would be…?

Hayabusa on May 29, 2013 at 12:22 PM

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Respectfully disagree. We did not go into Iraq the first time around because of Saddam’s chamber of horrors; we went there because his adventurism in Kuwait threatened the political stability of the entire ME just as the old USSR was in the process of imploding. Therefore it was in our national security interest to invade in 1991. However, Bush 41 failed when he declared victory while Saddam’s Republican Guard was still largely intact. This mistake led to Clinton’s half-hearted “no-fly” intervention from 10,000 feet for the better part of the decade.

Our reason for going back to finish the job with regards to toppling Saddam was the multiple reports of WMDs and his long record of telling the UN to phuck off whenever they got close to actually finding something, along with his willingness to fund terror missions in Israel and elsewhere (don’t forget the Abu Nidal thingy).

Like all wars fought for national security interests, the politicians tried to “humanize” the war by pointing to Saddam’s ongoing chamber of horrors. But that isn’t the reason we invaded, just as (dare I mention it) the US Civil War wasn’t about the human issue of slavery, but rather, the legal issue of states’ rights vs federalism.

Please remember that Bush 43 ran in 2000 on not intervening in another country’s affairs solely because of atrocities (which Clinton was very good at doing) and then screwing things up because there was no compelling national security interest for us to act.

Therefore you will find that any war “humanized” after the fact will be met by resistance from the Left for the very fact that the true reason for fighting the war is that above all else, doing so is solidly in the US national security interest. The Left despises this motive, and has always done so, especially when a Republican starts the fight (and, as in the case of Iraq, embarrasses a Democrat for not having done so in the first place).

Wanderlust on May 29, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Respectfully disagree. We did not go into Iraq the first time around because of Saddam’s chamber of horrors; …

Wanderlust on May 29, 2013 at 12:45 PM

I think you may have misunderstood my point. I know we did not go into Iraq for that reason either in 1991 or in 2003. In both cases we did what we did because it was in our national interest.

My comment was in reply to your point that bleeding heart liberals tend to want to intervene whenever they see photos of suffering and death. Which is true, except when the current President has an R after his name.

Bleeding heart liberals should have supported the toppling of Saddam for that reason. But they didn’t.

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 1:35 PM

My comment was in reply to your point that bleeding heart liberals tend to want to intervene whenever they see photos of suffering and death. Which is true, except when the current President has an R after his name.

Bleeding heart liberals should have supported the toppling of Saddam for that reason. But they didn’t.

farsighted on May 29, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Are you sure? Where was the liberal outrage over Rwanda, Somalia or North Korea? Liberals generally have no principles.

The Syria distraction will only benefit AlQaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. The pattern is that the US foreign policy is helping the radical Islamist, in Egypt and Lybia, and encouraging those in this country blowing up US citizens.

virgo on May 30, 2013 at 10:06 AM