Endgame: It's time to bomb Syria, says ... Howard Dean

I tried to imagine in yesterday’s Kerry post who’d be the next left-wing anti-war hero from the Iraq era to prove himself a partisan fraud by flipping to support Obama’s Syria adventure. The best I could do was Joe Wilson. In hindsight, Dean-o was the obvious pick.

Kerry, Pelosi, and now the guy who briefly led the Democratic field in 2003 running against Iraq, all in favor of bloodying Assad’s nose. Once Cindy Sheehan decides she’s onboard with a bombing run too, it’ll be time to close down the site and declare the era of political blogging over.

“So while I agree with the president — I support the president, I hope we do have a very limited intervention that is designed to reduce the possibility of chemical weapons being used in the future … But if the Congress says no, I don’t think that is in any way a reflection on Barack Obama. I think that is a positive reflection on him for upholding the system and listening when he was told no by the people he works for, which is the American people.”

As a leading opponent of the war in Iraq, Dean’s position on the conflict in Syria and what the U.S. government should do about it can carry weight for congressional Democrats debating the merits of an AUMF.

“I opposed Iraq because I thought we were being lied to by our own government, which turned out to be true,” he said, in explaining why the parallels being drawn between Iraq and Syria are so poor. “So that was pretty open and shut…. So far there is no evidence of that [with respect to Syria] whatsoever. I do think there is a credibility problem for the United States government.”

Why was Dean the obvious choice to flip next? Because he’s already flipped before. He supported Obama’s attack on Libya too and, then as now, tried to distinguish his strident opposition to the Iraq war by claiming that that involved being lied to by the government. That’s the touchstone for intervention apparently, according to Dean: As long as the president’s being kinda sorta honest with you about why he’s attacking, you can support his stupid, futile military operation against a bad actor in the Middle East with a clear conscience. Except, of course, Dean’s lying himself. Go back and read his anti-war speech in Iowa from February 2003, a month before the invasion of Iraq and many months before he had reason to believe he was “lied to” about WMD, to see why he opposed the war at the time. The short version: He saw a political opportunity on the left ahead of the 2004 primaries and decided to seize it. The longer version:

I believe that the President too often employs a reckless, go-it-alone approach that drives us away from some of our longest-standing and most important allies, when what we need is to pull the world community together in common action against the imminent threat of terrorism…

I do not believe the President should have been given a green light to drive our nation into conflict without the case having first been made to Congress and the American people for why this war is necessary, and without a requirement that we at least try first to work through the United Nations…

To this day, the President has not made a case that war against Iraq, now, is necessary to defend American territory, our citizens, our allies, or our essential interests.

Nor has the Administration prepared sufficiently for the possible retaliatory attacks on our home front that even the President’s CIA Director has stated are likely to occur. It has always been important, before going to war, for our troops to be well-trained, well-equipped, and well-protected. In this new era, it is as important that our people on the home front also be well-protected.

The Administration has not explained how a lasting peace, and lasting security, will be achieved in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is toppled…

This Administration squandered the world’s good will toward us.

The world sees the United States, under President Bush, as a go-it-alone country. Because we are the world’s only superpower, this is not of small concern to other nations.

Read it all. It has nothing to do with doubting the administration’s claims about Saddam’s WMD capabilities. It’s a laundry list of prudential concerns about unilateralism, misplaced prioritizing of national-security threats, and skepticism about the necessity and efficacy of military action. He pays particular attention to neglecting the threat from Al Qaeda to focus on Saddam; meanwhile, in Syria, to borrow Ted Cruz’s phrase, the U.S. would essentially be acting as Al Qaeda’s air force, yet Dean-o’s fine with that. He stresses how the U.S. has alienated normally reliable allies; meanwhile, in Syria, the Brits have begged off joining the new coalition and even the French are poised to pull the plug if Congress votes the wrong way. As Jake Tapper put it on CNN today, “This makes George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing look like the League of Nations.” Yet Dean’s fine with that. The real reasons for his flip, of course, are because (a) he trusts a Democrat to manage the new war and its aftermath capably, despite all evidence to the contrary from post-revolution Libya, and (b) even in a worst-case scenario, he figures — rightly — that Obama won’t devote too many resources to punching up with Assad. There’ll be a round or two of bombing, just to save face, and then O will find a way to back out. The “virtue” of the operation, what makes it easy to support, it’s that it’s designed to be small and basically ineffective. Even if things go bad, without boots on the ground, they can’t go too bad — in theory. Why not help a fellow Democrat out by gambling a little credibility on that if you’re Dean-o?

Exit question: Wasn’t/isn’t this guy thinking of another run for president in 2016? What exactly is his niche against Hillary if he’s not going to be the anti-interventionist candidate again?

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