Quotes of the day

If Congress votes this down and he does it anyway, don’t you think an impeachment move in the House is certain?

Howard, I am not going to speculate about it because I hope Congress will exercise its best judgment to prevent the worst elements in Syria from even growing stronger. I hope the Congress will decide not to let Assad believe he has impunity in the use of these weapons. I hope the Congress will believe that upholding the credibility of our nation in the conduct of foreign affairs is important. I hope the Congress believes that this is a message that Iran needs to understand as they proceed, conceivably, to be developing nuclear weapons. I hope that they will also agree to uphold it with respect to others in the world, like Kim Jong Un in North Korea, who needs to know that America stands by its word. And for all the people in the world who depend on America as a reliable partner, this is a critical message. I hope Congress will recognize that the plan is appropriately and unbelievably limited and tailored in its scope so that it is not going to war — it is a limited action to uphold the importance of degrading his capacity to use chemical weapons.


Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, announced Friday he will support a resolution authorizing military strikes against Syria…

Schumer announced his support two days after his colleague in the leadership, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), voted for the measure during the Foreign Relations markup.

“I hope that the message comes through from this committee meeting, and from the floor in the Senate and the House, that this Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are resolute when it comes to discouraging the spread of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” Durbin said in a statement Wednesday.


Obama has gotten support from some former Bush officials, including former defense secretary Robert Gates, who also served Obama. Gates told Politico that he strongly urges Congress “to approve the president’s request for authorization to use force in Syria.”

And Stephen Hadley, Bush’s former national security adviser, told Bloomberg TV’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” in an interview that will air Sunday that Republicans should endorse Obama’s use-of-force resolution even if they disagree with his foreign policy.

“I think there are some legitimate grounds for saying that we shouldn’t be where we are,” Hadley said. “But being where we are, there’s really no alternative but to authorize action in Syria.”


A limited military strike may be symbolic. But for Congress to block that strike would be more than symbolic. It would undermine a tangible element of American influence: the perception that the commander in chief is fully in command.

The refusal to authorize force would be taken as an ideological pivot point. Nations such as China, Russia and Iran would see this as the triumph of a political coalition between the peace party of the left and the rising isolationists of the right. And they would be correct. The strategic calculations of every American enemy and friend would be adjusted in ways that encourage challenge and instability. Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent loss of the vote authorizing military action — the first such repudiation since 1782 — has weakened Britain as an actor in the world. America should refuse to follow it down.

I would prefer to defend a form of internationalism less conflicted and hesitant than President Obama’s. But even so, it is better than the alternative of seriously compromising the credibility of the presidency itself. And those who claim that this credibility has already reached bottom are lacking in imagination.


Admittedly, it would have been much better to start arming and building up the moderate opposition two years ago. But we have no choice but to try now, otherwise the victor is either going to be the Iran-Hezbollah-Assad axis or al-Qaeda and its ilk. Neither one speaks for the majority of Syrians and there is still an opportunity–albeit an opportunity much smaller today than two years ago–to buttress the more moderate factions of the Free Syrian Army. But in order to do that the Obama administration will have to provide heavier weapons to vetted rebel factions, especially anti-tank missiles that can stop Assad’s armored vehicles.

The rebels also require anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down Assad’s aircraft. The administration is on more solid ground in refusing to grant this weapons request because of the danger that portable anti-aircraft systems such as the Stinger could fall into the wrong hands and wind up being used against civil aviation. As I have been arguing for a while, instead of providing anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels, the U.S. and its allies should simply use their air and naval forces to ground Assad’s aircraft. That could be achieved from stand-off range by cratering runways and blowing up aircraft on the ground. It would be achieved even more surely by imposing a no-fly zone backed up by airstrikes; Assad’s anemic air defenses, weakened by defections and two years of fighting, would be no match for an American-led air assault…

The alternative–of not granting the administration authorization to act–is too dangerous to contemplate: It would be a green light to WMD proliferators from North Korea to Iran who will now know that the U.S. will do nothing to stop them. Thus, congressional skeptics have no choice but to hold their noses and vote “aye,” all the while hoping that the administration’s use of force will be less anemic than widely advertised.


2. What kind of world we want to live in. The abolition of all dangerous tyrants and oppressive regimes is, of course, a silly dream. But the idea of moving toward a world with fewer and fewer of them is completely possible. In fact, it’s been happening ever since the U.S. took the lead in ensuring global security after WWII. The world is a freer place than it was and this is not only good in the moral sense. It is also good because free countries are less likely to go to war with one another and more likely to trade with one another.

The problem is this doesn’t happen on its own. Peace doesn’t keep itself, as some have put it. Although there are many downsides to America’s policing the world, a) the benefit of a more peaceful order is invaluable and b) the U.S. is the only country that can do it. Without American intervention, imperfect as it is, for humanitarian (and pragmatic) reasons, a power vacuum emerges and the global order spirals out of control. That’s how we got into the current crisis to begin with. Many of the sinister developments mentioned in the first point might have been prevented or curbed if we had spent the last five years continuing to act as the strong and self-assured defender of a (relatively) free and peaceful global order. Staying away creates chaos. This very chaos, if left to grow, will manifest on a larger scale and ultimately cause us great harm—even, perhaps, on our own soil. Rising bad actors like to challenge America to affirm that their rise is real, official, and inevitable.


[W]ho could benefit from the U.S. not taking action here? Assad, the dictator with the blood of 100,000 on his hands. Iran, one of the world’s most reactionary regimes. Hezbollah, a terrorist force that crushes the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people. And al Qaeda, the extremist fanatics behind 9/11. Are those the kinds of people liberals want to help? I’m sure liberal members of Congress who’ve announced they’re voting no—Raúl Grijalva, Alan Grayson, Charlie Rangel, Barbara Lee, and about 17 others—have spent a heck of a lot of time thinking about what could go wrong if we do strike. I bet they haven’t given a moment’s thought to what could go wrong if we don’t.

I say that’s worth thinking about. Also worth thinking about is the fact that many liberal-minded people from the region, and certainly many or virtually all of the nonextremist rebels, want the United States to act. From their point of view, without the United States’ engagement, the region is buried in slaughter, theocracy, and darkness. I would expect American liberals at least to stop and think about that.

Again, no one is talking about 130,000 ground troops. That was a qualitatively different thing, and I opposed it from the start. Yes, an American attack might escalate matters. But it also might not. We got in and out of Libya. It’s not clear what that one accomplished yet, although we did presumably prevent a slaughter of many thousands in Benghazi. It is clear what we accomplished in Kosovo, where another murderer was removed from office and hauled to the Hague (without one American life lost). So it doesn’t always end badly. And it isn’t always immoral. This is one of those cases where, if the scale of the action is appropriate and if it works, a military incursion can actually serve liberal ends. No, that’s not for sure. But it is for sure that doing nothing helps the reactionaries.


The fact is that Obama is the only president we have. We can’t abdicate our position in the world for the next three years. So Republicans will have to resist the temptation to weaken him when the cost is weakening the country. A party that for at least two generations has held high the banner of American leadership and strength should not cast a vote that obviously risks a damaging erosion of this country’s stature and credibility abroad…

A Yes vote is in fact the easy vote. It’s actually close to risk-free. After all, it’s President Obama who is seeking the authorization to use force and who will order and preside over the use of force. It’s fundamentally his policy. Lots of Democrats voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq war. When that war ran into trouble, it was President Bush and Republicans who paid the price. If the Syria effort goes badly, the public will blame President Obama, who dithered for two years, and who seems inclined to a halfhearted execution of any military campaign. If it goes well, Republicans can take credit for pushing him to act decisively, and for casting a tough vote supporting him when he asked for authorization to act…

A Yes vote seems to be statesmanlike. (Actually, it happens also to be statesmanlike, but we’re now talking politics.) Establishment foreign policy voices, including conservative ones, may not move voters—but they do have some pull in the media and with influentials across the country. Casting a “tough” political vote is a way for members of Congress to appear to be rising above mere party politics. In fact, many voters do like to think they’re voting for someone who has at least a touch of statesmanship, and so casting what appears superficially to be a politically perilous vote could well help the stature of Republicans with many of their constituents back home.

It’s true that a Yes vote will be temporarily unpopular with the base. To support Obama now may seem to invite primary opposition from challengers who would be more in tune with popular sentiment to stay out of the Syrian civil war. For a few weeks after the vote, Republicans will hear such rumblings. But at the end of the day, Republican primary voters are a pretty hawkish bunch.


Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said Congress is not likely to authorize a strike, predicting a close vote in the Senate where the resolution is likely to come up next week and a larger margin in the House where the timing is less certain.

“God has blessed us,” he said Thursday. “It is inconvenient, it is hard, it is complicated, and it can be wearying. But there is no substitute for American leadership.”…

He told chamber members he doesn’t know why leaders such as Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden embrace extreme ideology.

“I cannot tell you why, other than there is good and evil in the world,” Graham said. “And every time good people ignore evil, we wind up regretting it.”


“I’m not drawing an analogy to World War II, other than to say, you know, when London was getting bombed, it was profoundly unpopular both in Congress and around the country to help the British.”


Via the Corner.

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