Via the Corner, two Maverick posts in the span of a few hours is a lot to force on you but this can’t pass without comment. Skip to 2:00 for the key bit. If U.S. involvement in Syria reached the point where O was willing to risk the political fallout from putting troops in the field, does anyone — anyone — doubt that McCain and his sidekick Lindsey would be Obama’s most stalwart, outspoken defenders in Congress? To undermine the commander-in-chief at a moment of military crisis, when there are soldiers in harm’s way, by moving to impeach would be treated by superhawks as borderline sedition. If anything, McCain would end up supporting the impeachment of would-be impeachers. The fact that he’s running around saying stuff like this when even a casual observer of congressional foreign policy debates knows the truth shows that we’re in the kitchen-sink phase of the big Syria push, where the most hawkish members are willing to play quasi-dove in the name of getting the big intervention off the ground. That’s the key — just get something passed and then, as we know from the 2001 AUMF against Al Qaeda, the president can use it to gradually expand his warmaking powers after the fight has begun. The punchline is that it’s McCain (of course) who’s pressed harder to expand the scope of the authorizing resolution that’s circulating in the Senate than anyone else. He was prepared to vote no until the Foreign Relations Committee added his amendment specifying that an attack wouldn’t aim simply to punish Assad but to change the momentum on the battlefield in the rebels’ favor. He wants America to do more. And now here he is pretending that if Obama did a lot more, he’d be outraged.
To repeat a question from last night’s Kerry post, what exactly is the goal of the mission at this point? Is it a narrow attack on Assad’s WMD henchmen or is it something broader along McCain’s lines of turning the tide of war against the regime? One of Obama’s national security aides said this morning that it’s the former, but go back and watch that Kerry clip from last night. Or re-read Ed’s post from this morning about the steadily growing target list. (Military sources tell Fox News that they’ve been asked to change their plans no less than 50 times since the first instructions about a “limited” strike came down.) The rebels themselves are expecting a ferocious hit on the regime which they can capitalize on to “finish them off.” And of course all of this is designed by the White House to shore up the support of McCainian hawks whose big concern, like Maverick’s, is not that a Syria strike might do too much but too little. If you’re going to intervene, they reason, make sure it achieves something valuable. And yet here’s McCain telling an Arizona radio host that if Obama went all in to really achieve something, he’d be indignant to the point of impeachment. Right.
Your homework is to read this morning’s op-ed by retired Gen. Robert Scales, who surveyed a bunch of colleagues in the military to see how they’re feeling about a new war. Exit quotation: “They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense.”