Via Mediaite, I’m sure he meant to say “the Free Syrian Army,” not “ISIS,” but you never can tell with Maverick. One day he’s apt to find you “interesting” and worth meeting with, then a few years later he’s calling for you to be deposed by force. Rand Paul’s had fun over the past year razzing him for posing for pictures in early 2013 with Syrian rebels who may or may not have been kidnappers. Why McCain would choose to implicitly use that meeting here as his supposed trump card against Paul is inadvertently funny and not a little weird. Who cares if Paul formed his opinion on Syria without being gladhanded by Islamists who want U.S. money and weapons? So what? (Granted, McCain doesn’t mind a little lying if it’s in service to his interventionist cause du jour.) Jamie Dettmer met with the rebels at the start of the Syrian civil war and came away deeply unimpressed. Lots of people in U.S. intelligence have met with them over the years, I’m sure; as of last month, DNI’s official recommendation to Obama was that we avoid working with the FSA. If you’re going to high-hand a critic for being ignorant, make sure that the balance of expert opinion is on your side. In McCain’s case it isn’t.
Maverick-haters love to knock him for having learned nothing from the Iraq war, but usually they mean that in a superficial way, e.g., “you’d think the guy would have renounced interventionism by now.” I don’t mind that he’s still an interventionist; ISIS is horrendous enough that I think some form of intervention is necessary to keep it from spreading further. The deeper he’s-learned-nothing critique is the way he talks about this stuff. You would think, after a decade of Iraq, he’d at least be more skeptical about the motives of U.S. proxies and, after the Iraqi army crumbled before ISIS, their ability to fend off major threats. Nope. He pays some lip service near the end here to how there are no good options but listen to him praise the rebels near the beginning for bravely fighting for “freedom.” What they’re really fighting for, of course, is Sunni hegemony. Once upon a time, he called the Libyan rebels his heroes. Those rebels are now part of a civil war between Islamist militias and a new Libyan military strongman. And not only does he insist on this silly romantic view of uprisings to this day, he actually seems offended that other Americans like Paul would be skeptical of helping them. It’s surreal, so much so that I wonder if it’s actually a debating tactic rather than a heartfelt belief. Watch Hannity go here from polite skepticism at the beginning in challenging McCain with Paul’s criticisms to demanding “shock and awe” at the end after six minutes of Maverick giving him the angry “at least I want to do something!” routine. There’s not an ounce of sincere humility or skepticism about the FSA here from McCain, in spite of everything. On the contrary, the crux of his argument for this highly risky partnership with unknown fighters in Syria is, in so many words, “They told me they’ll be good, so there.” Can’t imagine a worse spokesman for interventionism. Besides Lindsey Graham, I mean.