The quick CNN interview of Sen. John McCain after Syrian acceptance of the Putin peace plan is notable for a couple of points. First, McCain almost grits his teeth when reluctantly admitting that the US has no choice but to shift gears and follow the Russians now, and he’s not wrong for being chagrined at that turn of events. As McCain points out, Russia is hardly an uninterested power in this transaction, and they may have been one of Bashar al-Assad’s suppliers for the weapons they propose to secure.
However, the big question comes at the 2:40 mark, when Chris Cuomo (!) points out the disarray in American foreign policy, the mixed messages, and the confusion, and then asks, “Does this give you the feel of amateur hour coming out of this administration?”
McCain starts off by asserting that he’s trying to work with Barack Obama’s team, but that “there is a degree of incoherence the likes of which I have never seen.” He rips his old friend John Kerry for arguing that an American strike would be “unbelievably small,” saying, “What does that mean? Is it worth it, then? We still haven’t determined what the goals of these military strikes are.” That’s probably why polling on the idea continues to tank.
CNN highlights McCain’s skepticism of Russian leadership on the issue:
“I take it seriously to the degree that it has to be explored. It must be examined, and I think we could have a very good initial test, Chris, and that would be an immediate dispatch of… international monitors to these chemical weapons sites, which we know where most of them are and secure them so that they can’t be used by Bashar al-Assad. And then we work out the procedures for keeping them under international control and the removal. We could do that immediately. Know I am skeptical, very, very skeptical, but the fact is that you can’t pass up this opportunity, if it is one, but you’ve gotta right away determine whether it’s real or not…. There are a group of us who are working on, Senators, who are working on an amendment or a change to the resolution that allows for this kind of action and requires guidelines, reporting process and benchmarks that have to be met….”
On credibility of the offer by Russians, Senator McCain said, “When you see the plane loads of Russian arms flying into Damascus on a daily basis, tons and tons. When you see the Russian veto, time after time, of any resolution in the Security Council, I think it’s ample reason to be skeptical.”
Too bad Russian leadership is the only leadership we could find.