Unless in the next week or so he discovers a heretofore unrealized capacity to move public opinion on substantive matters of policy, the expedient thing for lawmakers of either party to do will be to vote “no” while smugly minimizing the moral stakes by noting that while Assad is of course “a bad guy,” he poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, the Syrian economy is in shambles, there are lots of other mass-murdering dictators and we can’t bomb ‘em all, and so forth.
Any opportunistic lawmaker who takes that path will be following the example set by the man who is now president of the United States.
What’s opportunistic about voting no because those reasons are true? And Taranto leaves out the fact that the beneficiaries of an attack on Assad are as bad, if not worse, as he is. I’ve seen this choice before: The brave, upright Islamic rebels against the evil Shah. The brave, upright Muslim Brotherhood against the evil Mubarak. The brave, upright Islamic rebels against the evil Gaddafy.
If the neocons were any better at warmaking than their progtard opposites, I might trust them with that responsibility. But the neocon idols of the Bush family made as hideous a botch of war with Islam as did their progtard counterparts of the Carter, Clinton, and Obama administrations.
None of them have waged a victorious war. GHWB left the aggressor standing to strike again. His son defeated that aggressor’s military, but lost the second chapter of that conflict in a vain attempt to apply neocon fantasies about western liberal democracy to a profoundly undemocratic people practicing various sects of a stone-age religion.
Isolationism remains a perfectly valid, indeed, preferable choice, given how lousy our track record has been every time we’ve chosen the path of intervention since Korea. I recommend that we give it a try with Syria.