September 4, 2013

It certainly is strange, Dana Milbank argues, to watch a foreign policy debate through the lens of domestic politics. Our current political parties solidified in response to one Middle Eastern war of choice 10 years ago, designed to stabilize the area and protect civilians from a dictator. That went, shall we say, badly. But now the Democrats, who benefited mightily from their perceived opposition to that war, have a president of their own who wants to engage militarily under very similar circumstances. So everyone in Washington has a choice — stick with one’s party or stick with what one said six or 10 years ago about Iraq. It’s awkward.

John Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry has experience changing his mind about wars. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

And it’s created a problem Milbank highlights among Republicans. Can they oppose President Obama’s plan even if they sort of might support it if it came from a Republican president? Can they argue against this intervention without admitting Iraq was a bad idea, too? Politics is a tricky game.

But in the comments, several readers had reasons why seemingly hypocritical positions make sense logically as well as politically.

Some lefties contribute reasons they might support the Syrian strike without comparing it to Iraq. After all, it’s not the only foreign crisis we regret handling the way we did:

OldProgessivefromWisconsin

Restraint on the genocide in Rwanda continues to haunt us with tens of thousands of deaths as we stood by. That is what we risk by ignoring the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Countries around the world with need to “get rid of a minority” are watching for our action on this so they can decide if they should start buying the ingredients for chemical weapons.
Once there are no boundaries to what you can do you civilians on a massive basis, the whole world is threatened. Since WWI we have supported some limits. Are you willing to say those limits no longer mean anything?

liberalandproudofit

Public opinion was strongly against involvement in World War II.

pce2010 says Syria action fits the pattern we’ve had of late:

It’s all about as justifiable as any other military operation from the past decade … why not just go for it?

edbyronadams says it doesn’t matter if Republicans talk about opposing military action–they’ll fall into line:

The Republicans can be counted upon to vote to drop bombs. The questions remain mostly on the other side of the aisle. Last time they voted for war, candidate Obama beat them about the head and shoulders with that vote.

Observer582 thinks this is a big ol’ complicated issue, and our leaders tend to change their thinking on big ol’ complicated issues, while trying to leave themselves room to change some more:

This op-ed’s title “The GOP wants to have it both ways on Syria” is sloppy. It would in fact be strange if all members belonging to whichever party uniformly held the same thinking as to what action to take or not take regarding the Syrian situation.

What the op-ed has brought out, with examples, is that certain GOP MEMBERS (Inhofe, Ryan, Cantor, and Rubio) want to have it both ways on Syria.

Indeed, folks like the above four want “to have it both ways” regarding themselves too: They want to engage in opportunism while maintaining the facade of utmost integrity, their inner hope being that at least a sufficiently large percentage of their constituents are thoroughly gullible.

And boblesch says that the Middle East is much, much more complicated than the United States’ domestic blessed binary system of Obama/Nobama:

We all recognize that the Middle East is full of small factions with assorted allegiances, and new factions are forming every day. People are loyal to tribes and religious sects, not countries. An attack on any group in this region is likely stir revenge from groups we don’t even know exist.

PostScript hopes at the very least we’ll have figured out what we did wrong this time by the time those unintended consequences spark our next military strike (though there’ll be a newly euphemistic term for it) circa 2023.