The Post headline reads: “Defense cuts pose an economic quandary for liberals.”

No, the left has not suddenly become responsible on national security; rather their penchant for slashing defense has come up against their Keynesian cult:

Liberals are increasingly facing a conundrum as the Pentagon experiences the deepest cuts in a generation: The significant reductions in military spending that they have long sought are also taking a huge bite out of economic growth.

Liberal lawmakers and others on the left have argued for years that the military budget is bloated and should be dramatically scaled back. At the same time, they have been major advocates of government spending to help drive economic growth and create jobs.


Syria President Bashar al-Assad delivers a speech to parliament in Damascus last year. (REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

Opinion is divided. Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton sees nothing but trouble if the United States intervenes:

Supporters of aiding Syria’s opposition argue that U.S. assistance should not focus on chemical weapons, but instead should consist of establishing no-fly zones, providing weapons and possibly even direct military involvement. But these advocates (who favored precisely the same aid before the claims of chemical-weapons use) are missing a key point: Syrian’s chemical-weapons attacks in no way altered the unpleasant fact that the opposition is thick with terrorists—including al Qaeda—and radical Islamicists. However incrementally more reprehensible Assad’s regime is for using chemical weapons, the underlying strategic realities, and America’s interests, have not changed.

 

What has changed, if Mr. Obama allows his red line to be crossed unanswered, is that his latest act of foreign-policy fecklessness provides further proof to Iran, North Korea and other adversaries, whether states or terrorists, that he is not a force to be reckoned with.

He nevertheless comes down on the side of foregoing action. (“Even given the harm of failing to impose penalties on Assad for defying the ultimatum, there is no compelling logic to compound the president’s foolishness by risking the lives of American soldiers.”)

On the other side, many Republicans and even Democratic Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) are urging robust action, in part to preserve what shred of credibility the president may have with regard to Iran. Others, amazingly, want to punt the situation over to the United Nations. Bruce Riedel of Brookings figures, “The Bush administration’s weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle in Iraq unfortunately means that only a UN confirmation of Syrian chemical weapons use will have real international credibility.” That may get the prize for the worst of all ideas.

From our vantage point doing nothing, or pretending we can’t determine if WMDs have been used, is — to borrow a phrase — unacceptable. The objective from the get-go has been to try to separate Alawites and the army from Assad and to encourage non-jihadist groups to seize power. Almost two years ago former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams wrote:

The goals of U.S. policy should be to end the violence, bring down the Assad regime, and lay the bases for a stable democratic system with protection for the Alawite, Kurdish, and Christian minorities. . . .

The United States’ first goal should be to isolate the Assad family and its closest cronies from the rest of the Alawite community, which largely has not shared in the riches Assad has dispensed to close supporters.

Well, we should have listened to that advice and his other suggestions; if we had, we would not now face the Hobson’s choice. But maybe now is the time to decapitate the Assad regime by drone or other means while stepping up support to the non-jihadist elements. Our goal, after all, is to put the fear of their own survival (literally and politically) into the mullahs, while making clear that use of WMDs is not going to be tolerated — not even with “small amounts,” as the Obama team has described the Syrian situation.

One way or another Assad will go (the administration has conceded many times), so why not be the direct instrument of his downfall? That leaves a messy civil war to sort itself out, but we will increase our influence dramatically by demonstrating we are prepared to use all tools of American power. And by eliminating Assad and his inner circle we will give impetus for all other military leaders to end the conflict. The demise of Assad, a war criminal, should be the first unequivocally positive step in the region since the onset of the Arab Spring.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.