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The Insiders: Opposing the president on Syria doesn’t make you an isolationist

As the debate over the Obama Resolution begins, there is some unfair commentary that suggests Republicans are “isolationist” if they oppose the resolution. Since when are you an isolationist if you oppose a particular engagement in a foreign civil war? It is possible to be for a more robust engagement in the Syrian conflict and be opposed to this resolution.

Everyone agrees that the United States should not be in this position in the first place. We are here only because of the president’s naiveté and his inability to admit mistakes. If we take action for the wrong reasons, why should we think we will achieve the right result? I’ve even lost track of what the “right” result is. At this point, is the desired outcome any more than just lessening the humiliation the president has wrought? A military strike in Syria is the beginning of something uncertain; it is certainly not the end of anything.  There are too many known unknowns.

If we go with a small attack, as the president has suggested, what do we hope to accomplish? If we go big, how do we ensure the aftermath doesn’t put Americans and our allies in greater danger? Will we strike chemical weapons stockpiles? If we do, whether purposefully or not, how will the residual weapons be secured? Will we have to put troops on the ground to account for those weapons?  Is the plan just to launch some Tomahawks and hope for the best? Even the reliable old axiom, “when in trouble, make some rubble” has been botched by President Obama.

And, oh by the way, the debate in Washington appears to be about what the Republicans will do. Given the Democrats’ tendency to close ranks, plus the number of Republicans who support bombing Syria anyway, the outcome of the vote is probably more certain than the White House spinmeisters would have you believe. It shouldn’t be too hard to convince friendly Democrats that the attack will be limited and a few hawkish Republicans that it will be a good thumping of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

One would assume the White House already has 50 votes in the Senate. But let’s remember that if the president holds the Democrats in the House, he needs fewer than 20 Republicans for the resolution to pass. The success or failure of the resolution is not just about Republicans.

But the possible consequences of the contemplated action are so uncertain, and the reason it is being considered in the first place is so flawed, that opposing the resolution is still the proper course.

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