Strange Bedfellows on Syria


The debate over the proper policy on Syria is creating strange and fascinating bedfellows. The Obama administration is in virtual lockstep with Senators McCain and Graham, while some anti-war liberals oppose the planned attack alongside the Cruz, Paul and Rubio wing of the GOP.

On the whole, Congress, like the American people, oppose the president’s policy in Syria. Hence the president’s speech Tuesday evening. Par for the course: policy failure make a speech. But Obama presented no new information and must hope that his party and his base will once again swoon at the sound of his voice.

There has been much false despair and handwringing from the left-leaning media about the supposed crackup on the Right. The traditional and reasonable American debate between non-interventionist realism and proactive superpower responsibility is, however, less interesting than the contortions undergone by many who until a few weeks ago were practically peacenik hippies.

The left has a conflict between which to choose: ends or means. Do they choose one of the ends of liberalism: no war? Or do they choose the means – the power of the State, the reins of which they can take out of an ostensible need to triumph in the conflict – that will allow them to implement more liberalism? It is a short-term versus long-term strategy debate: principle or politics.

The left has proven they certainly will choose the latter. Drunk on the excuses for executive action provided by the First World War, liberals have searched ever since for the “moral equivalent of war” that will grant them the power to grow the State into something that will later be used to realize the domestic, economic and social aims of liberalism.

This is why so many of the usual anti-war crowd cannot be found. This is why there have been so many calls to form a search party to find the lost peace-loving Hollywood stars. This is why Senator Kerry has referenced logic, facts and authorizations of force in support of action in Syria that should have also have lead him to support action in Iraq and Vietnam.

Even if liberals don’t believe that the Syrian war will be large and involved enough to grow the government’s power, at a minimum it must be done so that Obama can save face and political capital over the red line fiasco. It is a short-term political decision that liberals hope will pay off in the long run in further opportunities for Statism, rather than a lame-duck final three years.

And yet for some on the hard left, President Obama hasn’t gone far enough. They stand with no one, only with the cause – and they will throw him under the bus to prove how principled their liberalism is. The real difficulty is for those liberals who have one foot in each camp: are they peace-at-all-costs liberals or moral-equivalent-of-war liberals? To our amusement, many are choosing the latter inconsistently. Still, a number are choosing the former on principle.

So for now Senators McCain and Graham, who have never met a conflict in which they didn’t want to get involved, will side with the president and Secretary of State Kerry. Some uber-leftists who never in their lives have had America’s best interest at heart will side with Paul, Cruz and Rubio, who don’t see involvement in Syria as being in the strategic interest of the United States.

It does make for strange bedfellows, but to watch liberals struggle to decide where their loyalties lie sure is a lot of fun.