Inconsistency and hypocrisy appears on display in the current debate on whether the United States should intervene in Syria’s Civil War (though the White House describes possible military intervention differently.)
The Republican Party which almost universally backed war on Iraq, a war formulated on dubious grounds and always destined the carefully crafted balance of power in the region, now appears mostly against intervention in Syria. Granted the GOP has seen a culling of many of its more moderate and internationalist elements during the 2006 and 2008 electoral debacles while the 2010 election brought the Tea Party and a more libertarian/isolationist bent to the forefront. Also “Bush fatigue” is at the forefront of much of the consideration , the GOPs objections to the Syria intervention aren’t much different than they were to the Kosovo mission in 1999.
At the time I strongly supported President Clinton’s work with our NATO allies to protect Kosovo and its native Muslim population from the continued human rights violations of Russian ally Slobodan Milošević and his efforts to build a “Greater Serbia.” Most Republicans objected to the mission sighting that we had no “national security interest” in Kosovo which was laughable since World War I started right in the region. At the time, with less seasoning and tolerance than I have today, I theorized conservatives who opposed the war did so because they did not want to help Muslims being oppressed by Christians. (Given the indulgence of some Republican “neo-conservatives” for Democratically elected Islamist regimes that oppress Christians the opposite may in reality be the truth.) But the actual reasons for opposing the Kosovo intervention which was done so in concert with our NATO allies was opposition to President Bill Clinton. Florida’s delegation of Republicans by and large opposed the President’s actions. Even in Tallahassee where I worked at the time many a GOP legislator would remark about “Clinton’s war” and “wagging the dog,” due to Impeachment. These Republicans paid little or no attention to the security risk created by a Greater Serbia, and the eight years of genocide and ethnic cleansing Milošević had conducted.
The rhetoric expressed in 1999 by many Republicans was again spouted by conservative super-hero Marco Rubio in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But the Rubio-like conservatives rushed to war in 2002-2003 against Iraq. Not only did Saddam Hussien not have weapons of mass destruction but as I pointed out at the time any shift in government in Iraq also would endanger the religious freedom of Christians and would serve to destroy the balance of power in the region irrevocably putting Iran in a position of being a regional bully. My fears have played out on both fronts.
For the record I am not a Christian, but believe that the United States as the world’s largest Christian majority nation should take the same view Muslim nations take towards protecting Muslim minorities in non-Muslim nations (thus Iran armed the Bosnia and Kosovar rebels and Al-Qaeda has backed terrorist groups operating in Israel and parts of India with large numbers of Muslims, while aligning with Governments in places like Pakistan and Malaysia that oppress Christians, Hindus and Buddhists). It is stunning to me that the Republicans who are a party that relies on the votes of church goers has abandoned the protection of those same Christians abroad in so many cases. In fact many Republican policies have enabled those who oppress Christians and Senator John McCain must know that the Assad Government is supported by the vast majority of Syrian Christians.
Some Republicans at the time of the Iraq debate like House Majority Leader Dick Armey did have serious concerns about the war but eventually caved when former House colleague Dick Cheney came calling. Armey was undecided until the day of the vote when partisanship prevailed. But most Republicans went along gladly and started spouting the same sort of rhetoric the Democrats previously did about humanism and spreading Democracy. It was a marked departure from a party that tended to be more practical than idealistic about foreign affairs. But now the Republicans have returned to a combination of isolationism (like the 1920s and 1930s GOP) and pragmatism (pre-Bush).
I have said for years I consider George W. Bush to have been a leftist when it came to foreign policy, though that was not his intent. He was an idealist fighting wars for alleged humanitarian reasons though from a strategic standpoint they made zero sense.
But Democrats have an equal amount of hypocrisy to explain. The rhetoric of some Democrats over the course of the past week has been galling.
Many liberals consistently say George W. Bush isolated the United States. Yet Bush was able to construct a coalition of 46 nations including our closest ally, the United Kingdom then led by a Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (Labour is the leftist party in the UK and still boasts many openly socialist MPs and members). Bush’s consistency in messaging even if it was based on faulty logic, misinterpreted intelligence and a combination of hubris and unhealthy idealism.
On the other hand, President Obama has been ineffectual and inconsistent this past week week in his rhetoric and his poor communications strategy contributed mightily to loss of potential foreign allies on this matter.
Even though this administration says actions will be “limited” and British Prime Minister David Cameron in his failed efforts to rally UK action said regime change was “not on the agenda” how can you simply intervene in a Civil War and walk away with ramifications or without trying to take sides? That was Bill Clinton’s concern in Bosnia during the 1990s when European powers sent troops and the US did not until the Dayton Accords were signed thanks to Clinton’s leadership.
Additionally it is important to note that the ongoing “Drone War” and the NSA debacle has created suspicion of this President abroad. The American left may have stayed largely silent on these matters in deference to our President, but the European left has not and many of my UK based friends who are active Labour Party members have changed their opinions radically of President Obama since he was re-elected. This isn’t necessarily fair but it is a new reality and why so many Labour MPs were not only adamant about not intervening in Syria but also making sure not just Tory P.M. David Cameron felt the sting of the rejection. American values are now seen as less clear and less defensible for many outside this country. George W. Bush certainly undermined American prestige to no end but after great fanfare and promise, the Obama recovery prestige wise has now lapsed back towards Bush levels if not worse. To be perfectly honest America is not viewed abroad the way it was prior to the Iraq War and this President has done little to fix that.
This President has also completely ignored the threat posed by Russia. Mitt Romney articulated this well last fall one of the few things the otherwise inept Republican nominee was able to discuss with some clarity. This situation is getting worse and the President and his foreign policy team need to take a broader view of things and look at Russia’s involvement in certain matters including Syria and confront Putin’s oligarchy accordingly.
I have heard Democrats in the last week say this is all happening because of 9/11 and George W. Bush being responsible and have also said the President did great things in Libya and the Arab Spring is due to him. All of these comments are either false or stretching the truth. While 9/11 did happen on George W. Bush’s watch and he was asleep to the terrorist threat the actions that prompted 9/11 were almost entirely taken by the Clinton Administration. But President Clinton knew the threat Osama Bin Laden represented and he tried to kill him and root out his terrorist network and this led directly to 9/11 which was perfectly timed with a President in George W. Bush who lacked intellectual curiosity about world and asleep at the wheel.
The President’s action in Libya were both ill-advised, in violation of the War Powers Act. The Arab Spring seems to have caught Obama by surprise not simply due to the “hope” represented by the President but many Democrats see it differently.
Here in Florida we have State Rep. Neil Combee spouting off his mouth about President Obama being responsible for the Chemical Weapons attacks. This was an absolutely sickening assertion but no different what many Democrats said about George W. Bush at the time, accusing the Republican Administration of manufacturing intelligence or planting WMD’s.
The ideologies of the two parties and politicians seem inconsistent when making the most important decision someone in office can make. That decision is whether to send young American girls and boys off to war to potentially die. George W. Bush sent thousands of Americans to their deaths based on faulty intelligence and a misplaced idealism which reflected the way Democrats previously viewed the world. Had Bush not been a Republican he would have been destroyed by most Republicans for his naivety and idiocy in taking his eye off the ball in Afghanistan and engaging in an unneeded war which left America weaker.
As President Obama and his team make arguments about engaging in Syria similar to Bush’s regarding Iraq and as Obama’s own incoherence and inconsistencies have lost us the support of potential allies many Democrats act as if this is a closed case. If it were such a closed case, why would liberals in Europe be most opposed to the war and why are those liberals suspicious of this President? Obama’s Drone War and NSA scandal is a big deal to most liberals outside the USA. Also when I hear many Democrats claim that this would be a “limited action” it makes my skin crawl. Once you engage in a Civil War in the Middle East you are committed, and once Americans are put in harms way unexpected things can happen. Both the Kosovo and Libya operations, conducted entirely from the air with few exceptions dragged on longer than expected and were bungled to a certain extent by the military commanders (including General Wesley Clark which created some tension between himself and fellow Arkansan President Clinton). The pro-intervention wing of the Democratic Party has simply chosen to ignore historical realities about these types of operations while parroting the sentiments expressed by Bush’s team regarding Iraq.
At the same time the GOP is largely hypocritical, jumping from being isolationist and conspiracy theory minded in the Clinton years to wild idealistic interventionists in the Bush years back to an isolationist posture.
It also should be noted that we turned a blind eye when Iraq used Chemical Weapons against Iran (at the time the Reagan Administration tilted towards Iraq), ignored the Iraqi attack around the same time on a US Naval Destroyer that killed 37 US sailors (and were prepared for military action if Iran had been responsible for the attack) and also shot down a civilian plane carrying 290 passengers and yet were not held culpable for that. This all happened during the dying days of the Iran-Iraq War, and despite our tilt towards Iraq, we soon were fighting a war against Iraq. I could go on and on about these sorts of historical inconsistencies. So while it is nice to think America is not culpable for some of the problems in the Middle East, it is simplistic view borne out by ignorance.
Hypocrisy when it comes to war and peace should not be acceptable to any Florida voter and those who are inconsistent and play partisan politics with lives of our women and men in uniform should be voted out of office.