I have absolutely no clue about what the U.S. should, or shouldn’t, do about Syria. Since I’ve seen no coherent story about how an intervention will make things better, I’m inclined to be against one, but since I’ve also seen no coherent story about any other way to keep the Iranian client regime in Damsascus from continuing to slaughter its people, merely being against intervention doesn’t seem, by itself, like an adequate position.

From the perspective of a British M.P., the proposition “Let’s follow the U.S. into another optional war in the Middle East” must have seemed pretty damned resistable. Still, why the Coalition couldn’t muster a majority – or whether Cameron was actually happy with the result – and why its failure to do so doesn’t call for a resignation or a dissolution, is something I’d like to hear about from an expert on UK politics.

All that said, the vote was a clear victory for the Assad gang and its sponsors in Teheran and Moscow. That makes the glee with which the news is being greeted by segments of the right-wing media fairly hard to take.

I suppose I should be glad to learn that there’s a country Donald Rumsfeld doesn’t want to invade, even after its government has not merely acquired WMD but actually made use of them in combat. But the timing of his comments – just before the Commons vote – meant that he was helping to bring about an Iranian diplomatic victory and a U.S. diplomatic defeat. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I seem to remember a period where that sort of behavior by a former Secretary of Defense would have been counted – especially by conservatives – as utterly out of bounds.

No doubt the Iranian Republican Guard and George Galloway were grateful for Rummy’s support. So was Vladimir Putin. And, as I said up front, for all I know he’s right on the substance, even aside from the fact that an enthusiast for torture might not be expected to be excessively fastidious about poison gas. But you’d think that a party which so completely wraps itself in the flag might be a little bit less cheerful about the success of the country’s bitter enemies.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.