Where’s My War?

Last week I predicted that a lot of conservatives would wind up opposing the president’s request for a use-of-force resolution aimed at limited objectives based on a revival of the ancient “no-win-war” meme: that only a big, brawling unlimited war based on imposing America’s will unilaterally is worth fighting. Now that the threat of a military strike is being explicitly linked to the possibility of a diplomatic solution, neocons and regular old-school defenders of the military-industrial complex look to be stampeding in that direction.

Mitch McConnell has released his draft speech opposing a use-of-force resolution, and it relies very heavily on the no-win-war meme (even if his real motives are inveterate Obama-hatred and fear of getting out of synch with his most crucial ally is his primary battle back home, Rand Paul).

On the deepest level, I think it comes down to a fundamentally different view of America’s role in the world. Unlike the President, I’ve always been a firm and unapologetic believer in the idea that America isn’t just another nation among many; that we’re exceptional. As I’ve said, I believe we have a duty, as a superpower without imperialistic aims, to help maintain an international order and balance of power that we and other allies have worked very hard on over the years.

This President, on the other hand, has always been a very reluctant Commander in Chief. We saw that in the rhetoric of his famous Cairo speech, and in speeches he gave in other foreign capitals in the early days of his administration. The tone, and the policies that followed, were meant to project a humbler, more withdrawn America … and, frankly, I’m hard pressed to see any of the good that’s come from it.

He goes on and on, but the bottom line is that he won’t support a limited war and doesn’t think this president is capable of anything else.

Since neocons like John McCain and Lindsey Graham were already furious at Obama for failing to commit fully to war in Syria, and stayed on the reservation only when the use-of-force resolution was amended to aim at a change of the balance of forces between Assad and the rebels, it will be interesting to see if they defect as well (they have not so far) if the diplomatic initiative doesn’t collapse right away.

But neocon blogger Jennifer Rubin, who previously managed to support the use-of-force resolution while continuing to hurl insults at its prime proponent in the White House, has had enough of this peace talk:

This is fitting in a way. The president went to Congress for political cover. Then he went to Putin. Congress at this point is entitled to tell the president to solve his own mess.

Yeah, it’s sad that Obama may be in the process of spoiling the war with Syria that was supposed to pave the way to the war with Iran that so many GOP “hawks” actually want. So many of them may well move from a tactical alliance with Obama to a tactical alliance with Rand Paul, squawking belligerently all the way.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.