In a terrific post called “The Power of Silence,” Scott noted that Samantha Power, once the leading advocate of military intervention to combat genocidal practices, had nothing to say in favor of President Trump’s use of force to combat Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal use of chemical weapons. Such partisan hypocrisy was not confined to the left, though.
Sen. Marco Rubio led the justified praise of Trump’s one-time missile attack. However, when former president Obama proposed a similarly limited response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Rubio opposed it. Rubio is not the only Republican legislator in this boat.
A few days ago, I wrote:
I doubt there is any such thing as a bi-partisan issue these days. Not for the Democrats and not for a great many Republicans. Statements and positions are rarely judged based on their merit; instead they are judged based on which side said or took them.
The response to Trump’s missile attack is a troubling case in point. Can a limited punitive response, via an air attack, to the use of chemical weapons be a good idea when proposed by one president but a bad idea when proposed by another? I doubt it.
I understand the argument made by some conservatives that Obama could not be trusted to carry out military action effectively. But even if the argument had merit when applied to an extended military campaign, it did not apply to the very military response Obama proposed when Assad crossed the “red line.”
I have trouble understanding Mitch McConnell’s defense of his flip-flop. He says he opposed Obama’s proposed response because Secretary of State John Kerry described it as a pin-prick. Trump’s one-time attack on only the air base from which Assad launched his latest chemical attack fits the definition of a pin prick. In both cases, the purpose was to send a message, not to deal a major military blow to Assad.
If anything, the case for supporting a limited response by Obama was stronger than the case for supporting Trump’s response. After all, it was Obama who drew the red line. A great deal was lost when Obama, facing opposition from many Republicans, backed down after initially proposing to enforce it. Much less would have been lost had Trump not responded to Assad’s latest chemical attack.
Moreover, the Russians are more entrenched in Syria now than they were when Obama proposed a military response to Assad’s genocide. Thus, the risk associated with a U.S. attack on Syria is greater, though probably not significantly greater in the context of the limited strike Trump carried out.
Fortunately, some public figures remain capable of judging national security issues on the merits, rather than through a partisan lens. Our friend Sen. Tom Cotton supported Obama’s proposed attack back in 2013. On the other side, John Kerry, who pushed for a limited attack back then (and praised Cotton for his support), backed Trump’s attack.
Kerry reportedly said he is “absolutely supportive” of the military action. He added that he is “gratified to see that it happened quickly.”
Good for him. We need more of that from both sides of the political divide.