Syria might be turning neocons into skeptics

John Bolton

If you watch Ed Schultz’s show or read his tweets (and let’s be honest, only schadenfreude-fueled right-wingers do), you’d think that conservatives were leading the march to war in Syria:

Neoconservatives specifically are often assumed to be most forcefully pushing for foreign intervention. In most cases, that has been true. But on Syria, even some of the most boisterous neocons in the past have been cautious or outright skeptical.

John Bolton, George W Bush’s former late-term UN Ambassador, said yesterday that if he were in Congress, he wouldn’t vote to approve a strike on the Assad regime:

“I don’t think it’s in America’s interest. I don’t think we should, in effect, take sides in the Syrian conflict. There’s very little to recommend either side to me. And I think the notion that a limited strike, which is what the president seems to be pursuing, will not create a deterrent effect with respect either to Syria’s use of chemical weapons or, more seriously, Iran’s nuclear weapons program. So, all in all, since I don’t see any utility to the use of military force in Syria in this context, I would vote no.”

This is especially striking since Bolton is considering entering the 2016 Republican Presidential primary because he doesn’t think the other presumptive candidates are strong enough on foreign policy interventionism.

And Bolton isn’t the only one. While Peter King (also considering a 2016 run to beef up GOP for-pol credentials) supports President Obama’s proposed strike, he said over the weekend that he doesn’t think he has the votes right now in the House, though one assumes his own vote would be a “Yes.”

In what could be either a craven partisan opportunism or legitimate game-changing reorientation, former Bush Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld (middle name “Neocon”) says that Obama hasn’t made the case on Syria yet.

We could be seeing the beginnings of another Obama-spawned political realignment here. Around the passage of Obamacare, many criticized the GOP for turning its back on formerly “conservative” ideas like the individual health insurance mandate just because it was Obama who proposed it. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more subtle than that. Because Obama proposed it, Republicans actually took the time to view the issue critically and came to the conclusion that it was a mistake.

The same might be happening with foreign policy. Obama campaigned and came into office as an unapolagetic dove. He was against Iraq and wanted to bring the troops home from both Iraq and Afghanistan. While he has kept the Bush withdrawl timetables on those fronts, he has also pursued his own foreign interventionism in Libya and now in Syria (and one could argue also in Pakistan and Yemen with the drone war). Finally, it seems the GOP has a reason to second guess its default position of American global police power.


Liz Cheney, candidate for US Senate from Wyoming, and daughter of Darth Hawk himself, Dick Cheney, said she would not support the Syria strike if she were in Congress today.

And while not exactly turning into a dove or skeptic, John McCain has withdrawn his support for the resolution…since it’s goals don’t go far enough.

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