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September 04, 2014

Has ISIL Killed Republican/Conservative Movement Towards Skepticism Of Military Interventions

GOP interventionists had been worried that the party and the wider conservative movement were becoming less supportive of their desire for a more forceful military posture in the nation's foreign policy. Now with the emergence of the threat from ISIL they think they have their mojo back.

"Things are moving back in that [hawkish] direction, reflecting the mood of most Americans who are angry at what they’re seeing," said Brian Walsh, a former spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Candidates are responding to that, and it is a product of the atmospherics."

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a leading pro-interventionist voice on the right, said Republicans are moving back to their "inner hawkishness." He said that some in the party had been "a little intimidated for a while... by the so-called libertarian moment" but that GOP candidates are now showing a greater willingness to extend their foreign policy statements beyond mere attacks on Obama.

"What heartens me is that [candidates] are going beyond that criticism and talking about the need for a different approach, about how we can't freak out when someone mentions potentially putting boots on the ground," Kristol said.

And they like to point to recent polling like this to buttress their claims.

So have Republicans and conservatives decided to re-embrace the interventionist Bush years? Perhaps. Or maybe there's another option... they have been become more selective about which interventions they are willing to support.

I’d argue that there’s no contradiction between opposing US military action in Libya and against the Assad regime in Syria while supporting the use of US force against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. In fact I'd say it's an important sign that Republicans have a good handle on their vision of US interests and the policies they are willing to support in defense of those interests.

Our adventure in Libya has been a disaster. Even as we were in the midst of bombing Ghadaffi the best argument any administration official could muster that the campaign was in our interests was we owed it to our allies who really wanted to do it.

When it came to bombing Syria last year the argument was that we had to protect the international norm that governments cannot use chemical weapons. Americans seemed unimpressed with that theory and the fact that there hasn’t been any sudden wide spread use of those weapons around the world indicates those attacks weren’t necessary to deter use elsewhere in the world. Additionally, Americans were rightly skeptical that entering the Syrian civil war would have consequences that would be detrimental to our interests.

You don't like ISIL today? Neither do I. Now imagine we spent a few days or weeks last year battering their enemy in Damascus. How much stronger would they be if they had a few more victories in Syria behind them courtesy of the US military? And if you think that the "moderates" in the Free Syrian Army would have been the beneficiary of those attacks, you are making an argument based on faith in a cohort that hasn't shown up anywhere in the region.

How are the "moderates" in Libya doing? Oh, right. The "moderate" militias we partnered with either took part in the Benghazi attack or stood by while "extremists" were murdering our people. And now the "moderates" have been driven out of any positions of power and Libya is a failed state. (Which btw, may have just provided terrorists with enough jets to more than recreate 9/11 somewhere in the world.)

And we can go further back to Iraq. Does the Iraqi invasion look all the good in hindsight? No it doesn’t. Even if you argue it’s all Obama's fault that it went to hell after we left on the time frame agreed to by George W. Bush, it's impossible to argue that the mission went as it was sold to the country. There was no talk in 2002-2003 about a long and bloody insurgency.

Now, I don't blame Bush for how Iraq turned out. War is a dangerous and unpredictable thing. And that's exactly why skepticism should be the order of the day when it's proposed as a policy option. You can't know what will happen once you begin to use force (or in fairness, if you the consequences of not acting). That's why each application of military power must be carefully considered and judgment applied to the probable costs and benefits.

It would be reassuring to me if people who repeatedly land on the interventionist side would occasionally admit there are risks to following their proposed courses of action and that their track record in assessing these risks is...spotty (to be overly generous).

So maybe the interventionists are right and America is ready to embrace every opportunity to get the US involved militarily that comes down the pike. I hope not. I hope Americans are demonstrating an admirable ability to consider each case on its merits and reach a decision that reflects our interests.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:58 PM

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