The Politico web site reports that Arizona Senator John McCain (R), known by progressives as the "maverick" for his bucking of conservatives in the Republican Party over the years, stated today that "A rejection of this resolution would be catastrophic, not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States." Meanwhile, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R) suggested that backing down might send the wrong signal to Iran. Keep in mind that McCain and Graham are two of the most progressive senators in the Republican Party and they are both neoconservatives who believe that every complicated military or political situation around the world is in the direct interests of the United States government to resolve. Unable to make a real case for why America should engage its military in the region, these two neocons instead are seeking to build an imaginary case premised on fear about what might happen if we bring our ships back home. In this particular instance, McCain warns that the American presidency will be forever weakened while Graham warns that failing to punish the Assad regime will allow others to rise up and threaten America's national security interests.
Both John McCain and Lindsey Graham do not seem to be all that concerned about whether military action against Syria is based on sound evidence or sensible foreign policy, but whether or not the institution of the presidency and the reputation of the United States might be tarnished were the president to rescind his plan and decide not to carry forward with a military response. McCain's words are a bit disconcerting, for he seems to be suggesting that the United States attack another country merely because we had promised to punish them, not whether such action is warranted in the first place. Certainly, thanks to President Obama, the presidency will be weakened and tarnished if we don't move forward with action against Syria after having announced our decision to do so, but ultimately this will have more of an impact on the way leaders of other countries view the Obama presidency in particular. Graham's warnings are difficult to take seriously. That somehow hitting select Syrian targets will send dictators around the world cowering is ludicrous. The problems in the region are far too complex to be resolved by what the president is proposing. At this point, the debate over whether or not to engage our military is all about saving the faces of the president and the neocons. On the one hand, President Obama wants to avoid losing what little credibility he has left. On the other hand, the neoconservatives are taking advantage of the Syrian situation in order to advance their broader agenda of democratizing the region from the top down, an approach that has failed miserably wherever it has been tried.
Politico remarks that "McCain said he has not yet been persuaded to support Obama’s Syria proposal because the president has yet to outline his plan of attack against the Assad regime." How could the president be in a situation where he has not yet outlined his plan of attack when that plan was supposed to be implemented days ago? And why would McCain be so willing to side with the president without knowing the full details of his plans for a military response? The answer to the first question is the very reason why we need to halt the president's call to action and the answer to the second question is that McCain possesses his own, neoconservative motives for an attack. McCain is ready to go, but he needs Obama to come up with something, anything, so that the "maverick" can have something to hold up to the American people as justification for a military response to the alleged chemical attacks by the Assad government. Both McCain and Obama want war, but neither has a plan. Ultimately, that Obama's most vocal supporters in Congress are two neoconservatives does not help his cause or justify his battle plan (which apparently does not yet exist.) All parties involved in marketing this campaign are self-interested politicians who care less about the innocents who died in Syria than for their own political objectives. One of the most bumbled presidential decisions in American history has taken place before our own eyes, but the president will gather friend and foe alike to make it all seem like part of the intended plan.