One of the big stories over the last few weeks has been growing opposition in the GOP to attacking Syria. Many Republicans including Senators Rafi Cruz and Lamar! Alexander have said they’ll vote no and likely candidate Rick Santorum has said he opposes the action as well.
Now some libertarians are probably patting themselves on the back. They’re saying this a sign the GOP has learned from Iraq and the party is finally ditching the Bush-era foreign policy. You can almost feel the glee from David Boaz or Nick Gillespie as they fantasize that this what will catapult Rand Paul to the GOP nomination in 2016.
As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friends….
First, there are many in the GOP and on the right who support attacking Syria. Do the names John Boehner, John McCain, Eric Cantor and Lindsey Graham ring any bells? They all back action in Syria. As do pundits like Michael Gerson. So before anyone thinks the GOP are an entirely dovish party they need to look again.
Second, this is not the first time Republican politicians have ever opposed a war run by a Democratic President. In the late 1990’s GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate blasted Clinton on Kosovo. Here is what they said back in those heady dot.com bubble days:
Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles: “Once the bombing commenced, I think then Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that’s when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started.”
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay: “Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly. The administration has no plan to do anything but go to Kosovo, hold hands with the two sides and hope they behave when we leave. But of course they won’t. The killing and the mayhem will continue as soon as NATO pulls out.”
Sen. Rick Santorum: “President Clinton is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”
Sen. Richard Lugar: “This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.”
Funny thing is that when George W. Bush was President in 2002 all of them backed a much larger American military commitment in Iraq. So it’s not like these politicians became peaceniks as much as they were simply acting as partisans.
Third, opposing one conflict does not make you an isolationist. How many in the GOP really want to cut military spending, decrease the number of U.S. bases around the world, change America’s relationship with Israel, or get out of NATO? If you really want to have a non-interventionist (or isolationist) foreign policy those are all things that would be apart of it.
In 2016, when Rand Paul advocates any of those things he will get slammed hard in the GOP primaries. If he is able to survive the primary then maybe the libertarians will have a point but until that comes people should chill out about just how much the GOP is changing, if it’s changing at all.