The Magazine

Do It for the Presidency

Congress, this time at least, shouldn’t say no to Obama.

Sep 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 02 • By GARY SCHMITT
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Moreover, none of this requires boots on the ground. Skepticism about the feasibility of an effective Syrian campaign reflects not an actual lack of American capacity, but rather self-inflicted doubts from pulling the plug on our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan prematurely. Non-jihadist opposition forces do exist and they do hold significant swaths of Syria. However, they will certainly fall by the wayside in the face of resolute and ruthless al Qaeda-aligned forces if not properly trained, armed, and guided.

No doubt, there are conservatives who, like the president, want simply to pivot away from the Middle East altogether and believe that’s what the public wants as well. But what the public wants today and what it sees as important down the road will almost certainly not be the same. In 1999, John McCain went against the majority of his congressional GOP colleagues, supported a military intervention in Kosovo, and stole a march on his nomination opponents in appearing more presidential. He was joined by then-governor George W. Bush in support of the intervention, and soon enough the polls showed a majority of Americans in agreement.

On the other side of the coin, another senator with presidential aspirations, the relatively hawkish Democrat Sam Nunn, voted in 1991 against the congressional authorization for the first Gulf war and now admits it was the greatest mistake of his career.

In short, conservatives, especially those thinking that they could be sitting in the Oval Office one day, ought to think long and hard before they reject a sensible, if not perfect, authorization for the use of force.

Gary Schmitt is director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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