Let’s Bomb Everyone All the Time
Their whole argument has an “assume a can opener” quality about it. Neither the American public, nor the Iraqi public, nor the Iraqi government wanted American troops to stay in Iraq. McCain and Graham attribute ousted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s resistance to a fear that the number of troops proposed would not be enough, but this is far from clear. Selling an inflamed Iraqi public on the idea that American troops would be in their country but exempt from their laws was always going to be a tough sell.
Moreover, McCain and Graham attribute a magical power to the presence of U.S. troops: How, exactly, were they to have “played a key role in checking Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s worst sectarian tendencies and in supporting Iraqi security forces”? The same Iraqi security forces that abandoned their weapons and deserted the battlefield while facing ISIS? The same sectarian tendencies that sank Maliki, as well as his predecessor Ibrahim al‐Jaafari? It’s almost as if something is causing those sectarian tendencies and organizational difficulties other than the lack of American troops in the country.
Beyond his failure to keep the Iraq enterprise going, McCain and Graham are piqued that the president has not struck Assad’s forces in Syria or ISIS yet. One might remark that the U.S. Constitution reserves Congress an extra‐special place when it comes to taking the country to war, but should probably hesitate for fear it will be seized upon by the McCains and Grahams of the body.
But while McCain and Graham have a good story about who they’d like to lose in the region—Assad, his enemies (ISIS/al Nusra/”Khorasan”), Iran—but no good story about who they’d like to win. Presumably they want the same liberal pluralists to take over who have eluded us in Iraq since the invasion.
At some point it will become a problem for Republicans that their leading foreign policy voices are warmongers with terrible track records, but that time is not yet. Graham was recently lampooned, first at the National Interest magazine and later by The Daily Show for what can only be described as hysteria. Graham is either totally detached from reality or engaged in some sort of arch dada troll of the American people.
It was not true, contra Graham, that “chemical weapons in Syria today means nuclear weapons in the U.S. tomorrow” (September 2013). Nor is it true that if the president doesn’t do what Graham wants in Syria the consequence is “we all get killed back here at home” (September 2014). When they are not engaging in bizarre death fantasies, McCain and Graham are weasel‐wording and using every extreme headline to justify spouting tendentious nonsense – such as a Washington Free Beacon piece that used official acknowledgement of things people were tweeting to blare that “U.S. Confirms ISIL Planning Infiltration of U.S. Southern Border” (later walked back, of course). McCain and Graham should realize their antics are ridiculous and do violence to the very idea of America as “home of the brave.”
There is one party in the United States that calls itself conservative. Its leading foreign policy lights, men like McCain and Graham, have an unerring track record of threat inflation, terrible decisions, and lying to explain them away. The substance of their views can be described in one word: revolutionary. In a country situated like the 2014 United States, conservatives should act and think like conservatives, not international revolutionaries.