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07 September 2013

Syria: Matt Drudge Is Right. Pro-War Republicans Risk Becoming A Big Government Party

At risk?  They are already there, but anyhoo...

By Dr Tim Stanley, The Telegraph

Well, we always knew the Democrat leadership would fall in behind the Prez on Syria – and Nancy Pelosi led the pack. Speaking yesterday she made the standard humanitarian case for intervention but then added her own cute spin. Nancy told us that she asked her 5-year old grandson if he thought America should go to war. “No!” he replied, so she gave him a lesson in the importance of deterring the use of chemical weapons. There are two things to take away from that surreal anecdote. A) Nancy discusses foreign policy with 5-year olds. B) They know more about it than her.

But it turns out that the GOP leadership is supporting Barack Obama, too. Sigh. We might have always expected John McCain (“Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”) and Lindsey Graham (Republican By Rumour Only) to come out strongly for war, but it’s disappointing to note that John Boehner and Eric Cantor were quick to follow. At least these gung-ho Americans are all being honest about the realities of intervention. While British hawks constantly assert that this is "only about chemical weapons", Obama said as he met with congressional leaders: “We have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition”. So war leading to regime change, then – and something that the Republican leadership is apparently very comfortable with. So comfortable that John McCain was caught playing an iPhone game during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing into Syria. What with Nancy asking 5-year olds their views and John playing 5-year olds’ games, American politics isn’t looking terribly mature right now.

In his frustration, conservative guru Matt Drudge posted some angry tweets. First: “It’s now Authoritarian vs. Libertarian. Since Democrats vs. Republicans has been obliterated, no real difference between parties.” And then (I don’t know if he drinks, but this feels about the fifth beer in):

'Why would anyone vote Republican? Please give reason. Raised taxes; marching us off to war again; approved more NSA snooping. WHO ARE THEY?!'

Who indeed? Drudge makes an interesting point that although the Left spent the 2012 election accusing the Republicans of being extremists, since then the GOP leadership has tied itself to a big government consensus on both civil liberties and war. Things are looking uncertain on the question of defunding Obamacare, too. So if the parties are agreed on fundamental questions about state power and constitutional rights, who does offer an alternative? 

This helpful Washington Post graphic actually shows that there’s more to play for in Congress than you’d expect, with a significant contingent of Senate Republicans staking out a position against war. And an example of the kind of thing that principled conservatives can do when they put their minds to it was shown by Rand Paul yesterday in his grilling of John Kerry – posted above. Paul asked Kerry if the President would respect Congress’ verdict if it voted intervention down. Kerry basically replied, “Maybe not”, arguing that it was still within the President’s power to act. There were also some fascinating skirmishes over the paradox of Kerry opposing war in Cambodia in the 1970s but backing it in Libya and Syria, climaxing in a spat over whether or not "limited" military action is equivalent to saying, "We're in it, but we don't want to win it". Paul beat Kerry on almost every point – and not with the force of his somewhat clinical personality. It was because he kept referring to the Constitution and the proper powers of Congress. While other politicians were falling over themselves to make emotional appeals and invoke conversations with their grandchildren, Paul was sticking to logic and the law. It's refreshing.

So Drudge is right: the GOP’s leadership is lacking both a moral core and a message at the moment. Americans basically face a choice between two strands of big government thinking – one welfare orientated (Dems) and one warfare orientated (Republicans). But there is cause to hope. Although Obama scored a short-term win by throwing the question of war open to Congress and thus exposing the divisions within the GOP, this has also given conservatives the opportunity to debate philosophy and what being a Republican actually means. Now they can sort the men of the establishment from the men of conscience (and women – see Sarah Palin’s predictably robust case for staying out of Syria) and maybe throw up a few presidential contenders in the process. The Constitution isn't beaten yet.


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