The leader of the neoconservative warmongers, William Kristol, called Congressional Republicans to “Hail Ceaser!” yesterday. No, that’s not a misprint. It refers to First Things blog editor James Ceaser (not Caesar), who has penned a shocking case for Republicans to wholeheartedly, unconditionally support Obama in attacking Syria, no matter what.
Normally, I would not consider First Things among the most important of those requiring a response, but since Kristol gave it international traction, and since the neocons and First Things in general do have credibility among many Christians interested in political and social issues, the “Hail Ceaser!” national-greatness-delirium needs to be addressed.
First, here’s what Kristol related (edited by me only for brevity) and which he demands congress hail:
Republicans should support some version of the authorization of force resolution. They should do so even if they think that the President’s policy will prove ineffective, do no good, waste money, or entail unforeseen risks; they should do so even if they think he has gotten the nation into this situation by blunders, fecklessness, arrogance, or naiveté; and they should so even if, and especially, if they have no confidence in his judgment. The simple fact is that the nation and our allies will be at further risk if the world sees a presidency that is weakened and that has no credibility to act. . . . The weaker the president’s credibility on the world scene, the more the need to swallow and do what will not weaken it further. President Obama is the only president we have. That remains the overriding fact.
And there is the important matter of the future–a future that may one day have a Republican in the presidency. The precedent of setting too low a threshold for blocking presidential initiative in foreign affairs is unwise. . . .
Nor is there any way of getting around the fact that this vote begins to set the future direction of the Republican Party —whether it will be an internationalist or an isolationist party. . . . The truth is that, beyond the facts of this case, many in the Republican Party are itching to use Obama’s mishandling of this situation to establish a new isolationist center of gravity for the Republican Party in international affairs. That’s not the place the Republican Party should be.
So we have three reasons demanding Republicans support Obama attacking Syria: 1) so that the America presidency in general will not look weak, 2) so that presidential prerogative to start wars without congressional approval will not be diminished, and 3) to suppress “isolationist” influences within the Republican Party.
The first reason is the most immediately important. I will address it last. The second reason deals, in my opinion, with the interpretation of the Constitution. Most people in my circles believe that only Congress has the power to declare war. This view can only be arrived at through a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. For whatever merits that view may have, it has been by far the minority view in practice in American history, was not practiced even by the framers who wrote the document, and indeed was thoroughly blown out of the waters of American jurisprudence by John Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, if not earlier. Hamilton was the most influential man in the first administration—the brains and energy behind Washington—and he never believed in strict construction for a moment. He also waged the U.S.’s first war—against her own people. It was not declared by Congress.
There is currently a series of Facebook memes circulating of soldiers covering their faces with message cards saying things like, “I did not sign up to fight in for Al Qaeda in Syrian Civil Wars,” etc. Again, I am outside the current in my own conservative circles in arguing the contrary here. While I appreciate the sentiment, the fact is otherwise. I will write about this tomorrow.
The third argument is obviously referring to the influence continuing to grow in Congress in the wake of Ron Paul’s courageous non-interventionist stand. Neocons are terrified that America may grow up and start minding its own business militarily, and start reserving its bombs for truly American-defensive purposes. Kristol and Co. fear their plans spawned years ago in the Project for a New American Century will not be realized. The Project called in 2000 for the expansion of the perimeter of American power throughout the world, including the establishment of “new overseas bases and forward operating locations to facilitate American political and military operations around the world,” and “an enduring American military presence” in “Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia.” Only with such worldwide military presence—the ever present threat and often use of deadly force—can we maintain “the American peace.”
Pax Americana? Really? Hail Caesar indeed?
So, it would be a shame to stop dropping bombs at this point, apparently. It will be a shame when Rand Paul holds more ears in the Senate than John McCain. Perpetual war for perpetual peace demands that we win the war for Congress’ ear at home, and thus all who do not want Empire must be labeled negatively as “isolationist” and be suppressed.
Both of these are ideological arguments. They pertain to the long-term issue of maintaining a forward warmongering posture in American foreign policy, and thus they are highly important. But they do not address directly the short-term question of Syria.
Ceaser/Kristol’s stated reason that does address this is that by not taking action, the American presidency in general will look weak internationally now. Please note, first, that this argument itself derives for the larger warlust apparent in the other two. No man truly desiring peace and a minimum of bloodshed and death would advocate indiscriminate war no matter what the circumstances, motivations, results, etc., merely because they think the presidency should remain Caesar-like in appearance to the world. This is bloody, murderous, rash, reckless nonsense.
Secondly—and this is really what got my Bible & War in America hackles up to begin with—is that the article assumes throughout, without any application of critical thought, that the administration is correct to charge the Assad regime with this chemical weapon attack. This is the deadly assumption which he not only neglects to examine critically, he does not examine at all. Indeed, he does not even mention it.
And that should raise a red flag for every reader. This article is not wisdom speaking and reasoning. It is propaganda.
Furthermore, his phrase “beyond the facts of this case” should strike the critical reader with irony because, after all, what are the facts in this case? Who knows them for sure, and who is privy to them? How much is revealed to Congress? How much is revealed to the public? And just how craftily presented are those select revelations? I submit to you that the amount of alleged intel revealed has so far only been presented to the American public at large by those who want war to begin with.
Where are the national voices of opposition who have been made privy to the intel, been allowed to examine it critically, and then make a case against based on all the facts of the case?
Crickets. Because parties in power who have an agenda don’t roll like that.
And this is why I was alarmed also by the alleged case against intervention in Syria also published by First Things. While editor R. R. Reno is effectively wise to argue for staying out, he also assumes the administration’s charge is true. But then, his reason for staying out is even worse: because the president has not stated the clear goal of “decisively defeating the Assad regime,” which, Reno argues, “any just outcome in Syria at this juncture” requires.
This is deadly dangerous, for it also assumes that Assad is guilty and that Assad should be removed. So much for a case against war in Syria. This case against really just plays into the hands of the case for. It is merely a more serious go-to-war piece. Even if one were to read it and agree with the main premises, they would still come away with the ideas planted in their minds that Assad did it and that some type of American military intervention is necessary.
Again, how does this guy know this? He doesn’t.
Despite all the warmongering rhetoric out of Obama and his neocon allies, the “facts of this case” are clearly still in doubt. Even pro-Obama forces like NPR have questioned it. The Associate Press as well cites multiple intelligence officials saying the case against Assad is “not a slam-dunk.” Jerome Corsi of WND.com has compiled an interesting set of counter-evidence. He reports that “reliable Middle Eastern sources say they have evidence the culprits actually were the rebel forces trying to take over the government.” The blog Washington’s Blog also relates several eye-opening counter-reports from reliable sources.
It is a moral imperative for influential outlets like First Things to take such into account before they opine to influence others. But here they not only neglect to relate the counter-reports, they don’t even ask the question.
This is not only irresponsible intellectually and morally, it will be complicit in whatever bloodshed follows—possibly for years to come.
(For the Syrian war issue in general, hear “The Weak Case for War in Syria” by the CATO Institute.)