Republicans deeply divided over U.S. intervention in Syria
McKay Coppins ASSESSES the situation:
The rapidly approaching conflict in Syria has begun to draw a deep rift between two sides of a Republican party that have long been drifting apart over foreign policy, pitting the hawkish holdovers of Bush-era neoconservatism against an ascendant libertarian wing that opposes humanitarian intervention.
As the Obama administration beats the war drum — calling the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens a “moral obscenity,” and insisting intervention is the only acceptable response — Republicans are scattered all over the philosophical spectrum, without a clear set of talking points, let alone a unified worldview.
“There are groups of Republicans that are comfortable with the executive branch unilaterally using our armed forces anywhere in the world. I’m not comfortable with that, America is not comfortable with that,” said Florida Rep. Trey Radel, a tea party Republican who said he was open to an attack on Syria but only if Congress votes to approve it. “I guarantee you some of us younger conservatives would be just as apprehensive as we are today if this was George W. Bush. This goes beyond partisanship… We cannot be the police of the world and, because we have big bombs and big guns, solve the deep and profoundly complex problems of [Syria].”
Radel belongs to a growing tribe of libertarian-leaning Republicans that represent one pole of the intra-party debate: highly skeptical of military intervention unless United States national security is directly at risk. Led by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and jump-started in part by his anti-drone filibuster in March, the push toward a more dovish, non-interventionist foreign policy has made serious strides within the GOP this year, attracting high-profile figures like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who told Fox News Monday that the U.S. “doesn’t exist to be a policeman for the world.”
On the other end of the spectrum, old-guard neoconservative hawks like Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and New York Rep. Peter King are strongly supporting an intervention — and in some cases, urging the president to go much further than his administration has so far indicated it’s willing to.
Meanwhile, prominent conservative opinion makers are demonstrating a similar lack of cohesion on the Syria issue.
Sean Hannity spent the opening hour of his radio show Tuesday twisting himself into various rhetorical gymnastics in order to simultaneously criticize Obama for being too weak, and for pursuing a military strike. He tentatively sided with the libertarians, but said there were still “more questions” to ask…
Glenn Beck has devoted the week to questioning whether the U.S. really has the evidence it claims to have that Assad used chemical weapons, and warned that a military strike on Syria could prompt “World War III” (helpfully mapped out on a giant chalkboard map of the globe.)
And Rush Limbaugh, the most powerful conservative pundit in the country, openly confessed that he hadn’t made up his mind on the issue. After tearing in to the president for failing to act when Syria first crossed “the red line,” and deriding Democrats’ foreign policy “hypocrisy,” he arrived at the question of whether the U.S. should strike Syria.