Democracy Arsenal

« Of Pirates and Mercenaries | Main | Bush vs. Obama on Pakistan »

October 27, 2008

McCain's Irresponsible Syria Response
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So how does the McCain campaign respond to sporadic news reports that U.S. special forces carried out an attack in Syrian territory?  Well a responsible campaign (i.e. the Obama campaign) would follow the White House's lead and offer no comment until they got more information.  But instead the McCain campaign opts for blatant politicization. Here is McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb:

"Syria is a state sponsor of terror and a sanctuary for terrorists that target U.S. troops in Iraq, yet Barack Obama has pledged to meet personally and unconditionally with Syria's leaders during his first year in office. While John McCain has been demanding that Syria do more to crack down on terrorists moving from its territory into Iraq, Barack Obama allowed one of his closest foreign policy advisers to travel to Syria for discussions with the leaders of that rogue regime. Barack Obama opposed the surge, voted against funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and demanded the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. If Barack Obama had his way, U.S. forces would not have been in a position to launch this strike. So does Barack Obama support this action -- an action that would not even have been possible if his policies had been implemented?"

This is so absurd.  Let me count the ways.  First, McCain is once again demonstrating the recklessness and impulsiveness that makes one question whether he can in fact be commander in chief.  There is only one proper response to this.  The same response that the Obama campaign gave, which is that you just simply don't discuss a military operation if the White House and the military are refusing to comment.  The issue is a sensitive one and a question of national security.  You take your lead from them and wait until you have all the facts, instead of trying to score cheap political points.

Second, here is the McCain campaign accusing Senator Obama of supposedly not being willing to crossover into Syria, even though he has rightly not commented on it at all.  But Senator McCain has previously mocked Senator Obama for being willing to go into Pakistan and go after high value Al Qaeda targets.  The intelligence community tells us that the greatest threat to the homeland and the place where an attack would most likely be planned is on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  But the McCain campaign seems to be arguing that smuggling routes from Syria into Iraq are a higher priority target than terrorist training camps in Pakistan.  That is an exact rehash of invading Iraq to fight terrorism, while taking your eye off of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  We've tried it before.  It didn't work.

Finally, there is the argument about not meeting with Syria.  Here is the thing.  Israeli PM Olmert has stated publicly that Israel should move to direct negotiations directly with the Syrians and the Israelis are currently in talks through a Turkish mediator.  Ambassador Nick Burns, who was Bush's point man on Iran for three years, had a piece out this weekend arguing for direct talks with our enemies.  Colin Powell, James Baker, the Iraq Study Group, and numerous Republican foreign policy experts have all called for talks with Syria.  McCain is the odd man out on this one.

And yet, his campaign, which claims national security as its greatest strength, is irresponsibly politicizing this story one week before the election.

Update:  Max Bergmann has previously pointed out that McCain himself was for talking to the Syrians before he was against it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference McCain's Irresponsible Syria Response:





Excellent analysis; I completely agree.

Alex your right on, JT I hope you mean that Alex analysis is excellent because the nonsense above is crazy.

Lol..McCain's people get involved because its US Business?

I believe Mr. Goldenberg's point was the timing of the involvement rather than the actual involvement itself.

Syria claims there were civilians killed while America is claiming it was an attack on terrorists. Seeing as how the white house has yet to comment on this, it would be wise to refrain. What if in a few days, it turns out that we did kill civilians? How is the McCain camp going to justify its statements- the usual casualties of war story?

From the Syrian foreign minister:
"Killing civilians in international law means terrorist aggression," he said. "We consider this criminal and terrorist aggression."

Further acts of aggression will not be tolerated, Mouallem said. "If they do it again, we will defend our territories," he said.

Another attack will likely start aggression with Syria.

McCain's supporters are just like him- impulsive, stubborn and careless. Sheesh

OBAMA/BIDEN 08' (can't come soon enough)

First of all, U.S. officials went on record about attack immediately. Secondly, of course Syria says we killed civilians, etc, etc. What else are they going to say? An obama supporter above quotes a Syrian official? Give me a break! Obama always hedges his bets. Always. Obama has the "I want to be liked" syndrome. He'll be a terrible Commander-in-Chief. Another Carter at best.

So foreign fighters thousands of miles from their home country cross an international border in pursuit of individuals who are (you've guessed it) being foreign fighters.
Syria has absorbed one million refugees from the war in Iraq.
We should put them in boats and send them to the US on the basis that "you break it you pay for it".
And if one day China occupies Mexico I sincerely hope the US government will not choose to cite international law or come running to the UN. The US cannot continue to ride roughshod over world opinion. Mind you, now America's on the verge of bankruptcy something tells me the war coffers will be drying up. Oh well, you can always go back to your violent video games or shooting each other.
The lesson from this illegal incursion is that countries in the Middle East can only protect their borders from US aggression by means of a nuclear deterrent. The raid wouldn't have happened if Syria had nuclear weapons. This lesson will not be lost on Iran in my view.

Correction: "reproached for being foreign fighters"

Andrew says: "First of all, U.S. officials went on record about attack immediately." No they didn't. No official has said anything at all except anaonymously, which is not on the record. In fact, this is the caution that the article is talking about. DoD and DOS have said absolutely nothing about this which leads me to think it was a White House inspired move. It makes some sense for George Bush to launch an attack on Syria as a parting shot for non-comliance during his tenure. If this turns out to be the case, the caution excercized by Obama will pay off and McCain will have egg on his face. As it stands, I have a feeling that we will hear nothing about this attack until after the election because whatever the White House says may affect the chances of McCain or even supply fuel to Obama. It's a risk that may not sit well with the executive office. I can certainly see this as being the first in a series of 'lame-duck' attacks, not all necessarily military. We shall see. Discretion may yet be the better part of valor. I agree with those above who have said that McCain shot his arrow a little early. Time will tell.

Andrew says: "First of all, U.S. officials went on record about attack immediately

Andrew says: "First of all, U.S. officials went on record about attack immediately

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use