Republican US Senator John McCain, his party's nominee for president in 2008 and a perennial war hawk, urged US military intervention in Syria on Monday. On a speech from the Senate floor, McCain said the US should use its "full weight of air power" against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
"Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary. But at this late hour, that alone cannot be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives.The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power." He added, "The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad's forces."
A Haaretz report notes that McCain's statement ups the ante on direct military intervention by the west, exceeding any other calls from NATO or other leaders, and questions how popular such a move would be:
His statement was as much a critique of President Barack Obama as a rallying call for an international military campaign, accusing the president of being too soft on Assad.
McCain and his party's senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should change policy by arming Syria's rebels and spearheading a military effort to support them.
McCain's proposal will likely divide American lawmakers, many of whom opposed a similar operation in Libya last year. Even if it were championed by the Obama administration and its NATO allies, the plan would divide other countries hostile to the Assad regime but unwilling to support another Western military intervention in the Muslim world. And it would be anathema to Russia, which sees Syria as its primary ally in the Middle East.
But McCain's urging is met with deeper skepticism from those who know his history of rushing into battle without thinking through the consequences. Steve Chapman, writing at the Chicago Tribune this morning, cautions against a US intervention. More importantly, he cautions taking any military or foreign policy advice from Senator McCain, period.
John McCain must have a stack of forms on his desk demanding U.S. military intervention abroad, with a blank space to fill in the name of the country he wants to attack.
He supported the war against Serbia, the war against Iraq and the war against Libya. When hostilities broke out between Russia and Georgia in 2008, he proclaimed, "We are all Georgians."
Now, you will not be surprised to learn, he wants to bomb Syrian government forces. Maybe it would be easier for him to just provide a list of places where we shouldn't go to war.
In 2008, we thought McCain was running for president of the United States, but he was really out to be emperor of the planet. He sees no limit to our responsibility -- or our right -- to dictate outcomes when violence erupts in any other nation. Their problems are automatically our business. In his book, there are no foreign affairs. They are all American affairs.
Whether air strikes would work is up for debate. Given superior equipment and training of government forces against an ill-organized opposition, it's not likely that aerial bombardment would turn the tide. And if it failed, what would McCain propose next? U.S troops on the ground?
Republicans are fond of invoking the Constitution to justify their policies. If McCain would read the preamble, he would find it authorizes the federal government to "provide for the common defense." Defense -- not offense.