I have my concerns about President Obama’s foreign policy. But nothing eases them like listening to his Republican critics. There’s an onion-like quality to the arguments GOP politicians often deploy against Obama’s policies in the Middle East. Peel away the layers of grave-sounding but vacuous rhetoric, and you’re left with almost nothing intellectually nourishing at all.
There’s almost nothing that will make the Obama foreign policy sound better than hearing from Fox News and the Republicans, who are either turning to reality TV stars to push a sensible “kill ’em all” message or can’t even articulate a coherent policy apart from “Obama Is Wrong Because Reasons”:
When it comes to Iraq, by contrast, the Obama administration does have something of a strategy: It is launching air strikes to protect imperiled religious groups, bolstering the Kurdish Peshmerga even though that may embolden Kurdish leaders to seek independence, and using the prospect of further air strikes to encourage Iraq to form a government that includes Sunnis in the hope this will convince them to abandon ISIS. Later in their op-ed, McCain and Graham call for Obama to “strengthen partners who are already resisting ISIS: the Kurdish pesh merga, Sunni tribes” and push for “an inclusive government in Baghdad that shares power and wealth with Iraqi Sunnis.” In other words, they call on Obama to pursue the same strategy in Iraq that he’s already pursuing, while simultaneously twisting his words to claim that he’s admitted to having no strategy at all.
And that’s assuming that they’re able to achieve any kind of coherence at all:
It’s a wonderful illustration of the emptiness of much Beltway foreign-policy-speak. McCain and Graham want Obama to act both “deliberately” and “urgently” because they’re both happy words. (As opposed to “lethargically” and “rashly,” which are nastier synonyms for the same thing.) But when you translate these uplifting abstractions into plain English, you see how contradictory McCain and Graham’s demands actually are. You can either demand that Obama not bomb Syria until he’s ensured he has a plan likely to win international and congressional support, or you can demand that he bomb as soon as possible. You can’t demand both.
The Wonder Twins conclude their essay with the usual Do Something message that never quite gets around to specifying a particular Something to Do. Obama must “mobilize America’s partners in a coordinated, multilateral effort” despite the fact that a lot of America’s partners hate each other’s rotten guts at this point. Also, and this is possibly the most perfect example of Do Something-ism ever set to paper, he must “end the conflict in Syria.” How? Who the hell knows? Certainly John McCain and Lindsey Graham don’t, but lucky for them they don’t have to! They can just lob platitudes from the peanut gallery!
For some reason the nation’s most prominent media outlets are constantly ready to hand valuable column inches and airtime to these two jokers despite the fact that neither one of them ever has anything of substance to add to the foreign policy debate and the fact that all they ever do is repeat themselves ad nauseum. I realize that they’re looking for criticism of the administration, but surely there are fresher perspectives than these moldy oldies. I have 10 year old gym clothes that are less musty than the McCain-Graham Foreign Policy “Agenda.”
Beinart also dings the twins for their reflexive war mongering, but I’ve already excerpted too much of his piece so you’ll have to go read it for yourself if you’re interested.