Conservative Hypocrisy: Good on Toast. Bad on Everything Else
Before I get started, let me make sure I understand the ground rules for this particular discussion. First, when a mass shooting takes place in the United States, we’re not supposed to talk policy solutions; we’re supposed to allow the families and communities time to grieve. Also, President Obama is irresponsibly politicizing and nationalizing an isolated, local tragedy for his own cynical benefit. I think I understand that.
Second, when a terrorist attack on an ally–France, for instance–occurs, it is perfectly okay for us to immediately slam our President, call him weak and ineffective, and essentially blame the entire incident on his failed leadership. Oh, we also get to make vague promises that we, the United States of America, will take care of everything, once we get a new President in 2017. Just hold on, world–just a little while longer. Conservatives are coming to save the day.
The attacks in Paris last night are horrifying. Aside from the immense human tragedy, 127 dead, about 200 injured, these attacks appear to be the continuation of an “internationalizing” of ISIS’s operation. Though officials are fairly certain that the Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb, they haven’t entirely confirmed if it was the work of ISIS. ISIS has taken credit for it–as they’ve taken credit for the attacks in Paris (one wonders if they would take credit for 9/11 too), it is certainly concerning that ISIS is capable of reaching outside its territory and that it even wants to. For the years it’s been active, ISIS has focused mainly on setting up its caliphate in portions of Iraq, Syria, and the Levant. Unlike Al-Qaeda, they did not appear to have wider international ambitions.
Until now, it would seem.
Reporting coming in the last 24 hours lays the responsibility for the Paris horror show squarely at the feet of ISIS. Retribution, they say, for the air strikes conducted by France in Syria. They made similar comments about the Russian airliner–payback for Russia’s involvement in the Syrian disaster. How to deal with the threat of ISIS is a complicated question. It’s clear they are the enemy, but it has been more difficult to craft an appropriate international response. Recent estimates put the number of ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters. Surely, the international community could wipe out such a small force with ease. The fact that they haven’t speaks volumes about the complexity and difficulty of the ISIS problem.
Of course, American conservatives know who’s truly to blame for the rise of ISIS, the Russian airliner, the Paris attacks–basically this whole depressing catastrophe.
This morning, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, I was greeted by comments of how our leadership had “nauseatingly failed” us and that we couldn’t afford another “fiasco in the White House.” Or, calls to finally “secure our borders now.” Or, as Syrian refugees landed on our shores, to “send them back.” Or, wishing that we had a President “with a pair.” These comments were placed in the context of the Paris tragedy. They were also continuations of a theme that I’ve been seeing for weeks–particularly from Republican candidates for President. That is, if President Obama had done SOMETHING–intervened in Syria, maybe–at the beginning of the conflict there, there would be no ISIS and the world would be safe, rosy, and wonderful again. Oh, and he should immediately resign for his treasonous failure to protect the citizens of Paris.
Okay, I made that last sentence up, but Think Progress listed a few of the Republican candidates reactions here: http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/11/14/3722272/trump-blames-obama-for-paris/
That the candidates are blaming the President isn’t surprising, especially because the Republicans have been calling for robust US intervention in Syria from the very beginning. The thought, of course, was that had we gone in and shook Syria up, ISIS wouldn’t have risen in the first place. Right?
Nope. Not even close.
In 2013, President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden indicating that, though he did not think he needed Congressional approval to interceded in the Syrian civil war–already two years old at this point–he thought it was a better to go to Congress because “I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.” A bill for the authorization of use of military force in Syria was drafted and presented to Congress. Behind opposition of House Republicans and Ted Cruz (yes, that Ted Cruz) in the Senate, the measure was defeated. At the time, Cruz said that we would essentially be acting as “al-Qaeda’s air force.” Just this year, the President attempted to get an authorization for use of military force specifically against ISIS. This measure went nowhere in the Republican controlled Congress as well.
Now, we know that the US has been using airstrikes in Syria for years–without Congressional approval or debate. As Commander-in-Chief, President Obama has broad authority to order these sorts of interventions. However, even as George Bush knew back in 2001 and 2003, getting Congress on board with any sustained military intervention is a good idea for a few reasons. One, it obliquely satisfies that pesky Constitutional requirement that only Congress can declare war (and by obliquely I mean it pretty much doesn’t satisfy anything, but….hey, who cares, right?). Two, it gives at least symbolic popular support for the intervention. If Congress is the People and Congress supports the use of force, then the People support the use of force. Three, debating any authorization puts our leaders on the record about their positions, making our politics more transparent and our leaders more accountable.
Did we do any of this with respect to Syria? No. Did the Republicans provide any leadership in this capacity? No. Did they criticize President Obama on all sides of the US response to the Syrian crisis? Yes. Is any of this helpful? No. Not even a little bit.
But that’s the Republican Party and the conservative idealogues that run it in 2015. They’re not here to help. They’re not here to contribute. They’re not interested in solving problems or providing honest debate. They are here to oppose, to denigrate, and to destroy a political system they claim to love but undermine at every opportunity. They are partisan hypocrites who would rather point fingers and sneer than roll up their sleeves and work.
There is a lot of blame to share in the Syrian situation. There is a lot of blame to share in the Paris tragedy. That blame rests squarely on the murderous psychopaths who killed more than 100,000 innocent Muslims in the last year and 127 innocent French citizens last night. How do we address this threat? I don’t know. But neither, it seems, does anybody else. Blame is not debate. Sneering is not argument. Hypocrisy is not progress.
We’re better than this. We’ve done better than this.
Let’s get to work.
AKA Blake Lubinus