Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman made a number of bad arguments for supporting the Syria resolution over the weekend, but this is the most insulting to the intelligence of their readers:
The ripple effects of what we do in Syria will also extend far beyond the Middle East. In Asia, for instance, U.S. acquiescence in the face of Assad’s aggression would send the unambiguous message to long-standing allies like Japan and South Korea that Washington can no longer be counted on to stand with them against threats from North Korea and China [bold mine-DL].
As I’ve mentioned before, this makes no sense whatever. Japan and South Korea are treaty allies of the United States, and the U.S. is legally obligated to come to their defense if they are attacked. For good or ill, current administration policy is that the U.S. will treat the Senkakus as protected Japanese territory in the event of a clash with China. Whatever else one wants to say about U.S. security commitments to these allies, there is no question that the U.S. would honor them now and in the foreseeable future. This is true no matter what the U.S. does in Syria. It is inconceivable that any other government would perceive a U.S. decision not to launch an illegal attack on Syria as proof that it will not honor its defense treaty obligations. I can’t imagine that there is a single allied government in East Asia that thinks yet another American war in the Near East is desirable. Indeed, they are more likely to be concerned about the effect any conflict will have on their economic prospects. For what it’s worth, I doubt that even Kyl and Lieberman are so confused about these things that they actually believe what they’ve written here. This is nothing more than dishonest fear-mongering for a bad cause. Obviously, what very might trigger “a regional war that could upend the global economy” is the decision by the U.S. to attack an Iranian ally, which is the course of action that Kyl and Lieberman recommend.
Earlier in the op-ed, Kyl and Lieberman assert:
Opposition to limited intervention in Syria now is an invitation for much bigger and more devastating wars that will break out if America is seen as withdrawing from the world. Inevitably, these larger and more costly conflicts will pull the U.S. into them.
This also doesn’t withstand the least scrutiny. How does the lack of a military response to a specific kind of attack in one country’s civil war invite larger conflicts elsewhere? If the U.S. won’t launch an illegal attack on one country, it wouldn’t repel an act of aggression against allies? This is delusional. Note that Kyl and Lieberman aren’t even talking about any actual U.S. withdrawals anywhere in the world. They believe that new wars will break merely because the U.S. is “seen” as withdrawing, but there’s no evidence that this is true. A refusal to attack Syria would just mean that the U.S. is not increasing its overseas military commitments. This is the sort of “internationalism” that Kyl and Lieberman represent: constant agitation for more military engagements aided by irresponsible alarmism.