Bob Wright considers the likelihood of military intervention under Romney:
But, whatever the merits of intervention in Syria, I think it’s more likely to happen under Romney than under Obama–not just because a Romney presidency could empower neoconservatives, but also because it could give voice to liberal interventionists.
As I said in my conversation with Shadi Hamid earlier this month, I agree that increased U.S. involvement in Syria’s conflict is more likely if Romney wins the election. One of the things I gathered from that conversation was how much some liberal interventionists liked what they heard in Romney’s VMI speech. That supports Wright’s impression that Romney would be able to count on some reliable liberal support if he decided to order direct military intervention in Syria. Unlike an attack on Iran, Romney would probably have some significant Democratic support in Congress as well as in the media for a more aggressive Syria policy. There would be liberal and conservative opposition to a Romney-led Syrian war, but the former would be somewhat muted and the latter would be limited to a relatively small number of members of Congress.
However, there are a few factors that Wright overlooks. The first is American public opinion, which has been consistently opposed to greater U.S. involvement in Syria all along. If Romney becomes president and then immediately begins bombing other countries, he will distract from any domestic agenda he might have pursued and confirm that he is only too ready to order military action even when U.S. interests are not at stake. I definitely wouldn’t rule out the danger that Romney would start a war in Syria, but for various reasons there are more political obstacles to this than there are to an attack on Iran.
Wright mentions possible Turkish escalation, which ignores the fact that a huge majority of Turks doesn’t want a war. Erdogan is nothing if not a demagogic populist, and he isn’t one to take his country into a hugely unpopular war. Erdogan’s grandstanding on Syria was aimed at building up his stature, not contributing to his political ruin. NATO isn’t going to assist. No NATO government wants any part of a conflict in Syria, and nothing will happen in the next year to change that. The AKP won’t be assured of greater U.S. support after a Romney win. On the contrary, a Romney win would probably cause relations with Ankara to deteriorate.
U.S.-Turkish relations haven’t been good since 2002, but they have marginally improved in the last two years. The return of a Republican to the White House would likely make the relationship worse than it has been, and there would be significant opposition within the GOP to any policy that could be portrayed as helping Erdogan and the AKP out of the mess they have helped create for themselves. Wright doesn’t account for the hostility to Erdogan and the AKP that defines the attitudes of many Republicans towards Turkey, which has increased in the last two to three years as Turkish-Israeli relations have soured. Romney would be in an awkward spot with many members of his own party if he came to be seen as an enabler of Erdogan’s goals. The silly paranoia about Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy won’t disappear just because Romney is in the White House, and that will create political constraints on what Romney does. It’s possible that he ignores those constraints and intervenes anyway, but they should be kept in mind.