The Wall Street Journal denounces Ted Cruz for his foreign policy deviationism. This part was especially risible:
On Syria Mr. Cruz’s “no dog in the fight” line is a way of doubling down on his 2013 opposition to enforcing a chemical red line in Syria by bombing the Assad regime. That bipartisan failure to enforce President Obama’s red line sent a disastrous signal that U.S. threats were empty and encouraged much of the mayhem that has followed [bold mine-DL]—from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to Islamic State’s capture of Mosul.
As far as traditional conservatives are concerned, a quarrel between the WSJ and Ted Cruz is the Iran-Iraq war of intra-Republican battles: the only problem is that they can’t both lose. But on this particular foreign policy question, the Journal editors are profoundly wrong as usual and Cruz makes the stronger case. It’s worth pointing this out here to appreciate how superficial and bankrupt the arguments of Syria hawks have been and continue to be.
Drawing the “red line” was one of Obama’s more serious errors in Syria. Attempting to follow through on that threat was another. It is amusing that the Journal editors are accusing Cruz of being too much like Obama while they argue for enforcing the unnecessary threat that Obama made. They attack Cruz because he has dissented from the bipartisan consensus in favor of more extensive meddling in Syria’s civil war, and in doing so he is also rejecting Obama’s Syria policy of the last several years. The reality is that the WSJ editors are closer to Obama on Syria than Cruz is, and they are desperate to distract attention from this. Cruz can and should be accused of many things, but siding with Obama on major foreign policy questions isn’t one of them.
The debate over the “red line” in Syria has prompted countless stupid arguments from hawks. Hawks have said for the last two years that the U.S. “credibility” was badly tarnished by the episode, but they have absolutely no proof that this is true. They point to any undesirable event that happened after September 2013 and claim that it happened because the “red line” was not enforced, but this is the laziest post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning possible. Had Obama followed through on his ill-advised threat, the U.S. would have gone to war with the Syrian government and would have weakened the regime to the benefit of ISIS and other anti-regime forces. That would have guaranteed much more mayhem and instability. The U.S. would have helped the group to seize more territory in Syria by bombing regime forces in 2013.
Far from “encouraging much of the mayhem” that came after it, the decision not to attack Syria in 2013 avoided another senseless war that would have strengthened jihadists and further destabilized the region. As for Russia, Russian actions in Ukraine had nothing to do with what the U.S. did or didn’t do in Syria. We can be fairly sure that if the U.S. had started bombing a Russian client two years ago it would have made a crisis with Russia more rather than less likely. Russia would have become antagonistic even earlier, and ISIS would have been stronger than it is today while the U.S. would have been helping to open their way to Damascus. That is what enforcing the “red line” would have meant in practice: more instability, more upheaval, and more destruction in Syria.
Syria hawks have the luxury of indulging in their counter-factual fantasy about the “red line” only because the public overwhelmingly rejected their favored policy of intervention two years ago. They keep trying to find a way to drag the U.S. deeper into the conflict that most Americans want no part of, and to that end they have to go after anyone that understands the reality that the U.S. has no “dog” in the fight in Syria.