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Ayotte and Syria

Jordan Bloom picked up on an important contradiction in Kelly Ayotte’s CPAC speech:

While castigating the president for not intervening in Syria, Ayotte–who has called for arming the opposition–acknowledged that it is in part comprised of people the United States shouldn’t be associating with, let alone arming.

Ayotte’s position is inevitably confused because she wants to keep maintaining the fiction that it’s possible to arm only the “good” or acceptably “moderate” Syrian rebels without also helping to empower jihadist groups that are fighting alongside them. Then there is the other bad assumption that many interventionists hold that arming rebel groups will give the U.S. some measure of influence or control over them, when it will mostly just implicate the U.S. in whatever they choose to do with the weapons provided to them. It evidently doesn’t occur to Ayotte that the U.S. doesn’t need to take a side in the Syrian conflict. As a McCain protege, she automatically assumes that the U.S. must become involved whether or not that involvement will contribute to a desirable outcome.

Having just cited the spillover effects of intervention in Libya, which she supported, Ayotte urges the U.S. to make a similar mistake in Syria and once again she wants to interfere in a foreign conflict without considering the negative consequences. If Ayotte thinks that “leading from behind” in Libya was the wrong way to intervene, that suggests that she thinks the U.S. should have had some military presence in Libya after the war to secure the regime’s weapons, and it further implies that she thinks the U.S. should do the same thing to secure the Syrian regime’s arsenal. That would be an enormous and costly undertaking that may require as many as 75,000 soldiers. That is something that I doubt she and other interventionists are willing to propose.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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