John McCain was apparently annoyed that our ambassador to Syria doesn’t pretend to be a military expert:
McCain’s outburst was sparked after he asked Amb. Robert Ford if he agreed with the Pentagon’s assessment that it has the capability to protect a no-fly zone over areas taken over by the rebels. “I’m an economist, not a military strategist,” Ford began to say during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Wait a minute – you’re supposed to know the situation on the ground,” said McCain, the administration’s lead critic on Syria policy. “You were the ambassador there. If anybody is supposed to know what’s going on in Syria, it’s you.
“So for you to tell me you’re an economist – then maybe you’re suited for a job as an economist over at the State Department, not as the lead on Syria.”
This exchange is driven almost entirely by McCain’s obsession with getting the U.S. to go to war in Syria, so he was likely to “explode” at anything Ford said that didn’t endorse a more aggressive policy. What I find interesting about McCain’s reaction is that he presumes that an ambassador should be giving his opinion on the military’s capabilities rather than asking for his assessment of “what’s going on in Syria,” since the latter is something that Ford would be well-qualified to discuss. McCain wasn’t really trying to find out what Ford thought about a no-fly zone over Syria, but just wanted to use Ford as an excuse to complain about current Syria policy.
Had Ford said, “No, I think that the Pentagon is wrong in its assessment,” McCain obviously wouldn’t defer to Ford’s assessment. He would use it as an excuse to berate Ford for his lack of expertise in military matters. The assessment that the U.S. has the ability to create and enforce a no-fly zone over Syria isn’t seriously questioned by anyone. The debate isn’t over whether the U.S. can do this. The debate is over whether it makes any sense for the U.S. to do this, whether it will do any good in hastening the end of the conflict, and whether it will lead to an even larger military commitment from the U.S. in the future. Since McCain’s side of the debate is currently losing on all three of these, it’s not surprising that he’s reduced to barking at an ambassador that he never wanted serving in Syria in the first place.