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McCain’s Predictable Warmongering on Syria

John McCain writes an op-ed on Syria that is just as deranged and irresponsible as you would expect it to be:

It is an opportunity to impose significant costs on an adversary that wants to undercut the United States everywhere. It is an opportunity to weaken an anti-American ruler who will always view us as an enemy. And it is an opportunity to rebuild U.S. credibility and influence in the Middle East by taking actions, as only we can, to arrest the spread of a regional conflict that is an incubator of global terrorism.

None of these is a good reason for the U.S. to attack Syrian government forces, which is what McCain wants the administration to do. Let’s dispense with the weakest reason first, namely the misguided desire to “rebuild U.S. credibility and influence” by plunging into yet another ill-conceived war in the region. For one thing, U.S. “credibility and influence” aren’t going to be restored by pursuing another war for regime change, especially when “success” in that effort is sure to benefit jihadist groups operating in Syria. Our allies will once again look on in astonishment as they see the U.S. blundering ahead without regard for the consequences, and our allies in Asia will probably be especially annoyed that the U.S. is being pulled into an additional conflict that will distract Washington from their concerns. The more wars the U.S. fights in the Near East, the more tarnished our reputation becomes and the less reliable the U.S. becomes as an ally in other parts of the world.

The U.S. has no need to “impose costs” on the Russians in the Syria or elsewhere. Doing so won’t make the U.S. the slightest bit more secure. It will, in fact, expose the U.S. to the very risks that a major power is supposed to be trying to avoid in a war like this one. The Russian presence in Syria that McCain cites as the reason why the U.S. “must” attack the Syrian government is one of many obvious reasons why doing so would be foolhardy in the extreme. In the best case, the Russians keep attacking U.S.-backed groups and nothing changes, and in the worst case Russian forces working with the Syrian government are killed on the ground and a wider war becomes more likely. McCain also wants to encourage a resumption of hostilities in Ukraine by funneling more weapons into that conflict. McCain doesn’t see the fact that the conflict in Ukraine is dying down as an opening to reduce tensions, but as another “opportunity” to get more people killed.

Weakening the Syrian government doesn’t advance any vital American interests. It may make the Saudis and Gulf states happy, but it is abundantly clear by now that their interests and ours in Syria and throughout the region diverge widely. It is those Gulf clients more than anyone else that are most responsible for helping to incubate and promote jihadism around the world and especially in Syria, and McCain would like the U.S. to do even more to help them achieve their goals. Perhaps John “Thank God for the Saudis” McCain isn’t the best judge of what the U.S. should be doing there or anywhere else.

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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