Sunday, February 19, 2012

Listen Up, I've Got a Secret!

I have a problem when politicians proclaim their public support for covert operations. It doesn't make sense. Either support a program and shut up, or don't support it and voice your concern if that's what you choose. Saying that "I think we should secretly kill all the elephants" lets the elephants know that you are coming-- which is directly counter to your wishes (assuming the elephants speak English, of course).

And yet here is Senator John McCain and Lindsay Graham saying that we should arm the Syrian opposition... covertly. Now I'm not arguing about the merits of that argument. We'll leave that discussion for a future post. Here's my problem:

"I believe there are ways to get weapons to the opposition without direct United States involvement..."

Fine Senator McCain, that's fine if that's what you believe. But for christsake, keep that idea to yourself. You do no good by publically proclaiming it. In fact, you hurt the ability of the US or any other nation from arming the opposition because now Assad can say "The imperialist Americans are intervening!" That might not bother some people, but it bothers most of the Middle East, and those are the people who count. And if Assad says that and he's right, well, we've lost all legitimacy. At least keep some "plausible deniability" in your pocket.

There was once a Golden age in American history when "politics stops at the water's edge." This meant that foreign policy was not an area where petty politicians played politics. Once we start debating foreign policy, allegiance is to the US, not to a re-election campaign.

Yet Senator McCain's statement is plainly for political gain. Bottom line. Announcing "here's what I would do if I was in office!" allows McCain and the Republicans to now criticize Obama for "being soft" or some other ridiculous label. It's a political tool, or outright stupidity. I respect John McCain, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the former.

If Senator McCain really felt strongly about arming the opposition, and wanted to see that goal accomplished, there are other ways of going about it. Not by publicly announcing his intention to seek ways to arm the opposition... in secret.

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