In a sea of uninformed leaders who inexplicably insist that it’s in the best interest of the United States to intervene in Syria, thereby arming Al-Qaeda’s ideological brethren, the man who prosecuted the Blind Sheikh, Andy McCarthy gets it.
Like all long-suffering fans of the New York Mets, I am on Cloud Nine courtesy of Johan Santana, whose recent no-hitter — in the team’s 8,020th game, during its 51st season — was the first in Mets history. My enthusiasm did not ebb, not by a fraction of a quark, when Hugo Chávez briefly interrupted his Bolivar-Marxist thuggery to join the chorus celebrating Santana, a very different kind of Venezuelan lefty.
That’s because what Chávez and I share is just a rooting interest. It does not make us what my friend Clifford D. May might call “strange bedfellows.” Cliff’s recent NRO column, “The Battle of Syria,” not only misses this distinction; it miscasts advocacy for American non-intervention in Syria as de facto alliance with that country’s brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, and, by extension, with Assad’s equally barbaric backers in Iran.
When I argued, in the column to which Cliff is responding, that Mitt Romney and the Republican party’s transnational-progressive wing had aligned themselves with al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood against Assad, I was not saying that, as between competing evils, these GOP heavyweights had a mere rooting interest in seeing Sunni supremacists prevail over Shiite supremacists. I was pointing out that they were bent on empowering one set of America’s enemies against another. This is no passive preference. The Butch & Sundance team of John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not just cheering on their team, the way Chávez and I were pulling for Johan; the senators want to arm the predominantly Islamist, demonstrably murderous Syrian “opposition” — to strengthen America’s enemies with training and weaponry that America would either coordinate or provide directly.
Yet, in a “two can play that game” retort, Cliff asserts that he and other pro-interventionists could just as colorably say that my argument aligns me with MoveOn.org, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is a wayward analogy, for several reasons.
Let’s consider, again, the objective of the non-interventionists. Cliff misstates it as “opposing efforts to facilitate regime change in Syria.” The non-interventionist is not opposed to Syrian regime change. He is indifferent to it. And that is not because those of us who resist unnecessary U.S. entanglements in Islamist hotbeds are “isolationists,” as the Wilsonian parody posits.
To be sure, we are skeptical of the presumption, championed by progressives, that because the United States is the most important country in the world, every conflict on earth is our business — which is to say, our burden, and in the eyes of many progressives, our fault. But mainly we believe American interventions ought to be driven by vital American interests. Many times, those vital interests are best served by butting out. That is particularly the case in the Muslim Middle East, where hatred of America has a unifying effect on our otherwise fractious enemies.
In Syria, this plays out two ways. First, there is no realistic prospect of regime change favorable to the United States; intervention thus necessarily portends making one set of America’s enemies stronger than they currently are. Second, it is in America’s interest that al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood (including Hamas), the Assad regime, the Iranian mullahs, and Hezbollah all become weaker; non-intervention while they beat each other’s brains in is therefore to our great advantage.
Try a thought experiment. Let’s say there were no ongoing Syrian conflict and none on the horizon. Let’s imagine that, instead of working 24/7 to facilitate Muslim Brotherhood domination of Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, the Obama administration or Butch & Sundance actually used their time to develop a can’t-miss plan to drive a wedge between the Hamas terrorist organization and its lifeline, Iran. Not the pie-in-the-sky we usually get from these quarters — the kinds of plans that bank on Assad’s being a “reformer,” the Brotherhood’s being “largely secular” moderates, or the Libyan “rebels” being Madisonian democrats. I’m talking about a plausible plan that had decent probability of success. What would that have been worth? In light of how well busting up the Iran-Hamas partnership would have served U.S. interests, we’d probably have been willing to wager four or five of Obama’s Solyndra schemes on that — though maybe not the cost of a McCain global-warming boondoggle.
Well guess what? The Syrian conflict has fomented just this trouble in jihadi paradise, and we haven’t had to pay a dime. Hamas is now the problem of its Sunni-supremacist patrons – and they are in no position to provide the Palestinian “resistance” with Iran-level help, not with Egypt broke and Turkey’s economy verging on a major contraction. The Hamas divorce weakens Iran, as does Assad’s teetering. Moreover, the growing divide between pro-Brotherhood Hamas and pro-Assad Hezbollah weakens both, and is thus a setback for global jihadism. Meanwhile, the seamless alliance between the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, as well as that between Turkey and the array of Sunni supremacists, crystallize for us the folly of seeing either Ankara or any emerging Ikhwan government as a friend of the United States.
By letting events play out naturally — rather than trying to orchestrate them with our usual ham-handed, politically correct, Islamists-are-people-too approach — we find that the anti-Americans are at each other’s throats. I’d love to be able to say this was the result of shrewd maneuvering. In fact, it probably owes to inertia — or to Obama’s realization that another Libya-style misadventure would damage his jittery reelection prospects.
Read it all; it’s long but worth it.