That would be a reckless risk even in service of a plausible plan to restore peace. But Graham proposes it to enable the United States to attempt a Hail Mary pass: identifying a democratic force in Syria; training and supplying them such that their weapons don’t fall into the hands of violent, anti-Western extremists; and somehow preparing them to best a brutal regime backed by a determined Shiite ally and a nuclear power that is eager to thwart the United States.
President Johnson had better odds of winning in Vietnam.
What’s even more remarkable is that Graham expects a plan that would be a long shot under George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, or Dwight Eisenhower to succeed under a man he once called “a kook,” “crazy,” “unfit for office,” and lacking the “judgment” and “temperament” to be commander in chief.
What’s most remarkable is that Graham is urging this confrontation with Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies even as he urges a separate war with North Korea.
Precisely because there is no telling who Donald Trump will listen to or what he will do next—who is to say what Fox & Friends will recommend tomorrow morning?—Congress ought to cease its long abdication of its constitutional authority and insist on the total withdrawal of American forces from Syria, ending both the risk to the Americans stationed there and the chance that their presence will lead the United States into a quagmire (as have supposedly limited missions in the past) or a catastrophe that surpasses even the Iraq War and the Vietnam War before it.
Even if staying in Syria would be the right move under a different president—and the evidence for that proposition is very weak—it is certainly the wrong move under Trump, who has shown himself unwilling to learn even the basics of foreign affairs and proved again and again that he cares only about his own selfish interests. Many hawks are aware of his unfitness and yet act as if it is immaterial.
But why? An unfit commander in chief is sufficient reason in itself to refrain from starting a war.
That Democrats are not leading an anti-war effort already is baffling, for even their hawks believe in all earnestness that Trump is unfit to be commander in chief; Democrats have fared just fine over the last decade running against dumb wars; they lost the 2016 election after elevating the hawkish Hillary Clinton as their nominee; and nothing would separate Trump from his base like pointing out that he is violating a core proposition of his campaign by daily risking American blood and treasure in a faraway civil war, even as he does nothing for domestic infrastructure. Yet do Democrats even have an anti-war voice as prominent as Tucker Carlson?
The White House is in disarray, its national-security team is having trouble qualifying for security clearances, the State Department is a shell of its former self, a special counsel is implicating more and more of the president’s men and women in scandalous behavior, the nation is as bitterly divided as it has been in living memory, and an opiate epidemic is killing its working and lower classes by the tens of thousands. What more reckless time could there be to launch a new war of choice?