Hooray for craven political self-interest!!

As the congressional debate on Syria plods along, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and James Hohmann observe that some formerly hawkish Republicans are sounding a very different tune now: Of all the unexpected turns in the Syria debate, one stands out most: The GOP, the party of a muscular national defense, has gone the way of the ...

As the congressional debate on Syria plods along, Politico's Alex Isenstadt and James Hohmann observe that some formerly hawkish Republicans are sounding a very different tune now:

Of all the unexpected turns in the Syria debate, one stands out most: The GOP, the party of a muscular national defense, has gone the way of the dove.

A decade after leading the country into Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans have little appetite or energy for a strike aimed at punishing Bashar Assad for allegedly gassing his own people. To the contrary, many of the party’s lawmakers are lining up to sink President Barack Obama’s war authorization vote.

As the congressional debate on Syria plods along, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and James Hohmann observe that some formerly hawkish Republicans are sounding a very different tune now:

Of all the unexpected turns in the Syria debate, one stands out most: The GOP, the party of a muscular national defense, has gone the way of the dove.

A decade after leading the country into Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans have little appetite or energy for a strike aimed at punishing Bashar Assad for allegedly gassing his own people. To the contrary, many of the party’s lawmakers are lining up to sink President Barack Obama’s war authorization vote.

Of the 279 Republicans currently in the House and Senate, 83 were also serving in October 2002. All of them voted to give George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq. Now, just 10 of those 83 have come out in support of striking Syria. Most of the others have expressed serious reservations or are leaning against voting for the authorization.

Isenstadt and Hohmann go on to note that some Democrats have performed the reverse-180, but more Republicans have shifted from hawk to dove. 

Look, this isn’t rocket science:  the opposition party will always be more skeptical of administration policy.  Throw in a nation that’s pretty sick of war and pretty hostile to taking action in Syria and this is a no-brainer position to adopt for most Republicans.  This is particularly true since I suspect enough Republicans will join with most Democrats to give the administration the necessary authorization. 

So, for most Republicans, this is a costless vote against a not-terribly-popular president for a not terribly-popular or not-terribly-well-articulated or not-terribly-well-thought-out policy action that — if everything breaks just right — could end as well as Bosnia.  As I said, this isn’t rocket science. 

Old foreign policy hands will likely cluck a bit and disparage the shifting ideologies of GOP members of Congress in the name of political self-interest.  To which I say:  hooray for political self-interest!!  It’s not like the status quo in GOP foreign policy thinking had been serving them all that well over the past few years.  This isn’t to say that I agree with the GOP on this issue, but for once, the American political system appears to be working as intended. 

Am I missing anything?   

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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