Conservatives from George Will to Michelle Malkin to Donald Rumsfeld are lining up to criticize and condemn Barack Obama’s Syria strategy, and the likelihood of U.S. intervention against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Will used a Washington Post editorial to slam Obama for falling in love with the sound of his own voice, alleging that Obama is “talking America into war” over Red Lines. Malkin attacked Obama on FOX News for not seeking Congressional approval or international consensus for a potential military strike against Syria, and Rumsfeld criticized the President for not making a full justification to the American people for action against Assad.
Any and every action taken by the President is sure to be answered with Republican opposition, so it’s difficult to tell what is thoughtless obstructionism and what represents actual conviction on the part of conservatives, but in contrast to Will, Malkin, and Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich is using the Syria episode not merely to make a counter-point to Obama, but to advance a growing right-wing sentiment that the United States should not be using its military to intervene in the affairs of other nations.
Tea Partiers and their sympathizers have previously been the conservative voice in the desert when it comes to military anti-intervention, but Gingrich now represents are more substantial piece of the Republican establishment that is advancing the idea of foreign disentanglement. Gingrich has been vocal on Twitter that military intervention in Syria is a bad idea for the United States.
Gingrich elaborated in an editorial at CNN, writing:
“Both sides in Syria are bad. One side is a brutal dictator, and the other includes Islamists and terrorists who are dangerous already and who would be brutal in power if given the chance.
We will not spend the time, money and blood to create a desirable side in Syria. There is no victory to be had there.”
Of course, Gingrich could also not help himself but to somehow tie Syria to the Keystone Pipeline:
And, lest we think for a moment that Gingrich and his conservative cohort has gotten too dovish, Gingrich also reminds us that he still fully supports aggressive action with Iran:
Apart from Gingrich, there is still the old guard of conservative hawks pressuring Obama from the other side, insisting that whatever the President is about to do against Assad isn’t going to be forceful enough. John McCain told reporters this week, “If the United States stands by and doesn’t take very serious action — not just launching some cruise missiles — then, again, our credibility in the world is diminished even more, if there’s any left.”
Still, Gingrich’s argument is worth noting. It is the obvious move for any Republican to criticize Obama for whatever military action he ends up taking on Syria. Intervention is supported by fewer than 30% of Americans, so conservatives would be foolish not to align themselves with the 70% on this issue. But unlike most Republicans, who are merely grasping at their familiar obstructionist straws, Gingrich is advancing a more substantial conservative platform shift, and one that is becoming more prevalent with mainstream Republicans.