(The following ran originally in the Fall 2013 edition of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE.)
With the Obama administration continuing to display a firm resolve to go to war in Syria over the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, the administration’s foreign policy goals are starting to become clear and easy to recognize, according to experts.
At the recent American Political Science Association conference in Chicago, Ill., many of the attendees expressed relief that the administration had finally begun to lay out a coherent policy agenda. “From a policy standpoint, the president seems to have finally gotten consistent and at least laid out a clear agenda of how he plans to advance U.S. interests abroad.” said Dr. Don Dworacyk, professor of international affairs at Oberlin College. “Now of course not everyone agrees with all the little details, but the fact is that Democrats now have some straightforward foreign policy goals to hang their hat on for the upcoming midterm elections.”
“These developments, though a long time in the making, are fundamentally consistent with the president’s rhetoric and stated policy preferences. You look at his 2008 presidential campaign, he really gambled by running to the right of Hillary on defense issues, and I think a lot of folks on the left were put off by that,” said Tim Loving of the non-partisan think tank Center for American Progress. “He had every opportunity to distance himself from, and to bash, the kind of Bush-era hawkishness he’s now showing, and he simply refused to do so. It was a bold strategy, but he’s stuck to it and has really staked out his own policy identity.”
With Democrats uniting under one banner, Republicans on the Hill have been left scrambling to respond. In a statement recently released by House Speaker John Boehner, he admitted that Republicans “cannot continue to protest the President’s agenda without putting forward solid policy proposals of their own. Clearly, the American people demand action in Syria and we cannot continue to be the party of ‘No.’”
Indeed, the most recent data from the Public Policy Polling institute shows that Republican’s failure to throw their support behind Obama’s plan for war in Syria has been hurting them dearly. With support for military intervention in Syria reaching almost 75 percent, the Republican House of Representatives has seen its approval rating fall over 10 points in the last two weeks alone.
Confronted with Republican leadership slow to act on an issue so important to American voters, Many Republican legislators have been hitting the campaign trail in an effort to persuade constituents that they are still attuned to their concerns. At a town hall meeting last week in St. Joseph, MS., Rep. Sam Graves [R-MS.] was met with a standing-room-only crowd positively bristling at the idea of non-intervention in Syria.
Jerry Whitfield, a retired police officer from nearby Maryville, MS., attended the Town Hall meeting to voice his concern over Republican inaction. “It’s getting ridiculous. These guys are up there going on and on about healthcare, jobs and the national debt while literally hundreds of people are dying in the Middle East. I just don’t get it.”
With public support clearly against continued Republican stonewalling, the president may be able to execute his agenda sooner rather than later, as several prominent Republicans have already publicly sided with the administration.
“Look, the economy isn’t perfect. I get that. But there’s a war going on in the Middle East here, folks. If we don’t watch out, Syria could become unstable or even outright dangerous,” Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] told David Gregory last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” echoing the pro-intervention sentiment that has swept the nation.
“If we don’t act soon, the whole Arab Spring could be compromised.”
—William Belcher is a senior studying political science.