Politics & Policy

Syria: John McCain’s Next Libya

He fails to discriminate between friends and enemies.

Did you catch Senator John McCain’s much-heralded (by Senator McCain) trip to the Syrian civil war — by way of our NATO ally Turkey, the lifeline of the Hamas terrorist organization? Yeah, Senator McCain blew into town to prove that all of us dissenters from his latest adventure in “Democracy, Sharia Style” are wacko birds. Surely, the Forward March of Freedom can work just as well in Damascus as it has in Benghazi, Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul.

Well, he’s probably right about that.

The Maverick is sensitive to the criticism that he has been a smidge less than discriminating when it comes to sorting out America’s friends from America’s mortal enemies. Thus, the immediate objective of his latest Middle Eastern jaunt was to show that the anti-Assad “rebels” — I’d call them the Syrian Mujahideen, which is how most of them think of themselves — are predominantly, indeed overwhelmingly, secular and moderate. Oh, there may be a bad apple or two in the rebel legions, but rest assured that the arsenal McCain wants to dole out to them, in conjunction with U.S.-led aerial attacks on Assad’s forces, will not be yet another exercise in arming the next anti-American jihad. Those who claim we cannot tell the good guys from the bad guys are just a bunch of craven isolationists.

How unfortunate for the senator, then, that he managed, in the midst of this scintillating exhibition, to get himself photographed with Mohamed Nour and Ammar al-Dadikhi (also known as “Abu Ibrahim”) — two of the swell “rebels” from the very moderate “Northern Storm Brigade” who last year kidnapped eleven Lebanese Shiite pilgrims. Nour is the chief spokesman for the Brigade, which is still holding nine of the pilgrims captive.


True to form, McCain completely missed the point of his contretemps. His office quickly issued a statement asserting that “it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims.” Well, yes, that’s probably why no one is suggesting it (as Allahpundit explains in an excellent analysis at Hot Air). No one thinks the Beltway’s progressive Islamophilic consensus affirmatively endorses the jihad. McCain & Co. are just willfully blind to the fact that it thrives on their delusions.

McCain is nothing if not consistent. There was the oops in Qaddafi’s tent back in 2009, when McCain was urging more U.S. aid for the Libyan regime — then acknowledged to be a critical counterterrorism ally of the United States. That was only a few months before the Maverick abruptly pivoted, deciding that the regime we’d been supporting needed to be overthrown. This, he . . . er . . . reasoned, would surely empower our new allies (or was it our old enemies?), the moderate rebels of Benghazi — who were just back home from waging years of jihad against America’s Islamic Democracy project in Iraq. Just as he does now when it comes to Syria, McCain looked out on an Islamic-supremacist sea, saw a couple of progressive islets, and pronounced the rebels his “heroes” — while they blared their Allahu Akbars, waved their black jihadi flags, and carried out their terrorist atrocities.

Oops again.

There is a stubborn fact Republicans may want to consider as McCain, their wayward foreign-policy guru, tries to browbeat them into Libya Act II — because, you know, Act I has worked out so well. It is this: The Obama administration’s shocking derelictions of duty in connection with the Benghazi massacre cannot erase the GOP fingerprints all over the Libyan debacle. Obama is the one who took us over the cliff, but only after McCain shoved him to the very edge.

Obama’s Libya war, which the president was pleased to lead from behind while McCain whirled in front, was not authorized by Congress. This was fine by McCain, who declared that saving Benghazi was too important to delay over such constitutional trivia as a green light from the American people’s representatives. After all, what would America have done without Benghazi? So Libya now stands as a treacherous precedent that a president may unilaterally take us to war, in consultation with the Arab League’s Islamist regimes, under circumstances in which not only are there no vital American interests to be served but our intervention actually disserves our interests by empowering America’s enemies.

To be generous, post-intervention Libya was a disaster long before our ambassador and three other Americans were killed by jihadists nine months ago. Our mysterious diplomatic facility in Benghazi had been a terrorist target for months before September 11, 2012 — and the purpose for having a State Department mission in a place so notoriously perilous for Americans has still not been explained. Qaddafi’s weapons depots were raided by jihadists and now facilitate their rampages across North Africa. In Libya itself, as Barry Rubin catalogues, armed militias run rampant, Western facilities (such as the French embassy in Tripoli) continue to be attacked, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists who murdered our officials are the de facto rulers of Benghazi. What passes for a central government is too impotent to establish its authority.

This was not an unforeseeable outcome. It was easily predictable for anyone willing to see the region as it is rather than as he would have it. That will never be Senator McCain, who, when not rubbing elbows with Syria’s motley jihadists this week, was assuring us that Assad’s opponents “are just trying to achieve the same thing that we have shed American blood and treasure for for well over 200 years.”

Yeah, just like in Benghazi. And in Egypt, where a pogrom against Christians is underway, and the Muslim Brotherhood government McCain joins Obama in supporting has just installed a sharia constitution. And in Iraq, where Sunnis and Shiites are back to slaughtering each other under the sharia constitution our State Department helped them write. And in Afghanistan, where, under a similar American-sponsored sharia constitution, the Taliban bides its time while the U.S.-backed Islamist forces turn their guns on their American trainers. And in Turkey, where an Islamic-supremacist regime jails its political opponents, supports terrorist organizations, undermines sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, and gradually suffocates what was once a pro-Western democracy.

Liberty is not spread by fueling sharia supremacists. The futile hope that propitiating America’s enemies will turn them into our friends is an Obama policy. Shouldn’t the Republicans be offering an alternative — maybe something other than “oops”?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.


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