At a townhall in Phoenix Thursday, Senator John McCain faced a crowd of angry constituents opposed to American military intervention in Syria – a cause their “maverick” senator champions. McCain tried to assuage them by committing to draw the line against using American ground troops. Here’s what he told them:
I want to begin by saying to you I am unalterably opposed to having a single American boot on the ground in Syria. The American people wouldn’t stand for it.
Unalterably opposed. Hmmm, I thought, where have I heard that before?
Ah, now I remember: It was back when Senator McCain was promising to guard against American support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As I recount in Spring Fever, as the Mubarak regime was being ousted in early 2011, McCain gave an interview to Der Spiegel, whose headline said it all: “John McCain on the Dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood: ‘They Should Be Excluded from any Transition Government.’” Here is the relevant exchange:
SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?
McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government….
SPIEGEL: A certain role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the transition process in Egypt seems acceptable to the Obama White House. Does that concern you?
McCain: It concerns me so much that I am unalterably opposed to it. I think it would be a mistake of historic proportions.
As history played out, of course, McCain became one of the most enthusiastic voices in Congress for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi – ripping Republicans for proposing to cut off military aid, and ripping House conservatives for calling for investigations into Muslim Brotherhood influence on our government. In fact, McCain’s latest cause – when he’s not pushing to attack Syria and legalize illegal immigrants – is to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt in order to punish its military for ousting the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Last month, he even traveled to Egypt to schmooze with and demonstrate support for Brotherhood leaders, enraging the interim government, whose spokesman described McCain’s public statements as “moronic.”
The problem with Syria is that a military intervention almost certain to empower al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood is not in our national interest. When military intervention is in our vital interests, however, it would presumably be foolish to promise no ground troops since ground troops might be necessary to achieve the vital objective that justified military action in the first place.
But if “boots on the ground” is what worries you, you might not want to be the ranch on John McCain’s staying “unalterably opposed” to something. It may just be his poker face.