Friday, August 23, 2013

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Even Neocons Disagree on Mideast Intervention

This has been another historically terrible week for the remnants of the Arab Spring. In Egypt, the military-appointed government released the totalitarian former president Hosni Mubarak from prison to house arrest even as it continues to hold Mubarak’s democratically chosen successor, Mohamed Morsi. In Syria, rebels reported that the government had attacked them with chemical weapons. With the exception of Libya, the Obama administration has remained on the sidelines during the Middle East upheavals of the last two years. Is it time for the U.S. to get more involved?

It’s easy to say we should get more involved, and almost everyone does. But there is zero agreement as to how, and you can’t act on an impulse as opposed to a plan. Do we add serious support to the Syrian rebels — assuming, no doubt correctly, that Assad’s government is indeed guilty of the latest round of slaughter — and risk empowering our Islamist enemies? (It was particularly galling to hear John McCain say this week that such an intervention would come at “very little cost” — essentially the same prediction he made about the war in Iraq.) Do we stand up against the murderous military regime in Egypt and call its coup by its rightful name, a coup? It’s morally the right thing to do — but it also means going against the express lobbying of our ally Israel, which abhors the Muslim Brotherhood and wants the generals to stay in place. It’s a measure of how little American consensus there is about these and other questions that both political parties are divided on what to do and how to do it.

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