David Brooks: Obama’s case for Syria intervention ‘compelling’

On Friday’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks argued for President Barack Obama’s to intervene in Syria, suggesting it was a duty of the U.S. to make a statement to deter rogue powers and maintain a “international system.”

Brooks called Obama’s gestures “the least bad option” and said anything less would make the United States look weak.

“I do think they have a compelling case,” he said. “You know, we have an international system here. We all profit from it. Trade profits from it. Peace. We can travel around the world because of it. And part of that system is certain ideas, the certain ideas you can’t invade other countries for no reason. You can’t commit genocide. You can’t — rogue regimes can’t have nuclear weapons, and you can’t gas your own people. And so if we ignore those basic standards, then our international system basically begins to erode. And I think what he’s doing is probably the least bad options.”

“They’re all pretty terrible,” Brooks continued. “But if we armed the militia, the opposition, that might have been a good idea a couple of years ago, but they’re too rabid now for us to be arming. If we have a no-fly zone, that would just invite, look — make us look weak. So, I think what the president is trying to do is basically, one, establish the norm that you can’t gas your own people, two, try to change the cost-benefit analysis, make it more costly to gas your own people, and, finally, just to establish the idea that we will strike out and try to change your calculus. There are certainly dangers down the road, but I think the loss of the credibility, as we try to face Iran and other countries, would be more immediate and more realizable, and, therefore, he more or less has to do what he’s doing.”



Later in the segment, Brooks justified the actions despite the potential constitutional violations, noting that the Constitution hasn’t stopped these sorts of military actions by a president before.

“We have been violating the Constitution on this for my entire adult life,” Brooks said. “The presidents of both parties have been pretty much violating the Constitution and going to war. Now, I guess the War Powers Act, as Eliot Engel said earlier in the program, gives you 60 days. But this has been trample ever since I have been covering politics. And that’s for a practical reason, that if we really did rely on Congress for all these things, nothing would ever get done. And that would be the case in actions one supports and actions one doesn’t support. So that’s why we have fallen to this — back to this ugly de facto program.”

“I would say, also, that if we are in a period of permanent withdrawal from the Middle East, we will have what has happened over the last really year in the Middle East, which is the devolution from the Arab spring to the Arab winter,” he continued. “In retrospect — and I wasn’t a big champion of this at the time, but John McCain and Lindsey Graham had a point early on in this program — or in this — the progress of the civil war, that if we had been a little more interventionist back when the opposition was a little more moderate, a little bit more controllable, that would have been a good time to act. And so the idea that by not acting things are always going in our direction is refuted by the facts of the past couple years.”

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