GOP Chickenhawks Suddenly Gone Soft: Republicans Have No Appetite For War

The war party, otherwise known as the Republican Party, has gone soft. The GOP likes to pride itself on being strong on national defense, looking to pick a fight with the next dictator or tyrant. And for at least the last three or four decades Republicans have taken great pleasure in deriding Democrats and liberals for being soft when it comes to war. But suddenly the chickenhawk Republicans find themselves in unfamiliar territory, having to defend their anti-war stance on Syria. What has the world come to?

POLITICO — Of the 279 Republicans currently in the House and Senate, 83 were also serving in October 2002. All of them voted to give George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq. Now, just 10 of those 83 have come out in support of striking Syria. Most of the others have expressed serious reservations or are leaning against voting for the authorization.

Republicans are the party that led us to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But after two wars, that have largely failed to change hearts and minds, and a public weary of more war, Republicans no longer have an appetite for death and destruction. This of course is aided by the fact that Barack Obama is the sitting president. And the irony is not lost that John Kerry is trying to convince Republicans to go to war when it was Republicans who cast Kerry as weak during the 2004 presidential campaign.

To appreciate the ideological upheaval on foreign policy the GOP is in the midst of, look back to when George W. Bush was running for reelection in 2004. Bush was casting himself as America’s fearless defender and castigating Democratic nominee John Kerry as a weak-kneed wobbler. On Capitol Hill last week, it was Kerry, now secretary of state, making the case for military action — and many of his longtime GOP adversaries arguing against it.

To be fair, the Senate committee did vote to authorize war, and that included a few Republicans voting in favor, and the House has yet to cast a vote. So the situation could change. And President Obama will address the nation Tuesday night, trying to convince Americans to get involved in yet another Middle East country. But I doubt Obama can say anything to sway Republicans on the Hill. If these Republicans are going to authorize military strikes against Syria, it will require them to dig down deep and find their inner chickenhawk.

But after saying all of this, I guess I should be happy that so many Republicans are feeling squeamish about war. At least that means we have a shot at avoiding another military conflict in a far off land. So while I think Republican reluctance is in part a political calculation, one more way to stick it to Obama, I should enjoy a rare moment when Republicans in Washington are taking a stance I agree with.

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