The world holds its collective breath as the President of the United States calls for military action in Syria, Congress debates the question, and the war-sickened American public asks: What’s next?
I’ll tell you what’s next.
1) The President dominates the airwaves with two days of interviews culminating in another Obama peroration in which Hitler, YouTube videos of dubious provenance, and "the children" all figure prominently.
2) The Senate votes shortly after the Presidential Peroration, perhaps as early as Wednesday: nearly two-thirds "yes," one-third "no." The House vote is delayed by Speaker Boehner in return for some minor concession on domestic policy (duly forgotten down the line).
3) Bombs rain down on Syria – many more than anyone imagined. After three days, the President announces Bashar al-Assad’s military has been sufficiently "degraded," at least for the moment. The House votes after the smoke clears: nobody notices.
4) Syria’s "moderate" jihadists take more territory, and edge closer to Damascus, all the while complaining US action wasn’t enough.
5) John Kerry says it’s time for a "peace conference" in Geneva. The rebels refuse to show up: so does Assad.
6) The rebel propaganda machine revs up its motors as yet another alleged Syrian atrocity is attributed to Assad. The President – wielding his 90-day blank check – strikes again.
Unless Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) makes good on his threat to filibuster, the anti-interventionist House will never get to cast a meaningful vote on the Syria strike. This is precisely what happened in the run up to the Kosovo war. Obama will simply ignore the House, just like Bill Clinton did. Of course, unforeseen variations of this scenario may come into play – e.g. a suddenly discovered Syrian "plot" to hit US assets in the region, or even in the US – but the end result is the same: the House will be bypassed.
It’s usually risky to make such a specific prediction, but in this case it’s what they call a slam dunk. The spontaneous upsurge of antiwar activism by a generally disengaged American public took the War Party completely by surprise. Samantha Power and her coven of "humanitarian" warmongers never imagined it, not in their worst nightmares.
They think they can get away with it because their contempt for the American people is boundless: those little people in flyover country are just a nuisance, to be mollified when necessary and ultimately disregarded.
Will that work?
In the short term, yes: the President, after all, is the commander-in-chief, and with half-an-authorization he can plausibly if not quite legally proceed. There’s precedent. Sure, there will be a few bubbles of protest, calls for his impeachment, but the political class will breathe a sigh of relief because they’ll think the danger has passed.
In the longer term, however, it won’t work, and here’s why:
"There is something going on here, a new distance between Washington and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus. The Syria debate isn’t, really, a struggle between libertarians and neoconservatives, or left and right, or Democrats and Republicans. That’s not its shape. It looks more like a fight between the country and Washington, between the broad American public and Washington’s central governing assumptions."
That’s Peggy Noonan writing in the Wall Street Journal, and she’s right. What we are seeing is the beginning of a populist rebellion against the political class, not just in the foreign policy realm but also in a more general sense.
It didn’t start with the Syria war question and it won’t end there either. The first premonition of this new populist upsurge was the vote in Congress over the bank bail out. The entire political Establishment was lined up behind the TARP legislation, which shoveled hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the vaults of the most hated institution in American public life – the banksters. The "experts" were screaming that the entire world economy would melt down if we didn’t line the pockets of the people who caused the implosion in the first place: the leadership of both parties was for it, as were both presidential candidates and the sitting President.
Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the bailout – the people erupted.
Calls poured in to congressional offices: outraged ordinary citizens demanded their representatives vote it down. The House initially defeated it by a razor-thin
margin, on September 29 – a vote that shocked the political class and had every
bubble-profiteer ready to jump off a skyscraper, 1930’s style. A few days later,
however, after a media blitz of scare-mongering and a meteoric stock market
plunge, the political class saved
their stock portfolios the
day and the bailout passed.
That was a close one. But history wasn’t through with our Washington know-it-alls.
More recently, we’ve had the Snowden affair – a series of shocking revelations that exposed the dark underside of the Surveillance State. We discovered that our phone calls, our emails, our passwords – everything – was being scooped up by the National Security Agency, and stored away for future reference. Not even most members of Congress had a clue this was happening – although some of those in on the secret had been hinting at it for years. Now it was out in the open, and the American media – as the DC elite’s bullhorn – went into a defensive crouch and calumniated Edward Snowden as a traitor. Not only that, but they went on the attack against one of their fellow journalists, Glenn Greenwald, with administration shill and journalistic nonentity David Gregory angrily demanding to know why he shouldn’t share a jail cell with Snowden.
It backfired. In spite of a massive mobilization by the political and media elite against the messengers as well as the message, the American people supported Snowden and still do. While the DC crowd was smearing Snowden as the 21st century equivalent of the Rosenbergs, gleefully denouncing him as a tool of Vladimir Putin, ordinary Americans persisted in considering him a whistleblower rather than a traitor – and a hero, to boot.
What’s more, the Snowden revelations led to an effort in Congress to rein in the Surveillance State if not get rid of it altogether. The political class was outflanked and outnumbered.
The populist rebellion against the Syrian intervention is the third prong of the populist assault on the Washington Establishment – and it is here that the real danger signals are flashing red for the elites. Alarm bells are going off in the White House and in the offices of our political leaders as calls opposing this act of war flood their phone lines. Taken aback, the Establishment is desperately trying to defend the fortress – but the walls have already been breached, and the enemy – that is, the American people – is pouring through.
The President’s overrated oratorical ability won’t change the public’s mind, and neither will AIPAC’s declining influence be able to stem the tide of outraged opposition. The bottom line is that the War Party simply cannot allow the solidly anti-interventionist House to vote on this war resolution. Thus, the scenario described above.
They will pay a high political cost for this – much higher than they or anyone else now imagine. Remember that a discontented populace on the verge of revolution finally rose up against the Russian Czar in 1917 – and it was an unpopular war that pushed them over the edge. I’m sure that is not what Obama cultists Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu had in mind when they accused libertarians of being "the new Communists," but history has a way of making prophets out of fools.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).