Is Josh Rogin a neo-conservative?

Mr Rogin is an opinion columnist with The Washington Post covering foreign policy and national security. Despite numerous awards, several of his columns read as though he faced a deadline, but had nothing he wanted to say; this one jumps out in that vein.

I am reminded of Max Boot, about whom I have written previously. Mr Boot might have been descrobed as a neo-conservative, but his self description places him as conservative only when it comes to foreign policy. From Wikipedia:

In an opinion piece for Foreign Policy in September 2017, Max Boot outlines his views thusly: “I am socially liberal: I am pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-immigration. I am fiscally conservative: I think we need to reduce the deficit and get entitlement spending under control. I am pro-environment: I think that climate change is a major threat that we need to address. I am pro-free trade: I think we should be concluding new trade treaties rather than pulling out of old ones. I am strong on defense: I think we need to beef up our military to cope with multiple enemies. And I am very much in favor of America acting as a world leader: I believe it is in our own self-interest to promote and defend freedom and free markets as we have been doing in one form or another since at least 1898.”

In December 2017, also in Foreign Policy, Boot wrote that recent events—particularly since the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president—had caused him to rethink some of his previous views concerning the existence of white privilege and male privilege. “In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefited from my skin color and my gender—and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.”

Is that what a neo-conservative is: a person who is liberal on domestic issues, and whose only conservative opinions are those involving the projection of power abroad? If that described Mr Rogin, then no wonder Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard Williams¹ frightens him so:

Tulsi Gabbard’s Syria record shows why she can’t be president

by Josh Rogin | August 1, 2019

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) talks often about her January 2017 trip to Syria, when she met Bashar al-Assad, toured Aleppo after it had been reduced to rubble (by the Assad regime), and interviewed Syrian civilians and the regime-approved “opposition,” who unanimously told her Assad was a better option for Syria than the “terrorists.”

But Gabbard never talks about her other trip — to the Turkish-Syrian border with a group of lawmakers in June 2015, when she met with authentic opposition leaders, victims of Assad’s barrel bombs and members of the volunteer rescue brigade known as the White Helmets. Their stories, which don’t support Assad’s narrative, never make it into Gabbard’s speeches on the campaign trail.

Listening to Gabbard, one might think the United States initiated the Syrian conflict by arming terrorists for a regime-change war that has resulted in untold suffering. But Gabbard knows better. She has heard the testimony of children who have been maimed and orphaned by the actual murderers, the Assad regime, but she chooses to ignore them.

“Like the Russians, Iranians and the Assad regime, Tulsi sees the Syrian people struggling for dignity as terrorists, despite the facts,” said Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, who was Gabbard’s guide on that 2015 trip.

There’s more at the original.

Mrs Williams has made several missteps in her characterizations of the Assad regime, among other things, but one thing she has recognized, something which bothered the Obama Administration no end, is that there are no good guys in Syria, not one group worthy of American support. In her own odd way — and there’s no doubt in my mind, she is a bit on the odd side — Mrs Williams is admitting that if we just get out of Syria, stop trying to help anybody, Bashir al-Assad will probably win the civil war.

For Mr Rogin, that’s a wholly unacceptable outcome, but, given the various contending groups in Syria, just how much more unacceptable is it that any of the other groups fighting? Da’ish² seems to have been pretty much — though not completely — defeated, and they appear to be even worse than Mr Assad. Given Mr Rogin’s obvious support for whomever the Democrats nominate, it seems fitting to classify him as a Max Boot-style neo-conservative, even if he would be appalled by the label.

When opposing congressional legislation calling for humanitarian aid for the Syrian people and protection of civilians, Gabbard called it a thinly veiled regime-change effort using the “rationale of humanitarianism.” That’s an atrocious response to what State Department officials have called the worst machinery of death since the Nazis.

Hyperbole much? Whenever I see comparisons to the Third Reich, my bovine feces detector pings, because there isn’t much that can be even remotely compared to the Nazi death camps. And as horrible as what’s going on in Syria is, there are plenty of examples of worse death machines since World War II: the continuation of the Soviet GULag, the Cultural revolution and the ‘Great Leap Forward’ under Mao Zedong in China, and, on a per capita basis, the genocide under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Other Democratic candidates have promised to end U.S. military adventurism without making excuses for a mass murderer. It’s neither progressive nor liberal to defend Assad, a fascist, totalitarian psychopath who can never peacefully preside over Syria after what he has done.

Gabbard’s plan to overtly side with Assad and Russia while they commit crimes against humanity would be a strategic disaster, a gift to the extremists and a betrayal of decades of U.S. commitments to stand up to mass atrocities. Democratic voters who believe in liberalism and truth must reject not only her candidacy but also her attempt to disguise moral bankruptcy as a progressive value.

One of the lessons we have learned, to our regret, is that there are situations in which there are no good outcomes, and our intervention has not yielded results commensurate with our stated goals. We got rid of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party in Iraq, but it’s hardly the paradise of democracy that the younger President Bush foresaw. We have killed Osama bin Laden and greatly weakened al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but since doing so we have engaged in a seemingly endless guerrilla war with the Taliban. As Mr Rogin’s own newspaper reported, the same day his column appeared:

The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban, including a cease-fire and a renunciation of al-Qaeda, as part of an initial deal to end the nearly 18-year-old war, U.S. officials say.

I’m old enough to remember when Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, for negotiating a purported end to the Vietnam War, which was, in reality, simply a way for President Nixon to withdraw our troops from South Vietnam and give the North time to regroup and retool, to prepare for the invasion in which North Vietnam finally conquered the South. the Taliban are a horrid group, pushing the complete subjugation of women and even causing outbreaks of polio in Pakistan by its refusal to allow vaccinations done by the Western devils; can anyone doubt that the Taliban, who have successfully resisted the United States for eighteen years, will not reassert itself militarily once the United States withdraws?

Yet withdrawal is our only way out, because we certainly have no way to defeat the Taliban completely, not unl;ess we use nuclear weapons to simply exterminate them all. We will surely accept the unacceptable in Afghanistan, just as we have accepted the unacceptable in North Korea.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton thought that the so-called ‘Arab spring’ was a great thing, but quickly found out that it was nothing that could be controlled, and frequently led to worse regimes than those they replaced. Hosni Mubarak was replaced in Egypt by an Islamist, who was overthrown by the military; is Egypt somehow better off? Muammar Qadafi in Libya was killed, but has been replaced by equally bad guys. About the only positive thing that can be said about the other Arab spring revolts is that the killing didn’t last as long as it has in Syria.

President Obama famously drew his ‘red line’ in Syria, and when President Assad crossed it anyway, Mr Obama did nothing. When he crossed it again, President Trump responded with bombing attacks, but that was really all; no fundamental change was wrought.

For Mr Rogin, somehow accepting Mr Assad’s survival in power is anathema. The trouble is that the United States’ effort in Syria isn’t enough to prevent it, and we are wasting blood and treasure trying. If he’s going to survive, at least we can stop wasting money and lives in an effort that is far too small to change the outcome, and which, even if it did, would result in a regime that would be anything but democratic.

I would not presume to understand Mrs Williams’ thinking, but somehow, some way, through whatever thought process she has used, she has come to the right conclusion: we might as well get the Hell out of Syria, because it’s doing no good for us to stay involved.
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¹ – In accordance with my website, The First Street Journal and its stylebook, I only use the appropriate honorifics for women, those being Miss, Mrs or Dr. While some married women do not have enough respect for their husbands to take their names, the Journal does not show that same lack of respect, and always refers to married women by their proper names as long as they are known.
² – The Editor is not particularly fond of the initials ISIS, and the reduction to just IS, for Islamic State, seems even worse. Da’ish is an acronym for the Arabic al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham. According to the BBC, the group “objects to the term and has advised against its usage,” and therefore, I shall use it. The Editor shall not edit comments using other commonly-used terms, but the use of Da’ish is now the accepted form in The First Street Journal’s stylebook.
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