Instant Credibility on Syria in Three Easy Words

America may or may not go to war in Syria.  There are compelling, valid arguments for and against military action.  That’s a good debate to have.

Less useful – but still valid – is the infusion of political positioning.  The anti-war left has predictably been quieter for President Obama than they were for President Bush, and some neoconservative hawks who banged the war drum for invading Iraq in 2003 are now rather dovish.  Both sides will point to the other and cry “Hypocrisy!”

For Republicans, who spent the early 2000s arguing so vociferously for war, changing positions is especially tough, as Obama repeats the Bush arguments of a decade ago.  But it should really be an easy pivot, consisting of three words:

“I was wrong.”

It’s a humbling message, but one with some resonance.  Remember that in March 2003, 72% of Americans supported the Iraq war.  A lot of us were wrong about that.  Before 9/11, the concept of war was abstract for most Americans – the stuff of Tom Hanks movies or History Channel documentaries.  Iraq and Afghanistan introduced the public to the realities of young service men and women shipping off to war and sometimes not coming home.

Between the first flashes of shock and awe and the final grudging withdrawal, an awful lot of minds changed.

And Republicans paid a political price for it, too: the Congress flipped in 2006 and the White House in 2008.  (And Joe Lieberman, who supported the war, was all but drummed out of the Democrat party.)  A Republican looking to change his or her mind now will find a public that has trod the same path.


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