For two years, President Obama has resisted being drawn deeper into the civil war in Syria. It was a miserable problem, he told aides, and not one he thought he could solve. At most, it could be managed. And besides, he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.The interventionist lobby in Washington is relentless, always dreaming up new reasons why the US needs to get involved in more wars. They are well connected and get their op-eds prominently placed in the top newspapers and journals, and they get lots of invitations to talk shows and the like. They have lately been arguing that since our enemies in Iran and Hezbollah have made a large investment in Syria, we have to get involved to keep them from winning a major victory that will further enhance their power and prestige. These semi-plausible arguments are backed up with sneering asides about manliness, and by the ever-present Washington pressure to "do something" about every problem.
So when Mr. Obama agreed this week for the first time to send small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebel forces, he had to be almost dragged into the decision at a time when critics, some advisers and even Bill Clinton were pressing for more action. Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement. His ambivalence about the decision seemed evident even in the way it was announced. . . .
“It was a matter of time — the White House may not have wanted intervention but intervention itself was chasing the administration,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East-based analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The White House underestimated the potency of this struggle and its profound implications for the region and its own interests, and then found itself lacking space, strategic clarity and momentum to do anything meaningful.”
The lesson here is that people who want us to stay out of wars need to get organized in the same way. The argument that most Americans don't want us to fight in foreign wars can always be answered by saying that most Americans don't care very much, because this seems to be true. So the only answer is to subject the president to the same kind of relentless pressure from the anti-war side.