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GOP isolationists are taking U.S. back to the 1930s

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Syria’s butcher Bashir Assad could end up toppling British Prime Minister David Cameron and not the other way around, while also giving Russia a big boost back on to the Great Power stage and green lighting Tehran’s most ambitious and sparky plans in its mountain tunnel complexes.

Along the way he has exposed President Obama as feckless and fearful. The president and his team are scrambling to remind lawmakers of what the Commander-in-Chief ought to have long ago argued to the country: When the good guys blink, the bad guys notice.

Lots and lots of blinking. Most of the people who could be expected to step up and support significant punishment of Assad, while noting the importance of any president following through on presidential threats, have been out of sight.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is happy to tell you we have no interests in any of this, and kudos to him for his honesty. Will that play in the 2016 primaries beyond 10 percent of the GOP? If it does, the party of Ronald Reagan is dead, and former Ohio Sen. Bob Taft will finally get his due.

It’s doubtful that Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin see it Rand’s way, or Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida or John Thune of South Dakota, but none have yet dared to make the sort of statements of policy and purpose on Syria that get noticed.

Three of the governors have re-election campaigns, which excuse them to some extent from blunt talk about tough choices, but Rubio, Thune and Perry have a lot of opportunity right now to stand for Reagan’s robust commitment to international stability, American greatness, and a refusal to be intimidated by Russia, much less by smaller states with big plans.

Rep. Tom Cotton, a combat veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq, was blunt and bold, calling for military retaliation against Assad before any other major figure in American politics had done so.

“Rangers lead the way” is the proud statement of that community, and Cotton was and remains at least in spirit an Army Ranger. He is providing an example for the presently cowed national-security Republicans.

Here is the problem: The small-government folks applaud Paul, and the rule-of-law conservatives share much of his agenda of concern over the president and his administration’s epic lawlessness and arrogance, but there is a significant difference between a president’s ability to act unilaterally at home and abroad.

These commonalities cannot obscure the huge chasm between a Taft Republican and an Eisenhower Republican when it comes to the world and the military’s strength.

Last month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel suggested the U.S. could have to make do with eight or nine carriers, and the response from the GOP was … silence. Admiral Mahan is getting kicked to the curb along with all memory of the ’30s.

The nonsense about “war weariness” is a Manhattan-Beltway media elite trope, a familiar dodge to get the blame off of their beloved Barack and back on Bush, despite the fact that W’s free states of Iraq and Afghanistan are doing well compared to Obama’s experiments in Egypt and Libya.

American leadership and military prowess isn’t perfect, and leadership isn’t easy and is never free from errors. Fecklessness, by contrast, is always disastrous.

The side-by-side comparisons of the world as Bush left it in January 2009 and as it is now in September 2013 make the case for American strength. Now, when will the GOP’s front bench gather the courage to say so?


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