Beltway Confidential

Nancy Pelosi, Obama’s top hawk: The road to Damascus is the road to war

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Nancy Pelosi,Syria,Analysis

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad in 2007 / AP

Is it time for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to admit that she’s a national security hawk? The top House Democrat provided more evidence that she has dispensed with the dovish sensibilities that characterized her opposition to George W. Bush, as she now supports military intervention in Syria.

“It is clear that the American people are weary of war,” Pelosi ‘the hawk,’ as Politico dubbed her, said in a statement Thursday. “However, Assad gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability and global security.”

The last time Pelosi stepped into foreign policy on Syria, she ignored the objections of President Bush to have a personal meeting with dictator Bashar al Assad.

“We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” Pelosi said in 2007.

This is the same Nancy Pelosi who voted against the war in Iraq. “I say flat out that unilateral use of force without first exhausting every diplomatic remedy and other remedies and making a case to the American people will be harmful to our war on terrorism.”

Even granting that Obama has exhausted diplomatic options with Assad, military action in Syria would still seem to fail this Pelosi doctrine. The coalition is grows smaller by the day (the British Parliament voted Thursday against intervention Thursday, while the United Nations won’t take any action due to Russia’s power to veto a Security Council Resolution). Obama has spent hardly any time making the case for action, and when he did talk about intervening during a PBS interview, he stopped short of Pelosi’s claim by saying only that intervention “may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term.”

But Pelosi supports bombing Syria. Obama had her support for the Libya intervention, as well. “The limited nature of this engagement allows the president to go forward,” Pelosi told reporters, while noting that she wouldn’t support sending in ground forces. “I’m satisfied that the president has the authority he needs to go ahead.”

Neither the Libya action nor the possible intervention in Syria are perfect analogs for Iraq, but Pelosi recently flip-flopped on her opposition to the surveillance programs created by the Patriot Act — she was the key player who stopped the amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.,  to limit the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers.

“Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment,” The Cable reported on July 25. “Pelosi’s overtures proved decisive, multiple sources said.”

That’s not all. She also argued this year that that Obama doesn’t need to reveal when he uses a drone strike to kill an American citizen engaged in terrorism.

“Maybe. It just depends,” Pelosi replied when asked about the topic by the Huffington Post.

Maybe Pelosi, in good faith, changed her mind on these issues. Or maybe she’s just a loyal party member supporting a Democratic president. In the case of the drone strikes, at least, she admitted to being moved by poll numbers.

“People just want to be protected,” she said in that interview. “And I saw that when we were fighting them on surveillance, the domestic surveillance. People just want to be protected: ‘You go out there and do it. I’ll criticize you, but I want to be protected.’”

 

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