Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Russian President Vladimir Putin loom over the about-to-open congressional debate on whether President Obama ought to receive the backing of Congress for a strike against Syria's president and Iran's puppet Bashar Assad.
How you understand the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran-Russia axis drives your point of view on the vote. On my radio show Friday, Charles Krauthammer declared that "I think if you have to choose the evils here, it is clear that the rebels are far the lesser of two evils than the Shiite-Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis, with Russia behind it."
Andrew McCarthy of National Review disagrees. Victor Davis Hanson is with McCarthy, but Max Boot, Jack Kean, Fred and Kim Kagan, Michael Rubin, Bill Kristol, Andrew Roberts, Brett Stevens and Michael O'Hanlon are "yes" votes while Krauthammer is currently a no but willing to be persuaded, and McCarthy is buttressed by hawk favorite Frank Gaffney. You need a scorecard. I have one at the Transcripts page at HughHewitt.com.
What would push Krauthammer to supporting a "yes" vote? I think this matters a lot as Krauthammer is fairly recognized as the most influential conservative commentator in the country, at least among policy elites.
"I would like to hear him say what he said to Graham and to McCain in the Oval Office when they met last week," Krauthammer told me, "which is, 'Yes, I think, well, I do want to alter the balance, we’re going to hit him pretty hard, we’re going to send trainers right down to the rebels, we’re going to send them serious weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft."
"If he got up there, the president, on Tuesday night," Krauthammer continued, "and said, 'I think we need to alter the course of this war, we’re not going to do it by joining it on the ground, but we can do it with the weapons, the training, the bombing that we will do,' if he told me they were going to tell me, he wouldn’t say it, but if they ended up with this attack, let’s say a three-day attack, wiping out the six main air bases around Damascus, as the Southern Commander of the rebels is quoted as saying to David Ignatius in the Post today, the Washington Post, if we used our air power to make them inoperable, and we can do it, you hit the planes, you hit the helicopters and you hit the runways, you hit the fuel depots and you hit the command structure, and you do that, that will be a terrible blow to the regime.
"He does that, he sends trainers, he sends arms, then I’m on board. That’s what I want to hear," Krauthammer concluded.
On the same show, Max Boot echoed Krauthammer's advice to the president. The problem, as many guests have noted this week, is trust. Nobody on the center-right believes the president on any subject.
He has broken so many promises and routinely advanced straw-men arguments while assuming arrogant indifference or outright hostility to principled opponents that rallying hawks to his side is very heavy lifting, no matter what he says Tuesday night.
But if the right promises are made, the rallying should be done. I played for both Krauthammer and Boot two minutes of a speech Winston Churchill delivered at Harvard 70 years ago that very day, Sept. 6, when he made a visit during the war.
It was not a speech about the war but about the appeasement that had proceeded it and the responsibility of United States in the world that would follow it.
I posted the audio, which is interesting and compelling as he speaks of the long arms of remorseless history that reach out for great powers.
Khamenei and Putin and their puppets aren't going to let the U.S. have a hall pass. Sooner or later, and probably much sooner than we know, the collision is coming.
HUGH HEWITT, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.