I must confess, I do not have much time to watch television these days. I’m constantly on the road traveling and the commitments I have to my family and my business take up virtually all of my time.
But the other night I found myself watching a cable news clip from SE Cupp’s HLN show “Unfiltered.”
Now, before anybody jumps down my throat: yes, HLN is certainly a liberal network.
But when I saw their conservative host SE Cupp ready squaring off against libertarian comedian Dave Smith, I knew sparks were about to fly.
And boy did they.
In fairness, while it did get fairly heated, Cupp and Smith did seem to end the discussion without being personally upset at the other and no personal insults were exchanged.
However, the main crux of the argument between the two was fascinating and really represents the battle for the soul of the Republican Party on the issue of foreign policy.
Essentially, Cupp represents what many have called the “neo-conservative” wing of the Republican Party. This is the group of Republicans who were gung-ho about overthrowing regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and are equally gung-ho about trying to topple Iran and Syria while taking a hard line with Russia. They believe this is necessary to spread American values throughout the globe. Think John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
Meanwhile, Smith — while not actually a Republican — represents the view you would find expressed in what might be called the “anti-interventionist” wing of the Republican party. They don’t want to spread American values across the globe. They believe countries all over the world — even ones with evil dictators — are best left alone for fear of backlash against America and the potential instability of what could happen following a forced regime change. They basically want America to mind its business unless there is some sort of major national interest or direct threat to the nation involved. Think Ron Paul.
During the fiery exchange, Cupp pressed Smith on the issue of what to do about Syria. She said whatever you think of how we got here, we are here now, so she asked Smith hat we should do.
Smith replied that we do not even have conclusive proof that Assad was the one who used the chemical weapons — alluding to the possibility the rebels used them — and said every time we get involved in these struggles, we make things worse.
Then it got really interesting when Cupp pressed Smith on whether his answer would be to do nothing in the face of Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Smith’s answer was clear and concise: It was terrible what happened to the people that were gassed but the hundreds of thousands of dead people in the region following actions our government has taken proves our involvement in a civil war would cost far more lives than it would save.
And in that moment — in my mind at least — Smith exposed the biggest flaw in Cupp’s way of thinking.
As Smith pointed out, neoconservatives loudly proclaimed the Middle East would be a better, more stable place if the United States deposed Saddam Hussein. They were wrong. They had similar aspirations in Afghanistan. They were wrong. They loudly cheerlead for the overthrow of Qadaffi in Libya, making many of the same arguments they did with Hussein in Iraq. They were wrong again. Now, they argue the same must be done in Syria.
The question is, at what point do we stop listening to these people? What more do we need to see before we realize that just overthrowing one dictator to give way to chaos is simply not an acceptable strategy?
I do not necessarily agree with but do understand a targeted air strike to send a message.
But regime change?
Say what you will about President Trump, but this is part of why he won: because instead of parroting the company line repeated ad nauseum by Hillary Clinton and virtually every Republican primary candidate (with the notable exception of Rand Paul and to a much lesser extent Ted Cruz), he chided these so-called intellectual geniuses for their pattern of repeatedly getting things like this — something that can and has gotten millions of people unnecessarily killed — completely wrong and then paying no price for their repeated failure.
The president teamed with the UK and France on targeted air strikes, but hopefully he remembers what he said about regime change during the primaries and acts accordingly going forward.
But this really is not about the president. This is about the way forward on foreign policy and if we, as a nation, are ever going to learn our lesson when it comes to these issues.
Bashar Al Assad is terrible. I am in no way saying otherwise. But I’m dying for somebody to tell me how he is (a) a threat to the United States and (b) any different from Saddam Hussein in that the cure is likely worse than the disease.
And it also strikes me that maybe if we want fewer messes that we both create and then end up making worse by trying to “clean them up,” it might behoove us to stop unnecessarily agitating conflicts and unnecessarily starting wars with foolish delusions of grandeur and fantasies of the world in the United States’ image.
In other words, perhaps it is time we made the collective decision to stop listening to the consistently wrongheaded foreign policy advice of people like SE Cupp. The United States and the world would be better off if we did.