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WASHINGTON – A congressional vote on whether to strike Syria could offer the best insight yet on which wing of the Republican Party — the party’s traditional hawks or a growing bloc of noninterventionists — has the advantage in the fierce internal debates over foreign policy that have been taking place throughout the year.
Republican divisions on national security have flared over the use of drones, aid to Egypt and the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, and the tensions have played out publicly in battles between Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning freshman. McCain memorably called Paul and his compatriots “wacko birds,” and Paul suggested that hawks like McCain were “moss covered.”
But those spats could pale in comparison with the fight over whether to attack Syria, an issue on which McCain and Paul are almost certainly going to be the leading spokesmen for their party’s two wings.
McCain has long advocated intervention in Syria’s civil war. After meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday, he said that it would be “catastrophic” if Congress did not approve the president’s proposal and that such a rejection would result in the United States’s credibility being “shredded.”
Paul on Sunday made clear his opposition to Obama’s proposal, taking to Twitter and the talk shows to taunt Secretary of State John Kerry. “John Kerry is, you know, he’s famous for saying, you know, how can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?” Paul said, referring to the Vietnam War. “I would ask John Kerry, how can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?”
A top aide to Paul said Sunday that the senator would mount a lobbying campaign in the House, where senior leaders like Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, will face off against a new vanguard of members like Justin Amash, R-Mich., who are opposed to what they see as risky foreign entanglements.
new york times