Democratic Senator: Crimea Crisis Is Happening Because America Looked Weak in Syria

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 3 2014 10:07 AM

Democratic Senator: Crimea Crisis Is Happening Because America Looked Weak in Syria

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And who knows what U.S. weakness in Crimea will lead to? Maybe Chris Coons does.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Every year, a large sector of the Washington Convention Center is occupied and bedazzled for the AIPAC Policy Conference. It's an overwhelming event, with optics and booming Hollywood soundtracks that make other political conferences look like Aslyum movies. The scale of the thing tends to elevate what's said there. That happened yesterday, when Delaware Sen. Chris Coons (who's up for re-election this year but lacks a credible challenger) joined former Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter for a discussion of foreign policy. It was Coons, a Democrat who holds the seat formerly filled by Joe Biden, who suggested that the Obama administration had shown weakness and invited new threats.

On Africa: "I frankly think we've lost some ground in the region because our vital allies don't believe that the United States has the will, the determination, the courage to act, after a red line was drawn, was crossed, and we didn't act in Syria."

On Ukraine: "I frankly think this is partly a result of our perceived weakness, because of our actions in Syria."

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Both of those lines drew loud applause, which wasn't surprising in the least. The sort of people who donate to AIPAC and show up at these conferences saw an obvious case for intervening in Syria. When intervention didn't happen, well, of course that was going to lead to embarrassing tests of American resolve.

Not that Coons, or anyone else, knows how to pass those tests. Peter Baker's nut graf sums it up well:

“Create a democratic noose around Putin’s Russia,” urged Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “Revisit the missile defense shield,” suggested Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “Cancel Sochi,” argued Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the Intelligence Committee, referring to the Group of 8 summit meeting to be hosted by President Vladimir V. Putin. Kick “him out of the G-8” altogether, said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip.

In the absence of a plan, there's plenty of room for speculation and trolling.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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