While some on the right can’t stand Tulsi Gabbard because “she’s a Russian agent” and all that hysteria, I actually appreciate that she tries to make coherent, consistent points. Do I agree with her on much of anything she says on policy? No, but there’s something to be said about not talking out of both sides one’s mouth and that’s exactly what we saw on Syria from every candidate on the stage last night minus Gabbard.

Let’s take this clip as an example.

.@TulsiGabbard

“Just two days ago the New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.” pic.twitter.com/ZmtDUWV6T1

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 16, 2019

Now, while most will focus on the slam on CNN (and it is nice), I’m much more interested in the separation she puts between herself and the other Democrats. While they all struggled to incoherently explain why they spent years demanding we leave the Middle East but why we now must remain in Syria to fight a NATO ally (a sucky one, but one nonetheless until action is taken), Gabbard at least gets to the heart of the matter.

The war against Assad, just like the war in Libya, was a ridiculous miscalculation. Attempting to change the regime in Syria, while giving warm and fuzzies to those in the foreign policy establishment in Washington, only helped create and exacerbate a humanitarian crisis and set up a situation where we were either going to still have Assad or end up with Al Qaeda aligned Islamists taking power. How is that a choice we had any business sticking our nose in?

Joe Biden tried to lie about his previous position, insisting the war was never about removing Assad. A reporter from The Washington Post said he was “right.” That’s simply not true.

The Obama administration literally called for Assad to step down and then funded rebels fighting to remove him. Biden is not right here. He’s lying and ignoring the genesis of the situation, whether one agrees with the start goal or not. https://t.co/2y2Ald9ULg

— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) October 16, 2019

Regime change was the official government policy of the Obama administration for at least the first three years of the civil war in Syria. We all remember the demands for Assad to step down and the saber-rattling about how he will go one way or the other. The problem was that by helping propagate that civil war, we fed into a situation that would take the lives of over 500,000 people, including 50,000 children. No one seems to want to own that. Everyone in Washington wants to pretend that it’s not possible for us to have made a bad situation worse, yet that’s exactly what we did.

I’m sure by writing that, I’ll be accused of being an Assad apologist because critical thinking isn’t allowed on much of the right when it comes to foreign policy issues. The reality is that unlike the myriad of neoconservative blue check-marks on Twitter, I actually have family in Syria. This isn’t a matter of ideology for me. It’s a matter of accepting that sometimes there are no perfect solutions and recognizing that we can indeed make matters worse. Minorities in Syria (like my family) feared Islamist rebel groups far more than they feared Assad, who before the outbreak of war was one of the more secular, benign dictators in the region.

Tulsi Gabbard is trying to make a fairly simple point that takes the entirety of what has transpired into account. Perhaps she really does just love Assad, but that’s a weak-minded argument to make against her. Her position has at least been consistent. She was against getting involved from the beginning and she’s been shown to be more right than wrong on the matter. The rest of the Democrat field flailing about, now wanting to remain in Syria (and Biden even said he wants a surge last night back into Northern Syria) after initially screaming to get out, shows just how non-thinking most of these people are. At one point last night, Elizabeth Warren argued we should leave troops in Syria and then a few seconds later said she wanted to pull all troops from the Middle East. You make sense of that. We also saw contradictory bantering like this.

Dems: “We must help the Kurds fight our NATO ally Turkey!”

Also Dems: “Trump is undermining NATO!”#DemocraticDebate

— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) October 16, 2019

I could keep going about the intricacies here (see Mike Ford’s explainers for more information), but I’m certain everyone is so set in stone on this issue that it’ll make little difference. What I will say is this. The smartest among us are often the dumbest. Just because someone has “expert” on their chyron does not mean they actually know what they are talking about. The United States miscalculated on Libya and Syria. That’s the point Gabbard has been consistently making, even when the rest of her party was cheer-leading those interventions. That may not matter to the talking head sitting in an MSNBC studio today, but it should matter to the rest of us, and whether you agree with Gabbard or not, at least be intellectually honest enough to admit that the war in Syria didn’t start in 2017.

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