Victor Davis Hanson

That visit to Damascus was played up in the government-run Syrian press as proof that ordinary Americans don’t feel that Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism. Never mind that the Assad dictatorship helps terrorists get into Iraq to kill American soldiers, is suspected of involvement with the assassinations of journalists and democratic leaders in Lebanon, and recently had bombed by the Israelis a facility reported to contain a partially built nuclear reactor.

What are we to make of a Congress that now wants to establish rather than just oversee U.S. foreign policy? Can it act as a foil to the president and so give our diplomats leverage abroad with wayward nations: "We suggest you do x, before our volatile Congress demands we do y?"

Maybe — but any good is vastly outweighed by the bad. Partisan politics often drive these anti-administration foreign policies, aimed at making the president look weak abroad and embarrassed at home.

House representatives too often preach their own district politics, less so the American people’s interest as a whole. What might ensure their re-election or win local campaign funds isn’t necessarily good for the United States and its allies.

And too often we see frustrated senators posture in debate during televised hearings, trying out for the role of chief executive or commander in chief. Most could never get elected president — many have tried — but they seem to enjoy the notion that their own under-appreciated brilliance and insight should supersede the collective efforts of the State Department.

So they travel abroad, pass resolutions and pontificate a lot, but rarely have to clean up the ensuing mess of their own freelancing of American foreign policy.

Congress should stick to its constitutional mandate and quit the publicity gestures. If it is unhappy with the ongoing effort to stabilize a unified Iraq, then it should act seriously and vote to cut off all funds and bring the troops home.

If the House wants to punish Turkey for denying that its Ottoman forefathers engaged in a horrific genocide, then let congressional members likewise deny funds for our military to stay among such a genocide-denying amoral host.

If Speaker Pelosi believes that Syria is not a terrorist entity but a country worth re-engaging diplomatically, then let her in mature fashion introduce legislation that would resume full American financial relations with our new partner Damascus.

Otherwise, it’s all talk — and dangerous talk at that.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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