Bill Clinton, perhaps trying to please his guest John McCain, urged a tougher line on Syria. With his wife, Hillary, no longer Secretary of State, he criticized President Barack Obama for not being resolute. Without the responsibility of office or political incentive, Clinton took a cheap shot.
And an irresponsible one at that. Syria's situation represents a civil war, one that Bashar Assad's government is currently winning. The opposition is a rag-tag coalition which will turn on each other even if it wins through. As with Angola in the 1970s, it is hard to pick a winner. Surely Jonas Savimbi, an ex-Marxist, represented a bad choice by the United States. It too was a decision made in haste by a government desperate to be seen doing something. For a period, Obama seemed on the verge of being pressured to do something, however questionable.
Certainly he should learn from Hillary Clinton's gambit in Libya. They overthrew Col. Muammar Kaddafi and left a void. Now raging mobs control Benghazi, so much for the Arab Spring. Even in Tunisia, where the revolts started, people are demanding a restitution of good order. The attack on the American embassy in September was most assuredly Hillary's folly. Obama should not have listened to her then and should not heed the advice of her husband now. As Robert Walpole advised British hotheads eager to assert imperial authority in the 1730s, "let sleeping dogs lie"; this should be our approach to the Middle East.
But it takes courage to do nothing, especially in the face of manufactured moral outrage. McCain, always game for war, is joined by his partner, Lindsay Graham, in rooting for combat. But, at least, McCain knows what it is. Bill Clinton, like Dick Cheney, opted out of Vietnam. Suddenly the martial spirit that eluded him in 1968 has caught up to the loquacious Mr. Clinton. And, with him there is always an angle.
And that angle is to gain the Democratic nomination for Hillary in 2016. But how can Bill explain his wife's neo-conservative approach to diplomacy. It was the issue that cost them in 2008 and may well bring them down again.
Perhaps President Clinton has spent too much time with the Bush family. Whatever it is, the Clintons have advocated policies not a whit different from George W's. As it appears now, the Clintons resemble a hyper-ambitious power couple who are trying any means to gain separation from Obama.
Meanwhile the G-8 Summit rejected any action against Syria - even refusing to ask Assad to step down.
Obama wisely refused to press the matter when it appeared that the United States would be diplomatically isolated. But Obama must frame a new foreign policy untroubled and untrammeled by so-called human rights advocates.
It's a mere ruse anyway by those who want to muscle-flex. Salvage what you can - and play for time.
For Democrats, the Clintons represent the price of power. Sure it was nice to have the longest Democratic presidency since Franklin D. Roosevelt's, but it came at the expense of the party's soul. Certainly a Syrian adventure will not serve to bridge these contradictions.