The Syria debate last fall offered the latest indication that U.S. foreign policy has entered uncharted political territory. The partisan lines in Congress were scrambled when lawmakers responded to President Obama’s request to authorize military force against Syria for using chemical weapons—a request that was withdrawn after Syria agreed to dismantle its arsenal. Strong public opposition to the proposed military action resonated in a polarized Congress that has become increasingly disengaged from national security, especially compared to the decade after 9/11.
Had the Syria vote happened, President Obama probably would have lost it. But the vote’s likely outcome was less interesting than the varied responses his request provoked. The arguments that the Syria debate produced within Republican and Democratic camps indicated that the old battle lines in the politics of U.S. foreign policy are being redrawn. Labels like “neoconservative” and “liberal interventionist” have less political relevance as their camps have decreased in size and political clout.This article was originally published in Democracy.