But a foreshadowing: I do not agree with Mr. Drum that Senator Rubio gave that bad an answer to the question of what U.S. strategy against the Islamic State should be. The Islamic State also control Syrian territory, so Baghdad’s opposition is not a deal-breaker. Moreover, it might be worth trying to persuade the Iraqis to cooperate if a suitable Sunni force can be raised. It is hard to see which countries could put up the troops, but Bangladesh certainly has a long-standing tradition of hiring out their armed services. So does Pakistan. And it is not crazy to try to persuade Jordan and Saudi Arabia, even if I doubt that it would work.
I am not saying that I agree with Senator Rubio. To be honest, I think it would be impossible to persuade Sunni nations to put up the forces. And if it were, I would worry about Phase V operations: can a combination of Arab Sunni forces and Muslim peacekeepers from South Asia establish order? Would their governments be willing to bear to cost in blood of a prolonged operation, even if the United States paid the cost in treasure? I do not think that I would try to set up such an operation, were I somehow elected president.
But it is not crazy on its face. Even if Senator Rubio thinks the effort to raise such a force will fail, it is not unreasonable for him to suggest it.
I agree with Steve Benen that the Senator is trying too hard to distinguish himself from the President, but Mr. Benen is being completely disingenuous. He knows exactly why the Senator has to do that. The weird Iran flub is more disconcerting, but it does not strike me as dealbreaking or a sign that Senator Rubio is clueless. Rather, it strikes me as a simple gaffe, understandable in the heat of a CPAC conference, where Iran policy is a separating issue for the gathered faithful.
Messrs Benen and Drum strike me as bringing up small potatoes in a (gulp) slightly partisan way. Go ahead, talk me into why I should disrespect the good Senator from the great state of Florida regarding his Levantine policy. Because right now I don’t.