That is how the New York Times sets it up, anyway.
The Congressional vote on whether to strike Syria will offer the best insight yet on which wing of the Republican Party — the traditional hawks, or a growing bloc of noninterventionists — has the advantage in the fierce internal debates over foreign policy that have been taking place all year.
Republican divisions on national security have flared over the use of drones, aid to Egypt and the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency, and the tensions have played out publicly in battles between Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning freshman. Mr. McCain memorably called Mr. Paul and his compatriots “wacko birds,” and Mr. Paul suggested that hawks like Mr. McCain were “moss covered.”
But those intermittent spats could pale in comparison with the fight over whether to attack Syria, an issue on which Mr. McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, and Mr. Paul, a possible contender in 2016, will almost certainly be the leading spokesmen for their party’s two wings.
I started to follow up this link with a short post about the problems facing Obama, including the nature of the power he will be granted; the nature of the action he plans to take; and the nature of the opposition to Assad in Syria. For example, the moss-covered John McCain wants to do more than lob a couple of missiles. Meanwhile, the wacko birds might be more concerned by Mr. Assad’s argument that he is really fighting Al Qaeda.
It seems that Byron York has already covered much of this territory. This point bears repeating:
Many Republicans will never be convinced the U.S. can come to the aid of good rebels in Syria without also helping bad rebels in Syria. It’s just too complicated, they believe, and there are simply too many bad guys. Why risk aiding al Qaeda or its affiliates? These Republicans remain unconvinced by arguments from fellow GOP lawmakers like John McCain, who point out that in the Libyan operation the U.S. essentially set up a safe area for good rebels in Benghazi. Given what happened later in that Libyan city, the skeptics will remain unconvinced.
I’m no professional reader of tea leaves, but when an action is this unpopular, and there are considerable arguments against intervention, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that Obama will win this vote.