Is US Bellicosity Backfiring?

Is US Bellicosity Backfiring?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

U.S. threats to crush Iran and North Korea may yet work, but as of now neither Tehran nor Pyongyang appears to be intimidated.

Repeated references by NSC adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence to the “Libya model” for denuclearization of North Korea just helped sink the Singapore summit of President Trump and Kim Jong Un. To North Korea, the Libya model means the overthrow and murder of Libya strongman Col. Gadhafi, after he surrendered his WMD.

Wednesday, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui exploded at Pence’s invocation of Libya: “Vice-President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya … I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks.

“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Yesterday, Trump canceled the Singapore summit.

Earlier this week at the Heritage Foundation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out our Plan B for Iran in a speech that called to mind Prussian Field Marshal Karl Von Moltke.

Among Pompeo’s demands: Iran must end all support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Hamas in Gaza, withdraw all forces under Iranian command in Syria, and disarm its Shiite militia in Iraq.

Iran must confess its past lies about a nuclear weapons program, and account publicly for all such activity back into the 20th century.

Iran must halt all enrichment of uranium, swear never to produce plutonium, shut down its heavy water reactor, open up its military bases to inspection to prove it has no secret nuclear program, and stop testing ballistic missiles.

And unless Iran submits, she will be strangled economically.

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What Pompeo delivered was an ultimatum: Iran is to abandon all its allies in all Mideast wars, or face ruin and possible war with the USA.

It is hard to recall a secretary of state using the language Pompeo deployed: “We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

But how can Iran “dominate” a Mideast that is home to Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt, as well as U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and Syria?

To Iran’s east is a nuclear-armed Pakistan. To its west is a nuclear-armed U.S. Fifth Fleet and a nuclear-armed Israel. Iran has no nukes, no warships to rival ours and a 1970s air force.

Yet, this U.S.-Iran confrontation, triggered by Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal and Pompeo’s ultimatum, is likely to end one of three ways:

First, Tehran capitulates, which is unlikely, as President Hassan Rouhani retorted to Pompeo: “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? We will continue our path with the support of our nation.” Added Ayatollah Khamenei, “Iran’s presence in the region is our strategic depth.”

Second, Iran defies U.S. sanctions and continues to support its allies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen. This would seem likely to lead to collisions and war.

Third, the U.S. could back off its maximalist demands, as Trump backed off Bolton’s demand that Kim Jong Un accept the Libyan model of total and verifiable disarmament before any sanctions are lifted.

Where, then, are we headed?

While our NATO allies are incensed by Trump’s threat to impose secondary sanctions if they do not re-impose sanctions on Tehran, the Europeans are likely to cave in to America’s demands. For Europe to choose Iran over a U.S. that has protected Europe since the Cold War began and is an indispensable market for Europe’s goods would be madness.

Vladimir Putin appears to want no part of an Iran-Israel or U.S.-Iran war and has told Bashar Assad that Russia will not be selling Damascus his S-300 air defense system. Putin has secured his bases in Syria and wants to keep them.

As for the Chinese, she will take advantage of the West’s ostracism of Iran by drawing Iran closer to her own orbit.

Is there a compromise to be had?

Perhaps, for some of Pompeo’s demands accord with the interests of Iran, which cannot want a war with the United States, or with Israel, which would likely lead to war with the United States.

Iran could agree to release Western prisoners, move Shiite militia in Syria away from the Golan Heights, accept verifiable restrictions on tests of longer-range missiles and establish deconfliction rules for U.S. and Iranian warships in the Persian Gulf.

Reward: aid from the West and renewed diplomatic relations with the United States.

Surely, a partial, verifiable nuclear disarmament of North Korea is preferable to war on the peninsula. And, surely, a new nuclear deal with Iran with restrictions on missiles is preferable to war in the Gulf.

Again, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good.

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Israel at 70: Bibi’s Troubled Hour of Power

Israel at 70: Bibi's Troubled Hour of Power

By Patrick J. Buchanan

For Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister save only founding father David Ben-Gurion, it has been a week of triumph.

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal as Bibi had demanded. Thursday, after Iran launched 20 missiles at the Golan Heights, Bibi answered with a 70-missile attack on Iran in Syria.

“If it rains on us, it will storm on them. I hope we have finished the episode,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, boasting that Israel’s raids hit “nearly all Iranian infrastructure in Syria.”

The day before, Bibi was in Moscow, persuading Vladimir Putin to cancel the sale of Russia’s S-300 air defense system to Damascus.

Yesterday, in an event televised worldwide, the U.S. embassy was transferred to Jerusalem, with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner doing the honors in what Bibi called a “glorious day.” Few can recall a time when Israel seemed in so favorable a position.

The White House and the Republican Party that controls Congress are solidly behind Israel. Egypt is cooperating to battle terrorists in Sinai.

Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf royals. And the Palestinians have never been more divided, isolated and alone.

Yet, there is another side to this story, also visible this last week.

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As the transfer ceremony of the Jerusalem embassy was taking place, TV split screens showed pictures of protesting Palestinians, 52 of whom were shot dead Monday, with thousands wounded by snipers. Some 40,000 had rallied against the U.S. embassy move.

Even before Monday’s body count, the Gaza Health Ministry said that, over the previous six Fridays of “March of Return” protests, 49 Palestinians had been killed and 2,240 hit by live fire from Israeli troops.

Those dead and wounded Palestinians are not likely to be forgotten in Gaza. And while Israel has never had so many Arab regimes willing to work with her in pushing back against Iran, Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, a “clear violation of international law.”

Gheit added: “The fall of Palestinian martyrs by the bullets of the Israeli occupation must ring an alarm … bell to any state that does not find anything wrong with the immoral and illegal stance that we are watching.”

Last week, Hezbollah, which arose in resistance to the 1982 Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and expelled the Israeli army 18 years later, won Lebanon’s elections. A Hezbollah-backed coalition will likely form the new government in Beirut.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. and Bibi ally, said that any attack by Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill in 2006, should bring an Israeli declaration of war — on Lebanon.

While Israel launched some 100 strikes on Syria in recent years, Syrian President Bashar Assad has survived and, with the aid of Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, won his civil war.

Assad and his army and allies are far stronger now, while President Trump, Israel’s indispensable ally, speaks of bringing U.S. troops home from Syria. In polls, a majority of Americans lines up behind Israel in its clashes, but a majority also wants no more U.S. wars in the Middle East.

Also, Sunday, the U.S. sustained another major political defeat.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lost his re-election bid. Based on early results, the winning coalition was that of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, against whose forces U.S. troops fought a decade ago.

Running second was a ticket led by a Shiite militia general close to Iran. When a new government is formed in Baghdad, the orientation of Iraq seems certain to shift away from the United States.

While the Israelis are the most powerful nation in the region, how long can they keep 2 million Palestinian Arabs confined in the penal colony that is the Gaza Strip? How long can they keep the 2 million Palestinians of the West Bank living in conditions even Israeli leaders have begun to compare to apartheid?

Across the West, especially in universities, a BDS movement to have students, companies and consumers boycott, divest and sanction Israeli-produced products has been gaining ground.

The Palestinians may have been abandoned by Arab rulers and the wider world. Yet, history teaches that people forced to survive in such conditions eventually rise in rebellion and revolution, take revenge, and exact retribution for what was done to them and their own.

Republican leaders often say that we cannot permit “any daylight” between the U.S. position and that of Israel.

But can the country that decried for decades the panicked reaction of an Ohio National Guard that shot and killed four students at Kent State University sit silent as scores of unarmed protesters are shot to death and thousands are wounded by Israeli troops in Gaza?

Bibi and Israel appear to be on a winning streak. It is difficult to see how, over the long run, it can be sustained.

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America’s Unsustainable Empire

America's Unsustainable Empire

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Before President Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal, he might consider: If he could negotiate an identical deal with Kim Jong Un, it would astonish the world and win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

For Iran has no nuclear bomb or ICBM and has never tested either. It has never enriched uranium to bomb grade. It has shipped 98 percent of its uranium out of the country. It has cameras inside and inspectors crawling all over its nuclear facilities.

And North Korea? It has atom bombs and has tested an H-bomb. It has intermediate-range ballistic missiles that can hit Guam and an ICBM that, fully operational, could hit the West Coast. It has shorter-range missiles that could put nukes on South Korea and Japan.

Hard to believe Kim Jong Un will surrender these weapons, his ticket of admission to the table of great powers.

Yet the White House position is that the Iran nuclear deal should be scrapped, and no deal with Kim Jong Un signed that does not result in the “denuclearization” of the peninsula.

If denuclearization means Kim gives up all his nukes and strategic missiles, ceases testing, and allows inspectors into all his nuclear facilities, we may be waiting a long time.

Trump decides on the Iran deal by May 12. And we will likely know what Kim is prepared to do, and not prepared to do, equally soon.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is in D.C. to persuade Trump not to walk away from the Iran deal and to keep U.S. troops in Syria. Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arriving at week’s end with a similar message.

On the White House front burner then are these options:

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Will North Korea agree to surrender its nuclear arsenal, or is it back to confrontation and possible war?

Will we stick with the nuclear deal with Iran, or walk away, issue new demands on Tehran, and prepare for a military clash if rebuffed?

Do we pull U.S. troops out of Syria as Trump promised, or keep U.S. troops there to resist the reconquest of his country by Bashar Assad and his Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Shiite allies?

Beyond, the larger question looms: How long can we keep this up?

How long can this country, with its shrinking share of global GDP, sustain its expanding commitments to confront and fight all over the world?

U.S. planes and ships now bump up against Russians in the Baltic and Black seas. We are sending Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev, while NATO allies implore us to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance.

This would mean a U.S. guarantee to fight an alienated, angered and nuclear-armed Russia in Crimea and the Caucasus.

Sixteen years after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, we are still there, assisting Afghan troops against a Taliban we thought we had defeated.

We are now fighting what is left of ISIS in Syria alongside our Kurd allies, who tug us toward conflict with Turkey.

U.S. forces and advisers are in Niger, Djibouti, Somalia. We are aiding the Saudis in their air war and naval blockade of Yemen.

The last Korean War, which cost 33,000 U.S. lives, began in the June before this writer entered 7th grade. Why is the defense of a powerful South Korea, with an economy 40 times that of the North, still a U.S. responsibility?

We are committed, by 60-year-old treaties, to defend Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand. Voices are being heard to have us renew the war guarantee to Taiwan that Jimmy Carter canceled in 1979.

National security elites are pushing for new naval and military ties to Vietnam and India, to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

How long can we sustain a worldwide empire of dependencies?

How many wars of this century — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen — turned out to have been worth the blood shed and the treasure lost? And what have all the “color-coded revolutions” we have instigated to advance “democracy” done for America?

In a New York Times essay, “Adapting to American Decline,” Christopher Preble writes: “America’s share of global wealth is shrinking. By some estimates, the United States accounted for roughly 50 percent of global output at the end of World War II. … It has fallen to 15.1 percent today.”

Preble continues: “Admitting that the United States is incapable of effectively adjudicating every territorial dispute or of thwarting every security threat in every part of the world is hardly tantamount to surrender. It is rather a wise admission of the limits of American power.”

It is imperative, wrote Walter Lippmann, that U.S. commitments be brought into balance with U.S. power. This “forgotten principle … must be recovered and returned to the first place in American thought.”

That was 1943, at the height of a war that found us unprepared.

We are hugely overextended today. And conservatives have no higher duty than to seek to bring U.S. war guarantees into conformity with U.S. vital interests and U.S. power.

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Trump: Prisoner of the War Party?

Trump: Prisoner of the War Party?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria.’ We convinced him it was necessary to stay.”

Thus boasted French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday, adding, “We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.”

Is the U.S. indeed in the Syrian civil war “for the long term”?

If so, who made that fateful decision for this republic?

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley confirmed Sunday there would be no drawdown of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, until three objectives were reached. We must fully defeat ISIS, ensure chemical weapons would not again be used by Bashar Assad and maintain the ability to watch Iran.

Translation: Whatever Trump says, America is not coming out of Syria. We are going deeper in. Trump’s commitment to extricate us from these bankrupting and blood-soaked Middle East wars and to seek a new rapprochement with Russia is “inoperative.”

The War Party that Trump routed in the primaries is capturing and crafting his foreign policy. Monday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page fairly blossomed with war plans:

“The better U.S. strategy is to … turn Syria into the Ayatollah’s Vietnam. Only when Russia and Iran began to pay a larger price in Syria will they have any incentive to negotiate an end to the war or even contemplate a peace based on dividing the country into ethnic-based enclaves.”

Apparently, we are to bleed Syria, Russia, Hezbollah and Iran until they cannot stand the pain and submit to subdividing Syria the way we want.

But suppose that, as in our Civil War of 1861-1865, the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, and the Chinese Civil War of 1945-1949, Assad and his Russian, Iranian and Shiite militia allies go all out to win and reunite the nation.

Suppose they choose to fight to consolidate the victory they have won after seven years of civil war. Where do we find the troops to take back the territory our rebels lost? Or do we just bomb mercilessly?

The British and French say they will back us in future attacks if chemical weapons are used, but they are not plunging into Syria.

Defense Secretary James Mattis called the U.S.-British-French attack a “one-shot” deal. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appears to agree: “The rest of the Syrian war must proceed as it will.”

The Journal’s op-ed page Monday was turned over to former U.S. ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker and Brookings Institute senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon: “Next time the U.S. could up the ante, going after military command and control, political leadership, and perhaps even Assad himself. The U.S. could also pledge to take out much of his air force. Targets within Iran should not be off limits.”

And when did Congress authorize U.S. acts of war against Syria, its air force or political leadership? When did Congress authorize the killing of the president of Syria whose country has not attacked us?

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Can the U.S. also attack Iran and kill the ayatollah without consulting Congress?

Clearly, with the U.S. fighting in six countries, Commander in Chief Trump does not want any new wars, or to widen any existing wars in the Middle East. But he is being pushed into becoming a war president to advance the agenda of foreign policy elites who, almost to a man, opposed his election.

We have a reluctant president being pushed into a war he does not want to fight. This is a formula for a strategic disaster not unlike Vietnam or George W. Bush’s war to strip Iraq of nonexistent WMD.

The assumption of the War Party seems to be that if we launch larger and more lethal strikes in Syria, inflicting casualties on Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and the Syrian army, they will yield to our demands.

But where is the evidence for this?

What reason is there to believe these forces will surrender what they have paid in blood to win? And if they choose to fight and widen the war to the larger Middle East, are we prepared for that?

As for Trump’s statement Friday, “No amount of American blood and treasure can produce lasting peace in the Middle East,” the Washington Post Sunday dismissed this as “fatalistic” and “misguided.”

We have a vital interest, says the Post, in preventing Iran from establishing a “land corridor” across Syria.

Yet consider how Iran acquired this “land corridor.”

The Shiites in 1979 overthrew a shah our CIA installed in 1953.

The Shiites control Iraq because President Bush invaded and overthrew Saddam and his Sunni Baath Party, disbanded his Sunni-led army, and let the Shiite majority take control of the country.

The Shiites are dominant in Lebanon because they rose up and ran out the Israelis, who invaded in 1982 to run out the PLO.

How many American dead will it take to reverse this history?

How long will we have to stay in the Middle East to assure the permanent hegemony of Sunni over Shiite?

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Is Trump Standing Down in Syria?

Is Trump Standing Down in Syria

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Wednesday morning, President Trump jolted the nation with a tweet that contained both threat and taunt:

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Trump was responding to a warning by Russia that she would shoot down U.S. missiles fired at her Syrian allies, and she reserved the right to fire on U.S. warships and bases from which any such missiles were launched.

The “Gas Killing Animal” was Syrian President Bashar Assad.

That afternoon, Defense Secretary James Mattis dialed it down. Had he seen enough evidence to convict Assad of a poison gas attack in Douma, Mattis was asked. His reply: “We are still assessing the intelligence. … We’re still working on this.”

Thursday morning, Trump seemed to walk back his threat: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

Is Trump planning a larger attack and silently gathering allies? Is he signaling that a U.S. attack on Syria may not be coming?

Whichever, the relief at his apparent stand down was palpable.

Yet the interlude should cause some sober second thoughts.

Why risk war with Russia in Syria, when, by our own inaction during this seven-year civil war, we have shown we have no vital interest there? And, surely, we have no interest in Syria so crucial as to justify a war with a nuclear-armed Russia.

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Trump allowed his revulsion at the awful pictures of dead children, allegedly gassed, to impel him to threaten military action almost certain to result in more dead children.

Emotions should not be allowed to overrule what the president has thought and expressed many times: While the outcome of Syria’s civil war may mean everything to Assad, and much to Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel, it means comparatively little to a USA 5,000 miles away.

We cannot forever fight other peoples’ wars without ending up on the same ash heap of history as the other world powers before us.

And why not talk directly to our adversaries there?

If Trump can talk to Kim Jong Un, who used an anti-aircraft gun to execute his uncle and had his half-brother murdered in a Malaysian airport with a chemical weapon, why cannot we talk to Bashar Assad?

In 1974, Richard Nixon flew to Damascus to establish ties to Assad’s father, the future “Butcher of Hama.” George H.W. Bush enlisted Hafez al-Assad and 4,000 Syrian troops in his Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

What are America’s limited interests in Syria in 2018?

Containing al-Qaida, exterminating the ISIS caliphate, and effecting the best deal we can for the Kurds who have been loyal and crucial to our campaign against ISIS. Damascus, Moscow and Tehran are not fighting us on these fronts. For al-Qaida and ISIS are their enemies as well.

As for the political future of Syria, it is not vital to us and not ours to determine. And the efforts of others to have us come fight their wars, while understandable, need to be resisted.

All over this city, and across the Middle East, there are people who wish to conscript U.S. wealth and power to advance their goals and achieve their visions. Having let them succeed so often has diminished us as a superpower from what we were at the end of the Cold War.

This should stop, and the nation knows it.

Among the reasons Democrats nominated Barack Obama and America elected him was that his opponents, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, supported the Iraq War Obama opposed.

Among the reasons the Republican Party nominated Trump and the nation elected him was that he promised to take us out and keep us out of wars like this Syrian civil war.

Is it not ironic that today our War Party, which, almost to a man, loathed Trump and rejected his candidacy, is goading and cheering him on, deeper and deeper into the Syrian quagmire?

Trump is heading into a 60-day period that will go far to determine the fate of his presidency and the future of the Middle East.

If investigators determine that Assad’s forces used poison gas on civilians in Douma, Trump will have to decide whether to repeat the strike he made on Syria, a year ago, and, this time, risk war with Russia.

He will have to decide by May 12 whether the U.S. walks away from the Iran nuclear deal. On May 15 comes the formal move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the 70th anniversary of the birth of Israel and of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of the Palestinians, and the culmination of the Friday protests in Gaza that have turned so bloody.

We and Mr. Trump are heading into interesting times.

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Has the War Party Hooked Trump?

Has the War Party Hooked Trump?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

With his Sunday tweet that Bashar Assad, “Animal Assad,” ordered a gas attack on Syrian civilians, and Vladimir Putin was morally complicit in the atrocity, President Donald Trump just painted himself and us into a corner.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” tweeted Trump, “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price… to pay.”

“Big price… to pay,” said the president.

Now, either Trump launches an attack that could drag us deeper into a seven-year civil war from which he promised to extricate us last week, or Trump is mocked as being a man of bluster and bluff.

For Trump Sunday accused Barack Obama of being a weakling for failing to strike Syria after an earlier chemical attack.

“If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand,” Trump tweeted, “the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”

Trump’s credibility is now on the line and he is being goaded by the war hawks to man up. Sunday, John McCain implied that Trump’s comments about leaving Syria “very soon” actually “emboldened” Assad:

“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria. Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma.”

Pronouncing Assad a “war criminal,” Lindsey Graham said Sunday the entire Syrian air force should be destroyed.

So massive an attack would be an act of war against a nation that has not attacked us and does not threaten us. Hence, Congress, prior to such an attack, should pass a resolution authorizing a U.S. war on Syria.

And, as Congress does, it can debate our objectives in this new war, and how many men, casualties and years will be required to defeat the coalition of Syria, Russia, Hezbollah, Iran, and the allied Shiite militias from the Near East.

On John Bolton’s first day as national security adviser, Trump is being pushed to embrace a policy of Cold War confrontation with Russia and a U.S. war with Syria. Yet candidate Trump campaigned against both.

The War Party that was repudiated in 2016 appears to be back in the saddle. But before he makes good on that threat of a “big price… to pay,” Trump should ask his advisers what comes after the attack on Syria.

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Lest we forget, there was a reason Obama did not strike Syria for a previous gas attack. Americans rose up as one and said we do not want another Middle East war.

When John Kerry went to Capitol Hill for authorization, Congress, sensing the national mood, declined to support any such attack.

Trump’s strike, a year ago, with 59 cruise missiles, on the air base that allegedly launched a sarin gas attack, was supported only because Trump was new in office and the strike was not seen as the beginning of a longer and deeper involvement in a war Americans did not want to fight.

Does Trump believe that his political base is more up for a major U.S. war in Syria today than it was then?

The folks who cheered Trump a week ago when he said we were getting out of Syria, will they cheer him if he announces that we are going deeper in?

Before any U.S. attack, Trump should make sure there is more hard evidence that Assad launched this poison gas attack than there is that Russia launched that poison gas attack in Salisbury, England.

One month after that attack, which Prime Minister Theresa May ascribed to Russia and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson laid at the feet of Putin himself, questions have arisen:

If the nerve agent used, Novichok, was of a military variety so deadly it could kill any who came near, why is no one dead from it?

Both the target, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia are recovering.

If the deadly poison was, as reported, put on the doorknob of Skripal’s home, how did he and Yulia manage to go to a restaurant after being contaminated, with neither undergoing a seizure until later on a park bench?

If Russia did it, why are the British scientists at Porton Down now admitting that they have not yet determined the source of the poison?

Why would Putin, with the prestige of hosting the World Cup in June on the line, perpetrate an atrocity that might have killed hundreds and caused nations not only to pull out of the games, but to break diplomatic relations with Russia?

U.S. foreign policy elites claim Putin wanted Trump to win the 2016 election. But if Putin indeed wanted to deal with Trump, why abort all such prospects with a poison gas murder of a has-been KGB agent in Britain, America’s foremost ally?

The sole beneficiaries of the gas attacks in Salisbury and Syria appear to be the War Party.

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Syrian Showdown: Trump vs. the Generals

Syrian Showdown: Trump vs. the Generals

By Patrick J. Buchanan

With ISIS on the run in Syria, President Trump this week declared that he intends to make good on his promise to bring the troops home.

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” said the president. We’ve gotten “nothing out of the $7 trillion (spent) in the Middle East in the last 17 years. … So, it’s time.”

Not so fast, Mr. President.

For even as Trump was speaking he was being contradicted by his Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel. “A lot of good progress has been made” in Syria, Votel conceded, “but the hard part … is in front of us.”

Moreover, added Votel, when we defeat ISIS, we must stabilize Syria and see to its reconstruction.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been even more specific:

“It is crucial to our national defense to maintain a military and diplomatic presence in Syria, to help bring an end to that conflict, as they chart a course to achieve a new political future.”

But has not Syria’s “political future” already been charted?

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Bashar Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, has won his seven-year civil war. He has retaken the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. He now controls most of the country that we and the Kurds do not.

According to The Washington Post, Defense Secretary James Mattis is also not on board with Trump and “has repeatedly said … that U.S. troops would be staying in Syria for the foreseeable future to guarantee stability and political resolution to the civil war.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who fears a “Shiite corridor” from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, also opposes Trump. “If you take those (U.S.) troops out from east Syria,” the prince told Time, “you will lose that checkpoint … American troops should stay (in Syria) at least for the mid-term, if not the long-term.”

Bibi Netanyahu also wants us to stay in Syria.

Wednesday, Trump acceded to his generals. He agreed to leave our troops in Syria until ISIS is finished. However, as the 2,000 U.S. troops there are not now engaging ISIS — many of our Kurd allies are going back north to defend border towns threatened by Turkey — this could take a while.

Yet a showdown is coming. And, stated starkly, the divide is this:

Trump sees al-Qaida and ISIS as the real enemy and is prepared to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria as soon as the caliphate is eradicated. And if Assad is in power then, backed by Russia and Iran, so be it.

Trump does not see an Assad-ruled Syria, which has existed since the Nixon presidency, as a great threat to the United States. He is unwilling to spill more American blood to overturn the outcome of a war that Syria, Iran and Russia have already won. Nor is he prepared to foot the bill for the reconstruction of Syria, or for any long-term occupation of that quadrant of Syria that we and our allies now hold.

Once ISIS is defeated, Trump wants out of the war and out of Syria.

The Israelis, Saudis and most of our foreign policy elite, however, vehemently disagree. They want the U.S. to hold onto that slice of Syria east of the Euphrates that we now occupy, and to use the leverage of our troops on Syrian soil to effect the removal of President Assad and the expulsion of the Iranians.

The War Party does not concede Syria is lost. It sees the real battle as dead ahead. It is eager to confront and, if need be, fight Syrians, Iranians and Shiite militias should they cross to the east bank of the Euphrates, as they did weeks ago, when U.S. artillery and air power slaughtered them in the hundreds, Russians included.

If U.S. troops do remain in Syria, the probability is high that Trump, like Presidents Bush and Obama before him, will be ensnared indefinitely in the Forever War of the Middle East.

President Erdogan of Turkey, who has seized Afrin from the Syrian Kurds, is threatening to move on Manbij, where Kurdish troops are backed by U.S. troops. If Erdogan does not back away from his threat, NATO allies could start shooting at one another.

As the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria are both uninvited and unwelcome, a triumphant Assad is likely soon to demand that we remove them from his country.

Will we defy President Assad then, with the possibility U.S. planes and troops could be engaging Syrians, Russians, Iranians and Shiite militias, in a country where we have no right to be?

Trump is being denounced as an isolationist. But what gains have we reaped from 17 years of Middle East wars — from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen — to justify all the blood shed and the treasure lost?

And how has our great rival China suffered from not having fought in any of these wars?

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