America Says ‘No!’ to a Beltway War

How Many Syrians Should We Kill

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Last week, hell came to the tiny Christian village of Maaloula where they still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

“Rebels of the Free Syrian Army launched an assault aided by a suicide bomber from Jabhat al-Nusra,” the al-Qaida-linked Islamic terrorist group, writes the Washington Post.

The AP picked up the story:

One resident said bearded rebels shouting “God is great!” attacked Christian homes and churches. “They shot and killed people. … I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street.”

Maaloula is now a “ghost town.” Christians left behind were told, “Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded.”

“Where is President Obama?” wailed a refugee. And, indeed, where is Obama?

He is out lobbying Congress for authority to attack the Syrian army that defended Maaloula as John McCain beats the drums for a Senate resolution to have the U.S. military “change the momentum” of the war to the rebels who terrorized the convent nuns of Maaloula.

If we strike Syria and break its army, what happens to 2 million Syrian Christians? Does anyone care?

Do the Saudis who have signed on to Obama’s war — but decline to fight — care? Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Riyadh.

Do the Turks, who look the other way as jihadist killers cross their frontier to set up al-Qaida sanctuaries in northern Syria, care?

Do the Israelis, who have instructed AIPAC to get Congress back in line behind a war Americans do not want to fight, care about those 100,000 dead Syrians and 400 gassed children?

Here is Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former general consul in New York, giving Israel’s view of the Syrian bloodletting: “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death. That’s the strategic thinking here.”

According to two polls reported this weekend by the Jerusalem Post, Israelis by 7-1 do not want Israel to go to war with Syria. But two-thirds of Israelis favor the United States going to war with Syria.

Peggy Noonan writes that the debate on war on Syria “looks like a fight between the country and Washington.”

She nails it. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard are all up for air strikes. In the think tanks of D.C., the corridor talk is all about “On to Teheran!”

But what of the soldiers who will fight the neocons’ war? Major General Robert Scales speaks for our next generation of wounded warriors.

Our fighting men, Scales writes, “are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of bloodless machine warfare.

… Today’s soldiers know war and resent civilian policymakers who want the military to fight a war that neither they nor their loved ones will experience firsthand.”

Enthusiasm for war is likely higher at Cafe Milano in Georgetown than in the mess hall at Camp LeJeune.

Why is opposition to the war surging? Because the case for war is crumbling.

U.S. credibility is on the line, we are warned.

If we do not attack Syria to punish a violation of Obama’s “red line,” no one will believe us again. Our allies will no longer have confidence that America will come over and fight their next war for them.

Yet George Bush blustered in his “axis-of-evil” State of the Union that “the world’s worst dictators” would not be allowed to get “the world’s worst weapons.”

And Kim Jong Il went out and tested an atom bomb and built an arsenal of nuclear weapons. And what did The Decider do? Nothing.

Did our alliances collapse because “W’s” bluff was called?

Should Congress really authorize a war on Syria because Hillary Clinton and Obama said “Assad must go!” and Obama said his “red line” has been crossed?

Or should Congress use this vote as a teaching tool for Baby Boomer Bismarcks by declaring:

“We are not taking our country to war because you blundered in issuing ultimata you had no authority to issue. Rather than go to war, you should admit your mistake, as real leaders do, and take responsibility.”

How many Syrians should we kill to restore the credibility of Barack Obama? How many Syrians should we kill to impress upon Iran how resolute we are? How many Syrians should we kill to reassure nervous allies that Uncle Sam will forever come fight their wars for them?

In America, before we put a man to death, we prove him guilty of murder “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Should we not set as high a standard of proof before we kill a thousand Syrians and plunge the United States into another war?

Where is the evidence Assad ordered a gas attack? German intelligence says it intercepted orders from Assad not to use gas. Congressmen coming out of secret briefings say the case is inconclusive.

The American people do not want war on Syria, and such a war makes no sense. Who is trying to stampede Congress into war on Syria, and then on Iran — and why? Therein lies the real question.

IMAGE NOTES: The image above is an artistic remix of the photo below. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
SOURCE: Flickr

Was Iraq Worth It?

Was Iraq Worth It?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Ten years ago today, U.S. air, sea and land forces attacked Iraq. And the great goals of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Destroy the chemical and biological weapons Saddam Hussein had amassed to use on us or transfer to al-Qaida for use against the U.S. homeland.

Exact retribution for Saddam’s complicity in 9/11 after we learned his agents had met secretly in Prague with Mohamed Atta.

Create a flourishing democracy in Baghdad that would serve as a catalyst for a miraculous transformation of the Middle East from a land of despots into a region of democracies that looked West.

Not all agreed on the wisdom of this war. Gen. Bill Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, thought George W. Bush & Co. had lost their minds: “The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history.”

Yet, a few weeks of “shock and awe,” and U.S. forces had taken Baghdad and dethroned Saddam, who had fled but was soon found in a rat hole and prosecuted and hanged, as were his associates, “the deck of cards,” some of whom met the same fate.

And so, ’twas a famous victory. Mission accomplished!

Soon, however, America found herself in a new, unanticipated war, and by 2006, we were, astonishingly, on the precipice of defeat, caught in a Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict produced by our having disbanded the Iraqi army and presided over the empowerment of the first Shia regime in the nation’s history.

Only a “surge” of U.S. troops led by Gen. David Petraeus rescued the United States from a strategic debacle to rival the fall of Saigon.

But the surge could not rescue the Republican Party, which had lusted for this war, from repudiation by a nation that believed itself to have been misled, deceived and lied into war. In 2006, the party lost both houses of Congress, and the Pentagon architect of the war, Don Rumsfeld, was cashiered by the commander in chief.

Two years later, disillusionment with Iraq would contribute to the rout of Republican uber-hawk John McCain by a freshman senator from Illinois who had opposed the war.

So, how now does the ledger read, 10 years on? What is history’s present verdict on what history has come to call Bush’s war?

Of the three goals of the war, none was achieved. No weapon of mass destruction was found. While Saddam and his sons paid for their sins, they had had nothing at all to do with 9/11. Nothing. That had all been mendacious propaganda.

Where there had been no al-Qaida in Iraq while Saddam ruled, al-Qaida is crawling all over Iraq now. Where Iraq had been an Arab Sunni bulwark confronting Iran in 2003, a decade later, Iraq is tilting away from the Sunni camp toward the Shia crescent of Iran and Hezbollah.

What was the cost in blood and treasure of our Mesopotamian misadventure? Four thousand five hundred U.S. dead, 35,000 wounded and this summary of war costs from Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

“The decade-long (Iraq) effort cost $1.7 trillion, according to a study … by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Fighting over the past 10 years has killed 134,000 Iraqi civilians … . Meanwhile, the nearly $500 billion in unpaid benefits to U.S. veterans of the Iraq war could balloon to $6 trillion” over the next 40 years.

Iraq made a major contribution to the bankrupting of America.

As for those 134,000 Iraqi civilian dead, that translates into 500,000 Iraqi widows and orphans. What must they think of us?

According to the latest Gallup poll, by 2-to-1, Iraqis believe they are more secure — now that the Americans are gone from their country.

Left behind, however, is our once-sterling reputation. Never before has America been held in lower esteem by the Arab peoples or the Islamic world. As for the reputation of the U.S. military, how many years will it be before our armed forces are no longer automatically associated with such terms as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, renditions and waterboarding?

As for the Chaldean and Assyrian Christian communities of Iraq who looked to America, they have been ravaged and abandoned, with many having fled their ancient homes forever.

We are not known as a reflective people. But a question has to weigh upon us. If Saddam had no WMD, had no role in 9/11, did not attack us, did not threaten us, and did not want war with us, was our unprovoked attack on that country a truly just and moral war?

What makes the question more than academic is that the tub-thumpers for war on Iraq a decade ago are now clamoring for war on Iran. Goal: Strip Iran of weapons of mass destruction all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran does not have and has no program to build.

This generation is eyewitness to how a Great Power declines and falls. And to borrow from old King Pyrrhus, one more such victory as Iraq, and we are undone.

Why God Created the GOP


By Patrick J. Buchanan

“God put the Republican Party on earth to cut taxes. If they don’t do that, they have no useful function.”

Columnist Robert Novak was speaking of the party that embraced the revolution of Ronald Reagan, who had hung a portrait of Calvin Coolidge in his Cabinet Room and set about cutting income tax rates to 28 percent.

But, to be historically precise, the GOP was not put here to cut taxes. From infancy in the 1850s, its mission was to halt the spread of slavery. From 1865 to 1929, it was the party of high tariffs. Mission: Build the nation and protect U.S. industry and the wages of American workers.

And if the Deity commanded the GOP to cut taxes, the party has had an uneven record. Warren Harding and Coolidge cut Woodrow Wilson’s wartime tax rates by two-thirds, but Herbert Hoover nearly tripled the top rate.

Under Dwight Eisenhower, when the top tax rate was 91 percent, the GOP ratified the New Deal and provided the tax revenue to balance the budget at the elevated levels of spending 20 years of Democratic rule had established.

Richard Nixon followed suit. Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, aid to education, the Peace Corps, the arts and humanities endowments, all of the Great Society programs grew — with Nixon adding OSHA, EPA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Cancer Institute.

Reagan cut tax rates to 50-year lows, but also accepted new gasoline and payroll taxes. George H.W. Bush then raised the top rate back to 35 percent.

George W. cut tax rates, but put two wars, prescription drug benefits for seniors and No Child Left Behind on the Visa card. Speaker Boehner is about to sign on to higher tax rates.

Point of this recitation: Republicans may talk of reducing the size of government, cutting taxes and balancing budgets. But the history of the last century suggests the party has been driven into what may be described as an inexorable long retreat.

When Coolidge left the White House to “Wonder Boy,” as he called Hoover, federal spending was 3 percent of gross national product.

Today, it is around 23 percent. Add state, county and municipal government spending, and we are at 38 percent. Anyone think this figure is going down in our lifetimes?

Can anyone say the GOP, if it is the party of small government and low taxes, has over the past 80 years been a successful party? Or does the America of today look more like the country Socialist Norman Thomas had in mind in 1932?

How, conceivably, can spending go down when, from 2012 to 2030, 75 million baby boomers will be retiring and going on Social Security and Medicare at a rate of 10,000 every day?

How can spending go down when a million legal immigrants arrive annually, 85 percent from the Third World, and most lacking the academic and linguistic abilities or the work skills of Americans?

These immigrants — and, with “immigration reform,” 11 million to 12 million illegals, as well — will be eligible for welfare, earned income tax credits, food stamps, rent supplements, Medicaid, Head Start, free schooling K-12 with two or three free meals a day at school, Pell Grants and student loans at graduation, job training and unemployment checks for 99 weeks.

Under Bush and Barack Obama both, these programs have exploded. And with 40 percent of all babies now born to single moms in America, does anyone believe these programs will shrink?

When the Great Wave of immigrants came between 1890 and 1920, these programs did not exist. In the 1930s, welfare was seen even by FDR as a temporary necessity to get through the hard times.

Our gargantuan welfare state of today, however, is permanent, as are the millions of government employees who milk and manage it.

Consider our largest government expenditures.

They would be, at the national level, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, homeland security and interest on the debt. At the state and local level, education, transportation — streets, highways, subways — and public safety.

If God put the Republican Party on this earth to cut taxes, how do we do his work in the face of these inexorable forces for increased spending? Do we ignore the surging deficits and soaring debt?

Mitt Romney said cutting tax rates would lead to a balanced budget. But when? The Bush tax cuts never did. His were the largest deficits of all, until the coming of Obama.

If we would see our future, we should look to Europe. There, the governments consume more than 40 percent of GDP and, in countries like France, almost 60 percent.

In Europe, the militaries have been hollowed out. Political parties face repudiation. Taxes in France have hit 75 percent. The wealthy flee. Pension promises are reneged upon. Government salaries are cut; employees laid off. Unemployment is astronomical for the young. The divisions deepen; the protests grow. Now, Europe‘s banks, fearing social unrest, have started to emulate the Fed and buy up regime debt.

Looking at the West over the last century, the arc of history bends toward socialism and insolvency.

Is It Time to Come Home?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is it not long past time to do a cost-benefit analysis of our involvement in the Middle and Near East?

In this brief century alone, we have fought the two longest wars in our history there, put our full moral authority behind an “Arab Spring” that brought down allies in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and provided the air power that saved Benghazi and brought down Moammar Gadhafi.

Yet this week U.S. embassies were under siege in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and U.S. diplomats were massacred in Benghazi.

The cost of our two wars is 6,500 dead, 40,000 wounded and $2 trillion piled onto a national debt that is $16 trillion, larger than the entire U.S. economy. And what in heaven’s name do we have to show for it?

We face pandemic hatred of our country from Morocco to Pakistan. The sight of American flags being ripped to shreds and burned by mobs has become so common over there we seem almost to have gotten used to it.

What are the roots of that Arab and Islamic hatred?

Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war against us gave three reasons as his casus belli.

His first reason for war was the presence of U.S. troops on the soil of Saudi Arabia, sacred home to Mecca and Medina. His second was the U.S. sanctions on Iraq then said to be causing the premature deaths of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children.

Third was U.S. support for Israel, seen in the Arab world as a colonial implant to humiliate them and deny to the Palestinian people their right to a nation of their own.

Lately, new causes of Arab and Muslim hatred of us have arisen.

The first is what devout Muslims regard as our immoral and decadent culture, which they see as a threat to their societies and their young.

The second are the Islam haters and baiters in America and the West who deliberately provoke them with insulting and blasphemous portrayals of the Prophet and their faith.

While the U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia have by now largely been closed, and the United States is largely withdrawn from Iraq and the sanctions there have all been lifted, America is not going to change herself to accommodate their world.

Support of Israel is the declared position of both parties. And, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly called the crude amateur film “Innocence of Muslims,” which caused the latest anti-American rioting, both disgusting and reprehensible, we are not going to repeal the First Amendment, which protects provocateurs and pornographers.

Yet, worldwide, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom their faith is their most priceless possession. They live it. They will die for it. And not a few will kill for it. Others will seize upon real or imagined insults to that faith to excite the crowds to expel us from their world.

And some Americans will accommodate them by using books, films and videos to manifest their contempt of Islam.

So we have here an irreconcilable conflict.

The Islamic word, especially across the Arab region, is undergoing a transformation, a Great Awakening. Muslims from Nigeria to Mali to Ethiopia to Sudan to the Maghreb and Middle and Near East are growing more militant and more hostile toward Christianity and other faiths.

And as we are not going to change our position on Israel, or our culture, such as it is, or our First Amendment, clashes between us are inevitable.

Perhaps the best course of action for America is to lower our profile in that region, bring most of our diplomats and troops home, and let these people work out their destiny themselves.

Second, given the costs and consequences of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and intervention in Libya, let the Syrians settle their war themselves. There is no guarantee the fall of Bashar Assad, given the jihadist and al-Qaida presence in the forces seeking his overthrow, will be an improvement for the United States.

Third, the United States should tell the Egyptian government that its failure to provide security for our embassy was an outrage, that if we cannot see them as a friendly government with common interests, we will not hesitate to cut off aid and warn U.S. citizens not to travel to Egypt.

Without U.S. aid and Western loans and tourists, Egypt‘s economy would sink with President Morsi in the wheelhouse. We must make it clear to them that, denied the respect our nation deserves, we are willing to pull the plug on his regime.

The Middle East appears to be undergoing a sectarian and tribal conflict not unlike our Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648. As they stayed out of our Thirty Years’ War, let us get out of theirs.

If they will not protect our embassies from mobs who come to burn our flag, let us lower the flag ourselves and bring Old Glory home.

Marco Rubio vs. Rand Paul

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In August 2008, as the world’s leaders gathered in Beijing for the Olympic games, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, hot-headed and erratic, made his gamble for greatness.

It began with a stunning artillery barrage on Tskhinvali, capital of tiny South Ossetia, a province that had broken free of Tbilisi when Tbilisi broke free of Russia. As Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers fell under the Georgian guns, terrified Ossetians fled into Russia.

Saakashvili’s blitzkrieg appeared to have triumphed.

Until, that is, Russian armor, on Vladimir Putin’s orders, came thundering down the Roki Tunnel into Ossetia, sending Saakashvili’s army reeling. The Georgians were driven out of Ossetia and expelled from a second province that had broken free of Tbilisi: Abkhazia.

The Russians then proceeded to bomb Tbilisi, capture Gori, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and bomb Georgian airfields rumored to be the forward bases for the Israelis in any pre-emptive strike on Iran.

The humiliation of Saakashvili was total, and brought an enraged and frustrated John McCain running to the microphones.

“Today, we’re all Georgians,” bawled McCain.

Well, not exactly.

President Bush called Putin’s response “disproportionate” and “brutal,” but did nothing. Small nations that sucker-punch big powers do not get to dictate when the fisticuffs stop.

What made this war of interest to Americans, however, was that Bush had long sought to bring Georgia into NATO. Only the resistance of Old Europe had prevented it.

And had Georgia been a member of NATO when Saakashvili began his war, U.S. Marines and Special Forces might have been on the way to the Caucasus to confront Russian troops in a part of the world where there is no vital U.S. interest and never has been any U.S. strategic interest whatsoever.

A U.S war with Russia — over Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia — would have been an act of national criminal insanity.

Days later, there came another startling discovery.

McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann had been paid $290,000 by the Saakashvili regime, from January 2007 to March 2008, to get Georgia into NATO, and thus acquire a priceless U.S. war guarantee to fight on Georgia‘s side in any clash with Russia.

What makes this history relevant today?

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio, rising star of the Republican right, on everyone’s short list for VP, called for a unanimous vote, without debate, on a resolution directing President Obama to accept Georgia‘s plan for membership in NATO at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

Rubio was pushing to have the U.S. Senate pressure Obama into fast-tracking Georgia into NATO, making Tbilisi an ally the United States would be obligated by treaty to go to war to defend.

Now it is impossible to believe a senator, not a year in office, dreamed this up himself. Some foreign agent of Scheunemann’s ilk had to have had a role in drafting it.

And for whose benefit is Rubio pushing to have his own countrymen committed to fight for a Georgia that, three years ago, started an unprovoked war with Russia? Who cooked up this scheme to involve Americans in future wars in the Caucasus that are none of our business?

The answer is unknown. What is known is the name of the senator who blocked it — Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, who alone stepped in and objected, defeating Rubio’s effort to get a unanimous vote.

The resolution was pulled. But these people will be back. They are indefatigable when it comes to finding ways to commit the blood of U.S. soldiers to their client regimes and ideological bedfellows.

Back in 2008, however, as Bush was confining himself to protesting the excesses of Russia’s response, his ex-U.N. ambassador was full of righteous rage and ready for military action.

In the London Telegraph, Aug. 15, 2008, John Bolton declared that Russia had conducted an “invasion,” that Georgia had been a “victim of aggression,” that America had “fiddled while Georgia burned,” that we had played the “paper tiger”when faced by the snarling Russian Bear.

As for the European Union, in bringing about a ceasefire, it had achieved results “approaching Neville Chamberlain’s moment in the spotlight at Munich.”

But did not Georgia launch the attack that started the war?

“This confrontation is not about who violated the Marquis of Queensbury’s rule in South Ossetia,” scoffed Bolton. Russia planned this “rape” because brave little Georgia refused to be “Finlandized.”

Restoring America’s credibility, said Bolton, now requires “drawing a clear line for Russia” in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

And who is John Bolton?

Newt Gingrich told two groups Wednesday he intends to name Bolton secretary of state.

With Newt appointing as America’s first diplomat an uber-hawk who makes Dick Cheney look like Gandhi, and Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team crawling with neocons primed for war with Iran, a vote for the GOP in 2012 looks more and more like a vote for war.

Like the Bourbons of old, the Republican Party seems to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

9/11 Wars, March of Folly

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Editor’s note: Pat Buchanan wrote this Sept. 11, 2001 analysis for NewsMax magazine’s 10th anniversary commemorative edition.

Not since Pearl Harbor, 60 years before, had we been as united as in that September after Islamic terrorists brought down the twin towers. The nation stood behind the president in his resolve to exact retribution on the men who had done this, and those who abetted the mass murder of 3,000 innocents. And George W. Bush rose to the occasion.

Within three months, a northern alliance of anti-Taliban Afghans, assembled by U.S. special forces and supported by U.S. air power, had driven into Kabul and deposed Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden, architect of the massacre, was holed up in Tora Bora, his capture or killing seemingly imminent.

Fast forward 10 years. Bin Laden is finally dead. Seal Team Six saw to it. His body lies on the floor of the Arabian Sea. Yet, he will be among the most influential men of this century.

For, as Gavrilo Princip fired the shot that killed the Austrian Arch-duke in Sarajevo, setting in motion the events that led to the greatest war in history, bin Laden devised the blow that may have brought an end to America’s reign as the last superpower.

Princip was not responsible for the Great War. It was rather the miscalculations of the statesmen of Europe after June 28, 1914. And Osama, though he wounded and provoked America as she had not been since Dec. 7, 1941, did not bring down the American imperium. We did that to ourselves.

Ten years have elapsed since 9/11. Looking back, what did the wars launched in response to that atrocity cost? And what did they accomplish?
Taking Afghanistan and Iraq together, the longest wars in U.S. history, the costs have been immense: 6,000 dead, 40,000 wounded. Over $1 trillion sunk. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi dead. Half a million widows and orphans.

Four million Iraqis were uprooted; 2 million have fled into exile, half of them Christians. We unleashed the fury of Islam on the Christians of Iraq where the murders and martyrdoms do not cease. In a Muslim world we set afire, Christians everywhere face persecution as perceived allies of the “crusaders and Zionists.”

Al-Qaida has been eradicated in Afghanistan, but our wars spawned new recruits. Al-Qaida is now in Pakistan. There is an al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, an al-Qaida in Iraq, an al-Qaida in Maghreb, an al-Qaida in Somalia. By plunging into the Islamic world, we caused the infection to spread. And now America is coming home with some of our oldest friends alienated. Pakistan, an ally from the first days of the Cold War — Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane flew out of Peshawar in 1960 — has turned hostile. Blowback from the mission to kill bin Laden has been severe.

Turkey, a NATO ally that fought beside us in Korea, refused to let Bush use its territory to invade Iraq. Ankara has lately confronted Israel over Gaza, repaired relations with Tehran, and begun to highlight her identity as an Islamic state. The autocrats of Egypt and Tunisia, our allies in the war on terror, were deposed this year, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh barely survived an assassination attempt.

Cairo has allowed Iran’s warships to transit Suez, brokered the unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, opened its border to Gaza, and is re-establishing relations with Tehran. American displeasure is politely ignored.

Arab attitudes toward us are even harsher than in Bush’s final year. Only 5 percent of Egyptians hold a favorable view of the United States. In Morocco and Jordan, the figures are 10 and 12 percent, respectively.

In our own country, Iraq cost the Republicans control of both houses of Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008, as the Democratic Party nominated and elected an anti-war man of the left. Obamacare is thus among the fruits of Bush’s war.

And what did we gain? With the Shia regime in Baghdad tilting to Iran, Muqtada al-Sadr a rising power, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd still at sword’s point, and terrorism returning, was that war worth it? Was it wise to invest 10 years of blood and treasure trying to build a modern nation out of Afghanistan? Or was that, in author-historian Barbara Tuchman’s phrase, “The March of Folly”?

Where did we go wrong? What brought us to the point, 10 years after 9/11, where we are heading home with the future of Afghanistan and Iraq in doubt?

For both these wars, George W. Bush bears full responsibility. For he was the indispensable man in expanding the mission in Afghanistan from taking down the Taliban and killing bin Laden to nation-building in the Hindu Kush. And he was the indispensable man in launching an invasion of Iraq that none of his predecessors whom this writer served — Nixon, Ford, Reagan — would have launched. Nor would Bush’s father, who ordered Gen. Schwarzkopf to halt at the Iraqi border after 100 hours of ground fighting in Desert Storm, have done so.

So why did George W. do it? A rare blend of moral arrogance, ideology, and ignorance of history produced what Gen. William Odom called “the worst strategic disaster in U.S. history.”

For Bush, 9/11 was a road-to-Damascus experience.

As he had been spontaneously converted in midlife to evangelical Christianity, the attack of 9/11 so seared itself into his soul that he became a different man. Consider: In November 1999, candidate Bush had repudiated the “indispensable nation” triumphalism of the Clintons and Madeleine Albright.

“Let us have a foreign policy that reflects the American character,” he had said at the Reagan Library, “The modesty of true strength. The humility of true greatness.” Debating with Al Gore, Bush went further: “The United States must be humble . . . in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.”

Hearken now to the post-9/11 Bush. “Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators [have] weapons of mass destruction,” said Bush, “Deterrence is less likely to work against rogue states willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people.”

Yet containment and deterrence had worked with Mao and Stalin, far greater monsters than the petty tyrants Bush faced. Not only were the core foreign policy doctrines of 10 presidents discarded, America’s war aims were expanded far beyond the destruction of al-Qaida. In June 2002, Bush told the cadets of West Point: “The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress [and] the requirements of freedom apply fully . . . to the entire Islamic world.”

America’s Christians may have failed to halt the remorseless march of secularism in our own society, but we were going to change the culture and thinking of tens of millions of people on the other side of the world who have been marinated for 14 centuries in a religion whose name is synonymous with “submission.”

This is hubris of a high order.

In 2002, Bush issued a “National Security Strategy” mandate instructing the world that America would not permit any nation to reach a level of power where it might challenge U.S. predominance in any part of the world we deemed significant to our security.

Foreign policy scholar and former soldier Andrew Bacevich wrote of the NSS that, “its fusion of breathtaking utopianism with barely disguised machtpolitik . . . reads as if it were the product not of sober, ostensibly conservative Republicans but of an unlikely collaboration between Woodrow Wilson and the elder Field Marshal von Moltke.”

Bush began preaching a world democratic revolution he would lead to decide the destiny of all mankind. In his second inaugural address, he declared, “the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” Hence, America shall commit herself to the “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Astonishing. With half the United Nation’s 192 nations ruled by autocrats and dictators, were we to overthrow them all? What had happened to Bush?
He lost sight of the real war against al-Qaida, a war in which even Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah were passive allies. The former, a whiskey-drinking secular despot, was despised by the Islamist fanatic bin Laden.

The Ayatollah hated the Taliban, who had murdered his diplomats. Instead of cobbling together a global coalition to fight al-Qaida, Bush, only weeks after the overthrow of the Taliban, went before the Congress to identify Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil” that we must never allow to acquire weapons of mass destruction, even if that meant preventive wars by the United States.

Where on earth did Bush get his “axis” idea?

Iran and Iraq had fought an eight-year war in the Reagan decade. One was Arab and Sunni-dominated, the other Persian and Shia. North Korea had almost nothing to do with either.

Among the most reckless speeches ever delivered by a U.S. president, Bush’s “axis-of-evil” State of the Union split his country, split NATO, and forced the Islamic world into opposition against us, only months after 9/11 had brought us the sympathy of the world.

His neoconservative acolytes assured Bush that Iraq would be a “cakewalk” war. Moreover, they claimed to have evidence Saddam was behind the anthrax attacks, that Saddam was tied to 9/11, that Saddam was producing chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam was enriching uranium in schools and chicken coops.

To stop the stampede, several of us on the anti-war right launched The American Conservative. In the first issue, September 2002, I predicted what would happen when we invaded: “If Providence does not intrude, we will soon launch an imperial war on Iraq with all the ‘On-to-Berlin!’ bravado with which French poilus and British Tommies marched in August 1914.

But what comes after the celebratory gunfire when wicked Saddam is dead? With our MacArthur Regency in Baghdad, Pax Americana will reach apogee. But then the tide recedes, for the one endeavor at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and guerrilla war.

“They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon. We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we shall meet those who went before. The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.”

So it was that George W. Bush sent an army halfway around the world to invade and occupy a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us, and did not want war with us — to strip it of weapons it did not have. The ultimate unnecessary war.

Leading his crusade against “evil,” Bush did not understand bin Laden’s act of terror was political, crafted to inflame America and suck us into a wilderness where a humiliating defeat could be inflicted on this superpower, just as the mujahedeen had bloodied and broken the Soviet superpower. Bin Laden had snapped a red cape in front of the American bull, and George W. Bush charged into Afghanistan and Iraq.

What President Bush failed to understand is that terrorism, even of 9/11 horror and magnitude, is the weapon of the weak. It is the last recourse of those desperate to be rid of a foreign presence.

Across the Muslim world, we Americans are seen as the last of the imperial powers, the crusader state that came after the British. And as long as we intervene in the Muslim world to impose our views and values, and to maintain our troops, bases and satraps, we will be resented and resisted, even as we came to resent and to resist the British in our own country.

In June 1991, sitting next to the presidential reviewing stand as George H.W. Bush took the salute of the Army of Desert Storm as it marched up Constitution Avenue, I thought to myself, “This is how it must have been, when the victorious legions returned to Rome.”

We were on top of the world, a decisive victor in a Cold War that had lasted four decades.

Just months later, George H.W. Bush, at the apex of his prestige and popularity, was at the United Nations, committing America to creation of a “new world order.” Those calling for a post-Cold War policy rooted in the Washington-Jefferson tradition of “no permanent alliances” were abruptly dismissed. We can’t have “isolationism,” said George H.W. Bush. We can’t have “isolationism,” said his son George.

So, off we went into Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya. And here we are, 20 years on, more isolated than we have ever been — and bankrupt.

Where do we go from here? “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen in 2010, an echo of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

If not addressed and resolved, the deficit-debt crisis will eat up the resources we allocate to defense and destroy the dollar. A default would do to the U.S. system of alliances and archipelago of bases around the world what the fall of the pound did for the worldwide British Empire.

What America needs today is what she should have had, and failed to conduct, 20 years ago, when she emerged victorious in the Cold War, with no peer rival. She should have undertaken a bottom-up review of all the alliances and commitments made over 45 years of Cold War, severing and discarding those no longer essential to national security.

When the Soviet Empire collapsed and the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the Red Army withdrew all the way from the Elbe to Russia, all U.S. troops should have come home from Central Europe, U.S. airbases should have been shut down, and control of NATO passed to the Europeans.

In 1961, Eisenhower urged John F. Kennedy to execute just such a withdrawal, lest the Europeans become military dependents of the United States, as they have today.

Why, two-thirds of a century after the end of World War II, does America still borrow from Europe to defend Europe? Why are we plunging deeper into unpayable debt defending rich countries that refuse to sacrifice to defend themselves? Why is their defense seemingly more important to us than to them?

Today, a third Obama deficit of 10 percent of GDP and a national debt of 100 percent of GDP are forcing upon us decisions we should have made 20 years ago.

Specifically, U.S. ground forces should be withdrawn from Europe. If Europe refuses to raise the divisions for its own defense, let Europe live with the consequences.

Second, the 28,000 U.S. troops should be withdrawn from the Korean peninsula. Seoul has an economy 40 times as large as North Korea’s, has twice the population, and access to U.S. weapons superior to anything the North possesses.

Third, U.S. troops should be moved out of Japan. America needs to become again the strategic reserve of Western Civilization, not a front-line fighting state. Why should U.S. soldiers be first to die in any future Asian war?

Fourth, with the removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, those nations are going their own way and this nation would not tolerate a reintroduction of U.S. troops. The security interest we have in the Near East and Central Asia is that these nations not serve as base camps for terrorism and that the oil of the Gulf continue to flow to the West. U.S. air and naval power, which ought to be enhanced with the savings from base closures abroad, is the way to counter any attacks on threats from terrorist elements or rogue states in this vast region of the world.

America needs to review every alliance, every trip wire, every war guarantee dating back to a Cold War that has been over for a generation, and to sever some and renegotiate others.

She needs to reduce her military presence abroad, lower her profile, come home, repair and rebuild her military forces after a decade of attrition and war, and let other nations begin to provide for their own defense, as we had to do from the first earliest days of the republic.

America emerged victorious in World Wars I and II and the Cold War. But the nation that emerged triumphant from the post-Cold War era does not appear to be the United States. We need to understand what China has been doing right, and what America has been doing wrong.


A Middle East Without America?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The fever sweeping the Middle East is now coursing through Libya, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.

In all four nations, state violence is being used to crush the rebels, and regime survival hangs on whether security forces and the army stand behind the government or stand aside.

A new Middle East is dawning. What will it look like?

Perhaps the nation to study is Turkey, which has already gone through a democratic and dramatic transformation.

In 2000, Turkey was a reliable U.S. ally, a friend to Israel, an aspiring candidate for membership in the EU. Since then, Turkey has set a different course, welcomed by her people, that has measurably enhanced her prestige.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime is far more Islamic than any Turkish government since the caliphate. He and his Justice and Development Party have effected constitutional reforms to curb the power of the judiciary and military, guardians of the secular state established by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Scores of generals have been indicted for treason.

Turkey refused President George W. Bush permission to use its territory to invade Iraq. Denied a fast track to membership in the EU, Turkey now looks to the south and east. Relations with Syria have been repaired. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been welcomed in Istanbul.

To the rage of Hillary Clinton, the Turks and Brazil cut a deal with Iran to transfer half the low-enriched uranium at Natanz out of the country. This was seen as undercutting U.S. policy. When the U.N. imposed the latest sanctions on Iran, Turkey voted no.

“The Turks are out of their lane,” said a U.S. diplomat.

Indeed they are. And as Turkey moves out of America’s orbit, she is moving back into a Muslim world much of which she ruled for centuries. A sure sign is the bristling hostility to Israel, with which Turkey has had close political and military ties.

At Davos in 2009, in a debate with Shimon Peres about the Gaza war, Erdogan shouted at Israel’s president, “You know well how to kill,” stormed out and flew home to a hero’s welcome.

Eight of the nine dissidents shot by Israeli commandos in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla trying to run the blockade were Turks. Erdogan’s backing of the flotilla and condemnation of Israel for a “bloody massacre” made him and Turkey more admired in Gaza than are Iran and Ahmadinejad.

After that first week of demonstrations in Cairo, when Hosni Mubarak announced he would not run again for president, America dithered, but Erdogan declared that Mubarak should resign immediately.

“The (Egyptian) people expect a very different decision from Mubarak,” Erdogan said. “The current administration does not inspire trust so far as the democratic change wanted by the population is concerned.”

Erdogan abruptly canceled his February visit to Egypt.

What, then, are the crucial elements of the new Turkish policy?

First, a new deference and respect for Islam. Second, make Turkey the champion of the causes of the Arab and Muslim masses, foremost among which is the cause of the Palestinian people. Third, defy the United States and denounce Israel.

What the Turks are about has been called “neo-Ottomanism,” a 21st century policy to reclaim the position they held for centuries.

As the British elbowed aside the Ottoman Turks and the Americans shouldered aside the British after Suez, now it is America that appears to be the receding power in the Middle East and Turkey the rising power.

Indeed, the American hour seems to be rapidly approaching its end.

In weeks, President Ben Ali, our man in Tunis, was overthrown. Mubarak, our man in Egypt for 30 years, was overthrown. Hezbollah became the real power in the Lebanese government. The king of Jordan dismissed his prime minister and cabinet. For the first time, voices are speaking against the royal family, especially the king’s wife.

The Palestinian Authority has been discredited by Wikileaks documents revealing the concessions it was prepared to make for a tiny rump state on the West Bank. Benjamin Netanyahu forced President Obama to back down completely from his demands that Israel halt new construction in East Jerusalem and all expansion of settlements on the West Bank. The Middle East peace process is dead.

Our ally, the king of Bahrain, is now under siege. President Saleh of Yemen, our ally against al-Qaida, has been forced to pledge he will not run again in 2013, nor will his son. Pakistan is aflame with anti-Americanism.

By year’s end, all U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq, where the influence of Iran is rising and the man behind the throne is the anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr.

The U.S. press is transfixed by all this, but a question arises: What vital interest of a United States staring at bankruptcy would be imperiled if we got out of the way, stopped fighting these countries’ wars and paying these countries’ bills and let these people determine their own future for good or ill?