Is Bolton Steering Trump into War with Iran?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” implored President Donald Trump in a Sunday night tweet.

Well, if he is serious, Trump had best keep an eye on his national security adviser, for a U.S. war on Iran would be a dream come true for John Bolton.

Last September, when Shiite militants launched three mortar shells into the Green Zone in Baghdad, which exploded harmlessly in a vacant lot, Bolton called a series of emergency meetings and directed the Pentagon to prepare a menu of targets, inside Iran, for U.S. air and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one U.S. official as saying Bolton’s behavior “rattled people. … People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

Bolton’s former deputy, Mira Ricardel, reportedly told a gathering the shelling into the Green Zone was “an act of war” to which the U.S. must respond decisively.

Bolton has long believed a U.S. confrontation with Iran is both inevitable and desirable. In 2015, he authored a New York Times op-ed whose title, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” said it all. He has urged that “regime change” in Iran be made a declared goal of U.S. foreign policy.

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When Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops now in Syria, Bolton swiftly imposed conditions: ISIS must first be eliminated, Iranian forces and allied militias must leave, and the Kurds must be protected.

Yet enforcing such red lines would require a permanent presence of American troops. For how, without war, would we effect the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian allies, if he declines to expel them and the Iranians refuse to go?

Bolton has an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Cairo last week, Pompeo declared it U.S. policy “to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

And though Hezbollah has been a “major presence” in Lebanon for several decades, “we won’t accept this as the status quo,” said Pompeo, for Hezbollah is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime.”

But how does the secretary of state propose to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon peacefully when the Israelis could not do it in a month-long war in 2006?

Pompeo’s purpose during his tour of the Middle East? Build a new Middle East Strategic Alliance, a MESA, an Arab NATO, whose members are to be Egypt, Jordan and the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

There are other signs a confrontation is coming soon. The U.S. has objected to Iran’s pending launch of two space satellites, saying these look like tests of missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads. Yet Iran has never produced weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and never tested an ICBM.

Pompeo has also called for a conclave in Poland in February to bring together an anti-Iran alliance to discuss what is to be done about what he calls “our common enemy.”

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s latest strike in Syria: “Just in the last 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.”

Israel brags that it has hit 200 targets inside Syria in recent years. The boasting may be connected to Bibi’s desire to strengthen his credentials as a security hawk for the coming Israeli election. But it is also a provocation to the Iranians and Syrians to retaliate, which could ignite a wider war between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces.

What does the U.S. think of the Israeli strikes? Said Pompeo: “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Iran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.”

In short, forces are moving in this country and in Israel to bring about a U.S. confrontation with Iran — before our troops leave Syria.

But the real questions here are not about Bolton or Pompeo.

They are about Trump. Was he aware of Bolton’s request for a menu of targets in Iran for potential U.S. strikes? Did he authorize it? Has he authorized his national security adviser and secretary of state to engage in these hostile actions and bellicose rhetoric aimed at Iran? And if so, why?

While Trump has urged that the U.S. pull out of these Mideast wars, Pompeo has corrected him, “When America retreats, chaos often follows.”

Is Trump looking for a showdown with Iran, which could result in a war that might vault his approval rating, but be a disaster for the Middle East and world economy and do for him what Operation Iraqi Freedom did for George W. Bush?

One thing may confidently be said of the rhetoric and actions of Bolton and Pompeo: This is not what brought out the new populists who made Donald Trump president, the people who still share his desire to “stop the endless wars.”

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Trump & The Post: Whose Side Is Mitt On?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

If there is a more anti-Trump organ in the American establishment than The Washington Post, it does not readily come to mind.

Hence, in choosing to send his op-ed attack on President Donald Trump to the Post, Mitt Romney was collaborating with an adversary of his party and his president.

And he knew it, and the Post rewarded his collusion.

“The president has not risen to the mantle of his office,” said Romney; in “qualities of character” Trump’s “shortfall has been most glaring.”

Our leaders must “inspire and unite us,” not “promote tribalism,” wrote Romney. We must defend the “free press.”

All music to Post ears.

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As senator, Romney promised, “I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant.”

Sounds like a litany of media slanders against Trump, some of which, seven years ago, were lodged against a GOP presidential nominee whose name was Mitt Romney.

Thursday, the Post paid Romney in its special currency, with a Page 1 photo and headline about having discovered “a new voice of resistance.”

But Romney had not exactly pledged his life, fortune and sacred honor to dethrone the tyrant. Rather he declared, “I look forward to working on these priorities … with Mitch McConnell.”

A day later, The New York Times, perhaps miffed it had not been the beneficiary of Romney’s dump on Trump, dumped all over him:

“Romney Cools Fiery Tone After Trump Allies Assail Him,” ran the headline. A CNN interview, wrote the Times, found Romney “repeatedly declining to escalate his attacks on the president and explaining that he would only speak out against Mr. Trump on issues of ‘great significance.'”

Does Romney not see presidential character as an issue of “great significance”? The Washington Times said Romney appeared to be auditioning for the role of Jeff Flake in the new Senate.

Though the Romney screenplay seemed to fizzle after the early negative reviews, the episode is revelatory.

Clearly Romney senses Trump is in trouble, and may not survive, or may not run, and there may be an opening for him. He seems to want to be properly positioned with the anti-Trumpers and never-Trumpers, should that happen.

Yet, in seeing Trump as besieged, Romney is not wrong.

With loss of the House and resignation of his defense secretary, the president had a rough year’s end. Now the expectations of his enemies and the hopes of this hostile city for his fall are greater than ever.

Blood is in the water. If Trump seeks re-election, he will be challenged in the primaries. And as presidents from Truman to LBJ, to Carter, Ford and Bush 41 discovered, these can prove problematic.

Looking over to the other side of the aisle, however, that party, too, has problems. The more hot-headed of the House majority have already said they will introduce articles of impeachment against the president.

And when the militant members are rewarded by major media with favorable coverage and commentary, this will induce others to join in, in anticipation of the same media rewards.

An impeachment battle thus seems inevitable.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic leadership may see this rush to impeachment as a strategic blunder. But they will be unable to contain or control what will by spring resemble a mob.

Today, unelected media, not elected politicians, decide what gets attention. For our media, President Trump is the issue, as he was in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and removing him from the presidency the strategic goal.

But beyond the issue of Trump, 2019 looks to be a rough year for America. The deficit will reach a trillion dollars. National debt is near $22 trillion. The budget is out of balance. No consensus exists in Congress on how to deal with it.

If sanctions are not first lifted on North Korea, there will be no nuclear deal, and the probability grows that “Little Rocket Man” will begin anew to test his missiles and nuclear warheads.

With U.S. troops pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan, the day is coming, and soon, when we must face up to and act upon these facts:

America lost both wars. Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban from whom we took it in 2003, and Bashar Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are, for the near-term, dominant in Syria.

As for our Kurdish allies, they will have to turn to Assad and offer to give him the Syrian lands they captured from ISIS, in return for the Syrian regime’s protection from the Turks.

And as for Russia and China, our great adversaries, our foreign policy elite succeeded in this century in undoing the best work of Nixon and Reagan.

Where those presidents split China from Russia and ensured that Beijing and Moscow would have better relations with us than with each other, our elite revels in that it has alienated both China and Russia — and united both against us.

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How the War Party Lost the Middle East

How the War Party Lost the Middle East

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Assad must go, Obama says.”

So read the headline in The Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2011.

The story quoted President Barack Obama directly:

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. … the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron signed on to the Obama ultimatum: Assad must go!

Seven years and 500,000 dead Syrians later, it is Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron who are gone. Assad still rules in Damascus, and the 2,000 Americans in Syria are coming home. Soon, says President Donald Trump.

But we cannot “leave now,” insists Sen. Lindsey Graham, or “the Kurds are going to get slaughtered.”

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Question: Who plunged us into a Syrian civil war, and so managed our intervention that were we to go home after seven years our enemies will be victorious and our allies will “get slaughtered”?

Seventeen years ago, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban for granting sanctuary to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is today negotiating for peace talks with that same Taliban. Yet, according to former CIA director Mike Morell, writing in The Washington Post today, the “remnants of al-Qaeda work closely” with today’s Taliban.

It would appear that 17 years of fighting in Afghanistan has left us with these alternatives: Stay there, and fight a forever war to keep the Taliban out of Kabul, or withdraw and let the Taliban overrun the place.

Who got us into this debacle?

After Trump flew into Iraq over Christmas but failed to meet with its president, the Iraqi Parliament, calling this a “U.S. disregard for other nations’ sovereignty” and a national insult, began debating whether to expel the 5,000 U.S. troops still in their country.

George W. Bush launched Operation Iraq Freedom to strip Saddam Hussein of WMD he did not have and to convert Iraq into a democracy and Western bastion in the Arab and Islamic world.

Fifteen years later, Iraqis are debating our expulsion.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric with American blood on his hands from the fighting of a decade ago, is leading the charge to have us booted out. He heads the party with the largest number of members in the parliament.

Consider Yemen. For three years, the U.S. has supported with planes, precision-guided munitions, air-to-air refueling and targeting information, a Saudi war on Houthi rebels that degenerated into one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century.

Belatedly, Congress is moving to cut off U.S. support for this war. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, its architect, has been condemned by Congress for complicity in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate in Istanbul. And the U.S. is seeking a truce in the fighting.

Who got us into this war? And what have years of killing Yemenis, in which we have been collaborators, done to make Americans safer?

Consider Libya. In 2011, the U.S. attacked the forces of dictator Moammar Gadhafi and helped to effect his ouster, which led to his murder.

Told of news reports of Gadhafi’s death, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joked, “We came, we saw, he died.”

The Libyan conflict has since produced tens of thousands of dead. The output of Libya’s crucial oil industry has collapsed to a fraction of what it was. In 2016, Obama said that not preparing for a post-Gadhafi Libya was probably the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

The price of all these interventions for the United States?

Some 7,000 dead, 40,000 wounded and trillions of dollars.

For the Arab and Muslim world, the cost has been far greater. Hundreds of thousands of dead in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, civilian and soldier alike, pogroms against Christians, massacres, and millions uprooted and driven from their homes.

How has all this invading, bombing and killing made the Middle East a better place or Americans more secure? One May 2018 poll of young people in the Middle East and North Africa found that more of them felt that Russia was a closer partner than was the United States of America.

The fruits of American intervention?

We are told ISIS is not dead but alive in the hearts of tens of thousands of Muslims, that if we leave Syria and Afghanistan, our enemies will take over and our friends will be massacred, and that if we stop helping Saudis and Emiratis kill Houthis in Yemen, Iran will notch a victory.

In his decision to leave Syria and withdraw half of the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, Trump enraged our foreign policy elites, though millions of Americans cannot get out of there soon enough.

In Monday’s editorial celebrating major figures of foreign policy in the past half-century, The New York Times wrote, “As these leaders pass from the scene, it will be left to a new generation to find a way forward from the wreckage Mr. Trump has already created.”

Correction: Make that “the wreckage Mr. Trump inherited.”

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Will Trump Hold Firm on Syrian Pullout?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” wrote President Donald Trump, as he ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, stunning the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Trump overruled his secretaries of state and defense, and jolted this city and capitals across NATO Europe and the Middle East.

Yet, Trump is doing exactly what he promised to do in his campaign. And what his decision seems to say is this:

We are extricating America from the forever war of the Middle East so foolishly begun by previous presidents. We are coming home. The rulers and peoples of this region are going to have to find their own way and fight their own wars. We are not so powerful that we can fight their wars while we also confront Iran and North Korea and face new Cold Wars with Russia and China.

As for the terrorists of ISIS, says Trump, they are defeated.

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Yet, despite the heavy casualties and lost battles ISIS has suffered, the collapse of the caliphate, expulsion from its Syrian capital Raqqa and Iraqi capital Mosul, and from almost all territories it controlled in both countries, ISIS is not dead. It lives on in thousands of true believers hidden in those countries. And, like al-Qaida, it has followers across the Middle East and inspires haters of the West living in the West.

The U.S. pullout from Syria is being called a victory for Vladimir Putin. “Russia, Iran, Assad… are ecstatic!” wails Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Graham is echoed by Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse who called the withdrawal a “retreat” and charged that Trump’s generals “believe the high-fiving winners today are Iran, ISIS and Hezbollah.”

But ISIS is a Sunni terrorist organization. And, as such, it detests the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad, and Hezbollah and Iran, both of which are hated by ISIS as Shiite heretics.

“Russia, Iran, Syria… are not happy about the US leaving,” Trump tweeted, “despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”

If Putin, victorious in the Syrian civil war, wishes to fight al-Qaida and ISIS, the last major enemies of Assad in Syria, why not let him?

The real losers?

Certainly the Kurds, who lose their American ally. Any dream they had of greater autonomy inside Syria, or an independent state, is not going to be realized. But then, that was never really in the cards.

Forced to choose between Turkey, with 80 million people and the second-largest army in NATO, which sits astride the Dardanelles and Bosphorus entrance to the Black Sea, and the stateless Kurds with their Syrian Democratic Forces, or YPG, Trump chose Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And Erdogan regards the YPG as kinfolk and comrades of the Kurdish terrorist PKK in Turkey. A week ago, he threatened to attack the Kurds in northern Syria, though U.S. troops are embedded alongside them.

What kind of deal did Trump strike with Erdogan?

Turkey will purchase the U.S. Patriot anti-aircraft and missile defense system for $3.5 billion, and probably forego the Russian S-400.

Trump also told Erdogan, we “would take a look at” extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan says instigated the 2016 coup attempt that was to end with his assassination.

National security adviser John Bolton, who said U.S. troops would remain in Syria until all Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias have been expelled, appears not to have been speaking for his president.

And if the Israelis were relying on U.S. forces in Syria to intercept any Iranian weapons shipments headed to Hezbollah in Lebanon through Damascus, then the Israelis are going to have to make other arrangements.

The war party project, to bring about regime change in Tehran through either severe sanctions leading to insurrection or a U.S.-Iranian clash in the Gulf, will suffer a severe setback with the U.S. pullout from Syria.

However, given the strength of the opposition to a U.S. withdrawal — Israel, Saudi Arabia, the GOP foreign policy establishment in Congress and the think tanks, liberal interventionists in the Beltway press, Trump’s own national security team of advisers — the battle to overturn Trump’s decision has probably only just begun.

From FDR’s abandonment of 100 million East Europeans to Stalin at Yalta in 1945, to the abandonment of our Nationalist Chinese allies to Mao in 1949, and of our South Vietnamese allies in 1975, America has often been forced into retreats leading to the deaths of allies. Sasse says Trump is risking the same outcome: “A lot of American allies will be slaughtered if this retreat is implemented.”

But is that true?

Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria at least has assured us of a national debate on what it will mean to America to extricate our country from these Mideast wars, the kind of debate we have not had in the 15 years since we were first deceived into invading Iraq.

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With Friends Like These

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Was Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and then his body cut up with a bone saw and flown to Riyadh in Gulfstream jets owned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

So contend the Turks, who have video from the consulate, photos of 15 Saudi agents who flew into Istanbul that day, Oct. 2, and the identity numbers of the planes.

Supporting the thesis of either a murder in the consulate or a “rendition,” a kidnaping gone horribly bad, is a Post story that U.S. intel intercepted Saudi planning, ordered by the prince, to lure Khashoggi from his suburban D.C. home back to Saudi Arabia. And for what beneficent purpose?

If these charges are not refuted by Riyadh, there will likely be, and should be, as John Bolton said in another context, “hell to pay.”

And the collateral diplomatic damage looks to be massive.

Any U.S.-backed “Arab NATO” to face down Iran, with Riyadh as central pillar, would appear dead. Continued U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen would now be in question.

The special relationship the crown prince and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have established could be history.

Congress could cancel U.S. arms sales to the kingdom that keep thousands of U.S. defense workers employed, and impose sanctions on the prince who is heir apparent to the throne of his 82-year-old father, King Salman.

Today, the Saudi prince has become toxic, and his ascension to the Saudi throne seems less inevitable than two weeks ago. Yet, well before Khashoggi’s disappearance in the consulate, Crown Prince Mohammed’s behavior had seemed wildly erratic.

Along with the UAE, he charged Qatar with supporting terrorism, severed relations, and threatened to build a ditch to sever Qatar from the Arabian Peninsula. To protest criticism of his country’s human rights record by Canada’s foreign minister, he cut all ties to Ottawa.

Last year, he summoned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, held him for a week, and forced him to resign his office and blame it on Iranian interference in Lebanon. Released, Hariri returned home to reclaim his office.

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A professed reformer, Crown Prince Mohammed opened movie theaters to women and allowed them to drive, and then jailed the social activists who had called for these reforms.

Three years ago, he initiated the war on the Houthis, after the rebels ousted a pro-Saudi president and took over most of the country.

And, since 2015, the crown prince has conducted a savage air war that has brought Houthi missiles down on his own country and capital.

Yemen has become Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam.

That our principal Arab ally in our confrontation with Iran, which could lead to yet another U.S. war, is a regime headed by so unstable a character should raise serious concerns about where it is we are going in the Middle East.

Have we not wars already?

Do we not have enough enemies in the region — Taliban, al-Qaida, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran — to be starting another war?

As for our regional allies, consider.

NATO ally Turkey, which is pressing the case against our Saudi allies, leads the world in the number of journalists jailed. Our Egyptian ally, Gen. al-Sissi, came to power in a military coup, and has imprisoned thousands of dissidents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While we have proclaimed Iran the “world’s greatest state sponsor of terror,” it is Yemen, where Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015, that is regarded as the world’s great human rights catastrophe.

Moreover, Iran is itself suffering from terrorism.

Last month, a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in the southwest was attacked by gunmen who massacred 25 soldiers and civilians in the deadliest terror attack in Iran in a decade.

And like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, Iran suffers, too, from tribalism, with Arab secessionists in its southwest, Baloch secessionists in its southeast, and Kurd secessionists in its northwest.

The U.S. cannot look aside at a royal Saudi hand in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist in its consulate in Istanbul. But before we separate ourselves from the Riyadh regime, we should ask what is the alternative if the House of Saud should be destabilized or fall?

When Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown in 1952, we got Nasser.

When young King Faisal was overthrown in Baghdad in 1958, we eventually got Saddam Hussein. When King Idris in Libya was ousted in 1969, we got Qaddafi. When Haile Selassie was overthrown and murdered in Ethiopia in 1974, we got Col. Mengistu and mass murder. When the Shah was overthrown in Iran in 1979, we got the Ayatollah.

As World War I, when four empires fell, testifies, wars are hell on monarchies. And if a new and larger Middle East war, with Iran, should break out in the Gulf, some of the Arab kings, emirs and sultans will likely fall.

And when they do, history shows, it is not usually democrats who rise to replace them.

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Is Trump Going Neocon in Syria?

Is Trump Going Neocon in Syria?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Is President Donald Trump about to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war? For that is what he and his advisers seem to be signaling.

Last week, Trump said of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s campaign to recapture the last stronghold of the rebellion, Idlib province: “If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry. And the United States is going to get very angry, too.”

In a front-page story Monday, “Assad is Planning Chlorine Attack, U.S. Says,” The Wall Street Journal reports that, during a recent meeting, “President Trump threatened to conduct a massive attack against Mr. Assad if he carries out a massacre in Idlib.”

Idlib contains three million civilians and refugees and 70,000 rebels, 10,000 of whom are al-Qaida.

Friday, The Washington Post reported that Trump is changing U.S. policy. America will not be leaving Syria any time soon.

The 2,200 U.S. troops in Syria will remain until we see “the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces and the establishment of a stable, non-threatening government acceptable to all Syrians.”

“We are not in a hurry to go,” said James Jeffrey, the retired Foreign Service officer brought back to handle the Syria account. “The new policy is we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year.”

President Obama had a red line against Syria’s use of poison gas, which Trump enforced with bombing runs. Now we have a new red line. Said Jeffrey, the U.S. “will not tolerate an attack. Period.”

In an editorial Friday, the Post goaded Trump, calling his response to Assad’s ruthless recapture of his country “pathetically weak.” To stand by and let the Syrian army annihilate the rebels in Idlib, said the Post, would be “another damaging abdication of U.S. leadership.”

What Trump seems to be signaling, the Post demanding, and Jeffrey suggesting, is that, rather than allow a bloody battle for the recapture of Idlib province to play out, the United States should engage Russian and Syrian forces militarily and force them to back off.

On Friday, near the U.S. garrison at Tanf in southern Syria, close to Iraq, U.S. Marines conducted a live-fire exercise. Purpose: Warn Russian forces to stay away. The Americans have declared a 35-mile zone around Tanf off-limits. The Marine exercise followed a Russian notification, and U.S. rejection, of a plan to enter the zone in pursuit of “terrorists.”

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Is Trump ready to order U.S. action against Russian and Syrian forces if Assad gives his army the green light to take Idlib? For the bombing of Idlib has already begun.

What makes this more than an academic exercise is that Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at a meeting in Tehran last Friday, told President Erdogan of Turkey that the reconquest of Idlib is going forward.

Erdogan fears that the Syrian army’s recapture of Idlib would send hundreds of thousands more refugees streaming to his border.

Turkey already hosts millions of refugees from Syria’s civil war.

Yet the massing of the Syrian army near Idlib and the Russian and Syrian bombing now begun suggest that the Assad-Putin-Rouhani coalition has decided to accept the risk of a clash with the Americans in order to bring an end to the rebellion. If so, this puts the ball in America’s court.

Words and warnings aside, is Trump prepared to take us into the Syrian civil war against the forces who, absent our intervention, will have won the war? When did Congress authorize a new war?

What vital U.S. interest is imperiled in Idlib, or in ensuring that all Iranian forces and Shiite allies are removed, or that a “non-threatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community” is established in Damascus?

With these conditions required before our departure, we could be there for eternity.

The Syrian civil war is arguably the worst humanitarian disaster of the decade. The sooner it is ended the better. But Assad, Russia and Iran did not start this war. Nor have Syria, Russia or Iran sought a clash with U.S. forces whose mission, we were repeatedly assured, was to crush ISIS and go home.

Trump has struck Syria twice for its use of poison gas, and U.S. officials told the Journal that Assad has now approved the use of chlorine on the rebels in Idlib. Moscow, however, is charging that a false-flag operation to unleash chlorine on civilians in Idlib is being prepared to trigger and justify U.S. intervention.

Many in this Russophobic city would welcome a confrontation with Putin’s Russia, even more a U.S. war on Iran. But that is the opposite of what candidate Trump promised.

It would represent a triumph of the never-Trumpers and President Trump’s relinquishing of his foreign policy to the interventionists and neoconservatives.

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Are the Interventionists Now Leaderless?

Are the Interventionists Now Leaderless?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“McCain’s Death Leaves Void” ran The Wall Street Journal headline over a front-page story that began:

“The death of John McCain will leave Congress without perhaps its loudest voice in support of the robust internationalism that has defined the country’s security relations since World War II.”

Certainly, the passing of the senator whose life story will dominate the news until he is buried at his alma mater, the Naval Academy, on Sunday, leaves America’s interventionists without their greatest champion.

No one around has the prestige or media following of McCain.

And the cause he championed, compulsive intervention in foreign quarrels to face down dictators and bring democrats to power, appears to be a cause whose time has passed.

When 9/11 occurred, America was united in crushing the al-Qaida terrorists who perpetrated the atrocities. John McCain then backed President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, which had no role in the attacks.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, he slipped into northern Syria to cheer rebels who had arisen to overthrow President Bashar Assad, an insurgency that led to a seven-year civil war and one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time.

McCain supported the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the Baltic, right up to Russia’s border. When Georgia invaded South Ossetia in 2008, and was expelled by the Russian army, McCain roared, “We are all Georgians now!”

He urged intervention. But Bush, his approval rating scraping bottom, had had enough of the neocon crusades for democracy.

McCain’s contempt for Vladimir Putin was unconstrained. When crowds gathered in Maidan Square in Kiev to overthrow an elected pro-Russian president, McCain was there, cheering them on.

He supported sending arms to the Ukrainian army to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass. He backed U.S. support for Saudi intervention in Yemen. And this war, too, proved to be a humanitarian disaster.

John McCain was a war hawk, and proud of it. But by 2006, the wars he had championed had cost the Republican Party both houses of Congress.

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In 2008, when he was on the ballot, those wars helped cost him the presidency.

By 2016, the Republican majority would turn its back on McCain and his protege, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and nominate Donald Trump, who said he would seek to get along with Russia and extricate America from the wars into which McCain had helped plunge the country.

Yet, while interventionism now has no great champion and has proven unable to rally an American majority, it retains a residual momentum. This compulsion is pushing us to continue backing the Saudi war in Yemen and to seek regime change in Iran.

Yet if either of these enterprises holds any prospect of bringing about a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East, no one has made the case.

While the foreign policy that won the Cold War, containment, was articulated by George Kennan and pursued by presidents from Truman to Bush I, no grand strategy for the post-Cold War era has ever been embraced by a majority of Americans.

Bush I’s “New World Order” was rejected by Ross Perot’s economic patriots and Bill Clinton’s baby boomers who wanted to spend America’s peace dividend from our Cold War victory on America’s homefront.

As for the Bush II crusades for democracy “to end tyranny in our world,” the fruits of that Wilsonian idealism turned into ashes in our mouths.

But if the foreign policy agendas of Bush I and Bush II, along with McCain’s interventionism, have been tried and found wanting, what is America’s grand strategy?

What are the great goals of U.S. foreign policy? What are the vital interests for which all, or almost all Americans, believe we should fight?

“Take away this pudding; it has no theme,” said Churchill. Britain has lost an empire, but not yet found a role, was the crushing comment of Dean Acheson in 1962.

Both statements appear to apply to U.S. foreign policy in 2018.

We are bombing and fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, partly John McCain’s legacy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sent a virtual ultimatum to Iran. We have told North Korea, a nuclear power with the world’s fourth-largest army, either to denuclearize or the U.S. may use its military might to get the job done.

We are challenging Beijing in its claimed territorial waters of the South China Sea. From South Korea to Estonia, we are committed by solemn treaty to go to war if any one of dozens of nations is attacked.

Now one hears talk of an “Arab NATO” to confront the ayatollah’s Iran and its Shiite allies. Lest we forget, ISIS and al-Qaida are Sunni.

With all these war guarantees, the odds are excellent that one day we are going to be dragged in yet another war that the American people will sour upon soon after it begins.

Where is the American Kennan of the new century?

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