Regime Change — American Style

Regime Change -- American Style

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The campaign to overturn the 2016 election and bring down President Trump shifted into high gear this week.

Inspiration came Saturday morning from the altar of the National Cathedral where our establishment came to pay homage to John McCain.

Gathered there were all the presidents from 1993 to 2017, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Henry Kissinger, the leaders of both houses of Congress, and too many generals and admirals to list.

Striding into the pulpit, Obama delivered a searing indictment of the man undoing his legacy:

“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. … It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear.”

Speakers praised McCain’s willingness to cross party lines, but Democrats took away a new determination: From here on out, confrontation!

Tuesday morning, as Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court began, Democrats disrupted the proceedings and demanded immediate adjournment, as scores of protesters shouted and screamed to halt the hearings.

Taking credit for orchestrating the disruption, Sen. Dick Durbin boasted, “What we’ve heard is the noise of democracy.”

But if mob action to shut down a Senate hearing is the noise of democracy, this may explain why many countries are taking a new look at the authoritarian rulers who can at least deliver a semblance of order.

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Wednesday came leaks in The Washington Post from Bob Woodward’s new book, attributing to Chief of Staff John Kelly and Gen. James Mattis crude remarks on the president’s intelligence, character and maturity, and describing the Trump White House as a “crazytown” led by a fifth- or sixth-grader.

Kelly and Mattis both denied making the comments.

Thursday came an op-ed in The New York Times by an anonymous “senior official” claiming to be a member of the “resistance … working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his (Trump’s) agenda.”

A pedestrian piece of prose containing nothing about Trump one cannot read or hear daily in the media, the op-ed caused a sensation, but only because Times editors decided to give the disloyal and seditious Trump aide who wrote it immunity and cover to betray his or her president.

The transaction served the political objectives of both parties.

While the Woodward book may debut at the top of The New York Times best-seller list, and “Anonymous,” once ferreted out and fired, will have his or her 15 minutes of fame, what this portends is not good.

For what is afoot here is something America specializes in — regime change. Only the regime our establishment and media mean to change is the government of the United States. What is afoot is the overthrow of America’s democratically elected head of state.

The methodology is familiar. After a years-long assault on the White House and president by a special prosecutor’s office, the House takes up impeachment, while a collaborationist press plays its traditional supporting role.

Presidents are wounded, disabled or overthrown, and Pulitzers all around.

No one suggests Richard Nixon was without sin in trying to cover up the Watergate break-in. But no one should delude himself into believing that the overthrow of that president, not two years after he won the greatest landslide in U.S. history, was not an act of vengeance by a hate-filled city that ran a sword through Nixon for offenses it had covered up or brushed under the rug in the Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson years.

So, where are we headed?

If November’s elections produce, as many predict, a Democratic House, there will be more investigations of President Trump than any man charged with running the U.S. government may be able to manage.

There is the Mueller investigation into “Russiagate” that began before Trump was inaugurated. There is the investigation of his business and private life before he became president in the Southern District of New York. There is the investigation into the Trump Foundation by New York State.

There will be investigations by House committees into alleged violations of the Emoluments Clause. And ever present will be platoons of journalists ready to report the leaks from all of these investigations.

Then, if media coverage can drive Trump’s polls low enough, will come the impeachment investigation and the regurgitation of all that went before.

If Trump has the stamina to hold on, and the Senate remains Republican, he may survive, even as Democrats divide between a rising militant socialist left and the Democrats’ septuagenarian caucus led by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi.

2019 looks to be the year of bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all. Entertaining, for sure, but how many more of these coups d’etat can the Republic sustain before a new generation says enough of all this?

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In Spies Battle, Trump Holds the High Ground

In Spies Battle, Trump Holds the High Ground

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In backing John Brennan’s right to keep his top-secret security clearance, despite his having charged the president with treason, the U.S. intel community has chosen to fight on indefensible terrain.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seemed to recognize that Sunday when he conceded that ex-CIA Director Brennan had the subtlety of “a freight train” and his rhetoric had become “an issue in and of itself.”

After Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, Brennan had called the president’s actions “nothing short of treasonous.”

The battle is now engaged. Trump cannot back down. He must defy and defeat the old bulls of the intel community. And he can.

For a security clearance is not a right. It is not an entitlement.

It is a privilege, an honor and a necessity for those serving in the security agencies of the U.S. government — while they serve.

Brennan is not being deprived of his First Amendment rights. He can still make any accusation and call the president any name he wishes.

But to argue that a charge of treason against a president is not a justification for pulling a clearance is a claim both arrogant and absurd.

Again, a security clearance is not a constitutional right.

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Said Defense Secretary James Mattis: “I have taken security clearances away from people in my previous time in uniform … a security clearance is something that is granted on an as-needed basis.”

Brennan is now threatening to sue the president. Bring it on, says national security adviser John Bolton.

With 4 million Americans holding top-secret clearances, and this city awash in leaks to the media from present and past intel and security officials, it is time to strip the swamp creatures of their special privileges.

The White House should press upon Congress a policy of automatic cancellation of security clearances, for intelligence and military officers, upon resignation, retirement or severance.

Clearances should be retained only for departing officers who can demonstrate that their “need to know” national secrets remains crucial to our security, not merely advantageous to their pursuit of lucrative jobs in the military-industrial complex.

Officials in the security realm who take clearances with them on leaving office are like House members who retain all the access, perks and privileges of Congress after they step down to earn seven-figure salaries lobbying their former congressional colleagues.

The White House statement of Sarah Huckabee Sanders on John Brennan’s loss of his clearances was spot on:

“Any access granted to our nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests.

“Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the Internet and television — about this administration. Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets, and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.”

Trump is said to be evaluating pulling the security clearances of Clapper, ex-FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

This is a good start. Some of these individuals have been fired. Some are under investigation. Some were involved in the FBI’s “get-Trump” cabal to prevent his election and then to abort his presidency.

Some have become talking heads on cable TV, exploiting the credibility of their former titles and offices to undermine an elected president.

Again, they have a First Amendment right to do this. But they should be stripped of their clearances to show the nation that the president is dealing with insiders who have joined the Resistance.

At bottom, the issue is: Who speaks for America?

Is it the mainstream media, the deep state, the permanent government, the city that gave Trump 4 percent of its votes? Or is it that vast slice of Middle America that sent Trump to drain the swamp?

Trump’s enemies, and they are legion, want to see Robert Mueller charge him with collusion with Russia and obstructing the investigation of that collusion. They want to see the Democratic Party take over the House in November, and the Senate, and move on to impeach and remove Trump from office. Then they want to put him where Paul Manafort sits today.

For Trump, a truce or a negotiated peace with these people is never going to happen. But this issue of security clearances is a battlefield where the president cannot lose, if he fights wisely.

Americans sense that these are privileges that should be extended to those who protect us, not perks for former officials to exploit and monetize while they attempt to bring down the commander in chief.

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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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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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Is Trump Assembling a War Cabinet?

Is Trump Assembling a War Cabinet?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

The last man standing between the U.S. and war with Iran may be a four-star general affectionately known to his Marines as “Mad Dog.”

Gen. James Mattis, the secretary of defense, appears to be the last man in the Situation Room who believes the Iran nuclear deal may be worth preserving and that war with Iran is a dreadful idea.

Yet, other than Mattis, President Donald Trump seems to be creating a war cabinet.

Trump himself has pledged to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal — “the worst deal ever” — and reimpose sanctions in May.

His new national security adviser John Bolton, who wrote an op-ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” has called for preemptive strikes and “regime change.”

Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo calls Iran “a thuggish police state,” a “despotic theocracy,” and “the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.”

Trump’s favorite Arab ruler, 32-year-old Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, calls Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei “the Hitler of the Middle East.”

Bibi Netanyahu is monomaniacal on Iran, calling the nuclear deal a threat to Israel’s survival and Iran “the greatest threat to our world.”

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoes them all.

Yet Iran appears not to want a war. U.N. inspectors routinely confirm that Iran is strictly abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal.

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While U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf often encountered Iranian “fast attack” boats and drones between January 2016 and August 2017, that has stopped. Vessels of both nations have operated virtually without incident.

What would be the result of Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal?

First would be the isolation of the United States.

China and Russia would not abrogate the deal but would welcome Iran into their camp. England, France and Germany would have to choose between the deal and the U.S. And if Airbus were obligated to spurn Iran’s orders for hundreds of new planes, how would that sit with the Europeans?

How would North Korea react if the U.S. trashed a deal where Iran, after accepting severe restrictions on its nuclear program and allowing intrusive inspections, were cheated of the benefits the Americans promised?

Why would Pyongyang, having seen us attack Iraq, which had no WMD, and Libya, which had given up its WMD to mollify us, ever consider given up its nuclear weapons — especially after seeing the leaders of both nations executed?

And, should the five other signatories to the Iran deal continue with it despite us, and Iran agree to abide by its terms, what do we do then?

Find a casus belli to go to war? Why? How does Iran threaten us?

A war, which would involve U.S. warships against swarms of Iranian torpedo boats could shut down the Persian Gulf to oil traffic and produce a crisis in the global economy. Anti-American Shiite jihadists in Beirut, Baghdad and Bahrain could attack U.S. civilian and military personnel.

As the Army and Marine Corps do not have the troops to invade and occupy Iran, would we have to reinstate the draft?

And if we decided to blockade and bomb Iran, we would have to take out all its anti-ship missiles, submarines, navy, air force, ballistic missiles and air defense system.

And would not a pre-emptive strike on Iran unite its people in hatred of us, just as Japan’s pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor united us in a determination to annihilate her empire?

What would the Dow Jones average look like after an attack on Iran?

Trump was nominated because he promised to keep us out of stupid wars like those into which folks like John Bolton and the Bush Republicans plunged us.

After 17 years, we are still mired in Afghanistan, trying to keep the Taliban we overthrew in 2001 from returning to Kabul. Following our 2003 invasion, Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran, became a Shiite ally of Iran.

The rebels we supported in Syria have been routed. And Bashar Assad — thanks to backing from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from the Middle East and Central Asia — has secured his throne.

The Kurds who trusted us have been hammered by our NATO ally Turkey in Syria, and by the Iraqi Army we trained in Iraq.

What is Trump, who assured us there would be no more stupid wars, thinking? Truman and LBJ got us into wars they could not end, and both lost their presidencies. Eisenhower and Nixon ended those wars and were rewarded with landslides.

After his smashing victory in Desert Storm, Bush I was denied a second term. After invading Iraq, Bush II lost both houses of Congress in 2006, and his party lost the presidency in 2008 to the antiwar Barack Obama.

Once Trump seemed to understand this history.

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Should Japan and South Korea Go Nuclear?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

By setting off a 100-kiloton bomb, after firing a missile over Japan, Kim Jong Un has gotten the world’s attention.

What else does he want?

Almost surely not war with America. For no matter what damage Kim could visit on U.S. troops and bases in South Korea, Okinawa and Guam, his country would be destroyed and the regime his grandfather built annihilated.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” wrote Sun Tzu. Kim likely has something like this in mind.

His nuclear and missile tests have already called the bluff of George W. Bush who, in his “axis of evil” speech, declared that the world’s worst regimes would not be allowed to acquire the world’s worst weapons.

Arguably the world’s worst regime now has the world’s worst weapon, an H-bomb, with ICBMs to follow.

What else does Kim want? He wants the U.S. to halt joint military maneuvers with the South, recognize his regime, tear up the security pact with Seoul, and get our forces off the peninsula.

No way, says President Trump. Emerging from church, Trump added, “South Korea’s … talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

On Monday, South Korea was accelerating the activation of the high-altitude missile defense implanted by the United States. Russia and China were talking of moving missile forces into the area. And Mattis had warned Kim he was toying with the fate of his country:

“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response.”

As the United States can only lose from a new Korean war in which thousands of Americans and millions of Koreans could perish, the first imperative is to dispense with the war talk, and to prevent the war Mattis rightly says would be “catastrophic.”

China has declared that it will enter a new Korean conflict on the side of the North, but only if the North does not attack first.

For this and other reasons, the U.S. should let the North strike the first blow, unless we have hard evidence Kim is preparing a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

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But if and when we manage to tamp down this crisis, we should ask ourselves why we are in this crisis. Why are we a party to this frozen conflict from 1953 that is 8,000 miles away?

The first Korean War ended months into Ike’s first term. Our security treaty with Seoul was signed in October 1953.

That year, Stalin’s successors had taken over a USSR that was busy testing missiles and hydrogen bombs. China was ruled by Chairman Mao, who had sent a million “volunteers’ to fight in Korea. Japan, still recovering from World War II, was disarmed and entirely dependent upon the United States for its defense.

What has changed in six and a half decades?

That USSR no longer exists. It split, three decades ago, into 15 nations. Japan has risen to boast an economy 100 times as large as North Korea’s. South Korea is among the most advanced nations in Asia with a population twice that of the North and an economy 40 times as large.

Since the KORUS free trade deal took effect under President Obama, Seoul has been running surging trade surpluses in goods at our expense every year.

The world has changed dramatically since the 1950s. But U.S. policy failed to change commensurately.

The basic question that needs addressing:

Why do we still keep 28,000 troops in South Korea as a trip wire to bring us into a second Korean war from its first hours, a war that could bring nuclear strikes on our troops, bases, and, soon, our nation?

We cannot walk away from our Korean allies in this crisis. But we should look upon the North’s drive to marry nuclear warheads to ICBMs as a wake-up call to review a policy rooted in Cold War realities that ceased to exist when Ronald Reagan went home.

Consider. North Korea devotes 25 percent of GDP to defense. South Korea spends 2.6 percent, Japan 1 percent. Yet these mighty Asian allies, who run annual trade surpluses at our expense, require us to defend them from a maniacal little country right next door.

After this crisis, South Korea and Japan should begin to make the kind of defense effort the U.S. does, and create their own nuclear deterrents. This might get Beijing’s attention, as our pleas for its assistance with North Korea apparently have not.

Already involved in land disputes with a nuclear-armed Russia and India, China’s dominance of Asia — should Japan and South Korea acquire nuclear weapons — begins to diminish.

“As our case is new,” said Abraham Lincoln, “we must think anew and act anew.”

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