Why Is North Korea Our Problem?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

For Xi Jinping, it has been a rough week.

Panicked flight from China’s currency twice caused a plunge of 7 percent in her stock market, forcing a suspension of trading.

Kim Jong Un, the megalomaniac who runs North Korea, ignored Xi’s warning and set off a fourth nuclear bomb. While probably not a hydrogen bomb as claimed, it was the largest blast ever in Korea.

And if Pyongyang continues building and testing nuclear bombs, Beijing is going to wake up one day and find that its neighbors, South Korea and Japan, have also acquired nuclear weapons as deterrents to North Korea.

And should Japan and South Korea do so, Taiwan, Vietnam and Manila, all bullied by Beijing, may also be in the market for nukes.

Hence, if Beijing refuses to cooperate to de-nuclearize North Korea, she could find herself, a decade hence, surrounded by nuclear weapons states, from Russia to India and from Pakistan to Japan.

Still, this testing of a bomb by North Korea, coupled with the bellicosity of Kim Jong Un, should cause us to take a hard look at our own war guarantees to Asia that date back to John Foster Dulles.

At the end of the Korean War in July 1953, South Korea was devastated, unable to defend herself without the U.S. Navy and Air Force and scores of thousands of U.S. troops.

So, America negotiated a mutual security treaty.

But today, South Korea has 50 million people, twice that of the North, the world’s 13th largest economy, 40 times the size of North Korea’s, and access to the most modern U.S. weapons.

In 2015, Seoul ran a trade surplus of almost $30 billion with the United States, a sum almost equal to North Korea’s entire GDP.

Why, then, are 25,000 U.S. troops still in South Korea?

Why are they in the DMZ, ensuring that Americans are among the first to die in any Second Korean War?

Given the proximity of the huge North Korean Army, with its thousands of missiles and artillery pieces, only 35 miles from Seoul, any invasion would have to be met almost immediately with U.S.-fired atomic weapons.

But with North Korea possessing a nuclear arsenal estimated at 8 to 12 weapons and growing, a question arises: Why should the U.S. engage in a nuclear exchange with North Korea, over South Korea?

Why should a treaty that dates back 60 years commit us, in perpetuity, to back South Korea in a war from the first shot with Pyongyang, when that war could swiftly escalate to nuclear?

How does this comport with U.S. national interests?

In 1877, Lord Salisbury, commenting on Great Britain’s stance on the Eastern Question, noted that “the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.”

Is this not true today of America’s Asian alliances?

North Korea’s tests of atomic weapons and development of land-based and submarine-launched missiles should cause us to reconsider strategic commitments that date back to the 1950s.

President Nixon, ahead of his time, understood this.

As he began the drawdown of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1969, he declared in Guam that while America would meet her treaty obligations, henceforth, Asian nations should provide the ground troops to defend themselves. Gen. MacArthur had told President Kennedy, before Vietnam, not to put U.S. foot soldiers onto the Asian mainland.

Now that we have entered a post-post Cold War era, where many Asian nations possess the actual or potential military power to defend themselves, something like a new Nixon Doctrine is worth considering.

Take all of the major territorial quarrels between China and its neighbors — the dispute with India over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, the dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, with Vietnam over the Paracels, with the Philippines over the Spratlys.

In none of these quarrels and conflicts does there seem to be any vital U.S. national interest so imperiled that we should risk a clash with a nuclear power like Beijing.

Once, there was a time when Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Tojo ruled almost all of Eurasia. And another time when a monolithic Sino-Soviet Communist bloc ruled from the Elbe to the Pacific.

As those times are long gone, is it not time for an exhaustive review of the alliances we have entered into and the war guarantees we have issued, to fight for nations and interests other than our own?

Under NATO, we are committed to go to war against a nuclear-armed Russia on behalf of 27 nations, including tiny Estonia.

One understood the necessity to defend West Germany and keep the Red Army on the other side of the Elbe, but when did Estonia’s independence become so critical to U.S. security that we would fight a nuclear-armed Russia rather than lose it?

Indeed, how many of the dozens of U.S. war guarantees we have outstanding would we honor by going to war if they were called?

Is Trumpism the New Nationalism?

Is Trumpism the New Nationalism?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Since China devalued its currency 3 percent, global markets have gone into a tailspin. Why should this be?

After all, 3 percent devaluation in China could be countered by a U.S. tariff of 3 percent on all goods made in China, and the tariff revenue used to cut U.S. corporate taxes.

The crisis in world markets seems related not only to a sinking Chinese economy, but also to what Beijing is saying to the world; i.e., China will save herself first even if it means throwing others out of the life boat.

Disbelievers in New World Order mythology have long recognized that this new China is fiercely nationalistic. Indeed, with Marxism-Leninism dead, nationalism is the Communist Party’s fallback faith.

China has thus kept her currency cheap to hold down imports and keep exports surging. She has run $300 billion trade surpluses at the expense of the Americans. She has demanded technology transfers from firms investing in China and engaged in technology theft.

Disillusioned U.S. executives have been pulling out.

And the stronger China has grown economically, the more bellicose she has become with her neighbors from Japan to Vietnam to the Philippines. Lately, China has laid claim to virtually the entire South China Sea and all its islands and reefs as national territory.

In short, China is becoming a mortal threat to the rules-based global economy Americans have been erecting since the end of the Cold War, even as the U.S. system of alliances erected by Cold War and post-Cold War presidents seems to be unraveling.

Germany, the economic powerhouse of the European Union, was divided until recently on whether Greece should be thrown out of the eurozone. German nationalists have had enough of Club Med.

On issues from mass migrations from the Third World, to deeper political integration of Europe, to the EU’s paltry contributions to a U.S.-led NATO that defends the continent, nationalistic resistance is rising.

Enter the Donald. If there is a single theme behind his message, it would seem to be a call for a New Nationalism or New Patriotism.

He is going to “make America great again.” He is going to build a wall on the border that will make us proud, and Mexico will pay for it.

He will send all illegal aliens home and restore the traditional value of U.S. citizenship by putting an end to the scandal of “anchor babies.”

One never hears Trump discuss the architecture of our rules-based global economy.

Rather, he speaks of Mexico, China and Japan as tough rivals, not “trade partners,” smart antagonists who need to face tough American negotiators who will kick their butts.

They took our jobs and factories; now we are going to take them back. And if that Ford plant stays in Mexico, then Ford will have to climb a 35-percent tariff wall to get its trucks and cars back into the USA.

Trump to Ford: Bring that factory back to Michigan!

To Trump, the world is not Davos; it is the NFL. He is appalled at those mammoth container ships in West Coat ports bringing in Hondas and Toyotas. Those ships should be carrying American cars to Asia.

Asked by adviser Dick Allen for a summation of U.S. policy toward the Soviets, Ronald Reagan said: “We win; they lose.”

That it is not an unfair summation of what Trump is saying about Mexico, Japan and China.

While the economic nationalism here is transparent, Trump also seems to be saying that foreign regimes are freeloading off the U.S. defense budget and U.S. military.

He asks why rich Germans aren’t in the vanguard in the Ukraine crisis. Why do South Koreans, with an economy 40 times that of the North and a population twice as large, need U.S. troops on the DMZ?

“What’s in it for us?” he seems ever to be asking.

He has called Vladimir Putin a Russian patriot and nationalist with whom he can talk. He has not joined the Republican herd that says it will cancel the Iran nuclear deal the day they take office, re-impose U.S. sanctions and renegotiate the deal.

Trump says he would insure that Iran lives up to the terms.

While his foreign policy positions seem unformed, his natural reflex appears nonideological and almost wholly results-oriented. He looks on foreign trade much as did 19th-century Republicans.

They saw America as the emerging world power and Britain as the nation to beat, as China sees us today. Those Americans used tariffs, both to force foreigners to pay to build our country, and to keep British imports at a price disadvantage in the USA.

Then they exploited British free trade policy to ship as much as they could to the British Isles to take down their factories and capture their jobs for U.S. workers, as the Chinese do to us today.

Whatever becomes of Trump the candidate, Trumpism, i.e., economic and foreign policy nationalism, appears ascendant.

Imperial Overstretch

Imperial Overstretch

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Toward the end of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, America stood alone at the top of the world — the sole superpower.

After five weeks of “shock and awe” and 100 hours of combat, Saddam’s army had fled Kuwait back up the road to Basra and Bagdad.

Our Cold War adversary was breaking apart into 15 countries. The Berlin Wall had fallen. Germany was reunited. The captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe were breaking free.

Bush I had mended fences with Beijing after the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin were friends.

The president declared the coming of a “new world order.” And neocons were chattering about a new “unipolar world” and the “benevolent global hegemony” of the United States.

Consider now the world our next president will inherit.

North Korea, now a nuclear power ruled by a 30-something megalomaniac, is fitting ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

China has emerged as the great power in Asia, entered claims to all seas around her, and is building naval and air forces to bring an end to a U.S. dominance of the western Pacific dating to 1945.

Vladimir Putin is modernizing Russian missiles, sending ships and planes into NATO waters and air space, and supporting secessionists in Eastern Ukraine.

The great work of Nixon and Reagan — to split China from Russia in the “Heartland” of Halford Mackinder’s “World Island,” then to make partners of both — has been undone. China and Russia are closer to each other and more antagonistic toward us than at any time since the Cold War.

Terrorists from al-Qaida and its offspring and the Islamic Front run wild in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. Egypt is ruled by a dictatorship that came to power in a military coup.

Japan is moving to rearm to meet the menace of North Korea and China, while NAT0 is but a shadow of its former self. Only four of 28 member nations now invest 2 percent of their GDP in defense.

With the exception of the Soviet Union, some geostrategists contend, no nation, not defeated in war, has ever suffered so rapid a decline in relative power as the United States.

What are the causes of American decline?

Hubris, ideology, bellicosity and stupidity all played parts.

Toward Russia, which had lost an empire and seen its territory cut by a third and its population cut in half, we exhibited imperial contempt, shoving NATO right up into Moscow’s face and engineering “color-coded” revolutions in nations that had been part of the Soviet Union and its near-abroad.

Blowback came in the form of an ex-KGB chief who rose to power promising to restore the national greatness of Mother Russia, protect Russians wherever they were, and stand up to the arrogant Americans.

Our folly with China was in deluding ourselves into believing that by throwing open U.S. markets to goods made in China, we would create a partner in prosperity. What we got, after $4 tillion in trade deficits with Beijing, was a gutted U.S. manufacturing base and a nationalistic rival eager to pay back the West for past humiliations.

China wants this to be the Chinese Century, not the Second American Century. Is that too difficult to understand?

But it was in the Middle East that the most costly blunders were committed. Believing liberal democracy to be the wave of the future, that all peoples, given the chance, would embrace it, we invaded Iraq, occupied Afghanistan and overthrew the dictator of Libya.

So doing, we unleashed the demons of Islamic fanaticism, tribalism, and a Sunni-Shiite sectarian war now raging from North Africa to the Near East.

Yet though America’s relative economic and military power today is not what it was in 1992, our commitments are greater.

We are now obligated to defend Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics against a resurgent Russia, South Korea against the North, Japan and the Philippines against a surging China. We bomb jihadists daily in Iraq and Syria, support a Saudi air war in Yemen, and sustain Kabul with 10,000 U.S. troops in its war with the Taliban. Our special forces are all over the Middle East and Africa.

And if the neocons get back into power in 2017, U.S. arms will start flowing to Kiev, that war will explode, and the Tomahawks and B-2s will be on the way to Iran.

Since 1992, the U.S. has been swamped with Third World immigrants, here legally and illegally, many of whom have moved onto welfare rolls. Our national debt has grown larger than our GDP. And we have run $11 trillion in trade deficits since Bush I went home to Kennebunkport.

Thousands of U.S. soldiers have died, tens of thousands have been wounded, trillions of dollars have been expended in these interventions and wars.

Our present commitments are unsustainable. Retrenchment is an imperative.

On a Fast Track to National Ruin

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In the first quarter of 2015, in the sixth year of the historic Obama recovery, the U.S. economy grew by two-tenths of 1 percent.

And that probably sugarcoats it.

For trade deficits subtract from the growth of GDP, and the U.S. trade deficit that just came in was a monster.

As the AP’s Martin Crutsinger writes, “The U.S. trade deficit in March swelled to the highest level in more than six years, propelled by a flood of imports that may have sapped the U.S. economy of any growth in the first quarter.”

The March deficit was $51.2 billion, largest of any month since 2008. In goods alone, the trade deficit hit $64 billion.

As Crutsinger writes, a surge in imports to $239 billion in March, “reflected greater shipments of foreign-made industrial machinery, autos, mobile phones, clothing and furniture.”

What does this flood of imports of things we once made here mean for a city like, say, Baltimore? Writes columnist Allan Brownfeld:

“Baltimore was once a city where tens of thousands of blue collar employees earned a good living in industries building cars, airplanes and making steel. … In 1970, about a third of the labor force in Baltimore was employed in manufacturing. By 2000, only 7 percent of city residents had manufacturing jobs.”

Put down blue-collar Baltimore alongside Motor City, Detroit, as another fatality of free-trade fanaticism.

For as imports substitute for U.S. production and kill U.S. jobs, trade deficits reduce a nation’s GDP. And since Bill Clinton took office, the U.S. trade deficits have totaled $11.2 trillion.

An astronomical figure.

It translates not only into millions of manufacturing jobs lost and tens of thousands of factories closed, but also millions of manufacturing jobs that were never created, and tens of thousands of factories that did not open here, but did open in Mexico, China and other Asian countries.

In importing all those trillions in foreign-made goods, we exported the future of America’s young. Our political and corporate elites sold out working- and middle-class America — to enrich the monied class.

And they sure succeeded.

Yet, remarkably, Republicans who wail over Obama’s budget deficits ignore the more ruinous trade deficits that leech away the industrial base upon which America’s self-reliance and military might have always depended.

Last month, the U.S. trade deficit with the People’s Republic of China reached $31.2 billion, the largest in history between two nations.

Over 25 years, China has amassed $4 trillion in trade surpluses at our expense. And where are the Republicans?

Talking tough about building new fleets of planes and ships and carriers to defend Asia from the rising threat of China, which those same Republicans did more than anyone else to create.

Now this GOP Congress is preparing to vote for “fast track” and surrender its right to amend any Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Obama brings home.

But consider that TPP. While the propaganda is all about a deal to cover 40 percent of world trade, what are we really talking about?

First, TPP will cover 37 percent of world trade. But 80 percent of that is trade between the U.S. and nations with which we already have trade deals. As for the last 20 percent, our new partners will be New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Japan.

Query: Who benefits more if we get access to Vietnam’s market, which is 1 percent of ours, while Hanoi gets access to a U.S. market that is 100 times the size of theirs?

The core of the TPP is the deal with Japan.

But do decades of Japanese trade surpluses at our expense, achieved through the manipulation of Japan’s currency and hidden restrictions on U.S. imports, justify a Congressional surrender to Barack Obama of all rights to amend any Japan deal he produces?

Columnist Robert Samuelson writes that a TPP failure “could produce a historic watershed. … rejection could mean the end of an era. … So, when opponents criticize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they need to answer a simple question: Compared to what?”

Valid points, and a fair question.

And yes, an era is ending, a post-Cold War era where the United States threw open her markets to nations all over the world, as they sheltered their own. The end of an era where America volunteered to defend nations and fight wars having nothing to do with her own vital interests or national security.

The bankruptcy of a U.S. trade and foreign policy, which has led to the transparent decline of the United States and the astonishing rise of China, is apparent now virtually everywhere.

And America is not immune to the rising tide of nationalism.

Though, like the alcoholic who does not realize his condition until he is lying face down in the gutter, it may be a while before we get out of the empire business and start looking out again, as our fathers did, for the American republic first. But that day is coming.

The Rise of Putinism

The Rise of Putinism

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Abe tightens grip on power as Japanese shun election.”

So ran the page one headline of the Financial Times on the victory of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sunday’s elections.

Abe is the most nationalistic leader of postwar Japan. He is rebooting nuclear power, building up Japan’s military, asserting her rights in territorial disputes with China and Korea.

And he is among a host of leaders of large and emerging powers who may fairly be described as the new nationalistic strong men.

Xi Jinping is another. Staking a claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas, moving masses of Han Chinese into Tibet and Uighur lands to swamp native peoples, purging old comrades for corruption, Xi is the strongest leader China has seen in decades.

He sits astride what may now be the world’s largest economy and is asserting his own Monroe Doctrine. Hong Kong’s democracy protests were tolerated until Xi tired of them. Then they were swept off the streets.

Call it Putinism. It appears to be rising, while the New World Order of Bush I, the “global hegemony” of the neocons, and the democracy crusade of Bush II seem to belong to yesterday.

Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist party who was denied entry into the United States for a decade for complicity in or toleration of a massacre of Muslims is now Prime Minister of India.

“Members of the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,” the FT reports, “the Organisation of National Volunteers that gave birth to the Bharatiya Janata party headed by Mr. Modi — have been appointed to key posts in the governing party and cultural institutions.

“Nationalists have railed in public against the introduction of ‘western’ practices such as wearing bikinis on the beach, putting candles on birthday cakes and using English in schools — all to the chagrin of fretful liberals.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is another such leader.

Once seen as a model of the enlightened ruler who blended his Islamic faith with a secular state, seeking friendship with all of his neighbors, he has declared cold war on Israel, aided the Islamic State in Syria, and seems to be reigniting the war with the Kurds, distancing himself from his NATO allies and the U.S., and embracing Putin’s Russia.

Not since Ataturk has Turkey had so nationalistic a leader.

And as the democracy demonstrators were routed in Hong Kong, so, too, were the Tahrir Square “Arab Spring” demonstrators in Egypt, home country to one in four Arabs.

With the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in free elections, but was then overthrown by the Egyptian Army.

General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is now president and rules as autocratically as Mubarak, or Nasser before him.

Thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood are in prison, hundreds face the death penalty. Yet, despite the military coup that brought Sisi to power, and the repression, the American aid continues to flow.

What do these leaders have in common?

All are strong men. All are nationalists. Almost all tend to a social conservatism from which Western democracies recoil. Almost none celebrate democracy or democratic values the way we do.

And almost all reject America’s claim to be the “indispensable nation” or “exceptional nation” and superpower leader.

Fareed Zakaria lists as “crucial elements of Putinism … nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism.”

Yet not every American revels in the sewer that is our popular culture. Not every American believes we should impose our democratist ideology on other nations. Nor are Big Media and Hollywood universally respected. Patriotism, religion and social conservatism guide the lives of a majority of Americans today.

As the Associated Press reports this weekend, Putinism finds echoes across Central and Western Europe. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has said he sees in Russia a model for his own “illiberal state.”

The National Front’s Marine Le Pen wants to bring France into a new Gaullist Europe, stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” with France seceding from the EU superstate.

“Of the 24 right-wing populist parties that took about a quarter of the European Parliament seats in May elections, Political Capital lists 15 as ‘committed’ to Russia,” writes the AP.

These rising right-wing parties are “partners” of Russia in that they “share key views — advocacy of traditional family values, belief in authoritarian leadership, a distrust of the U.S., and support for strong law and order measures.”

While the financial collapse caused Orban to turn his back on the West, says Zakaria, to the Hungarian prime minister, liberal values today embody “corruption, sex and violence,” and Western Europe has become a land of “freeloaders on the backs of welfare systems.”

If America is a better country today than she has ever been, why are so many, East and West, recoiling from what we offer now?

The End of Ideology?

The End of Ideology

By Patrick J. Buchanan

On our TV talk shows and op-ed pages, and in our think tanks here, there is rising alarm over events abroad. And President Obama is widely blamed for the perceived decline in worldwide respect for the United States.

Yet, still, one hears no clamor from Middle America for “Action This Day!” to alter the perception that America is in retreat.

If a single sentence could express the seeming indifference of the silent majority of Americans to what is going on abroad, it might be the simple question: “Why is this our problem?”

If a Russian or Ukrainian flag flies over Simferopol, why should that be of such concern to us that we send U.S. warships, guns or troops? If Japan and China fight over islets 10,000 miles away, islets that few Americans can find on a map, why should we get into it?

And, truth be told, the answers of our elites are unconvincing.

One explanation for America’s turning away from these wars is that we see no vital interest in these conflicts — from Syria to Crimea, Afghanistan to Iraq, the South China Sea to the Senkaku Islands.

Moreover, the prime motivator of a half-century of sacrifice in a Cold War that cost us trillions and 90,000 dead in Korea and Vietnam — the belief we were leading the forces of light in a struggle against the forces of darkness that ruled the Sino-Soviet Empire — is gone.

The great ideological struggle of the 20th century between totalitarianism and freedom, communism and capitalism, militant atheism and Christianity is over.

The Communist empire collapsed. Only the remnants remain in backwaters like Cuba. Marxism-Leninism as an ideology guiding great powers is a dead faith. The Communist party may rule China, but state capitalism has produced Chinese billionaires who do not wave around Little Red Books.

Lenin’s remains may lie in Red Square, and Mao’s in Tiananmen Square, but these are tourist sites, not shrines to secular saviors who remain objects of worship.

The one region where religion or ideology drives men to fight and die to create a world based on the tenets of the faith is in the Islamic world. Yet, as CIA Director Richard Helms observed, the three nations that had adopted Islamist ideology — the Afghanistan of the Taliban, the Ayatollah’s Iran and Sudan — all became failed states.

Yet, when the faith or ideology of a civilization or nation dies, something must replace it. And around the world what peoples and regimes seem to be turning to is nationalism.

Vladimir Putin has taken back Crimea and declared himself the protector of Russians in the former republics of the Soviet Union.

China’s claims against Japan in the East China Sea are rooted in 19th-century maps and 21st-century nationalism, propelled by a hatred born of Japan’s brutality in the conquest of China from 1931 to 1945.

Japan’s response is not to reassert the divinity of the emperor. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is invoking nationalism, seeking to break out from under the pacifist constitution imposed after World War II.

America, too, seems to be searching for a substitute for anti-communism, to justify global commitments that seem to have less and less to do with vital national interests.

Bush I spoke of building a “New World Order.” The phrase is now an epithet. George W. Bush declared America’s mission to be “ending tyranny in our world.” The new deity to which America seemed to want to convert mankind was the golden calf of democracy.

But when democracy — one man, one vote — produced Hamas in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, second thoughts and sudden apostasies began.

At the end of the Cold War Francis Fukuyama predicted that we were approaching the “End of History,” where liberal democracy would prove the final form of governance, embraced by all mankind.

Yet not only in Russia and China, but also in much of Europe and the Third World, democracy seems to be not so much an end in itself for peoples, but a means to advance a greater cause.

The call of tribe and nation appears more compelling. And the Western gospel that all religions, races, nations, and tribes are equal and should be treated equally, while paid lip service, is disbelieved.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called democracy a bus you get off of when it reaches your stop. His stop was a moderate Islamist state that conformed to his own and his party’s principles.

Understandably, countries all over the world want America to come fight their wars. But while that may be in their interest, is it any longer in ours?

The American imperium, the last of the great Western empires, may be about to come down with the suddenness of the other empires of the 20th century.

Marching as to War

Marching as to War

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Sweeping through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this week, Joe Biden reassured all three that the United States’ commitment to Article Five of the NATO treaty remains “solemn” and “iron clad.”

Article Five commits us to war if the territory of any of these tiny Baltic nations is violated by Russia.

From World War II to the end of the Cold War, all three were Soviet republics. All three were on the other side of the Yalta line agreed to by FDR, and on the other side of the NATO red line, the Elbe River in Germany.

No president would have dreamed of waging war with Russia over them. Now, under the new NATO, we must. Joe Biden was affirming war guarantees General Eisenhower would have regarded as insane.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that in the Ukraine crisis, “All options are on the table.” John McCain wants to begin moving Ukraine into NATO, guaranteeing that any Russian move on the Russified east of Ukraine would mean war with the United States.

Forty members of Congress have written Kerry urging that Georgia, routed in a war it started with Russia over South Ossetia in 2008, be put on a path to membership in NATO.

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, other voices are calling for expanding NATO to bring in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, and for moving U.S. troops and warplanes into Poland and the Baltic republics.

President Obama says, “All options are on the table” if Iran does not give us solid assurances she is not building a bomb. Members of Congress support U.S. military action against Iran, if Tehran does not surrender even the “capability” to build a bomb.

End all enrichment of uranium, or America attacks, they warn.

In the Far East we are committed to defend Japan if China seizes the Senkakus that Beijing claims as Chinese territory, a collection of rocks in the East China Sea. If Kim Jong-Un starts a war with South Korea, we are committed by treaty to fight a second Korean War.

We are committed by treaty to defend the Philippines. And if China acts on its claim to the southern islands of the South China Sea, and starts a shooting war with Manila’s navy, we are likely in it.

Is this not an awful lot on Uncle Sam’s plate?

Is America really prepared to fight all of these wars that we are obligated by treaty to fight?

The national recoil at attacking Syria, for crossing Obama’s “red line” last summer and using poison gas, suggests that there is a vast gulf between what America is obligated by treaty to do, and what the American people are willing to do in sending their soldier sons into a new war.

Indeed, the latest mantra of the war hawks, “no boots on the ground,” is meant to reassure the nation that in our next war, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, there will be no more planeloads of dead coming into Dover, no new generation of Wounded Warriors arriving at Walter Reed.

Soon, the United States is going to have to come to terms with this reality — the unwillingness of the American people to fight the wars they are committed to fight by the American government.

Yet, the immediate problem is how to avoid a military confrontation or clash with Vladimir Putin’s Russia over Crimea, which almost no American wants.

Apparently, the West has decided to start down the sanctions road.

But where does that road lead?

While sanctions may cripple the Russian economy, will they break Putin? Did they break Castro? Did they break Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il? Did they break the Ayatollah? Does Putin look like someone who will respond to an economic squeeze by crying uncle?

Moreover, in this age of interdependence that America did so much to launch, sanctions are a two-edged sword.

If Ukraine cuts off oil, gas, water and electricity into a seceded Crimea, whose tourist trade is drying up, this could provoke Putin into invading Eastern Ukraine and seizing the lone land bridge onto the peninsula.

It could provoke Russia into cutting off imports from Ukraine, turning off the oil and gas, and calling in Ukraine’s debts. This would precipitate a default by Ukraine, without more Western aid than the $35 billion it is now estimated Kiev will need by 2016.

Are House Republicans willing to vote America’s share of that vast sum and make Ukraine a recipient of U.S. foreign aid roughly equal to what we provide annually to Israel and Egypt?

And if we severely sanction Russia, she could cut off oil and gas to Europe, cause a recession in the eurozone, and move closer to China.

Nixon’s great achievement was to split China off from Moscow. President Reagan’s great achievement was to preside over the conversion of the “evil empire” into a country where he was cheered in Red Square.

What our Greatest Generation presidents accomplished, our Baby Boomer presidents appear to have booted away.