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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What Should We Fight For?

What Should We Fight For?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“We will never accept Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea,” declaimed Rex Tillerson last week in Vienna.

“Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Tillerson’s principled rejection of the seizure of land by military force — “never accept” — came just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to move our embassy there.

How did Israel gain title to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights? Invasion, occupation, colonization, annexation.

Those lands are the spoils of victory from Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War.

Is Israel being severely sanctioned like Russia? Not quite.

Her yearly U.S. stipend is almost $4 billion, as she builds settlement after settlement on occupied land despite America’s feeble protests.

What Bibi Netanyahu just demonstrated is that, when dealing with the Americans and defending what is vital to Israel, perseverance pays off. Given time, the Americans will accept the new reality.

Like Bibi, Vladimir Putin is a nationalist. For him, the recapture of Crimea was the achievement of his presidency. For two centuries that peninsula had been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and critical to her security.

Putin is not going to return Crimea to Kiev, and, eventually, we will accept this new reality as well.

For while whose flag flies over Crimea has never been crucial to us, it is to Putin. And like Israelis, Russians are resolute when it comes to taking and holding what they see as rightly theirs.

Both these conflicts reveal underlying realities that help explain America’s 21st-century long retreat. We face allies and antagonists who are more willing than are we to take risks, endure pain, persevere and fight to prevail.

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This month, just days after North Korea tested a new ICBM, national security adviser H. R. McMaster declared that Trump “is committed to the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

If so, we are committed to a goal we almost surely are not going to achieve. For, short of a war that could go nuclear, Kim Jong Un is not going to yield to our demands.

For Kim, nuclear weapons are not an option.

He knows that Saddam Hussein, who had given up his WMD, was hanged after the Americans attacked. He knows the grisly fate of Moammar Gadhafi, after he invited the West into Libya to dismantle his nuclear program and disarm him of any WMD.

Kim knows that if he surrenders his nuclear weapons, he has nothing to deter the Americans should they choose to use their arsenal on his armed forces, his regime, and him.

North Korea may enter talks, but Kim will never surrender the missiles and nukes that guarantee his survival. Look for the Americans to find a way to accommodate him.

Consider, too, China’s proclaimed ownership of the South China Sea and her building on reefs and rocks in that sea, of artificial islands that are becoming air, missile and naval bases.

Hawkish voices are being raised that this is intolerable and U.S. air and naval power must be used if necessary to force a rollback of China’s annexation and militarization of the South China Sea.

Why is this not going to happen?

While this area is regarded as vital to China, it is not to us. And while China, a littoral state that controls Hainan Island in that sea, is a legitimate claimant to many of its islets, we are claimants to none.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan are the other claimants. But though their interests in the fishing grounds and seabed resources may be as great as China’s, none has seen fit to challenge Beijing’s hegemony.

Why should we risk war with China to validate the claims of Communist Vietnam or Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless regime in Manila? Why should their fight become our fight?

China’s interests in the sea are as crucial to her as were U.S. interests in the Caribbean when, a rising power in 1823, we declared the Monroe Doctrine. Over time, the world’s powers came to recognize and respect U.S. special interests in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Given the steady rise of Chinese military power, the proximity of the islets to mainland China, the relative weakness and reluctance to confront of the other claimants, China will likely become the controlling power in the South China Sea, as we came to be the predominant power in the Western Hemisphere.

What we are witnessing in Crimea, across the Middle East, in the South China Sea, on the Korean peninsula, are nations more willing than we to sacrifice and take risks, because their interests there are far greater than ours.

What America needs is a new national consensus on what is vital to us and what is not, what we are willing to fight to defend and what we are not.

For this generation of Americans is not going to risk war, indefinitely, to sustain some Beltway elite’s idea of a “rules-based new world order.” After the Cold War, we entered a new world — and we need new red lines to replace the old.

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The Nutball the Neocons Wanted in NATO

The Nutball the Neocons Wanted in NATO

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Even interventionists are regretting some of the wars into which they helped plunge the United States in this century.

Among those wars are Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest in our history; Libya, which was left without a stable government; Syria’s civil war, a six-year human rights disaster we helped kick off by arming rebels to overthrow Bashar Assad; and Yemen, where a U.S.-backed Saudi bombing campaign and starvation blockade is causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yet, twice this century, the War Party was beaten back when seeking a clash with Putin’s Russia. And the “neo-isolationists” who won those arguments served America well.

What triggered this observation was an item on Page 1 of Wednesday’s New York Times that read in its entirety:

“Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, led marchers through Kiev after threatening to jump from a five-story building to evade arrest. Page A4”

Who is Saakashvili? The wunderkind elected in 2004 in Tbilisi after a “Rose Revolution” we backed during George W. Bush’s crusade for global democracy.

During the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, Saakashvili sent his army crashing into the tiny enclave of South Ossetia, which had broken free of Georgia when Georgia broke free of Russia.

In overrunning the enclave, however, Saakashvili’s troops killed Russian peacekeepers. Big mistake. Within 24 hours, Putin’s tanks and troops were pouring through Roki Tunnel, running Saakashvili’s army out of South Ossetia, and occupying parts of Georgia itself.

As defeat loomed for the neocon hero, U.S. foreign policy elites were alive with denunciations of “Russian aggression” and calls to send in the 82nd Airborne, bring Georgia into NATO, and station U.S. forces in the Caucasus.

“We are all Georgians!” thundered John McCain.

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Not quite. When an outcry arose against getting into a collision with Russia, Bush, reading the nation right, decided to confine U.S. protests to the nonviolent. A wise call.

And Saakashvili? He held power until 2013, and then saw his party defeated, was charged with corruption, and fled to Ukraine. There, President Boris Poroshenko, beneficiary of the Kiev coup the U.S. had backed in 2014, put him in charge of Odessa, one of the most corrupt provinces in a country rife with corruption.

In 2016, an exasperated Saakashvili quit, charged his patron Poroshenko with corruption, and fled Ukraine. In September, with a band of supporters, he made a forced entry back across the border.

Here is the Times’ Andrew Higgins on his latest antics:

“On Tuesday … Saakashvili, onetime darling of the West, took his high-wire political career to bizarre new heights when he climbed onto the roof of his five-story apartment building in the center of Kiev…

“As … hundreds of supporters gathered below, he shouted insults at Ukraine’s leaders … and threatened to jump if security agents tried to grab him.

“Dragged from the roof after denouncing Mr. Poroshenko as a traitor and a thief, the former Georgian leader was detained but then freed by his supporters, who … blocked a security service van before it could take Mr. Saakashvili to a Kiev detention center and allowed him to escape.

“With a Ukrainian flag draped across his shoulders and a pair of handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists, Mr. Saakashvili then led hundreds of supporters in a march across Kiev toward Parliament. Speaking through a bullhorn he called for ‘peaceful protests’ to remove Mr. Poroshenko from office, just as protests had toppled the former President, Victor F. Yanukovych, in February 2014.”

This reads like a script for a Peter Sellers movie in the ’60s.

Yet this clown was president of Georgia, for whose cause in South Ossetia some in our foreign policy elite thought we should go to the brink of war with Russia.

And there was broad support for bringing Georgia into NATO. This would have given Saakashvili an ability to ignite a confrontation with Russia, which could have forced U.S. intervention.

Consider Ukraine. Three years ago, McCain was declaring, in support of the overthrow of the elected pro-Russian government in Kiev, “We are all Ukrainians now.”

Following that coup, U.S. elites were urging us to confront Putin in Crimea, bring Ukraine, as well as Georgia, into NATO, and send Kiev the lethal weapons needed to defeat Russian-backed rebels in the East.

This could have led straight to a Ukraine-Russia war, precipitated by our sending of U.S. arms.

Do we really want to cede to folks of the temperament of Mikhail Saakashvili an ability to instigate a war with a nuclear-armed Russia, which every Cold War president was resolved to avoid, even if it meant accepting Moscow’s hegemony in Eastern Europe all the way to the Elbe?

Watching Saakashvili losing it in the streets of Kiev like some blitzed college student should cause us to reassess the stability of all these allies to whom we have ceded a capacity to drag us into war.

Alliances, after all, are the transmission belts of war.

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Are America’s Wars Just and Moral?

Are America's Wars Just and Moral?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies,” writes columnist David Ignatius.

Given that Syria’s prewar population was not 10 percent of ours, this is the equivalent of a million dead and wounded Americans. What justifies America’s participation in this slaughter?

Columnist Eric Margolis summarizes the successes of the six-year civil war to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

“The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. … 11 million Syrians … driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.

“Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.”

Realizing the futility of U.S. policy, President Trump is cutting aid to the rebels. And the War Party is beside itself. Says The Wall Street Journal:

“The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too high a price for their Syria sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing ‘safe zones’ in Syria for anti-Assad forces.”

Yet, fighting ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, while bleeding the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah victors, is a formula for endless war and unending terrors visited upon the Syrian people.

What injury did the Assad regime, in power for half a century and having never attacked us, inflict to justify what we have helped to do to that country?

Is this war moral by our own standards?

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We overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Moammar Gadhafi in 2012. Yet, the fighting, killing and dying in both countries have not ceased. Estimates of the Iraq civilian and military dead run into the hundreds of thousands.

Still, the worst humanitarian disaster may be unfolding in Yemen.

After the Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed regime and took over the country, the Saudis in 2015 persuaded the United States to support its air strikes, invasion and blockade.

By January 2016, the U.N. estimated a Yemeni civilian death toll of 10,000, with 40,000 wounded. However, the blockade of Yemen, which imports 90 percent of its food, has caused a crisis of malnutrition and impending famine that threatens millions of the poorest people in the Arab world with starvation.

No matter how objectionable we found these dictators, what vital interests of ours were so imperiled by the continued rule of Saddam, Assad, Gadhafi and the Houthis that they would justify what we have done to the peoples of those countries?

“They make a desert and call it peace,” Calgacus said of the Romans he fought in the first century. Will that be our epitaph?

Among the principles for a just war, it must be waged as a last resort, to address a wrong suffered, and by a legitimate authority. Deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

The wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen were never authorized by Congress. The civilian dead, wounded and uprooted in Syria, and the malnourished millions in Yemen, represent a moral cost that seems far beyond any proportional moral gain from those conflicts.

In which of the countries we have attacked or invaded in this century — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen — are the people better off than they were before we came?

And we wonder why they hate us.

“Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return,” wrote W. H. Auden in “September 1, 1939.” As the peoples of Syria and the other broken and bleeding countries of the Middle East flee to Europe and America, will not some come with revenge on their minds and hatred in their hearts?

Meanwhile, as the Americans bomb across the Middle East, China rises. She began the century with a GDP smaller than Italy’s and now has an economy that rivals our own.

She has become the world’s first manufacturing power, laid claim to the islands of the East and South China seas, and told America to keep her warships out of the Taiwan Strait.

Xi Jinping has launched a “One Belt, One Road” policy to finance trade ports and depots alongside the military and naval bases being established in Central and South Asia.

Meanwhile, the Americans, $20 trillion in debt, running $800 billion trade deficits, unable to fix their health care system, reform their tax code, or fund an infrastructure program, prepare to fight new Middle East war.

Whom the Gods would destroy…

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The Forever War?

The Forever War?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

On May 22, Salman Abedi, 22, waiting at the entrance of the Arianna Grande pop concert in Manchester, blew himself up, killing almost two dozen people, among them parents waiting to pick up their children.

Saturday, three Islamic terrorists committed “suicide-by-cop,” using a van to run down pedestrians on London Bridge, and then slashing and stabbing patrons of pubs and diners in the nearby Borough Market.

By all accounts, the killers bore no special grudge against those they murdered. They appear not even to have known their victims.

Why, then, did they kill these strangers, and themselves?

A BBC eyewitness suggests a motive: “They shouted, ‘This is for Allah’, as they stabbed indiscriminately.”

The murderers were Muslims. The rationale for their crimes lies in the belief that their bloody deeds would inscribe them in a book of martyrs, and Allah would reward them with instant ascension into the paradise that awaits all good Muslims.

Ideas have consequences. And where might these crazed killers have gotten an idea like that?

Is there a strain of Islam, the basis of which can be found in the Quran, that would justify what the murderers did at London Bridge?

On Palm Sunday, an explosion in Tanta, 56 miles north of Cairo, killed 29 and injured 71 Copts as they prayed at the Mar Girgis church. A second blast at a church in Alexandria killed 18 and wounded 35.

On May 26, masked gunmen stopped two buses carrying Coptic Christians to Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Egypt, and opened fire, killing 26 and wounding 25.

“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” said Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning.

Yet, years of such atrocities have effected a near-complete cleansing of Christianity from its cradle provinces in the Holy Land.

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If these persecutors and killers of Christians are apostates to Islam, headed to hell for their savageries, why have not all the imams of the world, Shiite and Sunni, risen together to condemn them as heretics?

Clearly, from the suicide bombings and shootings of civilians in the Middle East, now across the West, there is a belief among some Muslims that what the killers are doing is moral and meritorious — taking the martyr’s path to salvation.

When have the imams of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and West ever stood as one to condemn all such acts as against the tenets of Islam?

In condemning the London Bridge attack, Prime Minister Theresa May said that recent atrocities across England were “bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism.”

Correct. There is an extremist school of Islam that needs to be purged from the West, even as this school of fanatics is seeking to purge Christianity from the East.

We are at war. And the imams of Islam need to answer the question: “Whose side are you on?”

Are honor killings of girls and women caught in adultery justified? Are lashings and executions of Christian converts justified?

Do people who hold such beliefs really belong in the United States or in the West during this long war with Islamist extremism?

Other questions need answering as well.

Is our commitment to diversity broad enough to embrace people with Islamist beliefs? Is our First Amendment freedom of speech and of religion extensive enough to cover the sermons of imams who use mosques to preach in favor of expelling Christians from the Middle East and an eventual takeover of the West for an Islam where Sharia replaces constitutional law?

Are such Islamist beliefs not intolerable and perilous for our republic?

Clearly, the West is in a civilizational struggle, with the outcome in some doubt.

Four years after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese empire had ceased to exist. Japan was smoldering ruins, its navy at the bottom of the Pacific. An American proconsul, Douglas MacArthur, was dictating to the Japanese from the Dai-Ichi building.

Today we are in the 16th year of a war begun on 9/11. We are mired down in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Our victory in Afghanistan is being reversed by the Taliban.

While the ISIS caliphate is being eradicated in Raqqa and Mosul, its elements are in two dozen countries of the Mideast. Muslim migrants and refugees, ISIS and al-Qaida among them, are moving into Europe.

Terrorist attacks in the West grow in number and lethality every year. The new normal. Now, second-generation Muslims within Europe seem to be converting to a violent version of Islam.

To fight them, we are being forced to circumscribe our sovereignty and empower police and intelligence agencies of which free men were once taught to be wary.

Wars, it is said, are the death of republics. And we now seem to be caught up in an endless war.

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The Rise of the Generals

The Rise of the Generals

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Has President Donald Trump outsourced foreign policy to the generals?

So it would seem. Candidate Trump held out his hand to Vladimir Putin. He rejected further U.S. intervention in Syria other than to smash ISIS.

He spoke of getting out and staying out of the misbegotten Middle East wars into which Presidents Bush II and Obama had plunged the country.

President Trump’s seeming renunciation of an anti-interventionist foreign policy is the great surprise of the first 100 days, and the most ominous. For any new war could vitiate the Trump mandate and consume his presidency.

Trump no longer calls NATO “obsolete,” but moves U.S. troops toward Russia in the Baltic and eastern Balkans. Rex Tillerson, holder of Russia’s Order of Friendship, now warns that the U.S. will not lift sanctions on Russia until she gets out of Ukraine.

If Tillerson is not bluffing, that would rule out any rapprochement in the Trump presidency. For neither Putin, nor any successor, could surrender Crimea and survive.

What happened to the Trump of 2016?

When did Kiev’s claim to Crimea become more crucial to us than a cooperative relationship with a nuclear-armed Russia? In 1991, Bush I and Secretary of State James Baker thought the very idea of Ukraine’s independence was the product of a “suicidal nationalism.”

Where do we think this demonization of Putin and ostracism of Russia is going to lead?

To get Xi Jinping to help with our Pyongyang problem, Trump has dropped all talk of befriending Taiwan, backed off Tillerson’s warning to Beijing to vacate its fortified reefs in the South China Sea, and held out promises of major concessions to Beijing in future trade deals.

“I like (Xi Jinping) and I believe he likes me a lot,” Trump said this week. One recalls FDR admonishing Churchill, “I think I can personally handle Stalin better than … your Foreign Office … Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better.”

FDR did not live to see what a fool Stalin had made of him.

Among the achievements celebrated in Trump’s first 100 days are the 59 cruise missiles launched at the Syrian airfield from which the gas attack on civilians allegedly came, and the dropping of the 22,000-pound MOAB bomb in Afghanistan.

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But what did these bombings accomplish?

The War Party seems again ascendant. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are happy campers. In Afghanistan, the U.S. commander is calling for thousands more U.S. troops to assist the 8,500 still there, to stabilize an Afghan regime and army that is steadily losing ground to the Taliban.

Iran is back on the front burner. While Tillerson concedes that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Trump says it is violating “the spirit of the agreement.”

How so? Says Tillerson, Iran is “destabilizing” the region, and threatening U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

But Iran is an ally of Syria and was invited in to help the U.N.-recognized government put down an insurrection that contains elements of al-Qaida and ISIS. It is we, the Turks, Saudis and Gulf Arabs who have been backing the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime.

In Yemen, Houthi rebels overthrew and expelled a Saudi satrap. The bombing, blockading and intervention with troops is being done by Saudi and Sunni Arabs, assisted by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

It is we and the Saudis who are talking of closing the Yemeni port of Hodeida, which could bring on widespread starvation.

It was not Iran, but the U.S. that invaded Iraq, overthrew the Baghdad regime and occupied the country. It was not Iran that overthrew Col. Gadhafi and created the current disaster in Libya.

Monday, the USS Mahan fired a flare to warn off an Iranian patrol boat, 1,000 meters away. Supposedly, this was a provocation. But Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had a point when he tweeted:

“Breaking: Our Navy operates in — yes, correct — the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. Question is what US Navy doing 7,500 miles from home.”

Who is behind the seeming conversion of Trump to hawk?

The generals, Bibi Netanyahu and the neocons, Congressional hawks with Cold War mindsets, the Saudi royal family and the Gulf Arabs — they are winning the battle for the president’s mind.

And their agenda for America?

We are to recognize that our true enemy in the Mideast is not al-Qaida or ISIS, but Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, Assad’s Syria and his patron, Putin. And until Hezbollah is eviscerated, Assad is gone, and Iran is smashed the way we did Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, the flowering of Middle East democracy that we all seek cannot truly begin.

But before President Trump proceeds along the path laid out for him by his generals, brave and patriotic men that they are, he should discover if any of them opposed any of the idiotic wars of the last 15 years, beginning with that greatest of strategic blunders — George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.