State of the Union

Don’t Let the Hawks Hijack MH17

The bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie was premeditated mass murder. Gadhafi was taking revenge for Reagan’s raid on Tripoli in 1986. The downing of KAL 007, flying from Anchorage to Seoul, was mass murder in the second degree. Seeing an aircraft intrude into Russian air space, Soviet officers brutally ordered it shot down.

The downing of the Malaysian airliner that took the lives of 298 men, women, and children was not deliberate terrorism. No one wanted to massacre those women and children. It was a horrendous military blunder, like the U.S. shoot-down of the Iranian Airbus by the Vincennes in 1988. That U.S. cruiser thought it was coming under attack. And Ukraine’s separatists thought they were firing at an army plane. The distinctions are as important as those between first- and second-degree murder, and manslaughter.

The respective reactions confirm this. Gadhafi concealed his role in the Scotland slaughter. Moscow was defiant in the KAL case. America was apologetic over the Iranian airliner. Today, Vladimir Putin, with an indictment being drawn up against him, is blaming Ukraine for the war out of which the tragedy came. But though Putin did not order the plane shot down, the horror of it all has put him in a box. And the course he pursues could determine the future of U.S.-Russian relations for his tenure.

For the rebels in Ukraine are seen as Putin’s proxies. They have been armed and advised by Russia. And it was a Russian SA-11 that brought the airliner down. While the separatists say they got the surface-to-air missiles from an army depot, there is evidence the missile was provided by Russia, and Russians may have advised or assisted in the fatal launch. This crisis has caused President Obama to insist that Putin cut off the rebels. And if he does not rein them in, and abandon their cause, Putin is likely to face new U.S.-EU sanctions that could cripple his economy and push his country further out into the cold.

And the ostracism of Putin and the sinking of Russia’s economy is what some in the West have long had in mind. The Day of the Hawk is at hand. John McCain and John Bolton are calling for punitive sanctions, declaring Russia an adversary, putting defensive missiles and U.S. troops in Eastern Europe, and arming Kiev. ”That’s just for openers,” says McCain, who wants “the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia.”

“So first, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory,” McCain adds, “Second of all, move some of our troops into areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin.” Right. Let’s get eyeball to eyeball with the Russians again.

In this “moment of moral and strategic clarity about the threat that Vladimir Putin’s regime poses to world order,” the Wall Street Journal said this weekend, we should send “arms to Ukraine until Mr. Putin stops arming the separatists.” The Washington Post urges “military assistance to Ukraine” and sanctions “to force Mr. Putin to choose between continued aggression in Ukraine and saving the Russian economy.”

But if aiding rebels in overthrowing their government is “aggression,” is that not exactly what we are doing in Syria? Hopefully, those who prodded the U.S. to send surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian rebels are having second thoughts today. But before we sink the Russian economy and send weapons to Ukraine, perhaps we should consider the potential consequences. Read More…

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America Is a Microcosm of a World on Fire

To observe the decades-long paralysis of America’s political elite in controlling her borders calls to mind the insight of James Burnham in 1964—”Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.” What the ex-Trotskyite turned Cold Warrior meant was that by faithfully following the tenets of liberalism, the West would embrace suicidal policies that would bring about the death of her civilization.

The crisis on our Southern border, where the left, and not only the left, is wailing that we cannot turn away desperate people fleeing wicked regimes and remain true to our liberal values, is a case in point. To assert that we cannot take all these people in, that we must send them back and seal out border for our survival, is to be called a variety of names—racist, xenophobe, nativist—all of which translate into “illiberal.” But as we continue our descent to Third World status, perhaps we should explore more deeply the “diversity” that has of late come to be regarded as America’s most treasured attribute.

In 1960, we were not nearly so diverse. Nine in 10 Americans professed a Christian faith. Nine in 10 Americans traced their ancestry back to Europe. E Pluribus Unum. We were one nation and one people. Since then, we have become the Brazil of North America, a multiracial, multilingual, multiethnic, multicultural “universal nation” unlike any that has existed in the history of the West. And if we look abroad at those Western nations traveling along this perilous path with us, we can see clearly now our future

Before the 1960s, Europe never knew mass immigration. And after the terrible ethnic cleansing of Germans after World War II, most of Europe’s nations were ethnically homogeneous. Several were not. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the USSR. At the end of the Cold War, with freedom, all three came apart. Where we had three nations, suddenly we had 24 and such sub-nations as South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transnistria.

Now Scots are seeking to break away from England, Catalans from Spain, Corsicans from France, Venetians from Italy, and Flemish from Belgium, though these peoples have lived together for centuries. Crimeans have gone back to Russia, while Chechens and other peoples of the Caucasus are fighting to break free of Russia. The roots of these secessionist movements may be traced to economics, ethnicity, history, religion, language, culture, and borders.

Then there are the rising millions of Muslims in Europe who are not assimilating, as Catholic Irish and Catholic Germans did in a Protestant USA, but are replicating within the West the countries and cultures whence they came.  They are separating themselves, by ethnicity, culture, and faith, from the Western societies into which they have migrated.

Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Somalis, and Arabs in America also build replicas of the countries and cultures whence they came. Thus, we take on the aspect of an empire. And empires fall apart. The melting pot, rejected by our elites as an instrument of nativist bigots, is history. Libya, Syria and Iraq are coming apart, as did Sudan and Ethiopia. The Kurds seek to carve a nation out of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. A Sunni-Shia sectarian war impends.

Christians are being persecuted, martyred, and expelled from Islamic nations. In Myanmar, Muslims are brutalized by Buddhists. In Western China, ethnic Uighurs resort to terrorism in a war of secession to establish a new East Turkestan. Disintegration, separatism, and secessionism, for racial, religious, and cultural causes, are a phenomenon common now to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Are we somehow immune? Read More…

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Will the U.S. Become Balkanized?

Speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Albuquerque in 2001, George W. Bush declared that, as Mexico was a friend and neighbor, “It’s so important for us to tear down our barriers and walls that might separate Mexico from the United States.” Bush succeeded. And during his tenure, millions from Mexico exploited his magnanimity to violate our laws, trample upon our sovereignty, walk into our country, and remain here. In 2007, backed by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, and Barack Obama, Bush backed amnesty for the 12 million people who had entered America illegally. The nation thundered no. And Congress sustained the nation.

The latest mass border crossing by scores of thousands of tots, teenagers, and toughs from Central America has killed amnesty in 2014, and probably for the duration of the Obama presidency. Indeed, with the massive media coverage of the crisis on the border, immigration, legal and illegal, and what it portends for our future, could become the decisive issue of 2014 and 2016.

But it needs to be put in a larger context. For this issue is about more than whether the Chamber of Commerce gets amnesty for its members who have been exploiting cheap illegal labor. The real issue: Will America remain one nation, or are we are on the road to Balkanization and the breakup of America into ethnic enclaves? For, as Ronald Reagan said, a nation that cannot control its borders isn’t really a nation anymore.

In Federalist No. 2, John Jay wrote,

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs …

He called Americans a “band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties.” The republic of the founders for whom Jay spoke did not give a fig for diversity. They cherished our unity, commonality, and sameness of ancestry, culture, faith, and traditions. We were not a nation of immigrants in 1789.

They came later. From 1845-1849, the Irish fleeing the famine. From 1890-1920, the Germans. Then the Italians, Poles, Jews, and other Eastern Europeans. Then, immigration was suspended in 1924.

From 1925 to 1965, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants were assimilated, Americanized. In strong public schools, they were taught our language, literature, and history, and celebrated our holidays and heroes. We endured together through the Depression and sacrificed together in World War II and the Cold War. By 1960, we had become truly one nation and one people.

America was not perfect. No country is. But no country ever rivaled what America had become. She was proud, united, free, the first nation on earth. And though the civil rights movement had just begun, nowhere did black peoples enjoy the freedom and prosperity of African-Americans.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that America is today in “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago.” In some ways that is so. Equality of rights has been realized. Miraculous cures in medicine have kept alive many of us who would not have survived the same maladies half a century ago.

But we are no longer that “band of brethren.” We are no longer one unique people “descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion.” We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion, and roots. Read More…

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Can the GOP Replicate Nixon’s Resurrection?

nixon 100

One question I am asked while on tour for my new book, “The Greatest Comeback,” on the resurrection of Richard Nixon, is: Does Nixon’s rise, from crushing defeats in 1960 and 1962, and the debacle his party suffered in 1964, to capturing the White House and beginning a string of five victories in six presidential elections, have relevance for today’s GOP?

Can the “Great Silent Majority” of yesteryear be replicated?

The answer is probably not. For while there are similarities between the America of 1968, and of today, the differences are greater.

The similarities: By the late 1960s, as today, the country was pivoting away from a Democratic Party and president that seemed incapable of mastering the crises of the times in which they lived. Then it was LBJ; today, Barack Obama.

In 1968, America turned to the GOP to manage a bloodier war than Iraq, that the Democratic Party could not win or end, and to cope with the social anarchy Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society seemed to have ushered in. And the party of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan delivered — eventually — a successful conclusion to the Cold War that had been the unifying cause of that generation.

America is another country today.

The Cold War is over. The nation is no longer united on America’s role. A majority want out of the Middle East wars into which George W. Bush led the nation. And the GOP is itself, like the Democrats of 1968 over Vietnam, divided on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and how to deal with the challenges of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Xi Jinping’s China.

While distrust of government has rarely been greater than today, it is also true that dependence upon government has never been greater. Tens of millions of families rely on the government as a primary source of income, food, health care, housing and other necessities of daily life. Government’s role in education has never been greater. A Republican Party that preaches an anti-Big Government gospel or a rollback of programs is unlikely to be warmly received by the scores of millions who depend on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other social welfare benefits. Republican proposals to cut taxes on income, capital gains, estates, and inheritances are unlikely to win standing ovations from folks who pay no income taxes and have no estates or capital gains.

America is another country in other ways.

Nixon’s Silent Majority, which encompassed much of the Greatest Generation and of the Silent Generation born in the 1930s and during World War II, is passing on. And with a birth rate among the following generations below replacement levels for 40 years, the demography of America is markedly different from the days of Ike and JFK. Read More…

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Stop the Impeachment Talk

Matt Cadwaller / Flickr

Increasingly, across this city, the “I” word is being heard. Impeachment is being brought up by Republicans outraged over Barack Obama’s usurpations of power and unilateral rewriting of laws. And Obama is taunting John Boehner and the GOP: “So sue me.”

Democrats are talking impeachment to rally a lethargic base to come out and vote this fall to prevent Republicans from taking control of the Senate, and with it the power to convict an impeached president. Still, Republicans should drop the talk of impeachment.

For the GOP would gain nothing and risk everything if the people began to take seriously their threats to do to Barack Obama what Newt Gingrich’s House did to Bill Clinton. The charges for which a president can be impeached and removed from office, are “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” With Bill Clinton, the impeachers had a solid case of perjury.

With Richard Nixon, they had a preponderance of evidence that, at least for a time, he had sought to obstruct justice in the investigation of the Watergate break-in. Article II of the impeachment of Richard Nixon was for misuse of the IRS in what turned out to be futile and failed attempts to have the agency harass political enemies by having them audited. As yet there is no evidence Obama knew of the IRS plot to delay and deny tax exemptions to Tea Party groups, which would be an abuse of power and a trampling upon the constitutional rights of Tea Partiers, who were denied the equal protection of the laws.

The GOP response to the lost emails of Lois Lerner and crashed computers that went missing should be a drumbeat of demands for the appointment of an independent counsel, not an impeachment committee in the House. Obama claims he did not learn of the IRS abuse until years after it began, and weeks after his White House staff learned of it. In the absence of those emails, the claim cannot be refuted.

In the Benghazi scandal, the president’s defense is the same.

He had no idea what was going on. And cluelessness appears here to be a credible defense. Two weeks after the Benghazi atrocity, Obama was at the U.N. still parroting the Susan Rice line about an anti-Muslim video having been the cause of it all. Has the president unilaterally rewritten the Obamacare law, while ignoring the Congress that wrote it? Indeed, he has.

But would a Republican Party that failed and folded when it tried to use its legitimate power of the purse to defund Obamacare really stand firm in an Antietam battle to impeach a president of the United States? Or is this just “beer talk”?

Impeachment is in the last analysis a political act. The impeachment of Nixon was a coup d’etat by liberal enemies who, though repudiated and routed by the electorate in 1972, still retained the institutional power to break him and destroy his presidency. And, undeniably, he gave them the tools.

In the case of Nixon, political enemies controlled both houses of the Congress. Washington was a hostile city. Though he had swept 49 states, Nixon lost D.C. 3-to-1. The bureaucracy built up in the New Deal and Great Society was deep-dyed Democratic. Most crucially, the Big Media whose liberal bias had been exposed by Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were hell-bent on revenge. All three power centers—the bureaucracy, Congress, the Big Media—worked in harness to bring Nixon down.

No such powerful and hostile coalition exits today with Obama. Read More…

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The Lie of Richard Nixon’s Racism

Richard M. Nixon presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Duke Ellington, 04/24/1969
Richard M. Nixon presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Duke Ellington, 04/24/1969

“For the first time since President Richard M. Nixon’s divisive ‘Southern strategy’ that sent whites to the Republican Party and blacks to the Democrats …” began a New York Times story last week. Thus has one of the big lies of U.S. political history morphed into a cliche—that Richard Nixon used racist politics to steal the South from a Democratic Party battling heroically for civil rights.

A brief stroll through Bruce Bartlett’s Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past might better enlighten us.

Where Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner, Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the U.S. government and had the pro-Klan film “Birth of a Nation” screened in his White House. Wilson and FDR carried all 11 states of the Old Confederacy all six times they ran, when Southern blacks had no vote. Disfranchised black folks did not seem to bother these greatest of liberal icons.

As vice president, FDR chose “Cactus Jack” Garner of Texas who played a major role in imposing a poll tax to keep blacks from voting. Among FDR’s Supreme Court appointments was Hugo Black, a Klansman who claimed FDR knew this when he named him in 1937 and that FDR told him that “some of his best friends” in Georgia were Klansmen. Black’s great achievement as a lawyer was in winning the acquittal of a man who shot to death the Catholic priest who had presided over his daughter’s marriage to a Puerto Rican.

In 1941, FDR named South Carolina Sen. “Jimmy” Byrnes to the Supreme Court. Byrnes had led filibusters in 1935 and 1938 that killed anti-lynching bills, arguing that lynching was necessary “to hold in check the Negro in the South.” FDR refused to back the 1938 anti-lynching law.

“This is a white man’s country and will always remain a white man’s country,” said Jimmy. Harry Truman, who paid $10 to join the Klan, then quit, named Byrnes Secretary of State, putting him first in line of succession to the presidency, as Harry then had no V.P.

During the civil rights struggles of the ’50s and ’60s, Gov. Orval Faubus used the National Guard to keep black students out of Little Rock High. Gov. Ross Barnett refused to let James Meredith into Ole Miss. Gov. George Wallace stood in the door at the University of Alabama, to block two black students from entering. All three governors were Democrats. All acted in accord with the “Dixie Manifesto” of 1956, which was signed by 19 senators, all Democrats, and 80 Democratic congressmen.

Among the signers of the manifesto, which called for massive resistance to the Brown decision desegregating public schools, was the vice presidential nominee on Adlai’s Stevenson’s ticket in 1952, Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama. Though crushed by Eisenhower, Adlai swept the Deep South, winning both Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Do you suppose those Southerners thought Adlai would be tougher than Ike on Stalin? Or did they think Adlai would maintain the unholy alliance of Southern segregationists and Northern liberals that enabled Democrats to rule from 1932 to 1952?

The Democratic Party was the party of slavery, secession and segregation, of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and the KKK. “Bull” Connor, who turned the dogs loose on black demonstrators in Birmingham, was the Democratic National Committeeman from Alabama.

And Nixon?

In 1956, as vice president, Nixon went to Harlem to declare, “America can’t afford the cost of segregation.” The following year, Nixon got a personal letter from Dr. King thanking him for helping to persuade the Senate to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Nixon supported the civil rights acts of 1964, 1965, and 1968.

In the 1966 campaign, as related in my new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, out July 8, Nixon blasted Dixiecrats “seeking to squeeze the last ounces of political juice out of the rotting fruit of racial injustice.”

Nixon called out segregationist candidates in ’66 and called on LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, and Bobby Kennedy to join him in repudiating them. None did. Hubert, an arm around Lester Maddox, called him a “good Democrat.” And so were they all—good Democrats. While Adlai chose Sparkman, Nixon chose Spiro Agnew, the first governor south of the Mason Dixon Line to enact an open-housing law.

In Nixon’s presidency, the civil rights enforcement budget rose 800 percent. Record numbers of blacks were appointed to federal office. An Office of Minority Business Enterprise was created. SBA loans to minorities soared 1,000 percent. Aid to black colleges doubled.

Nixon won the South not because he agreed with them on civil rights—he never did—but because he shared the patriotic values of the South and its antipathy to liberal hypocrisy. When Johnson left office, 10 percent of Southern schools were desegregated. When Nixon left, the figure was 70 percent.

Richard Nixon desegregated the Southern schools, something you won’t learn in today’s public schools. For history is a pack of lies agreed upon.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

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Congress Can Stop Obama’s Ramp Up to War

Barack Obama has asked Congress for $500 million to train and arm rebels of the Free Syrian Army who seek to overthrow the government. Before Congress takes up his proposal, both houses should demand that Obama explain exactly where he gets the constitutional authority to plunge us into what the president himself calls “somebody else’s civil war.”

Syria has not attacked us. Syria does not threaten us. Why are we joining a jihad to overthrow the Syrian government?

President Bashar Assad is fighting against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the even more extreme and vicious Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In training and arming the FSA, we are enlisting in a cause where our foremost fighting allies are Islamists, like those who brought down the twin towers, and a Sunni terrorist army that seeks to bring down the government we left behind in Baghdad.

What are we doing?

Assad is no angel. But before this uprising, which has taken 150,000 lives and created millions of refugees, Congressmen and secretaries of state regularly visited him in Damascus. ”There’s a different leader in Syria now,” cooed Hillary in 2011, “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

If we bring down Assad, what assurance to do have that the Free Syrian Army will prevail against the Islamists who have proved far more effective in the field? Will we not be compelled to plunge into the subsequent civil war to keep ISIS and al-Qaeda from taking power?

If Assad falls there is also a high probability Syria’s Christians will face beheadings and butchery at the hands of the fanatics. And should martyrdoms and massacres begin with the fall of Assad because of our intervention, the blood of Christians will be on the hands of Barack Hussein Obama and the Congress of the United States.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin says he wants no part of Obama’s new wars. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine rightly asserts that President Obama has no authority to take us into war in Syria or Iraq. But where are the Republicans?

Absent an attack on U.S. citizens or vital interests, or an imminent threat of attack, Obama has no authority to initiate war. The Constitution places the power to authorize wars of choice exclusively with Congress. James Madison and his colleagues were seeking to ensure against a rogue presidency of the kind that Obama has lately begun to conduct.

It is astonishing that Republicans who threaten to impeach Obama for usurping authority at home remain silent as he prepares to usurp their war powers—to march us into Syria and back into Iraq. Last August, Americans rose as one to tell Congress to deny Obama any authority to attack Syria. Are Republicans now prepared to sit mute as Obama takes us into two new Middle East wars, on his own authority?

A Congressional debate on war is essential not only from a legal and constitutional standpoint but also a strategic one. For there is a question as to whether we are even on the right side in Syria. Assad, no matter his sins, is the defender of the Christian and Shia minorities in Syria. He has been the most successful Arab ruler in waging war against the terrorist brigades of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Why, then, are we training Syrians to attack his army and arming people to topple his government? Have we not before us, in Libya, an example of what happens when we bring down an autocrat like Gadhafi, and even worse devils are unleashed? Read More…

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Is a Hillary Clinton Presidency Inevitable?

Angela Radulescu / cc

Looking back over the last century there were two great coalition builders in presidential politics: FDR and Richard Nixon. Franklin Roosevelt broke the Lincoln lock on the presidency that had given Republicans the White House in 56 of the previous 72 years. From 1932 to 1964, FDR’s party would win seven of nine elections. Nixon broke through in ’68 and built the New Majority that gave the GOP the White House for 20 of the next 24 years.

The Nixon-Reagan coalition, however, has aged and atrophied. In five of the last six presidential elections, the Democratic nominee won the popular vote. And no fewer than 18 states, including four of the most populous — California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York — have gone Democratic in all six of those elections. Also, four states crucial to victory and once regarded as reliably Republican — Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado — have turned purple. The GOP is also facing a demographic crisis. White folks, who provide almost 90 percent of Republican votes in presidential years, are steadily shrinking as a share of the electorate.

Is Hillary thus inevitable?

With the cash she can raise and the support of the sisterhood, she may be able to clear the field in the run for the nomination. And in a general election it is hard to see which Republican today could take 270 electoral votes from her.

Yet the lady has vulnerabilities. If elected, Hillary would be, at 69, the oldest Democratic president ever. Husband Bill was nearly a quarter of a century younger when inaugurated, as was Barack Obama.

Her book tour for Hard Choices, with her tale of woe about having been “flat broke” in 2001, revealed a queen of privilege wildly out of touch with the hard realities of life in Middle America in 2014. Moreover, there is Clinton fatigue in the country and this capital. Americans under 30 never knew a time when she was not around. Her memoir looks likely to be remaindered long before it earns her publisher anything near the $14 million advance she is rumored to have received. Somebody at Simon & Schuster is going to the wall. And the Democratic left is pawing the turf.

Is her record in office impressive? The most critical vote she cast in eight years in the Senate—to take America into war with Iraq—she now admits was a mistake. And it’s not an insignificant one, considering the disaster that is Iraq today. Her record as secretary of state?

The most memorable moment was announcing the “reset” with Russia. How’s that working out?

Not only must Hillary answer for the failures that brought about the Benghazi massacre, and her absenteeism in its aftermath, but she must also defend a foreign policy that has left her country less respected on every continent. While most Americans support President Obama’s decisions to end the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is something about his leadership on the world stage that calls to mind the Carter era. Read More…

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Make Obama Go to Congress for More War in Iraq

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

With the Islamic warriors of ISIS having captured all the border posts between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, we may be witnessing the end of Sykes-Picot. That was the secret 1916 treaty by which the British and French carved up the Ottoman Empire, with the Brits taking Transjordan and Iraq, and the French Syria and Lebanon. Sykes-Picot stuck in the craw of Osama bin Laden. Now his most fanatical followers have given him a posthumous triumph.

President Obama said over the weekend that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which seeks to create a caliphate out of the Sunni lands of Syria and Iraq it occupies, poses a threat to the United States. Obama has thus committed 300 special forces to assist Iraq’s defeated and demoralized army, and there is talk of U.S. air and missile strikes and drone attacks on ISIS, in Syria as well as in Iraq.

That would constitute a new war. Yet the president, who taught constitutional law, says he does not need Congressional authorization. He is dead wrong. Not only has he no authority to take America into civil wars in Iraq and Syria, he would be insane to do so without the support of his countrymen, as expressed in a vote by Congress.

Obama is about to make a decision fateful for himself and for his country. Does he not realize that he is on the edge of an abyss, about to stumble into a tribal and religious war across the Middle East? The Iraq we left behind three years ago no longer exists. It has been divided up into a Kurdistan, the Sunni region of the north and west, and a Shia-dominated Baghdad and south.

To put the Iraq of Sykes-Picot back together would require thousands of troops to recapture and hold Iraq’s border towns and to reimpose Baghdad’s rule over Anbar and the Sunni Triangle. As the Iraqi army has been routed from this region, recapturing these Sunni lands could require U.S. troops in numbers to rival the surge that enabled Gen. David Petraeus to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq.

Yet the situation in the Sunni region is more hostile today.

The Sunni do not want U.S. troops fighting to force them back under Baghdad’s rule. Some have welcomed ISIS as allies in the fight to be free of a hated Shia-dominated army and regime. Some Sunni Arab states are expressing bewilderment that the United States seems about to start a war on the Sunni regions. Are we really going to send planes to bomb and kill our former allies, with their wives and children as collateral damage?

Among the Shia volunteers on whose side we would be fighting are the Mahdi Army we fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many have blood debts to collect from U.S. soldiers. Ayatollah Khamenei says that while he might welcome the use of U.S. air power against ISIS, he does not want U.S. troops to return to Baghdad or the Shia south. Is the U.S. Air Force going to become the Condor Legion of the Ayatollah Khamenei?

Assume that we intervened massively, led the Iraq army back into the Sunni north and west, and helped it to recapture Mosul and the border posts. How many U.S. troops would we have to leave behind in Iraq to prevent a future Shia regime from losing its Sunni provinces a third time? The Iraqi army that we trained at a cost of $25 billion and left behind in 2011 folded like a house of cards. How many times must we do this? And if we defeat ISIS, would not these jihadists simply retreat into the Syrian territories they now occupy, as their privileged sanctuary, to come back and fight another day? Read More…

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Bombs Can’t Save Iraq

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

The panic that engulfed this capital after the fall of Mosul, when it appeared that the Islamist fanatics of ISIS would overrun Baghdad, has passed. And the second thoughts have begun. “U.S. Sees Risk in Iraqi Airstrikes,” ran the June 19 headline in the Washington Post, “Military Warns of Dangerous Complications.” This is welcome news. For if it is an unwritten rule of republics not to commit to war unless the nation is united, America has never been less prepared for a Mideast war.

Our commander in chief is a reluctant warrior who wants his legacy to be ending our two longest wars. And just as Obama does not want to go back into Iraq, neither does the U.S. military. The American people want no new war, and Congress does not want to be forced to vote on such a war. Our foreign policy elites are split half a dozen ways—on whether to bomb or not to bomb, on who our real enemies are in Syria and Iraq, on whose support we should and should not accept, on what our strategic goals are, and what are the prospects for success.

Consider the bombing option.

Undoubtedly, U.S. air power could blunt an attack on Baghdad. But air power cannot retake Mosul or the Sunni Triangle that Baghdad has lost, or Kirkuk or Kurdistan. That will take boots on the ground and casualties. And nobody thinks these should be American boots or American casualties. And why should we fight to hold Iraq together? Is that a vital interest to which we should commit American lives in perpetuity? When did it become so?

No. Bombing cannot put Iraq together again, but it may tear Iraq further apart. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has succeeded in northern Iraq because it has allied with the same militias, Baathists, and tribal leaders who worked with Gen. David Petraeus in the Anbar Awakening. And if we use air power in Sunni provinces that have seceded from Baghdad, we will be killing people who were our partners and are not our enemies. Photos of dead Sunnis, from U.S. air, drone, and missile strikes, could inflame the Sunni world.

Upon one thing Americans do agree: ISIS and al-Qaeda are our enemies. But is bombing ISIS and killing Sunnis the way to destroy ISIS? Or does bombing martyrize and heroize ISIS for the Sunni young? And if destroying ISIS is a strategic imperative, why have we not demanded that the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia cease funneling arms and aid to ISIS in Syria? Why have we not told the Turks to stop permitting jihadists to cross their border into Syria? Why are we aiding and arming the Free Syrian Army to bring down Bashar Assad, when Assad’s army is the only fighting force standing between ISIS and the conquest of Syria? Read More…

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