Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
Since World War II, the two men who have most terrified this city by winning the presidency are Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.
And they have much in common.
Both came out of the popular culture, Reagan out of Hollywood, Trump out of a successful reality TV show. Both possessed the gifts of showmen — extraordinarily valuable political assets in a television age that deals cruelly with the uncharismatic.
Both became instruments of insurgencies out to overthrow the establishment of the party whose nomination they were seeking.
Reagan emerged as the champion of the postwar conservatism that had captured the Republican Party with Barry Goldwater’s nomination in 1964. His victory in 1980 came at the apogee of conservative power.
The populism that enabled Trump to crush 16 Republican rivals and put him over the top in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan had also arisen a decade and a half before — in the 1990s.
A decisive advantage Reagan and Trump both enjoyed is that in their decisive years, the establishments of both parties were seen as having failed the nation.
Reagan was victorious after Russia invaded Afghanistan; Americans were taken hostage in Tehran; and the U.S. had endured 21 percent interest rates, 13 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment and zero growth.
When Trump won, Americans had gone through years of wage stagnation. Our industrial base had been hollowed out. And we seemed unable to win or end a half-dozen Middle East wars in which we had become ensnared.
What is the common denominator of both the Reagan landslide of 1980 and Trump’s victory?
Both candidates appealed to American nationalism.
In the late 1970s, Reagan took the lead in the campaign to save the Panama Canal. “We bought it. We paid for it. It’s ours. And we’re going to keep it,” thundered the Gipper.
While he lost the fight for the Canal when the GOP establishment in the Senate lined up behind Jimmy Carter, the battle established Reagan as a leader who put his country first.
Trump unapologetically seized upon the nationalist slogan that was most detested by our globalist elites, “America first!”
He would build a wall, secure the border, stop the invasion. He would trash the rotten trade treaties negotiated by transnational elites who had sold out our sovereignty and sent our jobs to China.
He would demand that freeloading allies in Europe, the Far East and the Persian Gulf pay their fair share of the cost of their defense.
In the rhetoric of Reagan and Trump there is a simplicity and a directness that is familiar to, and appeals to, the men and women out in Middle America, to whom both directed their campaigns.
In his first press conference in January of 1981, Reagan said of the Kremlin, “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat. … We operate on a different set of standards.”
He called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and the “focus of evil in the modern world.”
The State Department was as wary of what Reagan might say or do then as they are of what Trump might tweet now.
But while there are similarities between these outsiders who captured their nominations and won the presidency by defying and then defeating the establishments of both political parties, the situations they confront are dissimilar.
Reagan took office in a time of Cold War clarity.
Though there was sharp disagreement over how tough the United States should be and what was needed for national defense, there was no real question as to who our adversaries were.
As had been true since the time of Harry Truman, the world struggle was between communism and freedom, the USSR and the West, the Warsaw Pact and the NATO alliance.
There was a moral clarity then that no longer exists now.
Today, the Soviet Empire is gone, the Warsaw Pact is gone, the Soviet Union is gone, and the Communist movement is moribund.
NATO embraces three former republics of the USSR, and we confront Moscow in places like Crimea and the Donbass that no American of the Reagan era would have regarded as a national interest of the United States.
We no longer agree on who our greatest enemies are, or what the greatest threats are.
Is it Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Is it Iran? Is it China, which Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson says must be made to vacate the air, missile and naval bases it has built on rocks and reefs in a South China Sea that Beijing claims as its national territory?
Is it North Korea, now testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles?
Beyond issues of war and peace, there are issues at home — race, crime, policing, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration (legal and illegal) and countless others on which this multicultural, multiracial and multiethnic nation is split two, three, many ways.
The existential question of the Trump era might be framed thus: How long will this divided democracy endure as one nation and one people?
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
“Fake news!” roared Donald Trump, the work of “sick people.”
The president-elect was referring to a 35-page dossier of lurid details of his alleged sexual misconduct in Russia, worked up by a former British spy. A two-page summary of the 35 pages had been added to Trump’s briefing by the CIA and FBI — and then leaked to CNN.
This is “something that Nazi Germany would have done,” Trump said. Here, basically, is the story.
During the primaries, anti-Trump Republicans hired the ex-spy to do “oppo research” on Trump, i.e., to dig up dirt.
The spy contacted the Russians. They told him that Trump, at a Moscow hotel in 2013, had been engaged in depraved behavior, that they had the films to blackmail him, and that Trump’s aides had been colluding with them.
When Trump won the nomination, Democrats got the dossier and began shopping it around to the mainstream media. Some sought to substantiate the allegations. None could. So none of them published the charges.
In December, a British diplomat gave the dossier to Sen. John McCain, who personally turned it over to James Comey of the FBI.
On Jan. 7, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and his colleagues at the NSA, CIA and FBI decided the new president needed to know about the dossier. They provided him with a two-page synopsis.
Once CNN learned Trump had been briefed, the cable news network reported on the unpublished dossier, without going into the lurid details.
BuzzFeed released all 35 pages. The story exploded.
Besides Trump’s understandable outrage, his Jan. 11 press conference produced related news.
U.S. intelligence agencies had for months contended that it was Russia who hacked the DNC emails and those of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta. Putin’s objectives, they contend, were to damage both U.S. democracy and Hillary Clinton, whom Putin detests, and to aid Trump.
Trump had previously dismissed claims of Russian hacking as unproved conjecture, and also as being advanced to delegitimize his victory.
Wednesday, Trump conceded Russia did it: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” adding, Vladimir Putin “should not be doing it.”
The stakes in all of this are becoming huge.
Clearly, Trump hopes to work out with Putin the kind of detente that President Nixon achieved with Leonid Brezhnev.
This should not be impossible. For, unlike the 1970s, there is no Soviet Empire stretching from Havana to Hanoi, no Warsaw Pact dominating Central Europe, no Communist ideology steering Moscow into constant Cold War conflict with the West.
Russia is a great power with great power interests. But she does not seek to restore a global empire or remake the world in her image. U.S.-Russian relations are thus ripe for change.
But any such hope is now suddenly impaired.
The howls of indignation from Democrats and the media — that Trump’s victory and Clinton’s defeat were due to Putin’s involvement in our election — have begun to limit Trump’s freedom of action in dealing with Russia. And they are beginning to strengthen the hand of the Russophobes and the Putin-is-Hitler crowd in both parties.
When Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson went before the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio demanded to know why he would not publicly declare Putin a “war criminal.”
The more toxic Putin-haters can make the Russian president, the more difficult for President Trump to deal with him, even if that is in the vital national interest of the United States.
The sort of investigation for which McCain has been clamoring, and the Beltway drums have now begun to beat, could make it almost impossible for President Trump to work with President Putin.
The Washington Post describes the engine it wishes to see built:
“The investigators of Russian meddling, whether a Congressional select committee or an independent commission, should have bipartisan balance, full subpoena authority, no time limit and a commitment to make public as much as possible of what they find.”
What the Post seeks is a Watergate Committee like the one that investigated the Nixon White House, or a commission like the ones that investigated 9/11 and the JFK assassination.
Trump “should recognize,” writes the Post, “that the credibility of his denials of any Russian connections is undermined by his refusal to release tax returns and business records.”
In short, when the investigation begins, Trump must produce the evidence to establish his innocence. Else, he is Putin’s man.
This city is salivating over another Watergate, another broken president. But President-elect Trump should be aware of what is at stake. As the Wall Street Journal writes:
“Mr. Trump’s vehement denials (of collusion with Moscow and corrupt behavior) also mean that if we learn in the future that Russia does have compromising details about him, his Presidency could be over.”
Yes, indeed, very big stakes.
Though every Republican in Congress voted against the Iran nuclear deal, “Tearing it up … is not going to happen,” says Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Hopefully, the chairman speaks for the president-elect.
During the campaign, Donald Trump indicated as much, saying that, though the U.S. got jobbed in the negotiations—”We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract”—he might not walk away.
To Trump, a deal’s a deal, even a bad one. And we did get taken.
In 2007 and 2011, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies assured us, “with high confidence,” that Iran did not have an atomic-bomb program.
Yet our folks forked over $50 billion for an Iranian show and tell to prove they were not doing what our 17 intelligence agencies told us, again and again, they were not doing.
Why did we disbelieve our own intelligence, and buy into the “Chicken Little” chatter about Iran being “only months away from a bomb”?
Corker also administered a cold shower to those who darkly warn of a secret Iranian program to produce a bomb: “In spite of all the flaws in the agreement, nothing bad is going to happen relative to nuclear development in Iran in the next few years. It’s just not.”
Under the deal, Iran has put two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges at Natanz in storage, ceased enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak, and shipped 97 percent of its enriched uranium out of the country. Cameras and United Nations inspectors are all over the place.
Even should Iran decide on a crash program to create enough fissile material for a single A-bomb test, this would take a year, and we would know about it.
But why would they? After all, there are sound reasons of state why Iran decided over a decade ago to forgo nuclear weapons.
Discovery of a bomb program could bring the same U.S. shock and awe as was visited on Iraq for its nonexistent WMD. Discovery would risk a preemptive strike by an Israel with scores of nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia and Turkey would have a powerful inducement to build their own bombs.
Acquiring a nuclear weapon would almost surely make Iran, a Persian nation on the edge of a sea of Arabs, less secure.
If, however, in the absence of a violation of the treaty by Iran, we tore up the deal, we could find ourselves isolated. For Britain, France, and Germany also signed, and they believe the agreement is a good one.
Do we really want to force these NATO allies to choose between the deal they agreed to and a break with the United States?
If the War Party is confident Iran is going to cheat, why not wait until they do? Then make our case with evidence, so our allies can go with us on principle, and not from pressure.
Also at issue is the deal signed by Boeing to sell Iran 80 jetliners. Airbus has contracted to sell Iran 100 planes, and begun delivery. List price for the two deals: $34.5 billion. Tens of thousands of U.S. jobs are at stake.
Is a Republican Congress prepared to blow up the Boeing deal and force the Europeans to cancel the Airbus deal?
Why? Some contend the planes can be used to transport the Iranian Republican Guard. But are the Iranians, who are looking to tourism, trade, and investment to rescue their economy, so stupid as to spend $35 billion for troop transports they could buy from Vladimir Putin?
The Ayatollah’s regime may define itself by its hatred of the Great Satan. Still, in 2009, even our War Party was urging President Obama to publicly back the Green Movement uprising against the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In 2013, moderates voted Hassan Rouhani into the presidency, where he began secret negotiations with the USA.
New elections will be held this year. And while the death of ex-President Rafsanjani this weekend has removed the powerful patron of Rouhani and strengthened the hard-liners, Ayatollah Khamenei is suffering from cancer, and the nation’s future remains undetermined.
Iran’s young seek to engage with the West. But if they are spurned, by the cancellation of the Boeing deal and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, they will be disillusioned and discredited, and the mullahs will own the future.
How would that serve U.S. interests?
We still have sanctions on Iran for its missile tests in violation of Security Council resolutions, for its human-rights violations, and for its support of groups like Hezbollah. But we also have in common with Iran an enmity for the Sunni terrorists of al-Qaeda and ISIS.
We are today fighting in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as the War Party works to confront Beijing in the South China Sea, Russia in Ukraine, and North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.
Could we perhaps put the confrontation with Iran on hold?
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.
“As we begin 2017, the most urgent threat to liberal democracy is not autocracy,” writes William Galston of the Wall Street Journal, “it is illiberal democracy.”
Galston’s diagnosis is not wrong, and his alarm is not misplaced.
Yet why does America’s great export, liberal democracy, which appeared to be the future of the West if not of mankind at the Cold War’s end, now appear to be a church with a shrinking congregation?
Why is liberal democracy losing its appeal?
A front-page story about France’s presidential election, in the same day’s Journal, suggests an answer.
In the final round next May, the French election is likely to come down to a choice of Marine Le Pen or Francois Fillon.
Le Pen is the “let France be France” candidate of the National Front. Fillon is a traditionalist Catholic from northwest France, home to the martyred resistance of the Revolution — the legendary Vendee.
Fillon won practicing and nonpracticing Catholics alike by a landslide, and took 3 in 5 votes of those professing other faiths.
Le Pen wants France to secede from the EU and move closer to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The five million Arabs and Muslims currently in France, the prospective arrival of millions more, and recent Islamic terrorist atrocities have all propelled her candidacy.
Fillon succeeded in his primary by identifying himself as a man of Catholic beliefs and values and an opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion. He does not repudiate secularism, but believes that the France that was “the eldest daughter of the church” should also be heard.
Together, what do the Le Pen and Fillon candidacies tell us?
France and Europe may be moving inexorably away from a liberal democratic, de-Christianized and militantly secularist America. If we are the future, less and less do France and Europe appear to want that future.
While our elites welcome the Third World immigration that is changing the face of America, France and Europe are recoiling from and reacting against it. The French wish to remain who and what they are, a land predominantly of one language, one culture, one people.
America preaches that all religions are equal and should be treated equally. France does not seem to share that liberal belief. And just as the Middle East seems to want no more churches or Christians, France and Europe appear to want no more mosques or Muslims.
Where America’s elites may celebrate same-sex marriage and “reproductive rights,” more and more Europeans are identifying with the social values of Putin’s Russia. Pro-Putin parties are surging in Europe. Pro-America parties have been facing losses and defections.
“Because human beings are equal, any form of ethnocentrism that denies their equality must be rejected,” writes Galston.
That may well be what liberal democracy commands.
But the 24 nations that emerged from the disintegration of the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were all built on ethnonational foundations — Croatia and Serbia, Estonia and Latvia, Georgia and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
And was it not their unique ethnic identities that caused South Ossetia and Abkhazia to break free of Georgia?
Indeed, if what America has on offer is a liberal democracy of 325 million, which is multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, which celebrates its “diversity,” then where in Europe can one find a great party preaching this as the future their country and continent should embrace?
European peoples are largely fleeing from the future America preaches and promises.
Europe’s nations are rising up against what liberal democracy has produced in the USA.
Galston contends correctly that, “few leaders and movements in the West dare to challenge the idea of democracy itself.”
True, so far. But worldwide, Caesarism appears on the march.
Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt and the Philippines exemplify the new popularity of the strongman state. Western liberals initially cheered the Arab Spring, but what it produced curbed their enthusiasm. Free elections in Palestine and Lebanon produced victories for Hamas and Hezbollah.
Though Galston chastises the Polish and Hungarian governments as illiberal democracies, they seem to remain popular at home.
What, then, does the future hold?
The present crisis of Europe has been produced by the migration of tens of millions of Third World peoples never before assimilated in any European nation, and by the pollution and poisoning of these nations’ traditional culture.
This has caused millions to recoil and declare: If this is what liberal democracy produces, then to hell with it.
And if Europe is moving away from what America has become and has on offer, what is there to cause Europeans to turn around and re-embrace liberal democracy? Why not try something else?
In Brexit, the English were voting against the diverse liberal democracy that their capital of Londonistan had become.
Donald Trump’s victory represented a rejection of Barack Obama’s America. And whether he succeeds, what is there to cause America to look back with nostalgia on the America Obama came to represent?
Our Founding Fathers believed that democracy represented the degeneration of a republic; they feared and loathed it, and felt that it was the precursor of dictatorship. They may have been right again.
In retaliation for the hacking of John Podesta and the DNC, Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and ordered closure of their country houses on Long Island and Maryland’s Eastern shore.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that 35 U.S. diplomats would be expelled. But Vladimir Putin stepped in, declined to retaliate at all, and invited the U.S. diplomats in Moscow and their children to the Christmas and New Year’s party at the Kremlin.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger,” reads Proverbs 15:1. “Great move,” tweeted President-elect Trump, “I always knew he was very smart!”
Among our Russophobes, one can almost hear the gnashing of teeth.
Clearly, Putin believes the Trump presidency offers Russia the prospect of a better relationship with the United States. He appears to want this, and most Americans seem to want the same. After all, Hillary Clinton, who accused Trump of being “Putin’s puppet,” lost.
Is then a Cold War II between Russia and the U.S. avoidable?
That question raises several others.
Who is more responsible for both great powers having reached this level of animosity and acrimony, 25 years after Ronald Reagan walked arm-in-arm with Mikhail Gorbachev through Red Square? And what are the causes of the emerging Cold War II?
Comes the retort: Putin has put nuclear-capable missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave between Poland and Lithuania.
True, but who began this escalation?
George W. Bush was the one who trashed Richard Nixon’s ABM Treaty and Obama put anti-missile missiles in Poland. After invading Iraq, George W. Bush moved NATO into the Baltic States in violation of a commitment given to Gorbachev by his father to not move NATO into Eastern Europe if the Red Army withdrew.
Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, says John McCain.
Russia did, after Georgia invaded its breakaway province of South Ossetia and killed Russian peacekeepers. Putin threw the Georgians out, occupied part of Georgia, and then withdrew.
Russia, it is said, has supported Syria’s Bashar Assad, bombed U.S.-backed rebels and participated in the Aleppo slaughter.
But who started this horrific civil war in Syria?
Was it not our Gulf allies, Turkey, and ourselves by backing an insurgency against a regime that had been Russia’s ally for decades and hosts Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean?
Did we not exercise the same right of assisting a beleaguered ally when we sent 500,000 troops to aid South Vietnam against a Viet Cong insurgency supported by Hanoi, Beijing and Moscow?
That’s what allies do.
The unanswered question: Why did we support the overthrow of Assad when the likely successor regime would have been Islamist and murderously hostile toward Syria’s Christians?
Russia, we are told, committed aggression against Ukraine by invading Crimea.
But Russia did not invade Crimea. To secure their Black Sea naval base, Russia executed a bloodless coup, but only after the U.S. backed the overthrow of the pro-Russian elected government in Kiev.
Crimea had belonged to Moscow from the time of Catherine the Great in the 18th century, and the Russia-Ukraine relationship dates back to before the Crusades. When did this become a vital interest of the USA?
As for Putin’s backing of secessionists in Donetsk and Luhansk, he is standing by kinfolk left behind when his country broke apart. Russians live in many of the 14 former Soviet republics that are now independent nations.
Has Putin no right to be concerned about his lost countrymen?
Unlike America’s elites, Putin is an ethnonationalist in a time when tribalism is shoving aside transnationalism as the force of the future.
Russia, it is said, is supporting right-wing and anti-EU parties. But has not our National Endowment for Democracy backed regime change in the Balkans as well as in former Soviet republics?
We appear to be denouncing Putin for what we did first.
Moreover, the populist, nationalist, anti-EU and secessionist parties in Europe have arisen on their own and are advancing through free elections.
Sovereignty, independence, a restoration of national identity, all appear to be more important to these parties than what they regard as an excessively supervised existence in the soft-dictatorship of the EU.
In the Cold War between Communism and capitalism, the single-party dictatorship and the free society, we prevailed.
But in the new struggle we are in, the ethnonational state seems ascendant over the multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual “universal nation” whose avatar is Barack Obama.
Putin does not seek to destroy or conquer us or Europe. He wants Russia, and her interests, and her rights as a great power to be respected.
He is not mucking around in our front yard; we are in his.
The worst mistake President Trump could make would be to let the Russophobes grab the wheel and steer us into another Cold War that could be as costly as the first, and might not end as peacefully.
Reagan’s outstretched hand to Gorbachev worked. Trump has nothing to lose by extending his to Vladimir Putin, and much perhaps to win.
Donald Trump has a new best friend.
“President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support of Israel,” gushed Bibi Netanyahu, after he berated John Kerry in a fashion that would once have resulted in a rupture of diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu accused Kerry of “colluding” in and “orchestrating” an anti-Israel, stab-in-the-back resolution in the Security Council, then lying about it. He offered to provide evidence of Kerry’s complicity and mendacity to President Trump.
Bibi then called in the U.S. ambassador and read him the riot act for 40 minutes. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, charged that not only did the U.S. not “stand up to and oppose the gang-up” at the UN, “the United States was actually behind that gang-up.”
When Ben Rhodes of the National Security Council called the charges false, Dermer dismissed President Obama’s man as a “master of fiction.”
Query: why is Dermer not on a plane back to Tel Aviv?
Some of us can recall how Eisenhower ordered David Ben-Gurion to get his army out of Sinai in 1957, or face sanctions.
Ben-Gurion did as told. Had he and his ambassador castigated Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, as the Israelis dissed John Kerry, Ike would have called the U.S. ambassador home.
Indeed, Ike’s threat of sanctions against Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s government, which had also invaded Egypt, brought Eden down.
But then Dwight Eisenhower was not Barack Obama, and the America of 1956 was a more self-respecting nation.
Still, this week of rancorous exchanges between two nations that endlessly express their love for each other certainly clears the air.
While Kerry has been denounced for abstaining on the UN resolution calling Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem illegal and an impediment to peace, this has been U.S. policy for years.
And Kerry’s warning in his Wednesday speech that at the end of this road of continuous settlement-building lies an Israel that is either a non-Jewish or a non-democratic state is scarcely anti-Semitic.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history, has warned his countrymen, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.”
“If the bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote” added Barak, “this will be an apartheid state.” Of John Kerry’s speech, Barak said, “Powerful, lucid … World & majority in Israel think the same.”
Defense Secretary-designate Gen. James Mattis warned in 2013 that Israeli settlements were leading to an “apartheid” state.
After Joe Biden visited Israel in 2010, to learn that Netanyahu just approved 1,600 new units in East Jerusalem, Gen. David Petraeus warned: “Arab anger on the Palestine question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnership with governments and people in the region.”
Yet facts and reality, however unpleasant, cannot be denied.
The two-state solution is almost surely dead. Netanyahu is not going to remove scores of thousands of Jewish settlers from Judea and Samaria to cede the land to a Palestinian state. After all, Bibi opposed Ariel Sharon’s removal of 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza.
How will all this impact the new Trump administration?
Having tweeted, “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching,” and having named a militant Zionist as his ambassador, Trump is certain to tilt U.S. policy heavily toward Israel.
Politically, this will bring rewards in the U.S. Jewish community.
The Republican Party will become the “pro-Israel” party, while the Democrats can be portrayed as divided and conflicted, with a left wing that is pro-Palestine and sympathetic to sanctions on Israel.
And the problem for Trump in a full embrace of Bibi?
Britain and France, which voted for the resolution where the U.S. abstained, are going to go their separate way on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as is the world.
Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf Arabs will be pressured by their peoples and by the militant states of the region like Iran, to distance themselves from the Americans or face internal troubles.
And once U.S. pressure ends and settlement building in the West Bank proceeds, Netanyahu, his hawkish cabinet, the Israeli lobby, the neocons, and the congressional Republicans will start beating the drums for Trump to terminate what he himself has called that “horrible Iran deal.”
Calls are already coming for the cancellation of the sale of 80 Boeing jets to Iran. Yet, any U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, or reimposition of sanctions on Iran, will further split us off from our European allies. Not only did Britain and France vote for the Security Council resolution, both are party, as is Germany, to the Iran deal.
Having America publicly reassert herself as Israel’s best friend, with “no daylight” between us, could have us ending up as Israel’s only friend—and Israel as our only friend in the Middle East.
Bibi’s Israel First policy must one day collide with America First.
Did the community organizer from Harvard Law just deliver some personal payback to the IDF commando? So it would seem.
By abstaining on that Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal and invalid, raged Bibi Netanyahu, President Obama “failed to protect Israel in this gang-up at the UN, and colluded with it.”
Obama’s people, charged Bibi, “initiated this resolution, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.”
White House aide Ben Rhodes calls the charges “falsehoods.”
Hence, we have an Israeli leader all but castigating an American president as a backstabber and betrayer, while the White House calls Bibi a liar.
This is not an unserious matter.
“By standing with the sworn enemies of Israel to enable the passage of this destructive, one-sided anti-Israel rant and tirade,” writes the Washington Times, “Mr. Obama shows his colors.”
But unfortunately for Israel, the blow was delivered by friends as well as “sworn enemies.”
The U.S. abstained, but Britain, whose Balfour Declaration of 1917 led to the Jewish state in Palestine, voted for the resolution.
As did France, which allied with Israel in the Sinai-Suez campaign of 1956 to oust Egypt’s Colonel Nasser, and whose Mysteres were indispensable to Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Vladimir Putin, who has worked with Bibi and was rewarded with Israel’s refusal to support sanctions on Russia for Crimea and Ukraine, also voted for the resolution.
Egypt, whose Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was welcomed by Bibi after his coup against the Muslim Brotherhood president, and who has collaborated with Bibi against terrorists in Sinai and Gaza, also voted yes.
China voted yes, as did Ukraine. New Zealand and Senegal, both of which have embassies in Tel Aviv, introduced the resolution.
Despite Israel’s confidential but deepening ties with Sunni Arab states that share her fear and loathing of Iran, not a single Security Council member stood by her and voted against condemning Israel’s presence in Arab East Jerusalem and the Old City. Had the resolution gone before the General Assembly, support would have been close to unanimous.
While this changes exactly nothing on the ground in the West Bank or East Jerusalem where 600,000 Israelis now reside, it will have consequences, and few of them will be positive for Israel.
The resolution will stimulate and strengthen the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, which has broad support among U.S. college students, Bernie Sanders Democrats, and the international left.
If Israel does not cease expanding West Bank settlements, she could be hauled before the International Criminal Court and charged with war crimes.
Already, J Street, the liberal Jewish lobby that backs a two-state solution in Palestine—and has been denounced by Donald Trump’s new envoy to Israel David Friedman as “far worse than kapos,” the Jewish guards at Nazi concentration camps—has endorsed the resolution.
The successful resolution is also a reflection of eroding support for Israel at the top of the Democratic Party, as a two-term president and a presidential nominee, Secretary of State John Kerry, were both behind it.
Republicans are moving to exploit the opening by denouncing the resolution and the UN and showing solidarity with Israel. Goal: replace the Democratic Party as the most reliable ally of Israel, and reap the rewards of an historic transfer of Jewish political allegiance.
That Sen. George McGovern was seen as pro-Palestinian enabled Richard Nixon to double his Jewish support between 1968 and 1972.
That Jimmy Carter was seen as cold to Israel enabled Ronald Reagan to capture more than a third of the Jewish vote in 1980, on his way to a 44-state landslide.
Moreover, U.S. acquiescence in this resolution puts Bibi in a box at home. Though seen here as a hawk on the settlements issue, the right wing of Bibi’s coalition is far more hawkish, pushing for outright annexation of West Bank settlements. Others call for a repudiation of Oslo and the idea of an independent Palestinian state.
If Bibi halts settlement building on the West Bank, he could cause a split in his cabinet with rightist rivals like Naftali Bennett who seek to replace him.
Here in the U.S., the UN resolution is seen by Democrats as a political debacle, and by many Trump Republicans as an opportunity.
Sen. Chuck Schumer has denounced Obama’s refusal to veto the resolution, echoing sentiments about the world body one used to hear on America’s far right.
“The U.N.,” said Schumer, “has been a fervently anti-Israel body since the days [it said] ‘Zionism is racism’ and that fervor has never diminished.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will urge Congress to slash funding for the United Nations.
If the folks over at the John Birch Society still have some of those bumper stickers—“Get the U.S. out of the U.N., and the U.N. out of the U.S.!”—they might FedEx a batch over to Schumer and Graham.
May have some converts here.
The terrorist who hijacked a truck in Berlin and ran over and killed 12 people, maiming and wounding 48 more, in that massacre in the Christmas market, has done more damage than he could imagine.
If the perpetrator is the jihadist from Tunisia who had no right to be in Germany, and had been under surveillance, the bell could begin to toll not only for Angela Merkel but for the European Union.
That German lassitude, and the naïveté behind it, allowed this outrage validates the grim verdict of geostrategist James Burnham in Suicide of the West: “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.”
Both the transnational elite and populist right sense the stakes involved here. As news of the barbarous atrocity spread across Europe, the reactions were instantaneous and predictable.
Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, leading candidate for the presidency in 2017, declaimed: “How many more people must die at the hands of Islamic extremists before our governments close our porous borders and stop taking in thousands of illegal immigrants?”
Geert Wilders, the Party for Freedom frontrunner for prime minister of Holland, echoed Le Pen: “They hate and kill us. And nobody protects us. Our leaders betray us. We need a political revolution.
“Islamic immigration/Is an invasion,” he went on, “An existential problem/That will replace our people/Erase our culture.”
“These are Merkel’s dead,” tweeted Marcus Pretzell of the far-right Alternative for Germany about the victims in the Christmas mart.
Nigel Farage, who led the campaign for British secession from the EU, called the Christmas massacre “the Merkel legacy.”
Europe’s populist right is laying this act of Islamist savagery at the feet of Merkel for her having opened Germany in 2015 to a million migrants and refugees from Syria and the Middle East wars.
Before Berlin, she was already on the defensive after mobs of migrants went about molesting and raping German girls in Cologne last New Year’s Eve.
Even admirers who share her belief in a Europe of open borders, that welcomes immigrants and refugees from Third World wars and despotisms, sense the gravity of Merkel’s crisis.
“Germans should not let the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin undermine liberal values,” ran the headline on the Washington Post editorial December 22. Alarmed, the Post went on:
“What Germany cannot and must not do is … succumb to the siren song of the anti-foreigner right-wing, which has been gaining strength across Europe and moved immediately to exploit the attack ahead of the September 2017 national elections.”
The New York Times delivered its customary castigation of the European populist right but, in a note of near-desperation, if not of despair, implored Europe’s liberals not to lose faith:
“With each new attack, whether on a Christmas market or a mosque, the challenge to Europe to defend tolerance, inclusion, equality and reason grows more daunting. If Europe is to survive as a beacon of democratic hope in a world rent by violent divisions, it must not cede those values.”
But less and less does Europe appear to be listening.
Indeed, as Europe has been picking up its dead and wounded for over a decade, from terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, the peoples of Europe seem less interested in hearing recitals of liberal values than in learning what their governments are going to do to keep the Islamist killers out and make them safe.
Salus populi suprema lex.
Liberals may admonish us that all races, creeds, cultures are equal, that anyone from any continent, country, or civilization can come to the West and assimilate. That discrimination against one group of immigrants in favor of another—preferring, say, Lebanese Christians to Syrian Muslims—is illiberal and undemocratic.
But people don’t believe that. Europe and America have moved beyond the verities of 20th-century liberalism.
The cruel experiences of the recent past, and common sense, dictate that open borders are Eurail passes for Islamist terrorists, who are anxious to come and kill us in the West. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be.
In our time, there has taken place, is taking place, an Islamic awakening. Of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, hundreds of millions accept strict sharia law about how to deal with apostasy and infidels.
Scores of millions in the Middle East wish to drive the West out of their world. Thousands are willing to depart and come to Europe to terrorize our societies. They see themselves at war with us, as their ancestors were at war with the Christian world for 1,000 years.
Only liberal ideology calls for America and Europe to bring into their home countries endless numbers of migrants without being overly concerned about who they are, whence they come, or what they believe.
Right-wing and anti-immigrant parties are succeeding in Europe for a simple reason. Mainstream parties are failing in the first duty of government—to protect the safety and security of the people.
The never-Trumpers are never going to surrender the myth that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee to defeat Clinton and elect Donald Trump.
Their investment in the myth is just too huge.
For Clinton and her campaign, it is the only way to explain how they booted away a presidential election even Trump thought he had lost in November. To the mainstream media, this is the smoking gun in their Acela Corridor conspiracy to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sees Russian hacking as a way to put a cloud over the administration before it begins. But it is the uber-hawks hereabouts who are after the really big game.
They seek to demonize Putin as the saboteur of democracy—someone who corrupted an American presidential election to bring about victory for a “useful idiot” whom Clinton called Putin’s “puppet.”
If the War Party can convert this “fake story” into the real story of 2016, then they can scuttle any Trump effort to attain the rapprochement with Russia that Trump promised to try to achieve.
If they can stigmatize Trump as “Putin’s president” and Putin as America’s implacable enemy, then the Russophobes are back in business.
Nor is the War Party disguising its goal.
Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain called for a congressional select committee to investigate Russian hacking into the Clinton campaign. The purpose of the investigations, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, “is to put on President Trump’s desk crippling sanctions against Russia.”
“They need to pay a price,” Graham chortled on Twitter.
“Crippling sanctions” would abort any modus vivendi, any deal with Russia, before Trump could negotiate one. Trump would have to refuse to impose them—and face the firestorm to follow. The War Party is out to dynamite any detente with Russia before it begins.
Among the reasons Trump won is that he promised to end U.S. involvement in the costly, bloody, and interminable wars in the Middle East the Bushites and President Barack Obama brought us—and the neocons relish—and to reach a new understanding with Russia and Putin.
But to some in Washington, beating up on Russia is a conditioned reflex dating to the Cold War. For others in the media and the front groups called think tanks, Russophobia is in their DNA.
Though Julian Assange says WikiLeaks did not get the emails from Russia, this has to be investigated. Did Russia hack the DNC’s email system and John Podesta’s email account? Did Putin direct that the emails be provided to WikiLeaks to disrupt democracy or defeat Clinton?
Clinton says Putin has had it in for her because he believes she was behind the anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in 2011.
But if there is to be an investigation of clandestine interference in the politics and elections of foreign nations, let’s get it all out onto the table.
The CIA director and his deputies should be made to testify under oath, not only as to what they know about Russia’s role in the WikiLeaks email dumps but also about who inside the agency is behind the leaks to the Washington Post designed to put a cloud over the Trump presidency before it begins.
Agents and operatives of the CIA should be subjected to lie detector tests to learn who is leaking to the anti-Trump press.
Before any congressional investigation, President-elect Trump should call in his new director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, and tell him to run down and remove, for criminal misconduct, any CIA agents or operatives leaking secrets to discredit his election.
Putin, after all, is not an American. The CIA saboteurs of the Trump presidency are. Will the media investigate the leakers? Not likely, for they are the beneficiaries of the leaks and co-conspirators of the leakers.
The top officials of the CIA and Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, should be called to testify under oath. Were they behind anti-Putin demonstrations during the Russian elections of 2011?
Did the CIA or NED have a role in the “color-coded” revolutions to dump over pro-Russian governments in Moscow’s “near abroad”?
If Russia did intrude in our election, was it payback for our intrusions to bring about regime change in its neighborhood?
What role did the CIA, the NED, and John McCain play in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine in 2014? McCain was seen cheering on the crowds in Independence Square in Kiev.
Trump has promised a more hopeful foreign policy than that of the Republicans he denounced and is succeeding. No more wars where vital interests are not imperiled. No more U.S. troops arriving as first responders for freeloading allies.
The real saboteurs of his new foreign policy may not be inside the Ring Road in Moscow; rather, they may be inside the Beltway around DC.
The real danger may be that a new Trump foreign policy could be hijacked or scuttled by anti-Trump Republicans, not only on Capitol Hill but inside the executive branch itself.
In this world, it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, said Henry Kissinger in 1968, but to be a friend is fatal.
The South Vietnamese would come to appreciate the insight.
So it is today with Aleppo, where savage reprisals against U.S.-backed rebels are taking place in that hellhole of human rights.
Yet, again, the wrong lessons are being drawn from the disaster.
According to the Washington Post, the bloodbath is a result of a U.S. failure to intervene more decisively in Syria’s civil war: “Aleppo represents a meltdown of the West’s moral and political will—and … a collapse of U.S. leadership.
“By refusing to intervene against the Assad regime’s atrocities, or even to enforce the ‘red line’ he declared on the use of chemical weapons, President Obama created a vacuum that was filled by Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”
But the blunder was not in staying out of Syria’s civil war, but in going in. Aleppo is a bloodbath born of interventionism.
On August 18, 2011, President Obama said, “For the sake of the Syrian people the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Western leaders echoed the Obama—“Assad must go!”
Assad, however, declined to go, and crushed an Arab Spring uprising of the kind that had ousted Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. When the U.S. began to fund and train rebels to overthrow him, Assad rallied his troops and began bringing in allies—Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.
It was with their indispensable assistance that he recaptured Aleppo in the decisive battle of the war. And now America has lost credibility all over the Arab and Muslim world. How did this debacle come about?
First, in calling for the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who had not attacked or threatened us, we acted not in our national interests, but out of democratist ideology. Assad is a dictator. Dictators are bad. So Assad must go.
Yet we had no idea who would replace him.
It soon became clear that Assad’s most formidable enemies, and probable successors, would be the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, or ISIS, then carrying out grisly executions in their base camp in Raqqa.
U.S. policy became to back the “good” rebels in Aleppo, bomb the “bad” rebels in Raqqa, and demand that Assad depart. An absurd policy.
Nor had the American people been consulted.
After a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they saw no U.S. vital interests at risk in who ruled Damascus, so long as it was not the terrorists of ISIS or al-Qaeda.
Then came Obama’s “red line” warning: the U.S. would take military action if chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war.
What undercut this ultimatum was that Congress had never authorized the president to take military action against Syria, and the American people wanted to stay out of Syria’s civil war.
When Assad allegedly used chemical weapons and Obama threatened air strikes, the nation rose as one to demand that Congress keep us out of the war. Secretary of State John Kerry was reduced to assuring us that any U.S. strike would be “unbelievably small.”
By 2015, as Assad army’s seemed to be breaking, Vladimir Putin boldly stepped in with air power, alongside Hezbollah and Iran. Why? Because all have vital interests in preserving the Assad regime.
Bashar Assad is Russia’s ally and provides Putin with his sole naval base in the Med. Assad’s regime is the source of Hezbollah’s resupply and weapons to deter, and, if necessary, fight Israel.
To Iran, Assad is an ally against Saudi Arabia and the Sunni awakening and a crucial link in the Shiite Crescent that extends from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.
All have greater stakes in this civil war than do we, and have been willing to invest more time, blood and treasure. Thus they have, so far, prevailed.
The lessons for Trump from the Aleppo disaster?
Do not even consider getting into a new Middle East war—unless Congress votes to authorize it, the American people are united behind it, vital U.S. interests are clearly imperiled, and we know how the war ends and when we can come home.
For wars have a habit of destroying presidencies.
Korea broke Truman. Vietnam broke Lyndon Johnson. Iraq broke the Republican Congress in 2006 and gave us Obama in 2008.
And the Iran war now being talked up in the think tanks and on the op-ed pages would be the end of the Trump presidency.
Before starting such a war, Donald Trump might call in Bob Gates and ask him what he meant at West Point in February 2011 when he told the cadets:
“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”