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The Fruits of Intervention

If we had it to do over, would we send an army into Afghanistan to build a nation?

Would we invade Iraq?

While these two wars have cost 5,200 dead, a trillion dollars and a divided America facing an endless war, what have we won?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal needs 40,000 to 80,000 more troops, or we risk “mission failure” in Afghanistan. At present casualty rates — October was the worst month of the war — thousands more Americans will die before we see any light at the end of this tunnel, if ever we do.

Pakistan, which aided us in Afghanistan, now has a war of its own to fight. Its army is in a battle in South Waziristan, while the country is wracked by terror bombings, the latest in a Peshawar bazaar that specialized in women’s clothing and jewelry and toys for kids. So horrific was the toll even the Taliban and al-Qaida denied any role in it.

The 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are, after almost seven years, to begin pulling out two months after January’s election. But a hitch has developed. Iraq’s parliament missed the deadline for setting the rules. At issue: Will voters be allowed to choose individual candidates, or will they be allowed only to vote for slates of candidates?

Gen. Ray Odierno implies that postponement of the election may mean postponement of U.S. withdrawals.

Ominously, in August, terrorists bombed the foreign and finance ministries in Baghdad, and last week blew up the Justice Ministry and Baghdad Provincial Governorate. And the Kurds are now claiming their control of oil-rich Kirkuk is non-negotiable, which crosses a red line in Baghdad.


Next door, a terror attack by Jundallah (God’s Brigade) in Iran’s southern province of Sistan-Baluchistan killed 40, including two senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard.

An enraged Tehran pointed the finger at the United States, as there have been charges the CIA has been in contact with Jundallah as part of President Bush’s destabilization program to effect “regime change.”

But Barack Obama has been in office for nine months — and he would never authorize such an attack on the eve of a critical meeting on Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, the State Department condemned the Jundallah bombing as terrorism and offered public condolences to the families of the victims.

But if we didn’t authorize this, who did?

Was the timing of this attack coincidental? Were these just freelance secessionists on an operation unrelated to the U.S.-Iran talks? Or is someone trying to torpedo the talks and push Iran and the United States into military collision?

For this was a provocation. And whoever carried it out and whoever authorized or abetted it wishes to dynamite the U.S.-Iran negotiations, abort a rapprochement and put us on a road to war.

Speculation is focusing on the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis, who have been accused, as has the United States, of aiding PJAK, a Kurdish faction that has conducted raids in northern Iran.

If we have any control of these organizations, we should shut them down. With U.S. armies tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America conducting Predator and cross-border attacks in Pakistan, provoking a war with Iran would be an act of madness.

Looking back, how has all this fighting advanced U.S. national interests? We have a “democratic” Iraq that is Shia-dominated and tilting to Iran. We have an open-ended war in Afghanistan that will likely do for Obama what Iraq did for Bush. But we can’t pull out, it is said, for if we do, Kabul falls and Afghanistan becomes the sanctuary for an Islamist war to take over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.

And if that should happen, it would indeed be a crisis.

And so, how has all this intervention availed us?

We ran Saddam out of Kuwait and put U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia. And we got Osama bin Laden’s 9-11. We responded by taking down the Taliban and taking over Afghanistan. And we got an eight-year war with no victory and no end in sight. Now Pakistan is burning. We took down Saddam and got a seven-year war and an ungrateful Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Turks, who shared a border with Saddam, have done no fighting. Iran has watched as we destroyed its two greatest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam. China, which has a border with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has sat back. India, which has a border with Pakistan and fought three wars with that country, has stayed aloof.

The United States, on the other side of the world, plunged in. And now we face an elongated military presence in Iraq, an escalating war in Afghanistan and potential disaster in Pakistan, and are being pushed from behind into a war with Iran.

“America rejects the false comfort of isolationism,” said George W. Bush in his 2006 State of the Union. And we did reject that false comfort. And now we can enjoy the fruits of interventionism.

Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book Churchill, Hitler, and ‘The Unnecessary War,’ [1] now available in paperback.


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#1 Comment By Carlist On October 30, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

As far more often than not, PJB is absolutely correct here!

But try to talk sense to our fellow conservative bozos who workship at the altars of Sean & Rush!

#2 Comment By Tom Field On October 30, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

The truth is a hard thing, but Pat speaks the truth. We are sitting on a powder keg like the world hasn’t seen since August 1914. The wrong move now could have disastrous consequences. The military solution has it’s limits. Somehow we’ve got to get it into the heads of the do-nothings that it’s in their best interests to help us stamp out fundamentalist terror and atomic proliferation before it plunges everyone into another world war. This time with nukes. God help us.

#3 Comment By Barney Rebble On October 30, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

There is, a simple yet elegant solution for Obama.

What if the UN were to take over certain management of international affairs? What if we let them become a superior authority to our constitiution, and our Congress?

#4 Comment By TomB On October 31, 2009 @ 1:37 am

It is indeed a damned funny thing—and maybe the subject of the most important book that needs to be written right now—how the label “isolationist” which our Founding Fathers were proud to wear became such a modern epithet.

A combined victim I suppose of Wilson and FDR’s need to distact from their betrayals of their own previously professed isolationist stances, and the challenge of communism after WWII.

If so, given the demise of communism maybe the innate wisdom of a reasonable isolationism—helped by the example of the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan—can at least avoid at least some *lesser* wars into the future. Even if, as Wilson and FDR demonstrated, it can’t withstand Executive urges to get involved in *big* wars.

#5 Comment By John and Dagny Galt On November 1, 2009 @ 6:27 am

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters of Liberty,

There are only two types of human beings.

One type just wants everyone to leave everyone else alone and these humans are students and advocates of the Philosophically Mature Non-Aggression Principle.

The other type refuses to leave others alone and these humans are the Mobocracy Looter Minions with their hords of bureaucrats, jackboots, and mercenaries that perpetuate the perpetration of the loot and booty gravy-train. Rob-peter-to-buy-paul’s-vote bread and circuses of the doomed Amerikan Empire.

You are either the one…or the other.

The John Galt Solution of Starving The Monkeys is the only solution. Stop funding and forging your own chains and shackles. What are you leaving for your children and grandchildren and prodigy!?!

The Mobocracy Looter Minions must be allowed to consume everything around them, then each other, and finally themselves. There is no other way. Ayn Rand wrote about it over fifty years ago and it rings as soundly today as it did then.

Get your copy of Starving The Monkeys by Tom Baugh today, before the book is banned and the author is hunted down and Vince Fostered!

John and Dagny Galt
Atlas Shrugged, Owner’s Manual For The Universe!(tm)




#6 Comment By Tony J On November 1, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

Tom B,

With respect, I don’t see how Wilson or FDR maintaining an isolationist policy during the two World Wars would have helped the United States.

Wilson staying out in 1917 would have meant a victory for an expansionist and fervently militaristic German Empire, which might have strangled Soviet Communism in its cradle (good thing), but in its place there would have been an aggressive superpower controlling much of the world’s economy and population (bad thing). The US was too big and too wealthy for a Berlin-ruled hyperpower to ignore for very long, and when war came, it would be on your territory, not theirs.

And staying out of WW2? Hitler declared war on the United States after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, which sort of takes a policy of isolationism off the table. And if you mean FDR shouldn’t have – already – made the US a participant through Lend-Lease, the embargo on Japan, and various military deployments, then I still don’t see how the US would have benefitted from letting either Hitler or Stalin emerge from the carnage in control of Eurasia, which are the only two options in a WW2 without US participation.

Avoiding ‘lesser wars’ – would – be a major step forward in the US foreign policy of today, but let’s not pretend that the US staying out of either of the World Wars wouldn’t have led to a much darker history than the one we’re living in.

#7 Comment By Thomas McGovern On November 1, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

The statement, “While these two wars have cost 5,200 dead,” is incorrect if Afghans and Iraqis count as human beings. If they do, the correct number is over 1.4 million.

#8 Comment By TomB On November 2, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

Tony J:

Appreciate the very intelligent comments on your part, and I’d just observe firstly that I didn’t mean that a reasonable isolationism would keep us out of all wars altogether, all big wars, or even WWI or WWII.

All I meant was that no matter reasonable or not, any perception of “isolationism” was just trashed to hell in part by Wilson and then again by FDR due to their need to negatively smear as totally as possible those who opposed them … so as to pretend that they had never really been isolationists either. But of course both had.

So I’d freely agree that maybe the U.S. entry into both WWI and WWII were reasonable, although I would also say that I think both are still highly arguable too.

For instance, as to the former, I really don’t see that if Germany and the Hapsburgs had won that war that they’d have designs on America so that we would be fighting them on our territory as you say. Indeed everything I’ve read makes clear that they really blundered into that war and didn’t even launch it out of any desire to dominate Europe much less the U.S.

And, regardless, the interesting question beyond that is so what even if they *had* come to dominate Europe? Why, at that point in time at least, would that have severely crimped U.S. vital interests?

Indeed one can envision that a better later history might have emerged if the U.S. had not intervened and the bad guys had won: Would Germany really have wanted to try to occupy and control the bulk of France? Certainly middle Europa would have been under the thumb of Germany and the Hapsburgs, but so what from America’s perspective? And the Soviet Union would have been a rump essentially, without the Ukraine, and indeed the Germans may well have not put up long with the Soviets at all, saving lots of future grief. Plus, very concievably, no Hitler. So maybe not only was our going in not necessary, but it wasn’t even something that delivered good results.

And as to WWII it’s a tougher argument for sure, but again I think a number exist. Pat Buchanan’s recent book for example provides some: What if the U.S. had restrained Great Britain and France from that foolish guarantee to Poland by telling them that we weren’t going to save their bacon if needed, and if we had not taunted the Japanese into war with us? Would the result of the still almost certain war between Hitler and Stalin clearly been terrible for us? I think Hitler almost certainly would have won, and then what? Clearly he would have dominated Europe, but I doubt he would have essentially erased France, and indeed he always wanted a sort of concord with England.

Clearly the U.S. would not have risen to dominate the globe and indeed would have been somewhat pinched between Germany and Italy and the Japanese Empire. But I can still see an argument that this would not have meant any mortal peril for the U.S. An unhappy rest of the world for a long time, true enough, but the war that avoided same created a lot of unhappiness too for sure.

I know this kind of thing sounds almost … anti-American now, but it’s amazing how deeply and thoroughly our “modern” sense of our place and role in the world conflicts with those we held before and especially those held by our Founders. And this country wasn’t founded during any period of world peace so meaning they didn’t think about same: They looked at the simply chronic wars that were raging in Europe at the time and essentially just shivered at the idea that we would ever let ourselves get embroiled in same, or ever go about endangering our blood or treasure on foreign adventures. Indeed I think it might be said that if there was any consensus at all amongst them about anything at all it was that the slightest idea of same was just simply an anathema to them.

Very interesting questions, but again, so as to be clear, I did not necessarily mean that a reasonable isolationism automatically means that the U.S. can never reasonably find itself in a war, nor even that there were not some good reasons for us to go into both WWI and WWII.