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What Kind of Conservatives Are the Warhawks?

U.S. air strikes since Friday have opened a corridor through which tens of thousands of Yazidis, trapped and starving on a mountain in Iraq, have escaped to safety in Kurdistan.

The Kurds, whose peshmerga fighters were sent reeling by the Islamic State last week, bolstered now by the arrival of U.S. air power, recaptured two towns. But the peshmerga have apparently lost the strategically important town of Jalawla, 20 miles from Iran, the furthest east that ISIS forces have penetrated.

Last week’s gains by the Islamic State caused Republican hawks to flock to the Sunday talk shows. “ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America,” said Rep. Peter King, John McCain called for bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But using air power to prevent ISIS from seizing the Kurdish capital of Irbil and Baghdad is not enough, said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “We need to go on offense,” he told FOX News, “There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power.”

The Islamic State is “an existential threat” to our homeland, Graham added, asking, “do we really want to let America be attacked?” Came then this warning from Sen. Graham: “If he [Obama] does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they’re coming here. This is not just about Baghdad, not just about Syria. It is about our homeland.”

“I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,” said Graham, “Mr. President … what is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland?” This semi-hysterical talk of an “existential threat” to the “homeland,” and the dread specter of “an American city in flames” is vintage war party, designed to panic us into launching a new war.

But before allowing these “Cassandras” to stampede us back into the civil-sectarian Middle East wars that resulted from our previous interventions, let us inspect more closely what they are saying. If ISIS’ gains are truly an “existential threat” to the republic and our cities are about to “go up in flames,” why did these Republican hawks not demand that President Obama call back Congress from its five-week vacation to vote to authorize a new war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

After all, King, McCain, and Graham belong to a party that is suing the president for usurping Congressional powers. Yet, they are also demanding that Obama start bombing nations he has no authority to bomb, as ISIS has not attacked us. King, McCain and Graham want Obama to play imperial president and launch a preemptive war that their own Congress has not authorized. What kind of constitutionalists, what kind of conservatives are these?

Is Graham right that an “existential threat” is at hand? Is our very existence as a nation in peril? Graham says no force in the Mideast can stop ISIL without us. Is this true? Turkey, a nation of 76 million, has the second-largest army in NATO, equipped with U.S. weapons, and an air force ISIL does not have.


If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to crush ISIS, he could seal his border to foreign fighters entering Syria and send the Turkish army to assist President Bashar Assad in annihilating ISIS in Syria. The jihadists of the Islamic State may be more motivated, but they are hugely outnumbered and outgunned in the region.

The Syrian government and army, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shia-dominated government of Iraq, a Shia Iran of 70 million, and the Kurds in Syria and Kurdistan are all anti-Islamic State and willing to fight. All are potential allies in a coalition to contain or crush ISIS, as is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, if U.S. diplomacy were not frozen in the 1980s.

Only last August, McCain and Graham were attacking Obama for not enforcing his “red line” by bombing Syria’s army, the most successful anti-ISIL force in the field. The threat of the Islamic State should not be minimized. It would provide a breeding and training ground for terrorists to attack us and the West. But it should not be wildly exaggerated to plunge us into a new war.

For wherever ISIS has won ground, it has, through atrocities and beheadings, imposition of Sharia law, and ruthless repression, alienated almost everyone, including al-Qaeda. Should ISIS succeed in holding northern Syria and western Iraq, who will recognize this caliphate? Who will trade with it? How will it hold the allegiance of peoples upon whom it is even now imposing terrorist rule?

The Sunni of Iraq are already chaffing against ISIS rule. How long will Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, and Iranians tolerate a Talibanized Islamic State right next door? And should ISIS attack the United States, we have more than sufficient means to retaliate, without sending in American troops.

Let Middle Easterners take the lead in fighting this newest Middle East war.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

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#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 12, 2014 @ 7:39 am

“We need to go on offense,” he told FOX News, “There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power.”

One would think that if after all this time and money a new disorganized band can unseat them, maybe they shouldn’t be in power.

“For wherever ISIS has won ground, it has, through atrocities and beheadings, imposition of Sharia law, and ruthless repression, alienated almost everyone, including al-Qaeda. Should ISIS succeed in holding northern Syria and western Iraq, who will recognize this caliphate? Who will trade with it? How will it hold the allegiance of peoples upon whom it is even now imposing terrorist rule?”

I have been through a lot in my life. I am not unmoved to compassion and sympathy, but the above moves me not an inch. Not a solitary centimeter to rescue two follies.

1. Going into Iraq and

2. Heading into the green zone and then withdrawing

When these same groups have spent time and effort in making the lives of anyone who expressed doubt at their schemes mayhem.

My compassionate desires have neatly tucked away. Absolutely not. This scenario was largely created by the government in power. Mother Teresa, herself could rise from the dead and demand we take action.

We should listen politely and do absolutely nothing.

#2 Comment By Uncle Billy On August 12, 2014 @ 8:15 am

What is a “conservative?” Does a conservative seek to involve the United States in unnecessary wars? Does a conservative take orders from Israel and put their interests ahead of our interests? These neocon chickenhawks (very few have actual military experience) are not “conservatives” at all. They are at best fools, at worst, knaves.

#3 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On August 12, 2014 @ 8:41 am

Amen, preach it! My friends have really called me a monster for saying things like you just said. But this is not our war, and the states of the Middle East are not so feeble as others may think.

As the newest Godzilla movie said so eloquently, “Let them fight…”

#4 Comment By wycoff On August 12, 2014 @ 9:05 am

Great points, Mr. Buchanan, especially with regards to Turkey. Somehow the Turks always get left off the hook. They ruled the whole area for centuries, but for some reason never shoulder any blame for the present dysfunction. Let them shoulder some of the load.

#5 Comment By AnotherBeliever On August 12, 2014 @ 9:13 am

Humanitarian evacuations, sure. But what would air power accomplish now that 180,000 ground troops and air power did not accomplish before? Leaving aside the obvious fact that the only nation posing an existential threat is Russia, the war hawks fail to explain why attacking ISIS would make them less likely to blow something up here at home.

#6 Comment By twice franklin On August 12, 2014 @ 9:36 am

McCain and Graham are revolutionaries. Like most revolutionaries they have a shtick. Scare talk is a big part of it. They wave their hands around and jabber excitedly, larding their sentences with AIPAC style scarewords like “existential threat”, in the hope that it forces the President to bomb somebody somewhere.

Neither McCain nor Graham are conservatives. Their ideological soulmate is a fanatical Zionist of no particular party, Joe Lieberman. The three of them have been attempting to destabilize the Middle East, turn the US into a surveillance state, and radically change the international order for a very long time, principally to the benefit of Israel, and they make no bones about it. In the process they undermined US national security and basic American liberties. Lieberman finally failed the sanity test and was kicked out by Connecticut voters, but McCain and Graham still have their Senate seats.

#7 Comment By SteveM On August 12, 2014 @ 11:06 am

Excellent points by Pat Buchanan amplified by him noting that the U.S. Merchants of Death sell Billions in high tech weapons to Turkey and the autocratic actors in the Islamic Arc.

Washington should suggest that they use them if they feel threatened by jihadist lunacy.

#8 Comment By Ron Goodman On August 12, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

Anyone who uses the word “homeland” in one of these discussions deserves to be summarily ignored.

#9 Comment By James Canning On August 12, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

Iran views Isis as an enemy. Would it occur to Lindsey Graham it might be a good idea to allow Iran to work toward the defeat of Isis?

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 12, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

“Humanitarian evacuations, sure.”

Hmmmm, uhh, no. water and food drops perhaps.

#11 Comment By Majumder On August 12, 2014 @ 2:51 pm


Didn’t Senators McCain and Graham want American military to fight on behalf of Islamic terrorists in order to topple government of Dr. Bashar al’Assad in Syria?

Didn’t Senators McCain and Graham support President Bush to topple Saddam Hussein in order to bring Islamic terrorists in Iraq?

Do Senators McCain and Graham not want America to go to war with the Islamic Republic of Iran right now?

Then, Senators McCain and Graham look like doing their best to keep America in perpetual wars in Middle East with no sensible objective in terms of economic and military purposes.

#12 Comment By WillW On August 12, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

Uncle Billy, the thing of it is McCain and Graham DO have military experience! Therefore, the last sentence of your comment would seem to apply very strongly indeed in their case!

#13 Comment By alberto On August 12, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

Nothing to do with conservative or anything else – they openly work for Israel and nobody calls them as such. Why?

#14 Comment By Uncle Billy On August 12, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

WillW: McCain was a naval aviator and POW. Graham is a JAG. Point taken, however, Bill Kristol never wore the uniform, and John Bolton was in the Maryland National Guard during Vietnam. Max Boot never served either.
Crazy old John McCain is the only one who has actually heard a shot fired in anger. The rest are “chairborne rangers.”

#15 Comment By Richard Wagner On August 12, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

Though I support airstrikes in this instance, I agree with Pat in terms of the big picture. We have many potential allies over there, and we need to reach out to them and stop listening to the very neocons who got us into this mess.

#16 Comment By Ben, Okla. City On August 13, 2014 @ 9:33 am

Does the word homeland give everyone else the creeps, or it just me?

Perhaps it sounds better in German.

#17 Comment By Egypt Steve On August 13, 2014 @ 9:34 am

There is one force that is ready, willing and able to confront and destroy ISIS: the Syrian army. It’s time to do in Syria what we’ve done in Egypt: hold our nose, back the dictator, and turn him loose against the Islamists. If there was justification to back al-Sisi, the justification is infinitely greater to back Assad.

When the dust settles, we may find that going forward we can deal with Assad the way we’ve dealt with dictators in Egypt forever. But if not, the status quo ante would still be better for everyone.

The hilarious apoplexy that would emanate from John McCain, Lindsey Graham and the rest of their crew if this policy were implemented would be a very considerable bonus.

#18 Comment By .philadelphialawyer On August 13, 2014 @ 11:35 am

“What kind of conservatives are the war hawks?”

Well, as much as Mr Buchanan might not like to admit it, they are pretty much the same kind of conservative who dominated the GOP and conservatism generally during the old War. The kind of conservative who, for shallow personal and partisan political gain, shouts over and over again that the sky is falling. The kind of conservative who consistently and systematically and purposefully overstates the threats posed to the USA and its interests by overseas rivals, and by other foreign groups and nations that are not even rivals. The kind of conservative who hopes to win votes by threat and fear mongering from people who would never approve of any of their domestic policies. The kind of conservative who questions, loudly and longly, the patriotism of any one who denies their inflated threat rhetoric, their over the top caricature of the enemy, and so on.

War hawkery did not start from scratch in 1992. Rather it built on a structure inherited from the Cold War. And, ironically, the fact that the Cold War ended peacefully, the fact that the Soviets and their clients, who we were told over and over again by the war hawk conservatives would never change their stripes, pretty much allowed themselves to be voted out of power, rather than discrediting the war hawks, only emboldened them further. A false narrative of the Reagan military build up “winning” the Cold War was carefully constructed and defended ferociously. The USA, now the sole super power, could, if it wanted to, certainly find other wars to fight, and do so with much more likelihood of success now that there was no Soviet Union to support the other side.

And that is exactly what the war hawks, now known as neo conservatives, many of whom were leading “anti communists” during the Cold War, having been doing ever since. Finding those wars, and demanding that the USA fight them.

#19 Comment By Jaylib On August 13, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

Uncle Billy: You could call them the Armchair Army, Think Tank Regiment.

#20 Comment By VincentT On August 13, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

In this one case, the “Cassandras” are correct. It will become an existential threat when we are no longer able to eliminate this threat (the cancer spreads).