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America’s Unsustainable Empire

Before President Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal, he might consider: if he could negotiate an identical deal with Kim Jong-un, it would astonish the world and win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

For Iran has no nuclear bomb or ICBM and has never tested either. It has never enriched uranium to bomb grade. It has shipped 98 percent of its uranium out of the country. It has cameras inside and inspectors crawling all over its nuclear facilities.

And North Korea? It has atom bombs and has tested an H-bomb. It has intermediate-range ballistic missiles that can hit Guam and an ICBM that, fully operational, could hit the West Coast. It has shorter-range missiles that could put nukes on South Korea and Japan.

It’s hard to believe Kim Jong-un will surrender these weapons, his ticket of admission to the table of great powers.

Yet the White House position is that the Iran nuclear deal should be scrapped, and no deal with Kim Jong-un signed that does not result in the “denuclearization” of the peninsula.

If denuclearization means Kim gives up all his nukes and strategic missiles, ceases testing, and allows inspectors into all his nuclear facilities, we may be waiting a long time.

Trump has to decide on the Iran deal by May 12. And we will likely know what Kim is prepared to do, and not prepared to do, equally soon.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is in D.C. to persuade Trump not to walk away from the Iran deal and to keep U.S. troops in Syria. Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arriving at week’s end with a similar message.

On the White House front burner then are these questions.

Will North Korea agree to surrender its nuclear arsenal, or is it back to confrontation and possible war?

Will we stick with the nuclear deal with Iran, or walk away, issue new demands on Tehran, and prepare for a military clash if rebuffed?

Do we pull U.S. troops out of Syria as Trump promised, or keep U.S. troops there to resist the reconquest of his country by Bashar al-Assad and his Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Shiite allies?

Beyond, the larger question looms: how long can we keep this up?

How long can this country, with its shrinking share of global GDP, sustain its expanding commitments to confront and fight all over the world?

U.S. planes and ships now bump up against Russians in the Baltic and Black seas. We are sending Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev, while NATO allies implore us to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance.

This would mean a U.S. guarantee to fight an alienated, angered, and nuclear-armed Russia in Crimea and the Caucasus.

Sixteen years after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, we are still there, assisting Afghan troops against a Taliban we thought we had defeated.

We are now fighting what is left of ISIS in Syria alongside our Kurdish allies, who tug us toward conflict with Turkey.

U.S. forces and advisors are in Niger, Djibouti, Somalia. We are aiding the Saudis in their air war and naval blockade of Yemen.

The last Korean War, which cost 33,000 U.S. lives, began in the June before this writer entered 7th grade. Why is the defense of a powerful South Korea, with an economy 40 times that of the North, still a U.S. responsibility?

We are committed, by 60-year-old treaties, to defend Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. Voices are heard that would have us renew the war guarantee to Taiwan that Jimmy Carter canceled in 1979.

National security elites are pushing for new naval and military ties to Vietnam and India, to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea.

How long can we sustain a worldwide empire of dependencies?

How many wars of this century—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen—turned out to have been worth the blood shed and the treasure lost? And what have all the “color-coded revolutions” we have instigated to advance “democracy” done for America?

In a New York Times essay “Adapting to American Decline,” Christopher Preble writes: “America’s share of global wealth is shrinking. By some estimates, the United States accounted for roughly 50 percent of global output at the end of World War II. …It has fallen to 15.1 percent today.”

Preble continues: “Admitting that the United States is incapable of effectively adjudicating every territorial dispute or of thwarting every security threat in every part of the world is hardly tantamount to surrender. It is rather a wise admission of the limits of American power.”

It is imperative, wrote Walter Lippmann, that U.S. commitments be brought into balance with U.S. power. This “forgotten principle…must be recovered and returned to the first place in American thought.”

That was 1943, at the height of a war that found us unprepared.

We are hugely overextended today. And conservatives have no higher duty than to seek to bring U.S. war guarantees into conformity with U.S. vital interests and U.S. power.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "America’s Unsustainable Empire"

#1 Comment By Mel Profit On April 24, 2018 @ 7:24 am

Empire follows a circular, self-sacrificial trajectory: each hegemon expands and spends until exhaustion, and is replaced by another. No one knows what mad compulsion drives this gradual suicide, for it bleeds wealth and power, the ostensible goals of primacy. Nor why there is always a next hegemon in the wings, eager to follow the same course. But there is always is, and arguably always will be.

#2 Comment By Tony On April 24, 2018 @ 9:48 am

The pretentious Europeans have made a national sport of mocking America and all things American, while we are pledged defend Europe as if it is sovereign US territory. This is madness. Western Europe has two nuclear-armed nations, and four of the world’s ten largest economies – of course they can defend themselves.

#3 Comment By LT On April 24, 2018 @ 10:54 am

Macron of France wants US troops to stay in Syria.
This is the former French empire that made the grab for Syria’s resources and helped create the faux borders in the mid-East with the Sykes-Picot “treaty.”
WWI…the gift that keeps on giving….

#4 Comment By Michael Kenny On April 24, 2018 @ 11:07 am

As always, the basic message is “capitulate to Putin in Ukraine”. The rest is just padding.

#5 Comment By PAX On April 24, 2018 @ 11:20 am

The Iron Chancellor Bismark told the Kaiser not to fight on two fronts. Bibi and his neocons told the U.S. president to fight on as many fronts as needed to keep their theocratic empire safe and expanding. The Kaiser did not listen. The President is listening (unfortunately).

#6 Comment By Gary Keith Chesteron On April 24, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

It is the Eastern Question: never settled, merely delayed.

#7 Comment By ukm1 On April 24, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

Why does American govt. spend so much money in military spending that exceeds all combined military spending(s) of Europe and Asia?

Why does American govt. threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran NOW after almost destroying Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vietnam, and Korea?

Why does American govt. want to go to war against Russia for the tiny and insignificant Baltic States that most Americans do not even know where they are located a global map?

The real reason is here:

American government’s national debt is now more than 21 trillion U.S. dollars.

By the time, President Trump leaves the Oval Office either in 2021 or in 2025, American national debt will grow even bigger than what it is today — if not doubled!

The only way will remain for American govt. then is to start non-stop wars in Middle East and the Far East WITHOUT having to pay-off the creditors of American national debts in excess of 40 trillion U.S. dollars with trillions of dollars of annual interest-payments on existing national debt.

Non-stop wars in foreign-lands will wipe out American national problem of humongous debt.

When American govt. will wage war on the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Dept. of Treasury will confiscate all Chinese assets within the United States and abroad.

Current Chinese government’s holding(s) of 3 trillion U.S. dollars of American Treasury Securities will be nullified by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury!

No other country on earth — with the exception of Japan — has so much national debt with an utterly credit-based American economy!

Neither Republicans nor Democrats are at all concerned about American national debt in their intention to give amnesty to 50 million illegals already living inside America.

So, reneging on the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iranian govt. now is a good start from the current Trump administration of the United States of America in perpetual war-preparation(s).

#8 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On April 24, 2018 @ 1:05 pm

Michael Kenny, looks like you’ve got some seriously distorted view of that territory’s significance. In fact, every other region mentioned in Mr. Buchanan’s article is strategically more important than Ukraine. To be fair, I wonder whether it has any practical purpose at all after Putin builds his underwater pipelines.

#9 Comment By Will Harrington On April 24, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

No Michael Kinney, that is simply your regular message. I fear anything else is lost on you. You really must be dubbed a troll. For instance, the basic message here is that the cost of Empire is too high to bear, but for you that is simply about Putin and Ukraine. Did you invest heavily in Ukrainian real estate or something?

#10 Comment By b. On April 24, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

“How many wars of this century—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen—turned out to have been worth the blood shed and the treasure lost?”

This is not just about money and criminality.

How many lives were lost, following orders, in illegal acts of aggression that violated the Constitution those soldiers swore to defend and uphold?

The UCMJ puts an impossible burden on enlisted and commissioned personnel. We effectively force soldiers first to swear an oath that our elected representatives disrespect and break daily, and have for decades, and then force soldiers to obey illegal orders by Presidents that act in violation of the Constitution and the law of the land, aided and abetted by a Congress that finances and “authorizes” those same illegal acts, which each Senator and Representative refusing to uphold their own oath of office, illegal orders passed through a chain of command that begins with the highest ranks of careerist general staff – the only ones that could actually act in accordance with their oath and sworn duty, and not be imprisoned – all the while the sovereign puts stickers on cars to “support the troops” which we just comprehensively abandoned.

Never mind the money. Every day this republic spends in perpetual constitutional crisis does more damage to the rule of law and the Constitution, and to that “international order”.

Yet, the blood shed in our name matters even more. It is one thing for The People to no longer care about the Constitution, it is another the aid and abet these crimes.

#11 Comment By bacon On April 24, 2018 @ 3:20 pm

If Michael Kenny can find the Ukraine on a map he’s better informed than probably 80% of Americans. We have no vital interests there. On the other hand, if one thinks letting Putin have his way in his backyard is an unacceptable blow to US self importance, I guess we have to act.

#12 Comment By One Guy On April 24, 2018 @ 4:45 pm

Good article. When Buchanan writes a good article, I’m happy to give him credit.

#13 Comment By SteveK9 On April 24, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

It would be nice if we actually were fighting ISIS, instead of keeping them around to keep Iraq in line, and cause trouble for Assad and the Russians.

#14 Comment By Mark Bruijn On April 24, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

“And conservatives have no higher duty than to seek to bring U.S. war guarantees into conformity with U.S. vital interests and U.S. power.”

Amen to that mr. Buchanan and good luck with it. But with president Trump bringing in John Bolton, there’s is little reason for optimism, I would say.
It seems to me America needs to stumble and fall hard first, before there will be a reality-check on US interests and power.
Maybe Iran will do the honours, by crippling the flow of oil from the ME, when attacked by the US.

#15 Comment By William On April 24, 2018 @ 9:47 pm

Everybody likes to underestimate President Trump. That’s all I’ll say.

#16 Comment By Cesar Jeopardy On April 25, 2018 @ 12:39 am

We don’t invade and keep our military in all these countries to defend against them or defend them from others. We do so to control them. In doing so, we’ve created chaos around the world. Take Ukraine for example, where the U.S. helped overthrow a democratically elected government that had been aligned with Russia. North Korea? I think the two Koreas can solve their problems if the U.S. will allow them to and withdraw our military from the Korean Peninsula. Plenty of other countries have been trying to rid their countries of U.S. military presence for decades with little or no success. No, the U.S. military is not greeted as liberators.

#17 Comment By WhiteWinger14W On April 25, 2018 @ 1:22 am

Right on Pat Buchanan! Right on, Sir!

#18 Comment By WhiteWinger14W On April 25, 2018 @ 1:26 am

Pat Buchanan for Secretary of State! THEN on to the Presidency…of OUR People!

#19 Comment By Donald Boyle On April 25, 2018 @ 6:18 am

Mr. Buchanan has hit on a few salient points but misses the real issues. North Korea and Iran are connected. North Korea has Iran’s nukes and missiles. Iran has already paid for them. North Korea is the weakest link in this chain so Trump is trying to break them. North Korea is a demonstration to Iran. The pressure point on North Korea is China and China’s pressure point is Taiwan. Trump’s prattle about withdrawing from Syria is just table talk in his poker game with Iran. In the end, because to Donald Trump all relationships are transactional the ultimate payoff will be China playing nicely in their sandbox and America achieving trade benefit.

#20 Comment By usmc-fo On April 25, 2018 @ 7:53 am

I don’t normally pay much heed to Mr Buchanan’s rumbling but this piece is pretty much on target with a number of perfectly legitimate questions. Under it all it’s easy to see Buchanan’s essential isolationism but it’s a legitimate question in light of our running willy nilly all over the world and achieving scant success anywhere. Keep this up, and “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” because the boat we’re on is sinking and the captain is a bit daft.

#21 Comment By Sid Finster On April 25, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

@Mel Profit: The problem with this Empire is that its demise could have globally catastrophic consequences.

@Michael Kenny: As someone who lived much of his professional life in Ukraine, someone who knows personally many of the combatants there, who knows people who died on both sides, not only SHOULD we capitulate Ukraine to Russia, we should help Russia deliver every single last one of the Nazis in that country to the gallows.

Nobody will put it in terms more blunt than I will.

#22 Comment By Randy Williams On April 29, 2018 @ 9:59 pm

America is not an empire. Easier to make a case for America as hegemon, but given the nature of her republican democracy, as instituted, she is often unwilling or unable to project power unless directly attacked. Is it any wonder, then, that each administration needs a year or two to rationalize American foreign policy in its own image? The greatest danger to America is not any foreign power, treaty, or trade agreement. It is the growing domestic divide.