- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Is Trump Joining the War Party?

By firing off five dozen Tomahawk missiles at a military airfield, our “America First” president may have plunged us into another Middle East war that his countrymen do not want to fight.

Thus far Bashar Assad seems unintimidated. Brushing off the strikes, he has defiantly gone back to bombing the rebels from the same Shayrat air base that the U.S. missiles hit.

Trump “will not stop here,” warned UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday. “If he needs to do more, he will.”

If Trump fails to back up Haley’s threat, the hawks now cheering him on will begin deriding him as “Donald Obama.”

But if he throbs to the war drums of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio and orders Syria’s air force destroyed, we could be at war not only with ISIS and al-Qaeda, but with Syria, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.

A Syrian war would consume Trump’s presidency.

Are we ready for that? How would we win such a war without raising a large army and sending it back into the Middle East?

Another problem: Trump’s missile attack was unconstitutional. Assad had not attacked or threatened us, and Congress, which alone has the power to authorize war on Syria, has never done so.


Indeed, Congress denied President Obama that specific authority in 2013.

What was Trump thinking? Here was his strategic rational:

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies—babies, little babies—with a chemical gas … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. … And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. … My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Two days later, Trump was still emoting: “Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Now, that gas attack was an atrocity, a war crime, and pictures of its tiny victims are heart-rending. But 400,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, among them thousands of children and infants.

Have they been killed by Assad’s forces? Surely, but also by U.S., Russian, Israeli, and Turkish planes and drones—and by Kurds, Iranians, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS, U.S.-backed rebels, and Shiite militia.

Assad is battling insurgents and jihadists who would slaughter his Alawite brethren and the Christians in Syria just as those Copts were massacred in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Why is Assad more responsible for all the deaths in Syria than those fighting to overthrow and kill him?

Are we certain Assad personally ordered a gas attack on civilians?

For it makes no sense. Why would Assad, who is winning the war and had been told America was no longer demanding his removal, order a nerve-gas attack on children, certain to ignite America’s rage, for no military gain?

Like the gas attack in 2013, this has the marks of a false-flag operation to stampede America into Syria’s civil war.

And as in most wars, the first shots fired receive the loudest cheers. But if the president has thrown in with the neocons and War Party, and we are plunging back into the Mideast maelstrom, Trump should know that many of those who helped to nominate and elect him—to keep us out of unnecessary wars—may not be standing by him.

We have no vital national interest in Syria’s civil war. It is those doing the fighting who have causes they deem worth dying for.

For ISIS, it is the dream of a caliphate. For al-Qaeda, it is about driving the Crusaders out of the Dar al Islam. For the Turks, it is, as always, about the Kurds.

For Assad, this war is about his survival and that of his regime. For Putin, it is about Russia remaining a great power and not losing its last naval base in the Med. For Iran, this is about preserving a land bridge to its Shiite ally Hezbollah. For Hezbollah it is about not being cut off from the Shiite world and isolated in Lebanon.

Because all have vital interests in Syria, all have invested more blood in this conflict than have we. And they are not going to give up their gains or goals in Syria and yield to the Americans without a fight.

And if we go to war in Syria, what would we be fighting for?

A New World Order? Democracy? Separation of mosque and state? Diversity? Free speech for Muslim heretics? LGBT rights?

In 2013, a great national coalition came together to compel Congress to deny Barack Obama authority to take us to war in Syria.

We are back at that barricade. An after-Easter battle is shaping up in Congress on the same issue: Is the president authorized to take us into war against Assad and his allies inside Syria?

If, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, we do not want America in yet another Mideast war, the time to stop it is before the War Party has us already in it. That time is now.

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 [1].

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Is Trump Joining the War Party?"

#1 Comment By Lee On April 10, 2017 @ 11:38 pm

“71 percent of the roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. today would fail to qualify based on the current enlistment criteria because of physical or mental health issues, low educational scores or major criminal convictions.”

I suppose we could always retrofit equipment to launch popular packaged foods and gaming controllers to get their attentions focused and persuade them to move.

#2 Comment By Fred Bowman On April 10, 2017 @ 11:46 pm

Unfortunately Pat the “War Party” will probably get its way. Hate to break your heart but Trump is well on his way to “selling out” all the promises he ran on. I’m surprised you didn’t see that a long time ago. What in Trump’s background made you think he was a man of any integrity? All he did was tell people what they wanted to hear but there was nothing in Trump’s past that would suggest he would ever deliver on them. At best Trump is just an opportunist who got in “over his head” and will end up as “figurehead President” controlled by those who have done so much to destroy what’s left of the American Republic.

#3 Comment By John Sharpe On April 11, 2017 @ 1:45 am

Is it in America’s vital interest that the use of WMD’s never becomes a common tactic for unstable regimes to punish/control misbehaving populations? I don’t know. It’s hard to argue for a world where sarin gas attacks happen at the about the same frequency as car bombs. Could be a handful of missiles bought the world another decade or so before that comes about.

#4 Comment By john On April 11, 2017 @ 1:48 am

The media / administration (are they any different) are certain that Assad did it. Now they are upping the ante and claiming for sure Putin approved it. Really? can we recall the battleship Maine? can we recall the Gulf of Tonkin, can we recall the WMD in Iraq?

How much money is budgeted for this? Based on results so far in Iraq and Afghanistan countries with basically no allies we have spent 3T. Syria is allied with Russia better budget 2T for that but no need for body bags as the nukes will cremate us all.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 11, 2017 @ 1:52 am

Donald Trump said that he would keep us out of unnecessary foreign wars – wars that damaged the US national interest.

Some of us who campaigned most fervently to elect Donald Trump President are old-timers who have also campaigned and marched for more than half a century against unnecessary US wars – wars that have damaged the national interest.

This week’s US bombing of Syria has set off alarm bells for many of us. We find it hard to believe that – after just three months in office – someone in whom we placed so much trust might be on the verge of betraying his promise to keep us out of unnecessary wars.

Make no mistake: As fervently as we have supported our beloved “America First” President Trump, our first loyalty is – and will always be — to the interests of America, not to President Trump.

If President Trump drags us into another Middle East war in Syria — risking a military confrontation with Russia, the one remaining nuclear power in the world capable of destroying the US – many of us will stop supporting President Trump.

Instead, we will do what we have always done: We will support our country, the US, and its national interest in staying out of unnecessary foreign wars.

The ball is now in President Trump’s court. We, his supporters, are watching him closely – by the hour.

Live up to your campaign promises, Mr. President!

#6 Comment By Alex On April 11, 2017 @ 2:22 am

“In 2013, a great national coalition came together to compel Congress to deny Barack Obama authority to take us to war in Syria.”

Obama was much smarter than Trump. Now Republicans are trashing Obama for being weak and praising Trump for being strong. The Republicans talk about rule of law when it suits them.

Trump sent a message. A pretty expensive and stupid and meaningless one. The majority of stupid Republicans and spineless Democrats are supporting it.

Trump did what he was supposed to: he eliminated Hillary. Now we need to survive theses four years.

#7 Comment By Pear Conference On April 11, 2017 @ 6:27 am

Trump’s “non-interventionism,” like so much else about him, is only skin-deep.

In fact, I doubt there are *any* consistent non-interventionists on the Right in elected office.

I believe the consistent ones are all either writing for or reading TAC.

#8 Comment By MikeCLT On April 11, 2017 @ 7:17 am

Amen, Mr. Buchanan. If the missile attack was a one and done meant to signal no use of chemical weapons then I can understand the action despite its dubious legality and constitutionality. If it is the prelude to the US being involved in this civil war then I will not support any politicians who support that involvement.

#9 Comment By Liam On April 11, 2017 @ 8:00 am

In answer to your headline question: you betcha! The idea that Trump would be anything else was laughable from the start.

#10 Comment By PAXNOW On April 11, 2017 @ 8:29 am

Patrick was spot on in 2003 with his article “Whose war?” He is again right. The same cabal that sent us into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya has reemerged stronger and more determined than ever to force American to pursue a policy not in its national interests. If you are on a diet, you do not hire gourmet chefs to advise you. This is what Trump has done. He has invited the (continual) war party to be his closest advisors. His credentials as an “American First” president have been irrevocably shattered beyond repair. All that is left is a war-compliant Congress. These are difficult times.

#11 Comment By Mel Profit On April 11, 2017 @ 8:46 am

The most ludicrous figure is poor Tillerson, who when he arrives in Moscow will probably be taken to the nearest Motel 6 and forgotten. Why would Putin agree to see this sputtering, foaming wind-up toy after his several warnings and insults? No reason I can see.

This administration has all the finesse of a bar fight with baseball bats.

#12 Comment By John S On April 11, 2017 @ 8:51 am

Two points.

“Have they been killed by Assad’s forces? Surely, but also by U.S., Russian…”
Surely there’s a world of difference between our attacks and those of the Russians? For when innocent civilians suffer when we attack, the American public is scandalized, we launch investigations, and we look for culpability. And if there was culpability, we mete out justice. At least that’s the way we hope it works. No such thing happens on the Russian side. Russia was complicit in this gas attack. In fact, Russia targets innocents regularly. And there is no comparable scandal in Moscow.

“We have no vital national interest in Syria’s civil war”
Doesn’t Mr. Buchanan want to do something about ISIS?

#13 Comment By PAXNOW On April 11, 2017 @ 9:46 am

@ John S – Like Representative Gabbard and others Patrick wants us to stop supporting ISIS (directly or indirectly).

#14 Comment By No to neos On April 11, 2017 @ 10:07 am

I am in my 60s, Vietnam War era kid.

Since I started paying attention those many years ago, I have watched the US “intelligence” community lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, fail to know the USSR was collapsing, overthrow government leaders in South America, lie about the Shah of Iran’s conduct which led to the Iranian revolution, support Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime as it went to war against Iran and killed one million people in the process, then either lied about or grossly got wrong the “weapons of mass destruction” that we now know did not exist in Iraq.

That list is just off the top of my head. Yet we’re supposed to automatically believe this same “intelligence” community knows beyond doubt what happened in that gas attack?

#15 Comment By SDS On April 11, 2017 @ 10:11 am

What Kurt Gayle said- I second.

“For when innocent civilians suffer when we attack, the American public is scandalized, we launch investigations, and we look for culpability. And if there was culpability, we mete out justice…”

Surely; you jest….
Like the captain of the Vincennes, who got a medal? Sure; when Russia bombs a hospital; it’s evil; when we do it the next week; well; I guess mistakes happen..

IN the end; we will do what Israel wants us to do…We did in Iraq; in Libya; yet to do in Iran; and now we will attack Syria; all because Israel wants us to….


#16 Comment By BradD On April 11, 2017 @ 11:02 am

@John S

“Surely there’s a world of difference between our attacks and those of the Russians? ”

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
– Ghandi

I doubt that those on the ground really know who it is that are bombing them all the time. A bomb is a bomb, a missile a missile. An errant drone strike that hits a hospital does the same damage that an intentional one causes.

“Doesn’t Mr. Buchanan want to do something about ISIS?”

Ah, to ‘do something’. I can do a lot of somethings: I could wish really hard ISIS go away, I could launch attacks on China thinking that would deter ISIS, I could paint a red line around my house cause ISIS won’t cross red lines. ISIS is in Iraq and Syria. They have no aircraft carrier, no tanks, no transport ships. They will no arrive on our shores in a mass invasion. They are trying to recruit those that are here, inspire attacks, and infiltrate in numbers less than a dozen. Let our intelligence services do their job, not our military a thousand miles away.

#17 Comment By Scott_api On April 11, 2017 @ 11:35 am

“In 2013, a great national coalition came together to compel Congress to deny Barack Obama authority to take us to war in Syria.”

In 2013, a GOP coalition came together to stop Obama getting credit for doing something the GOP war party wanted to reserve solely for their own use – bombing brown people to inflate their domestic polling numbers.

I think that is what you meant to say.

If you are under the illusion that the GOP stopped Obama from bombing Syria for any other reason than the above, you are in need of a check-up.

#18 Comment By minimammal On April 11, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

I wrote the White House, my congressman, and one of my senators to denounce our intervention in Syria and urge detente. It most likely will amount to nothing, but it seemed the only option within my power to take.

Also to respond to John S.’s comment: “Doesn’t Mr. Buchanan want to do something about ISIS?”

How does creating a power vacuum in Syria thwart ISIS?

#19 Comment By Lee Timmer On April 11, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

@John S
Overthrowing Assad will certainly “do something about ISIS”: It will grow stronger.

#20 Comment By Murali On April 11, 2017 @ 12:55 pm

John S. Thanks for your analysis of the difference between American and Russian way of attacks. You say “we launch investigations, and we look for culpability. And if there was culpability, we mete out justice”.
Sir can you kindly give us one instance of justice meted out in US for such attacks? Does WMD and at least a million Iraqis killed/maimed count?
How about Libya where they had a functioning government now a no mans land where our beloved CIA/DIA dare not thread
To our honor can we also add Afganistan where we displaced the government with a constant night rides and drone attacks?
Oh by the way we lobbied bombs on a hospital operated by Doctors without borders, we first denied then said may be and launched an investigation to nowhere?
Surely appreciate your thoughts.

#21 Comment By Dan On April 11, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

“Donald Trump said…”

words that have been uttered by stiffed contractors and workers for decades and now people who thought they had elected a savior.

This is the problem with personality cults, Mr. Buchanan. Trump was a million different images to a million different people. But, ultimately, he’s a conman and selfish.

None of this is surprising, even if the details are frightening. Trump lied; he always lies; he will continue to lie.

We need to check this frightening figure. I can only hope the Constitutional ‘literalists’ grow a pair and do their duty. So far, it seems we have a party of sycophants to our own strongman

#22 Comment By John Gruskos On April 11, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

Great column by Pat Buchanan, and a great comment from Kurt Gayle.

#23 Comment By Kevin On April 11, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

“Some of us who campaigned most fervently to elect Donald Trump President are old-timers who have also campaigned and marched for more than half a century against unnecessary US wars – wars that have damaged the national interest.

There is a wonderful Russian fable about a fly sitting on an ox’s back as the ox tills a field, and then telling to the ox “we did a great job.” No offense, but this is exactly the relationship between consistent non-interventionists and the Trump electorate. You all supported Trump because you heard no more war; But Trump was saying “blow up bad guys without spending any money or losing any soldiers.”

#24 Comment By Patrick D On April 11, 2017 @ 3:41 pm


“But Trump was saying “blow up bad guys without spending any money or losing any soldiers.”

This was basically the Democratic Party’s MO the last 8 years, aka “smart power”, and Clinton promised more.

#25 Comment By PRDoucette On April 11, 2017 @ 4:05 pm

If the Russians and Iranians starting laughing when Trump gave them 30 minutes advance warning of the message he was going to send to Assad for using chemical weapons, they really doubled over when Trump’s people called for regime change in Syria. Talk about a meaningless gesture. The only way there will be a regime change in Syria is if the Russians and Iranians decide Assad is no longer useful and they want to put their selected puppet on the throne for reasons that they see as vital to their national interests, which Syria very much represents to both of them.

#26 Comment By Samira hicks On April 11, 2017 @ 7:49 pm

Thank you, Mr. Buchanan!!

Syria is my birthplace.
I was born in a tiny Christian village in the south. It had 3 churches. We were surrounded by other villages of different faiths. During harvest time, my parents paid our Muslim neighbors from neighboring villages to
come and help. Nobody labeled anybody based on their religion. I never heard of any attacks on a Syrian church past the Ottoman rule back then.
Some of my best friends are secular Muslims. Some of whom attended nuns-run schools.
Syria is the America of the ancient world, with its diversity. So much so that the former Louvre curator Andre Parrot asserted that, “every person has two homelands.. his own and Syria.

I can say with certainty that what is happening in Syria is not homegrown.

When I voted for Trump, I thought I was voting for peace! Wrong again!!

Syria taught me to pray constantly, for the helpless, for the homeless and for awakening and conviction of the conscience of those who made them so.
Isn’t there anything else that
We can do????

#27 Comment By libertarian jerry On April 11, 2017 @ 7:49 pm

Most of the people,mostly conservatives,who read TAC are running around looking for a “leader” who will return to the good old days of yore when “conservative” values were prominent in American life. These same people,mostly Trump supporters,are about 100 years too late. They are fighting a rear guard action. The Progressives over the past 100 plus years have gotten most of their world views enacted into law. With that said,one of the Left’s main goals was a “world government.” This world government is now represented by the U.N. When the American President wants war he doesn’t have to get Congressional approval. All he or she has to do is get U.N. sanctions as a justification for war. With this “legality” in place then the missiles can fly,the bombs can be dropped and the soldiers can invade. We lost our Constitution a long time ago and Mr.Trump isn’t going to bring it back. No way.

#28 Comment By Gil On April 11, 2017 @ 8:58 pm

Pat, you cannot be surprised Trump has done this. He’s a small, insecure man, with an ego so fragile that whomever strokes it the most will achieve their policy goals. And the neocons are the maestros of ego-stroking those in power.

#29 Comment By Gregory On April 11, 2017 @ 9:06 pm

You know, Mr. Gayle, I think the two-party system bears much responsibility for leaving us with two a “choice” between Clinton and Trump, both of whom are warmongers with terrible judgement (although maybe fewer people voting in the primaries for warmongers would solve that problem). Voting this time around was like playing Russian roulette with six rounds, and I get that. (I voted third-party.)

However, you who backed Trump (including Buchanan) bear much of the responsibility as well. There was no reason to believe anything the charlatan said. He lied constantly during the campaign. Many, many commenters on this very site have been observing that all of last election season.

Now, we’re stuck with a belligerent incompetent who has no idea what he’s doing, surrounded by a bunch of generals wielding Maslow’s hammers.

Well, at least he has a firm gasp of important domestic policy.

“For the bankers in the room, they’ll be very happy because we’re really doing a major streamlining and, perhaps, elimination, and replacing it with something else,” Trump said on Tuesday.

#30 Comment By Lee On April 11, 2017 @ 9:08 pm

It’s starting to look like Trump and the Chinese Prime Minister, got bored with Syria and we have an Armada on the way to mess with Dim Dong Jill.

Like “Fantasy Island”, “all smiles…”

#31 Comment By John S On April 11, 2017 @ 9:28 pm

Look up Robert Bales who was courtmarshalled and sentenced to life in prison for shooting up a bunch of Afghanis. As for Doctors Without Borders, likewise, that hardly went nowhere. Look it up.

@Lee Timmer
I didn’t say anything about overthrowing Assad.

I don’t suggest creating a power vacuum.

I think it’s in our interests and in the interests of our allies that ISIS not expand its territory, enlarging its terrorist factory.

#32 Comment By Richard Bassett On April 12, 2017 @ 11:25 am

Negotiating (perhaps thru strength) an end to the causes behind mass Syrian migration is in our security interest. The devil is in the details, but I remain hopeful that the correct course of action will be taken.

#33 Comment By Dr.Diprospan On April 14, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

Donald Trump is a brand.
Any brand stands out because of its originality and exclusivity. And I do not want President Trump to be a reminder of the former Russian president – Boris Yeltsin.
In Russia, many people treated President Yeltsin as a bulldozer that could destroy the dilapidated building of communism, as an icebreaker paving the way for a prosperous capitalist future. Meanwhile, Yeltsin initiated two bloody civil wars in the Caucasus. His daughter Tatiana, as well as Ivanka became his adviser to the President, as a result, the family became one of the richest in Russia.
I can say with confidence that nothing is so annoying to the people as the participation of friends and family in governing the country. This reduces all ratings сatastrophically.
In Russia, pretending to be a fool is a national fun. A person drinks alcohol, (often very abundantly) and starts to fool, says all sorts of nonsense. It puzzles you, you can not understand what is real and what is not, but in fact “drunk” is able to think and plan. It was President Yeltsin who invited Vladimir Putin to work in the government, and later renounced power and handed it over to Putin. Thus, Yeltsin was not a banal fool and a drunkard as many believe, but was a big nesting doll, where as it turned out Vladimir Putin was formed. Now I’m interested in the question: Will Donald Trump be an American nesting doll or will he preserve himself as a bright American brand?

#34 Comment By David Walters On April 15, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

I thought I voted against Killary.

But that specter has now inhabited Trump, and, perhaps more to the point, Ivanka.