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Is Trump Standing Down in Syria?

Wednesday morning, President Trump jolted the nation with a tweet that contained both a threat and a taunt.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Trump was responding to a warning by Russia that she would shoot down U.S. missiles fired at her Syrian allies, and she reserved the right to fire on American warships and bases from which any such missiles were launched.

The “Gas Killing Animal” was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

That afternoon, Defense Secretary James Mattis dialed it down. Had he seen enough evidence to convict Assad of a poison gas attack in Douma, Mattis was asked. His reply: “We are still assessing the intelligence. …We’re still working on this.”

Thursday morning, Trump seemed to walk back his threat: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

Is Trump planning a larger attack and silently gathering allies? Is he signaling that a U.S. attack on Syria may not be coming?

Whichever, the relief at his apparent stand down was palpable.


Yet the interlude should cause some sober second thoughts.

Why risk war with Russia in Syria, when, by our own inaction during this seven-year civil war, we have shown we have no vital interest there? And surely we have no interest in Syria so crucial as to justify a war with a nuclear-armed Russia.

Trump allowed his revulsion at the awful pictures of dead children, allegedly gassed, to impel him to threaten military action almost certain to result in more dead children.

Emotions should not be allowed to overrule what the president has thought and expressed many times: while the outcome of Syria’s civil war may mean everything to Assad, and much to Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel, it means comparatively little to a USA 5,000 miles away.

We cannot forever fight other peoples’ wars without ending up on the same ash heap of history as the other world powers before us.

And why not talk directly to our adversaries there?

If Trump can talk to Kim Jong-un, who used an anti-aircraft gun to execute his uncle and had his half-brother murdered in a Malaysian airport with a chemical weapon, why cannot we talk to Assad?

In 1974, Richard Nixon flew to Damascus to establish ties to Assad’s father, the future “Butcher of Hama.” George H.W. Bush enlisted Hafez al-Assad and 4,000 Syrian troops in his Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

What are America’s limited interests in Syria in 2018?

Containing al-Qaeda, exterminating the ISIS caliphate, and effecting the best deal we can for the Kurds who have been loyal and crucial to our campaign against ISIS. Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran are not fighting us on these fronts. For al-Qaeda and ISIS are their enemies as well.

As for the political future of Syria, it is not vital to us and not ours to determine. And the efforts of others to have us come fight their wars, while understandable, need to be resisted.

All over this city, and across the Middle East, there are people who wish to conscript U.S. wealth and power to advance their goals and achieve their visions. Having let them succeed so often has diminished us as a superpower from what we were at the end of the Cold War.

This should stop, and the nation knows it.

Among the reasons Democrats nominated Barack Obama and America elected him was that his opponents, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, supported the Iraq war Obama opposed.

Among the reasons the Republican Party nominated Trump and the nation elected him was that he promised to take us out and keep us out of wars like the one in Syria.

Is it not ironic that today our War Party, which, almost to a man, loathed Trump and rejected his candidacy, is goading and cheering him on, deeper and deeper into the Syrian quagmire?

Trump is heading into a 60-day period that will go far to determine the fate of his presidency and the future of the Middle East.

If investigators determine that Assad’s forces used poison gas on civilians in Douma, Trump will have to decide whether to repeat the strike he made on Syria a year ago, and, this time, risk war with Russia.

He will have to decide by May 12 whether the U.S. walks away from the Iran nuclear deal. On May 15 comes the formal move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the 70th anniversary of the birth of Israel, and of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of the Palestinians, and the culmination of the Friday protests in Gaza that have turned so bloody.

We and Mr. Trump are heading into interesting times.

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.

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Is Trump Standing Down in Syria?"

#1 Comment By GOP is done On April 12, 2018 @ 11:34 pm

I voted for trump as well and it is foolish to believe he won’t do anything other than what Israel tells him to do. We knew he didn’t have the temperament but he said some things that made sense during the campaign. Please abandon any hope that he will do anything other than what the neo-cons tell him to do. Thank you Mr Bolton.

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 13, 2018 @ 9:27 am

Three cheers for a new Spirit of 76 – these seventy-six words of Pat Buchanan wisdom:

“The efforts of others to have us come fight their wars, while understandable, need to be resisted. All over this city, and across the Middle East, there are people who wish to conscript U.S. wealth and power to advance their goals and achieve their visions. Having let them succeed so often has diminished us as a superpower from what we were at the end of the Cold War. This should stop, and the nation knows it.”

#3 Comment By patrick On April 13, 2018 @ 10:07 am

In Syria poison gas is one of several methods of killing that are condemned by a civilized nations. We know that the Syrian government is not the only group that has this weapon. Bombing a depot containing this agent could have produced the same result as what is attributed to an airborne explosive delivery. With evidence that this was a deliberate attack and perpetrators identified, wouldn’t this be a matter for the United Nations? Donald Trump was elected partially for appealing to those who are tired of the US being the world’s policeman, now he has added to that role being the judge, jury and executioner.

It also seems that President Trump is distracted from his primary goal of Destroying ISIS, yet there is suspicion that our NATO ally Turkey allowed ISIS fighters and its logistics to flow into Syria, as well as allowing the sale and transport of oil from ISIS through Turkey. Do we really expect to destroy ISIS without cooperation from Turkey?

We are also seeing Turkey attacking our most effective ally in the war against ISIS in ways that are also considered barbaric and contrary to the accepted rules of war. It does not seem in our nation’s best interests to risk a wider war because of attacks in an area where many civilians support the Islamic radicals who would behead anyone reporting anything other than its propaganda. Yet in Northern Syria the civilian population that supported our efforts against ISIS is being indiscriminately attacked by warplanes and artillery while emergency aid is blocked from providing aid to the local non-combatants.

The situation in Northern Syria is where US influence could have a greater effect to protect the innocence with less risk of widening the conflict. The objective of protecting our Kurdish allies may even be accomplished by economic means rather than using lethal military actions. Perhaps it is time to end Turkey’s membership in NATO where this nation has intentionally made itself more of a liability than an asset. Economic leverage could also be applied against Turkey by our European NATO allies such as restricting immigration from Turkey into Europe and blocking money flowing from Turkish citizens from Europe into Turkey.

#4 Comment By Old West On April 13, 2018 @ 11:00 am

When W went into Iraq, I predicted that the GOP would lose Congress and the White House. And we promptly did. We only got them back because we were blessed with an incompetent Obama. Same is true for this stupid war. Except I see no prospect for ever getting them back this time.

#5 Comment By Michael Kenny On April 13, 2018 @ 11:51 am

Hope springs eternal! The most interesting thing about Trump’s “missiles tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, or not at all” is that it demonstrates wonderfully that Putin is hopelessly bogged down in Syria. Putin is a sitting duck. All he can do is sit and wait to see what Trump chooses to do. He doesn’t even dare to launch a preemptive strike. By that alone, even if Trump never launches a single missile, he has inflicted a humiliating defeat on Putin that will undoubtedly damage him at home. What effect Trump’s “standing down” would have on himself is quite another matter.

#6 Comment By Felix On April 13, 2018 @ 11:57 am

Mr. Patric. Excuse my English. But from Russia it looks simple, like piece of cake.
1. Al Kaida is a creative of Saudi Arabia.
2. An Nusra, strongest from american sirians, = Al Kaida.
3. An Nusra is a creative of Saudi Arabia.
4. Saudits pay for Clintons Fond and other TopPop of USA establishment.
5 TopPop and silent back government press Trump and Old WASP America? in his face.
5. Old WASP America is dead, because Al Kaida blow up Twin Towers.
Best wishes.

#7 Comment By Observer On April 13, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

It’s really too bad Pat Buchanan is not our president, if he runs, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. Here is a man who truly understands what America needs today. Buchanan’s the man we thought we voted for in Trump, instead we got yet another Deep State puppet in the WH.

Trump’s trouble begins and ends with Mike Pence. Pence is the invade-the-world, invite-the-world neocon warmonger establishment swamp that we tried to toss out of DC. During the VP debate, Pence claimed that he would go to war with Russia over Syria. A few days later in the 2nd Presidential debate, Trump went against him and said he would *not* risk war with Russia. But now here we are, going to war with Russia, how did we get here?

Trump put Pence in charge of putting together the transitional government and the cabinet, and Pence built him a war chest filled with neocon warmongers — from swamp creatures like Nikki Haley, John Bolton, Rod Rosenstein, to all the Wall Street vampire squids that Trump railed against on his campaign trail like Gary Cohn, Mnuchin. Jeff Sessions is turning out to be the weakest AG who recused himself from the Russian collusion witch hunt that is dragging down Trump, while refusing to do anything on the biggest political scandal in history which is the Clintons’ pay-to-play scheme through the Clinton Foundation, so he could be free to go after marijuana and Harvard, talk about missing the forest for the trees.

It’s no coincidence that this “chemical attack” happened 2 days after Trump said he wanted out of Syria, and while all eyes are on Israel for the killing of the Palestinian protesters. Assad and Russia have both denied having anything to do with this attack, or that it even took place at all. Why would they want to do this when they’ve basically won the war? Mattis could not find evidence linking Assad. Germany and Italy wanted nothing to do with bombing Assad. Yet Trump was already shooting off his mouth parroting the idiotic Nikki Haley on assuming guilt without evidence. Loose lips sink ships.

It’s sad we cannot elect a president with true courage and vision and who genuinely wants what’s best for this country. We thought Trump was the man, he’s turning out to be a big disappointment, and a big part of it is because of his trust in Pence, who put together a disastrous cabinet based on his own neocon vision. Trump cannot run for re-election with Pence. He needs to get rid of this swamp creature, along with Javanka, no one voted for those two libtards in the WH.

#8 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 13, 2018 @ 1:31 pm

Notwithstanding that this interview is from RT [state-sponsored Russia Today], the interview is with a very credible source — “Lord Alan West, a retired officer of the British Royal Navy [former Chief of Defense Intelligence].”

“Lord West said he had strong reservations about taking allegations against Damascus at face value, because it didn’t make much military sense.”

Lord West: “’It seems to be utterly ludicrous for the military that is in the process of taking over an area to go and do something with chemical weapons, which will draw the wrath of the larger enemy down upon them,’ he said. ‘If I was advising the opponents of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, I would be delighted to kill a few people there. Let’s face it, [the insurgents] don’t care if they kill women and children.’

“’I am not willing to accept tweets. We need to see incontrovertible truth about what has happened there and make a decision on that basis,’ he added.”


#9 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On April 13, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

Stephen F. Cohen is always illuminating. [2]

What causes the Russo-madness? I think it’s Russia’s rejection of the LGBTQW philosophy. (“W” for *whatever*.) That’s the main thing, though other factors are undoubtedly involved. Among NeverTrump conservatives, the irritant is that Russia is more Christian than the U.S. on LGBTQW issues. That has to sting. The Pharisees can’t stand it. They take it out on poor Vladimir Putin.

#10 Comment By One Guy On April 13, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

If by “standing down”, you mean, “flip-flopping based on who he most recently talked to”, then, yes, he’s standing down. Let’s not pretend Trump hasn’t done this a dozen times.

#11 Comment By I Don’t Matter On April 13, 2018 @ 9:22 pm

Nope. He’s sending rockets. But I’m sure Hillary would have done something worse.

#12 Comment By Andrew On April 13, 2018 @ 9:34 pm

You apparently got your answer, Pat. The globalist, DC elite, neo Blob has apparently captured another GOP Administration. Why couldn’t we have elected you in ’92?

#13 Comment By b. On April 13, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

He has decided.

The question is now, will anybody in Congress have the guts to file the articles of impeachment that should have been filed the last time he violate the Constitution with an illegal act of aggression?

#14 Comment By anon On April 14, 2018 @ 1:11 am

No-one who trusted Trump, no-one who attempted to work with Trumo, no-one who supported Trump, has been treated better than Trump’s wives, which is to say lied to, disrespected, and ultimately replaced.

Pat’s hope that his old man love would be reciprocated is being proven false, as Trump is incapable of fidelity to anything or anyone.

Trump loves the story “The Snake” because it is ultimately about him and those who trust him. Pat knew who he was extolling…he got no better than any of Trump’s other conquests.

#15 Comment By Youknowho On April 14, 2018 @ 11:53 am

Trump just tweeted “Mission Accomplished”

Does this remind you of someone?

#16 Comment By Dee On April 14, 2018 @ 3:56 pm

Something is so weird about this latest Syria “episode”.

trump, on April 3, says he wants to bring our troops home out of Syria, very quickly..probably his own true thoughts, but who knows..

So Putin, on April 7, instead of celebrating his free-hand there, decides to allow a gas attack to kill some civilians which he knows will draw the likely retaliation from the US..

Which allows trump to condemn the gas killer animal, on twitter, and warn of missiles which are both smart and new, about to be launched.. 5 days later at sites evacuated by the syrians with no damage really done..

mission accomplished.

#17 Comment By Mark Thomason On April 15, 2018 @ 11:09 am

We can talk to Kim because he has nuclear weapons.

We “cannot” talk to Assad, because he can’t hurt us.

Pure bully behavior. That always gets the same ultimate response, and that is the ultimate danger to the US.

#18 Comment By Cornel Lencar On April 15, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

To Michael Kenny:

You think like an American, with this idea of loosing face as the most important think there is. Assad, Syria, Russia will just hunker down. The amount of pain the Vietnamese or North Koreans took before seeing the Americans gone is millions time the magnitude of what is happening now in Syria.

Russia has military bases in Syria, legally, so it is there to stay. Also, who can say who’s right. Did Syrians shoot down 70 American missiles, or they didn’t?

And why should Russians engage in preemptive strikes, just to show the world that they are as bad and stupid and bullish as the Americans?

Sorry if my arguments make me a useful idiot and a Russian troll, unpaid, mind you.

#19 Comment By David Smith On April 15, 2018 @ 7:13 pm

“…Perhaps it is time to end Turkey’s membership in NATO.”

Perhaps it is time to end NATO.

#20 Comment By PAX On April 16, 2018 @ 8:05 am

The Catholic bishops of Syria roundly criticized the bombing raid. Maybe it is time for Catholics and other mainstream Christian religions to stand up in the U.S. pulpit and criticize the brutality of the Gaza and these raids on a sovereign nation, that has no interest in a war with the U.S. The money-lenders in our national temple would probably unleash their massive power against the Church via mainstream media and the media. There would be urgent and reasoned cries for the loss of tax status and a revisiting of every real and imaginary crime committed by the clergy since Peters and Paul. Catholics and other mainstream religions do not have the organization to withstand such an onslaught. As long as we behave and ignore the suffering of our fellows we will be tolerated. At least for now.

#21 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On April 16, 2018 @ 12:29 pm

In my opinion, Donald Trump is skillful politician. He plays the Syrian game cleverly.
There is a certain difference in the mentality of Russians and Americans. So people love poker in the US. People prefer to play a card game called “Fool” in Russia.
In this game there is no joker, which can be an ace or turn into a deuce.
Just recently, on the eve of the presidential elections in Russia, Putin said pathetically: “you (the West) did not want to listen to us (having in mind the infrastructure of NATO at the Russian borders and the redistribution of commodity markets for globalistic patterns) so listen to us now”. Then he enumerated the Russian military novelty, including an invulnerable underwater drone with a thermonuclear warhead of 100 megatons, which, if desired, can be stuffed with cobalt. The West responded: immediately, blaming Russia for poisoning trends. Meanwhile, Assad’s troops continued to regain control of areas occupied by the opposition. In these conditions, not in the character of Donald Trump to remain silent. Knowing something about the Russian mentality, he answered cool: Russian, meet, smart, new missiles that are going to fly to you. The Russians prepared to beat the ace, but the joker turned into a deuce. As a result, everyone saved the face.
The Russian military said that their Syrian smart students – shot down 70% of cruise missiles by Soviet air defense (now, obviously they are worthy of the newest Russian weapons). The American generals, in turn, declared that all the missiles had hit their targets. The opposition insurgents called the missile strike of the triple alliance a buffoonery but formally the US did not leave them alone in trouble.
In fact, the sad clowns are the Syrians themselves, who turned the blooming country into the game table for nuclear powers. What card will the Joker be next time?
I agree with Mr. Buchanan that we and Mr. Trump are heading into interesting times.