War Cries vs. ‘America First’

“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” tweeted President Donald Trump on Easter Sunday.

Earlier, after discovering “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping over “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had confided, “I explained … that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!”

“America First” thus takes a back seat to big-power diplomacy with Beijing. One wonders: How much will Xi end up bilking us for his squeezing of Kim Jong-un?

Trump once seemed to understand how America had been taken to the cleaners during and after the Cold War. While allies supported us diplomatically, they piled up huge trade surpluses at our expense and became virtual free-riders off the U.S. defense effort.

No nations were more successful at this than South Korea and Japan. Now Xi is playing the game—and perhaps playing Trump.

What is the “North Korean problem” Beijing will help solve in return for more indulgent consideration on future U.S.-China trade deals?

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. As 80 percent of Pyongyang’s trade comes through China, Trump believes that Beijing can force Kim to stop testing missiles and atomic bombs before he produces an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S.

But what is to prevent Xi from pocketing Trump’s concessions and continuing on the strategic course China has long pursued?

For in many ways, Pyongyang’s goals parallel China’s.

Neither could want an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula. For Kim, this would devastate his country, bring down his regime, and cost him his life. For China, war could mean millions of Koreans crossing the Yalu into Manchuria and a disruption of Beijing’s march to Asian hegemony.

A continuing crisis on the peninsula, however, with Trump and the U.S. relying on Beijing’s help, could leave Xi in the catbird seat.

And now that North Korea has declared its goal to be building missiles with nuclear warheads that could hit all U.S. bases in Asia—and even California—the clock is running for the White House.

“It won’t happen,” Trump has said of North Korea’s developing an ICBM that could hit the United States. “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”

“The threat is upon us,” says outgoing deputy national-security advisor K.T. McFarland. “This is something President Trump is going to deal with in the first year.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have declared that our policy of “strategic patience” with Pyonyang is at an end.

National-security advisor H.R. McMaster said Sunday the U.S. has “to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst” in dealing with “this unpredictable regime.”

With a stunning parade of missiles in Pyongyang on Saturday, the North’s failed firing of a solid-fueled missile that same day, and the promise of new missile tests weekly, Kim is forcing our hand.

Either he backs away from building atomic bombs and long-range missiles or Trump and his generals must make good on their warnings.

How did we get to this point?

Why, 64 years after the Korean War, a quarter-century after the Cold War, are we still obliged to go to war to defend South Korea from a North with one-half the South’s population and 3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product?

Why are we, on the far side of the Pacific, still responsible for containing North Korea when two of its neighbors—Russia and China—are nuclear powers and South Korea and Japan could field nuclear and conventional forces far superior to Kim’s?

How long into the future will containing militarist dictators in Pyongyang with nuclear missiles be America’s primary responsibility?

Another issue arises. Before the U.S. launches any pre-emptive strike on North Korea, Congress should be called back into session to authorize any act of war against the North.

Perhaps this time, Congress would follow the Constitution.

Though Korea is the crisis of the moment, it is not the only one.

Not since 9/11 have the Afghan Taliban been stronger or controlled more territory. The United States’ commanding general there is calling for thousands more U.S. troops. Russia and Iran are reportedly negotiating with the Taliban. Pakistan is said to be aiding them.

To counter Vladimir Putin’s Russia, we have moved U.S. and NATO troops into Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, and Bulgaria. We have fired missiles into Syria. We are reportedly preparing to back the Saudis in the latest escalation of their war on the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Twenty-four years after “Black Hawk Down,” the weekend brought reports of U.S. troops returning to Somalia.

The promise of a Trump presidency—that we would start looking out for our own country and own national interests first and let the rest of the world solve, or fail to solve, its own problems—appears, not 100 days in, to have been a mirage.

Will more wars make America great again?

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.

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24 Responses to War Cries vs. ‘America First’

  1. NoldorElf says:

    It is time I think for the paleoconservative community to face that Trump is not the President that many hoped that he will be. He seems to be little more than a puppet of the neoconservatives now.

    Note how the mainstream media covers him now that he has launched missiles against Syria. Yes, they have him, and they know it.

    Thus far, he has not made any serious attempts at trying to re-shore American manufacturing, restore the middle class, or anything that might benefit the living standards of the American people. Sadly unless he does a fast 180, it is unlikely that he will “Make America Great” anytime soon.

    I think that Trump is doing to paleoconservatives what Obama did to the left – a total betrayal for his personal gain.

  2. bacon says:

    Well, Mr. Buchanan, here we are in early days of a Trump presidency, a presidency you advocated when the alternative was Hillary. At that time I commented on one of your posts that I hoped you would be as much an advocate if he won, no matter what that entailed.

    Anyone who even casually followed domestic news in the years leading up to 2016 should have known that Donald Trump has one, just one, interest in life – himself. He is almost frantic to insure that he is seen as doing and having the best of everything (“the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” as compared to the dreck the rest of us have). So if war-crazy hawks like McCain and Graham want another one, probably all they have to do is arrange to have Trump’s manhood questioned publicly and loudly over not attacking whichever country they want attacked.

    Maybe you thought electing a guy with the emotional stability of a 7th grader would be OK because those around him would have enough influence to keep him in check. If so, think again.

  3. Mel Profit says:

    It is already obvious that Trump is a charlatan–and more dangerous than even his left wing foes thought.

    As for the “deplorables”–they are where they have been for the past twenty-five years–in limbo. Unrepresented, unloved, and again discarded after having been used.

  4. PAXNOW says:

    America First? Just a political gas bag trying to get votes. Actions speak louder than words. Jared Kushner and his neocon advisers shows his real direction. No! Young Americans will continue to be called on to sacrifice in seemingly endless wars not in our real-interest. Sent into harm’s way in large by armchair warriors. Mainstream media will pulverize our sanity to make us believe that somehow we benefit from these bloody excursions that are 180 degrees from the ideals of the Founders.

  5. Alex says:

    Look, Trump sold a little big of everything to everybody but one thing was clear: he is a bully and playing a tough guy. It is a part of his personality. Remember his rallies? Screaming at journalists: get him out of here or next time get him out on the stretchers.

    It is very difficult to show how tough you are in the US. As such, now he is doing what a tough guy in his opinions would have done (or may be he really believes that): a rocket here or a bomb there or send the US fleet to North Korea. And then what? Who cares! Fox News is screaming with excitement.

  6. Sean Nuttall says:

    Pat, how can you be surprised by this. Trump is an etch a sketch that is filled in by whoever he is with last. Anyone who actually watched him speak for longer than 10 seconds can see he has no idea what he is talking about.

  7. Mont D. Law says:

    When you buy a pig in a poke you shouldn’t be surprised when it turns out to be a capybara.

    Who new rich old white men were so easy to fool.

  8. EliteCommInc. says:

    “No nations were more successful at this than South Korea and Japan. Now Xi is playing the game—and perhaps playing Trump.”


    given the sentiments expressed concerning our Syrian intervention, sadly, this may very well be the case.

    Playing to the establishments exaggerated fears of North Korea. Good grief.

  9. Corwin says:

    The real problem is not so much Trump, but the combination of Trump with a Republican Congress and power structure. Ordinarily, we would be looking at Congress to check an out of control president. With Trump, however, we have an empty suit easily manipulated by those with power. That’s what gave us the attacks in Syria and Iraq, along with the excessive saber rattling elsewhere. Nd even a bare bones minimum check on All of this is at least 22 months away, if dems can gain control of at least one house in Congress. Any more comprehensive solution will require changing the way we do politics and government, which will take a little while longer to accomplish.

  10. Fred Bowman says:

    One wonders what kind of deal Trump will make with China and what cost that America will pay to get out of this mess with North Korea? I imagine it will most generous to China.

  11. Joe F says:

    Most disturbing about this saber rattling is not that it is a move towards the neocons, but rather it is simply a function of Trump trying to improve his sinking poll numbers. Nothing he had done so far was able to curtail his slide, but 59 tomahawk missiles bumped his poll numbers up for the first time and don’t think for a minute that he didn’t see the effect. This isn’t about a shift towards the neocons or even a demonstration of his faux tough guy routine, it is simply a selfish effort of the most narcissistic individual in the world to improve his poll numbers. And it is not an effort to gain leverage on other policies, just an effort to feed his ego on the only element he cares about: approval ratings. That is some scary stuff right there. That said, this is the one area that I really do agree with Pat, it is long past time to be subsidizing the defense of other nations. Can you imagine how great America would be if we had either left the tens of trillions of dollars in the hands of American citizens or invested it here at home?

  12. Chris Chuba says:

    Offer N. Korea a grand bargain, withdrawal of U.S. troops from S. Korea in exchange for abandonment of their nuclear weapons and limiting the range of their missile testing to those that have a range of 100 miles. Kim doesn’t want conquest, he wants to feel secure in his playhouse.

    This would hurt our pride but it would work. Ask yourselves, when did Kim develop and test his first nuclear weapon?
    In 2003 he kicked out inspectors and re-started his heavy water plutonium reactors.
    In 2006 N. Korea tested their first nuclear weapon.
    Who was President in those years? GWB and that was when we were ‘projecting strength’ and ‘sending a message’ that there was a new Sheriff in town.

    Their is a thin line between appeasement and being reasonable. Not all agreements are appeasements.

    I do not have any confidence that the Foreign Policy Establishment will handle this current situation correctly.

  13. David Cobb says:

    We always hear about the threat of DPRK missles and the threat that they impose on the region, what about all the Patriot and THADD missle defense systems that the American taxpayers have spent $ billions and billions to develop and deploy, don’t they work?

  14. NWO Reality says:

    This is precisely why Pat Buchanan should have been elected US Prez decades ago! Trump’s elction was just a shrewd “peoples” ploy by the NWO puppeteers.
    Wake up America!

  15. Kurt Gayle says:

    Because Japan and South Korea have issues with North Korea, therefore let those three countries meet together and negotiate solutions to those issues.

    By contrast, the US – half-a-world away – has no issues with North Korea that do not grow out of voluntary US involvement in the issues that Japan and South Korea have with North Korea.

    The tens of thousands of US troops stationed in Japan and South Korea and the US participation in military exercises off the coast of North Korea are examples of this US involvement in Japanese/South Korean/North Korean issues that have absolutely nothing to do with US vital national interests.

    The US should withdraw its troops, stop its provocative military exercises, and join with China in supporting Japanese, South Korean, and North Korean negotiations.

  16. WAB says:

    On the bright side. another conservative bait-and-switch election aimed at the untutored and angry masses was a success; so at least you know that still works.

  17. Kurt Gayle says:

    Donald Trump foreign policy interview with the New York Times, March 26, 2017:

    TRUMP: “…At some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world. And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now…Pakistan has them…North Korea has them. I mean, they don’t have delivery yet, but you know…that’s a big problem….Would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea…you may very well have a better case right there…Well, I think maybe it’s not so bad to have Japan – if Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.”

  18. One Man says:

    It’s good to see Mr. Buchanan slowly realizing what many of us knew all along.

  19. Kurt Gayle says:

    Correction of 1:29 p.m. post:

    March 26, 2016 not 2017

  20. hamburgertoday says:

    I share Mr. Buchanan’s concerns. However, there is over 60 years of pro-war/US hegemon momentum that has to be accounted for. Much in the same way that the despoilment of the US economy cannot be turned around in a year (or even a decade), the same can be said for international and military affairs, but even more so. In my opinion, it’s simply too soon to tell how the Trump Presidency will play out in foreign affairs so far as the Cold War ‘legacy’ interventions are concerned, including Korea and Europe.

  21. Popular Unrest says:

    “Jared Kushner and his neocon advisers”

    Make that neocon and neolib. Before Daddy-in-law took the White House and made the GOP seem more appealing, Kushner was a Manhattan Democrat. For a 36 year-old that means “Clintonite”. The very thing Trump’s voters wanted to defeat.

  22. gg says:

    Seems to be nowhere to post this: William Norman Grigg died last week, aged 54. Brilliant
    analysist of corrupt cops. Worked for the JBS and then moved to Idaho when the JBS fractured. Longtime JBS colleague William Jasper has a loving tribute today at newamericanmag.com

    longtime contributor to lewrockwell There is a gofundme page for his final expenses.

  23. jk says:

    Pat, it’s pretty easy. Trump’s cabinet is full of card carrying deep-state loving neocons. Bannon is the sanest man in the building.

  24. Andy says:

    There’s no joy at all in saying, “I Told You So.”
    The Press, most commentators, and the entire civilized world was predicting exactly this.

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