Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

Are the Democrats Rooting for Iran?

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Trump Derangement Syndrome sure makes Democrats do some pretty crazy things. In 2018, for example, the president’s one-year anniversary in office triggered protesters to the point of screaming helplessly at the sky. And who could forget the collective meltdown leftists experienced following the nomination and subsequent confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh?

But now, Democrats have taken this insanity one step further, siding with Iran—the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism—for the sole purpose of damaging President Trump.

As Iran has repeatedly attempted to provoke the West into a military confrontation over the past month, tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic have reached critical mass. On June 13, Iran reportedly attacked two foreign oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, an area controlled by the United States and its allies to ensure the free flow of commerce.

Then, on June 20, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone flying in international air space in the same region. It’s important to note that despite Iran’s belligerent behavior, we have not carried out a retaliatory response.

But that hasn’t stopped Iran from proclaiming (without evidence) that it’s actually America that has engaged in “aggressive and provocative action.” It seems to be using the tried-and-true misinformation technique of accusing your opponent of that which you are most guilty. Unfortunately, it seems to be working for now.

Quick to criticize the president’s administration for any perceived error, Democrats readily accepted the narrative hand-fed to them by one of our nation’s largest Middle East adversaries. Leading the charge on this front was Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). One of the supposed “fresh faces” of the Democratic Party, Omar leaped at the opportunity to follow Iran’s lead, immediately shifting blame toward the United States.

On June 20, Omar tweeted, “American leaders have contrived pretexts to justify American aggression. That’s what Donald Trump’s administration—and especially its national security adviser, John Bolton—is doing now with Iran.”

Others in her party swiftly followed suit, adopting the position that America, not Iran, was responsible for escalating tension in the Middle East. Most notably, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lashed out at the president, claiming Trump had “instigated another unnecessary conflict” and that “[t]here is no justification for further escalating this crisis.”

The Democratic Party’s wanton spread of misinformation is reckless and feeds into the overall goal of our adversaries: to weaken America’s potential response by sowing internal division. By seizing every opportunity to attack the current administration over imagined missteps, liberals are creating ideological divides within nonpartisan issues.

In its approach to dealing with the world’s leading sponsor of terror, our country needs to be united. Yet sadly, their party’s drive to secure a political win is greater than their desire to keep the country safe.

It’s not the first time Democrats have pulled this stunt, either. Recently, in a similar fashion, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) attempted to derail the administration’s Launch Service Agreement (LSA). Spearheaded by the Air Force, the LSA program would let the United States develop domestic launch vehicles to secure America’s place in space—undoubtedly important to our nation’s security interests.

Because the Trump Administration promotes this program, Democrats reflexively had to fight it. Without evidence, Smith labeled the initiative as unfair and attempted to hamstring its progress with laborious congressional investigations. And even after the Air Force decided to push forward with the project, Smith tried to obstruct it legislatively.

This pattern of behavior is typical with members of #TheResistance. Regardless of the potential consequences for the rest of the nation, they’ll fight the president’s every move.

And it only seems to be getting worse. The Left’s ridiculous inclination to side with Iran is just another clear illustration of how far they’ve detached from reality. Apparently, Trump Derangement Syndrome is a progressive condition. We shouldn’t trust Democrats to make national security decisions anytime soon.

Photo Credit: Iranian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Foreign Policy • Middle East • military • Post

America Can Afford to Stay Calm with Iran

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President Trump recently ordered and then called off a retaliatory strike against Iran for destroying a U.S. surveillance drone. The U.S. asserts that the drone was operating in international space. Iran claims it was in Iranian airspace.

Antiwar critics of Trump’s Jacksonian rhetoric turned on a dime to blast him as a weak, vacillating leader afraid to call Iran to account.

Trump supporters countered that the president had shown Iran a final gesture of patience—and cleared the way for a stronger retaliation should Iran foolishly interpret his one-time forbearance as weakness to be exploited rather than as magnanimity to be reciprocated.

The charge of Trump being an appeaser was strange coming from leftist critics, especially given Trump’s past readiness to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons, his willingness to destroy ISIS through enhanced air strikes, and his liberation of American forces in Afghanistan from prior confining rules of engagement.

The truth is that Iran and the United States are now engaged in a great chess match. But the stakes are not those of intellectual gymnastics. The game is no game, but involves the lives, and possible deaths, of thousands.

The latest American-Iranian standoff is not like that of 1979-1981, when theocratic revolutionaries removed the Shah, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and took American hostages for 444 days—and humiliated America.

Iran fears there are now no such American liabilities. Forty years later, America has no presence in Iran. It has long since given up on bringing Tehran back into the Western fold.

There are no Americans in Iran to be kidnapped and no Iranian allies inside Iran to be saved. Iran has no leverage over the United States, at least not as it did in 1979.

Nor is the current confrontation reminiscent of the 2003-2011 tensions in the region. The United States is not fighting a ground war in the Middle East, much less one on the border of Iran.

The U.S. no longer believes in nation-building the autocratic Middle East into Western-style democracies. American troops are not in jeopardy from Iranian ground attacks. Americans have no financial or psychological capital invested in liberalizing Iraq, much less Iran and its environs.

Nor is the situation like the chronic Iranian tensions of the last 40 years in which an oil-dependent U.S. feared Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, or the sudden cutoff of imported oil, ensuring Nixon-era gas lines.

America is now the largest producer of gas and oil in the world, soon to be the largest exporter as well. The U.S. economy is booming. Iran’s is imploding.

The economies of China, Japan and Europe depend on the free flow of Middle Eastern oil. But China is currently in a trade war of nerves with the United States. An appeasing Europe doesn’t have the desire to help ramp up sanctions on Iran to prevent its nuclearization, nor is it eager to accede to U.S. entreaties to increase defense spending and enhance the NATO alliance. Japan is trying to deny Iranian aggression in fear that the global oil market might spike on news of Persian Gulf tensions.

In other words, both allies and enemies expect the United States to ensure that their shipping and their oil are safe.

Nor are we too concerned for our longtime ally Israel with regard to Iran. An impoverished Iran is bereft of allies and remains an international pariah, desperate to sell its embargoed oil to any rogue autocracy shameless enough to buy it. Israel is nuclear and has never been militarily stronger. It is now self-sufficient in oil and gas.

Israel has forged new ties with China, Russia and the European Union, and renewed its traditionally close relationship with the United States. Iran’s neighbors in the Arab world are either in a mess or clandestinely allied with Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have never been weaker vis-a-vis Israel.

Time is on the American side. Each day Iran grows weaker and poorer, and the U.S. stronger and richer.

Iran’s only hope is to draw the Trump administration into a messy Iraq-like ground war, or, at worst, a Balkans-style, months-long bombing campaign—with plenty of CNN footage of civilian collateral damage.

How, then, can the U.S. deter Iranian escalation without getting into an unpopular war before the heated 2020 election? It merely needs to persist in the present standoff: Ramp up the sanctions even tighter and ignore pathetic Iranian attacks on foreign ships.

If Tehran preemptively attacks an American ship or plane, it will be met by a disproportionate response, preferably one aimed not at civilian infrastructure but at the Iranian military hierarchy, Revolutionary Guard and theocratic elite.

Otherwise, the Trump administration can sit back and monitor Iran’s international ostracism and economic isolation while remaining unpredictable and enigmatic, ready to hit back hard at any attack on Americans but without being suckered into an optional war with Iran in the perennial Middle East quagmire.

Photo Credit: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post • the Presidency

Give Tucker Carlson the Nobel Peace Prize

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After months of escalating tensions, Iran shot down an unmanned American military drone last week. In response, a retaliatory American airstrike had been planned. At the last moment, President Trump called it off, explaining in a series of tweets that it was unnecessary and disproportionate.

According to reports, he was influenced by severe criticism leveled against our Iran policy by Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. On his show early last week, Carlson called National Security Advisor John Bolton a “bureaucratic tapeworm” who seems to have learned nothing from America’s failed venture in Iraq. He also has privately advised the president against war with Iran as a mistake of policy and a serious impediment to reelection, according to numerous reports.

For this, Tucker Carlson deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, to be shared with every administration figure who quietly argued against escalation.

More important, President Trump deserves our respect and thanks for sticking to his guns and not being dragged into another war in the Middle East by the unwise “wise men” of Washington, particularly the out-of-step Bolton.

Drone Shootdown Last in a Series of Tense Moments
The destruction of the U.S. surveillance drone comes after several months of bad behavior blamed on Iran: sabotage, mining of ships, and several explosions on Japanese and Dutch merchant ships. These events have been accompanied by America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran and escalating rhetoric from the U.S. “national security community.”

In this complicated situation, some—including me—have speculated that the various provocations were “false flags” by others interested in fomenting a war between Iran and the United States. Such a war would be a real mistake.

We have options short of war with Iran. Our tensions with Iran appears to be deliberately enhanced by Bolton, among others, and a war with Iran—like the earlier war with Iraq—would be unpredictable, expensive, and falsely conflate our interests with those in the region who have a strong interest in seeing Iran brought to heel.

The Facts Surrounding the Drone Shootdown Are Murky
The downing of our drone is a wrong suffered by the United States, but only if it happened in a particular way. Violating another nation’s airspace is technically an act of war. It is we, rather than Iran, who would be guilty of escalation if this happened. Iran claims the drone entered its airspace, but the United States says the drone was in international airspace. The airspace in question only permits a very narrow corridor where a drone, or any other military aircraft, could transit the Straits of Hormuz without violating Iranian territory.

There is no way any layperson could know for sure where the drone was when it was shot down, but it’s not beyond belief it had drifted or been flown deliberately into Iranian airspace. After all, Iran had captured another U.S. drone in 2011, and the wreckage was recovered over Iranian soil.

Alternately, as President Trump said, the shootdown could have resulted from an Iranian general acting “loose and stupid.” Iran has released detailed maps of the incident that accord with its version of events. Notably, in a far-from-stupid act of restraint, Iran declined to attack an American P-8 surveillance plane that was also in the area and, according to them, also violated Iranian airspace.

Trump recognizes something of critical importance. Our country can stumble into a war. Others below him are in a position to make such a provocation happen, whether for ideological reasons, a quest for personal glory, or mere carelessness. And that there’s a time to fight and also a time to back down, just as in any other conflict.

Trump’s conciliatory rhetoric in the wake of this incident—and even the threatened and then “called off” strike—may be part of a broader information operation to deter and de-escalate things. The message is clear: America can attack and is on the brink of doing so, and thus everyone needs to cool it.

Of course, Iran’s attack on the drone, but not the manned P-8 reconnaissance plane, sends a similar reciprocal message.

Trump Is Trumping the Wishes of Certain Swamp-Dwellers
Trump, in spite of the caricature of him in the press, is in much the same position JFK was in during the Cuban Missile Crisis, resisting the call to escalate tensions from short-sighted national security professionals. The post-Vietnam Republican Party has often abdicated thinking seriously about national security, instead saying that we should “just leave it to the generals!” This is both unconstitutional and stupid.

Such an approach is unconstitutional because we have civilian control of the military through an elected President, and Congress is supposed to declare wars. Thus, there are two layers of political control over military action. The Constitution recognizes that not merely the military, but the whole nation goes to war, and that the people’s elected officials should control when and how that happens.

The “leave it to the generals” advice is stupid because it outsources nontechnical questions of policy to the military and the intelligence community. This abdication by elected officials treats questions of war and peace as some form of arcane knowledge inaccessible to voters and even the commander in chief.

But such questions are ones where common sense matters. The best sources are history books, where we learn the generals have frequently gotten it wrong. And since foreign policy is not chiefly a technical question, there is no uniformity of thought among the “generals”; being both soldiers as well as citizens, they have diverse opinions on such things.

Trump Rightly Listens to His Friends
Without a doubt, Iran is not a friendly country. Keeping Iran (as well as its Sunni enemies) from acquiring nuclear weapons is beneficial to the United States. We also have a general interest in maintaining open sea lanes.

But America also faces a fiscal crisis, an immediate threat from mass immigration, as well as a developing one with China. In other words, there are many problems and threats in the world, and we have to prioritize.

Getting involved in another Mideast war would distract from other strategic priorities, such as maintaining our wealth and independence, and it would divert resources from both more immediate and more important threats. And to what end? Making things easier for Israel and Saudi Arabia by siding with them against their theological and regional competitor?

There are also broader considerations of justice in this incident, which implicate our national interest in husbanding “soft power.” Such power depends partly on our reputation as a country devoted to peace and justice, a reputation severely damaged by the Iraq War.

Are we 100 percent sure this robot was not in Iranian airspace? And, even if we are, is it worth 150 or more Iranian dead? Would Iran, which believes it was defending its own airspace, not create future problems for us and others if we got this wrong? Would sitting on our rights regarding the loss of a mechanical robot not cultivate some good will among the Iranian people, who are notably more pro-American than the subjects of our Sunni allies?

Somehow things got reversed between 2003 and 2019. The Republicans, who were “all in” for the Iraq War, now are split, and the larger portion appear to be in the peace camp. Tucker Carlson has his finger on the pulse of nationalist wing of the party. He not only reflects its views, he also often shapes them. He has undergone an evolution similar to many on the Right, an evolution that grew not only from the Iraq disaster but the later inconclusive interventions in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

This evolution within the American Right and among the American people generally led to the rejection of the old interventionist caucus, as exemplified by such figures as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham. Instead, the evolution of beliefs within the GOP led to the nomination and election of Trump under the mantra of “America First.” We realized these wars did us little good and that our safety could be secured more readily by more sensible immigration policies. This is a popular position and also a correct one.

At various critical junctures, Trump has shown he’s responsive to counsel from his allies on the right and willing to fight the good fight. Ann Coulter’s criticism was apparently critical during the shutdown battle. Trump stuck to the Syria pullout (more or less) and let go of Defense Secretary James Mattis after the latter’s refusal to implement the president’s order to declare victory and go home. And he stuck by Brett Kavanaugh during one of the nastiest nomination fights in living memory, even after fellow Republicans were counseling him to withdraw the nomination.

We also know how the swamp is resisting him and pushing the president in the wrong direction, just as it has manipulated past presidents, both openly and covertly, to continue with business as usual. Trump’s voters and their proxies—party officials, guys like Tucker Carlson, and the rest of the right-wing commentariat—need to remind Trump that we voted for him chiefly because of what he said he was going to do, including not getting involved in useless wars that do not meet the criterion of America First.

As he did this week in Iran, Trump energizes us when he keeps his promises. If he keeps doing this, he will do a service for the country and the voters who elected him. And they will reelect him for keeping the faith and keeping the peace.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Administrative State • Deep State • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

Lessons from Bill: Call the S.O.B.

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In January 2016, Bill Clinton’s presidential library made public transcripts of telephone calls between the president and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The calls, placed between May 1997 and December 2000, represent, as the New York Times noted, “a time capsule . . . captur[ing] the priorities and perceptions of the moment that, judged with the harsh certainty of hindsight, look prescient or wildly off base.”

One remark of the former president is striking, not so much for its prescience or its predictive error but rather for what it tells us about the American foreign policy status quo and the potentially tragic enslavement of our presidents to media narrative. Speaking with Blair about Saddam Hussein, Clinton said, “If I weren’t constrained by the press, I would pick up the phone and call the son of a bitch. But that is such a heavy-laden decision in America. I can’t do that and I don’t think you can.”

Clinton’s statement is a loaded one. It tells us much about the traditional power of “media optics” in our national politics, much about the constraints such optics have placed upon our presidents—and much, also, about how President Donald Trump stands apart.

Would the world be a different place today if President Clinton had actually picked up the phone and called the S.O.B. in Baghdad? Clinton hoped to assure Saddam of his intentions: that he wanted the elimination of any chemical or biological weapons programs, not the destruction of the Iraqi regime itself. But, to keep the media at bay, Clinton relied upon third parties to make his point to Saddam. We are left only to wonder if Clinton’s message was ever really conveyed. And even if it was, did the Iraqi leader believe it given the impersonal and roundabout manner of its delivery?

As Winston Churchill once remarked, “meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” This was not a call for some type of spineless appeasement—surrendering to the insatiable demands of a tyrant and strengthening that tyrant, in turn, to do his worst. Churchill’s call was for dialogue and interpersonal summit politics: discussion between leaders at the apex of government, without interference, and certainly without bowing before the dictates of the media.

Summitry Out of Favor
At root, President Clinton’s inability or unwillingness to call Saddam was based in politically-calculated risk-aversion. To protect his domestic image from media criticism—perhaps from those who would claim that he had “legitimized” Saddam Hussein, or that he was being “weak” just by talking to him—the president actually allowed a far greater risk to grow. As we now know, by 2003 a central part of the problem with Iraq was precisely a lack of communication. Bad information led to miscalculation on both sides. If Clinton, and George W. Bush after him, had actually been speaking to the S.O.B., might there have been verifiable assurances given about weapons programs? Could an understanding have been reached to avert war and all of its toll? We cannot know. But, as history has shown, it would have been worth a try. Given the rising tensions today with Iran, the lesson of this history is all the more important and worth remembering.

Summit politics—leader to leader, jaw to jaw—has fallen out of favor, in part, due to the rise of the administrative, bureaucratic state. Bill Clinton might have had domestic, political reasons to shy away from contacting bad actors in the world; but there was also a kind of “system-logic” to his choice. As the media repeatedly told us around the time of President Trump’s first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there are typically many exchanges between lower officials before any summit discussion is held. Trump’s meeting with that S.O.B. thus violated a modern “norm” of foreign policy: that everything must be worked out in advance by the technocrats, and that the actual leaders just show up to sign papers.

Such thinking is part and parcel of the impersonal, delegated politics that has slowly but surely stripped power from our elected officials—and thus from democracy, and thus from the people. Power has, instead, devolved to unelected, unaccountable personnel throughout the government, a permanent clique of insiders.

Understanding this development is key to recognizing why Clinton’s intuition about media fallout was right. It’s not that the media would have been so concerned with Clinton “legitimizing” a bad leader. What, after all, does this even mean? Holding power in a sovereign nation, commanding a military, and threatening not only a region but, potentially, the world itself qualifies one as a player on the global stage. Merely wishing this were not so is pointless.

And it’s not that the media might, for an opportunistic moment, parrot or amplify the most hawkish voices on the Right, deriding a president as “weak” for calling a foreign adversary. No. The real reason for Clinton’s media-fear, the real reason he didn’t just call the S.O.B., is this: Clinton knew, with all his media-savvy, that the D.C. press are friends with the D.C. permanent government class. These individuals are in the same club in the same city. They were in Washington when Clinton still lived in Little Rock. They would remain there when he moved to Chappaqua. For Clinton to go outside the lines, to usurp the planners and the permanent civil servants—to upset the status quo and those who imagine themselves entitled to rule within it—risked the wrath of institutional Washington.

Lessons of the Iran Deal
The process by which President Obama negotiated with Iran underscores the point. Countless rounds of meetings and sessions between American diplomatic personnel and Tehran resulted in a final agreement that did nothing but pay Iran to maintain the status quo of not having nuclear weapons for a temporary period of time. The agreement was, essentially, one-way appeasement, much like previous arrangements with North Korea. But it was also Establishment-approved, an example of the status quo maintaining itself at extraordinary cost, even if only for a little while longer.

Where, after all, was the summit between Barack Obama and the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah? At what point did Obama tell the Ayatollah, as only the President of the United States could do, to stand down his nuclear weapons program and cease aggression against Israel? This would have meant going jaw to jaw. This would have conveyed the fact that the United States was serious, that its president was serious, but also—and this is crucial—that its president was personally involved. Such involvement implies the possibility of real conversation, real dialogue, and creative solutions outside of bureaucratic system-think. It also means that the president’s personal prestige is on the line, which sends an unambiguous signal that America is as determined as the stakes are high.

Enter President Donald Trump. He has incurred the wrath of the media so feared by Clinton, and at a magnitude Clinton likely could never have imagined. In his willingness to do so, in the joyful way in which he revels in press hatred, Trump is unique among recent presidents. Mainstream coverage of Trump’s first summit with Kim stretched between incredulity and mockery. But this meeting represented a new tack; it acknowledged decades of failure by the permanent government class and its status quo. By first projecting strength, the president brought Kim to the table. They sat down. They went jaw to jaw. Whatever happens next, it cannot be for lack of dialogue, or failure of communication. Trump made it clear that the future of North Korea is in Kim’s hands and that the consequences for that future are his to bear.

Some of Trump’s meetings with Vladimir Putin have provided a similar kind of Establishment/media consternation. The comments of Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state under Clinton and subsequently a Washington think-tanker, are representative of the “elite” consensus. As Talbott told the Washington Post, the president’s “outrageous” secrecy, his daring to meet one-on-one with Putin, “handicaps the U.S. government—the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president]—and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”

Note that Talbott’s concern is that the U.S. government not be handicapped, by which he means fellow institutionalists within it. The government is many things, but the interests of Strobe Talbott’s careerist friends—those experts and advisers, and perhaps even a few Cabinet officers—are not synonymous with it. What actually matters is whether American foreign policy benefits, whether the people of America and their interests benefit, whether democratically-elected leadership is working. It is fairly rich, too, to hear a former American diplomat fret over the U.S. president being “manipulated.” The backdrop of this particular insult—that Trump must not be left unsupervised in a room with the Russian president—is the Russia-collusion hoax, itself a product of the same clique of D.C. insiders. The establishment is nothing if not thorough.

Forget “Media Optics,” Ditch the Deep State Handbook
Meeting jaw to jaw is no guarantee of results. To date, the standoff with North Korea is unresolved. Russia is an adversary and is acting like one, regardless of what happened in the meetings between Trump and Putin. And now, as the last few days have shown, Iran is moving center stage. By withdrawing from Obama’s Iran deal, Trump took the first step against the status quo and its illusion of security. The Iranian state is suffocating under the pressure of American sanctions; its recent, violent actions against cargo ships and an American drone demonstrate its growing desperation.

The president, to his credit, and by contrast, has coupled displays of strength with equal displays of restraint. The American retaliatory attack/non-attack, called off by Trump at the last moment, perfectly illustrates his posture: poised to take military action, but hoping to negotiate. The next, logical step is possibly a summit meeting with the Ayatollah. Trump has indicated his openness to future talks. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—with whom Trump has cultivated close, personal ties—appears willing to help facilitate the dialogue. These efforts should be encouraged. Summit politics with Iran may not work, but there is no use in wondering “what if” at the outbreak of a new war in the Middle East.

The point is this: the American president needs free rein to meet with his counterparts, to discuss the issues, to make American interests clear and unambiguous. If it turns out that diplomacy cannot solve the problem, then we will know we have tried. Ultimately this is a call for true transparency, the kind possible only between heads of government. This is the last but also, perhaps, the best failsafe in what can otherwise become the inevitable logic of war.

Foreign policy should not be conducted by the rules of media optics or according to the deep state handbook. Our president should not be left with regrets, nor should the nation. The president should lead. For everyone’s sake, he should pick up the phone. He should call the S.O.B.

Photo Credit: Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

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America • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • military • Post

Saudi Billionaires Are Not a Reason to Sacrifice Americans

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Let me pose a simple question: What was the last American war that did not involve Saudi Arabian interests?

In 1994, photographers captured this scene as a U.S. Marine took up a strategic kneeling combat stance in the early hours of Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti, perhaps the last U.S. foreign intervention that did not in some way tie back to the U.S.-Saudi “alliance.”

There have been other small actions abroad that arguably qualify but one can not escape the pattern: Virtually every shooting war involving the U.S. military in the last 30 years has involved the interests of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim kingdom that leads one side of a Sunni-Shi’ite conflict that seems to have become the great international relations divide of the post-Soviet era. Questions regarding the U.S.-Saudi relationship come to mind again as the drums of another Middle East war seem to be urging America to attack Saudi Arabia’s enemy directly: Oil tankers attacked, an expensive U.S. drone shot down, rumors of an American cyber attack on Iranian missile systems.

As belligerents trade conflicting accounts of alleged acts of war, it’s helpful to remember this list of historical causes of conflict that remain in question as potential hoaxes designed to tempt our country into armed conflict. Would attacking Iran help America? Or would it follow an almost unbroken pattern of U.S. military might serving Saudi interests?

Consider this brief list of recent conflicts:

2015-present: The Yemeni Civil War. For reasons that remain unclear to me, the United States followed Saudi Arabia in intervening in Yemen. The war has resulted in shocking and gruesome suffering.

2015-present: Libya civil war. The United States continues to participate in that war for the benefit of a Saudi ally. The now dead former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, once accused Saudi Arabia of using its alliance with the United States against Libya.

2014-present: Syrian civil war. The United States has joined Saudi Arabia to intervene in the Syrian civil war. Syria is often viewed as an ally of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s chief rival, and a conduit for Iran to project power in the region.

1991-present: Iraq. The original military action against Iraq (the Gulf War) was intended to protect Saudi Arabia from a potential invasion from its neighbor to the north. Since then, the war has undergone several phases and resulted in a staggering financial commitment from the United States. The United States most recently participated in operations to counter ISIS in Iraq and remains to continue humanitarian operations. The current participation can be seen as a facet of the operations in Syria.

2001-present: Afghanistan/Pakistan. Intervention in both countries began as a response to the September 11 attacks against the United States by Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden. Since 2001, the Saudis have been so involved in the wars that they are considered an indispensable player in the current peace talks. American presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan has strategic value for the Saudis because of the proximity to Iran’s Northern border.

1998-1999: Kosovo War. When the U.S. intervened in the Kosovo war in 1998, Saudi Arabia already had guerilla-style fighters on the ground fighting on the same side the United States would join. Since then, the Saudi’s have used Kosovo as a base of operations to radicalize fighters for use in the Syrian War. The New York Times credited these operations with producing “314 Kosovars—including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children—who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State.”

Whatever Saudi Arabia’s importance to U.S. national interests, it’s hard to understand why virtually every war America has fought over the last three decades has involved Saudi interests. As I recently noted,

Saudi Arabia supports and exports Wahhabism—a strain of Islam that inspires a lot of terror. As noted by HuffPost, out of the 61 groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department, the ‘overwhelming majority are Wahhabi-inspired and Saudi-funded groups, with a focus on the West and Iran and their primary [enemies].’

Private Saudi citizens reportedly funded Iraqi rebels who attacked Americans in the early part of the Iraq war. According to The New York Times, Saudis continue to finance the Taliban in Afghanistan, which continues to fight the U.S.-supported government in Kabul. If we’re concerned about Russian interference in American politics, we might also be concerned that Saudi Arabia lavishly funded the Clinton Foundation while it had matters pending before the Clinton-led State Department.

The Washington Post attempted to describe and inventory the network of influence Saudi Arabia has cultivated in Washington, D.C.. In my view, the article fell far short of explaining why American foreign policy seems so beholden to Saudi interests.

In spite of electing one president and then another who promised to end American adventurism in the Middle East, and despite Congress repeatedly voting (here, here, and here) to curtail American support for Saudi Arabia’s wars, American voters appear to have less influence over our military than the Saudi foreign minister.

Somehow, we’ve entered an era in which the president can continue to fight endless wars by vetoing every attempt to stop them. That’s a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Article I of the Constitution, which grants Congress the exclusive power to declare war.

One benefit of the NeverTrump obsession has been a sudden skepticism of Saudi Arabia’s value to the United States after Donald Trump’s intervention on the Kingdom’s behalf. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. On this question, the NeverTrumpers have finally articulated a real Constitutional crisis.

We need to rationalize American-Saudi relationship to obtain greater benefit to the United States at less cost. The precious blood and treasure of the American military is not a toy and it should only be used when American interests are clearly at stake. I would not sacrifice a single hair on my son’s head to protect all the idle billionaires in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure every soldier in the U.S. military has a parent who feels the same way about their son or daughter.

Here’s an idea: How about telling Saudi Arabia to pursue peace with Iran or fight the next conflict with its own sons?

Photo Credit: Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Big Media • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

Propaganda War vs. Saudi-Israeli Peace Accord

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The saying used to go, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” Americans eligible for membership in AARP will recall the line as a clever dig at the breathless reporting of not-so-“breaking” news during the first season of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” way back in 1975.

In our own times, NBC and other mainstream media outlets consider it “breaking news” to pronounce day in and day out since October that Jamal Khashoggi is still dead.

Alas, the incessant reporting of Khashoggi’s demise is not a running gag nor any sort of laughing matter. The man was assassinated in a grisly fashion.

Still, there is something funny—according to that word’s secondary definition, “difficult to explain or understand; strange or odd”—about the persistent breathless bulletins that restate the fact that Khashoggi, a wealthy and influential Saudi Arabian operative, was assassinated eight months ago on orders from his own government. These repetitions of the story are always coupled with denunciations of President Trump for maintaining a close relationship with the Saudi government.

This week NBC published a news item with intense fanfare and the headline: “Khashoggi murder: U.N. report finds Saudi crown prince could be liable.”

It’s a sensational headline, but the United Nations report itself was a giant “nothing-falafel.”

According to NBC, the U.N. special investigation on extrajudicial killings stated: “No conclusion is made as to guilt. The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation.”

A U.N. special commission recommends creation of another U.N. special commission: Stop the presses!

U.S. taxpayers should remember that we foot the bill for the largest portion of U.N. expenses.

Not an Independent Journalist
The ceaseless propaganda campaign concerning Khashoggi is founded on a big lie. Khashoggi is constantly described as a “journalist.” He was a talented communicator and a charming human being; I know this first-hand because, a few years ago when I lived in the Middle East, I had occasion to meet him and to have a lengthy conversation with him. But it should be well known he was never an independent journalist in Saudi Arabia, because there is no independent journalism in that country.

Khashoggi had a long career as a Saudi government propagandist and as an operative of the Saudi secret intelligence agency. About a year before his assassination, Khashoggi had fallen out of favor with the new rulers in Saudi Arabia. He left his country and began writing occasional columns for the Washington Post, highly critical of his former employers. After Khashoggi’s assassination, the Post itself acknowledged it had learned that Khashoggi had been writing his columns not independently but as an agent for Saudi Arabia’s wealthy Arab Gulf rival, Qatar, whose regime supports the radical anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood.

Khashoggi, in short, was a turncoat. He was killed by his own government, and heads of governments are responsible for such deeds. All assassinations are ugly and gruesome. Why should Khashoggi’s assassination—and only Khashoggi’s assassination—call for a total reversal of U.S. diplomatic, economic and security relations in the Middle East?

Necessary Alliances With Nasty People
The world is a violent place, and extrajudicial killings, while always ghastly, are now commonplace as tactics in national self-defense.

In the “global war on terror” the United States frequently commits extrajudicial killings, also known as assassinations or murders, in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere. Our government sometimes announces these “targeted killings” as something for which Americans ought to be proud and grateful, as indeed we probably should be in most instances. Sometimes U.S. forces carry out extrajudicial killings of “enemy combatants” who happen to be U.S. citizens. This is grim business, but the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all have called upon us to applaud these assassinations.

U.S. allies that are democratic and regarded as civilized—for example, Israel, the United Kingdom, and France—have no compunction about committing “targeted killings” in the struggle against ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.

Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, nor is it a model of civil liberties and respect for what Westerners properly recognize as universal human rights. But Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally of the United States and the West, and it is not by any means the only ally or vital trading partner of the West to have an authoritarian government.

China does not face Saudi Arabia’s vulnerabilities. China does not have to defend itself against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran as Saudi Arabia does. It has no reasons of national self-defense upon which to justify extrajudicial killings. Nevertheless, China goes about largely uncriticized as it carries out a virtual bloodbath of extrajudicial killings of its own citizens.

Meanwhile, the West’s profound investment and trading relationship with China continues. The United Nations and the Western media are not clamoring for China’s president to be indicted or deposed. The mainstream media, Wall Street, and all the rest of the establishment consider it beneficial for peace and stability, and rightly so, when President Trump talks with and finds points of agreement with the president of China notwithstanding the nefarious nature of the Chinese government.

Sabotaging Progress
The Khashoggi-is-still-dead propaganda campaign won’t bring Khashoggi back to life. It won’t cause the royal family of Saudi Arabia to change rulers nor will it change the Saudi government’s behavior internally or externally. What is the propaganda effort accomplishing? It is driving a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the West at a moment when Saudi Arabia draws ever closer to making a game-changing move towards peace with Israel.

Rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been in the works for quite some time. President Trump’s diplomatic efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace have reached a critical stage with a conference on establishing a basis of economic support for Israeli-Palestinian peace scheduled to take place on Tuesday in Bahrain with prominent roles for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Who would like to sabotage the progress of Saudi-Israeli accord and cooperation? Iran, with its Shia Muslim theocracy, certainly is one such party. Others who want to thwart Arab-Israeli peace include revolutionary Sunni Muslim movements including ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood enjoyed the sympathy of Jamal Khashoggi, and it receives support today from Qatar and Turkey, as those states maneuver for advantage in the balance of Middle Eastern power.

When Jeane Kirkpatrick was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations, she harshly criticized the organization for its “selective indignation” against the United States, Israel, and other U.S. allies.

Almost four decades after Reagan and Kirkpatrick, the U.N. and the left-wing media are still dead set in their old habits of hypocrisy and dalliance with anti-Western radicalism.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

We Hold All the Cards in the Showdown with Iran

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In May 2018, the Donald Trump Administration withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The United States then ramped up sanctions on the Iranian theocracy to try to ensure that it stopped nuclear enrichment. The Trump administration also hoped a strapped Iran would become less capable of funding terrorist operations in the Middle East and beyond, proxy wars in the Persian Gulf, and the opportune harassment of ships transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

The sanctions are clearly destroying an already weak Iranian economy. Iran is now suffering from negative economic growth, massive unemployment and record inflation.

A desperate Iranian government is using surrogates to send missiles into Saudi Arabia while its forces attack ships in the Gulf of Oman.

The Iranian theocrats despise the Trump Administration. They yearn for the good old days of the Obama Administration, when the United States agreed to a nuclear deal that all but guaranteed future Iranian nuclear proliferation, ignored Iranian terrorism and sent hundreds of millions of dollars in shakedown payments to the Iranian regime.

Iran believed that the Obama Administration saw it as a valuable Shiite counterweight to Israel and the traditionally American-allied Sunni monarchies in the Gulf region. Teheran assumes that an even more left-wing American administration would also endorse Iran-friendly policies, and so it is fishing for ways to see that happen in 2020 with a Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Joe Biden presidency.

Desperate Iranian officials have already met secretly with former Secretary of State John Kerry and openly with U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), likely to commiserate over Trump’s cancellation of the nuclear deal and to find ways to revive the Obama-era agreement after Trump leaves office.

To that end, the Iranians wish to disrupt world oil traffic while persuading China, Russia, and the European Union to pressure the United States to back off sanctions.

Iran hopes to provoke and embarrass its nemesis into overreacting—or not reacting at all. If Trump does nothing, he looks weak to this Jacksonian base of supporters. But do too much, and he appears a neoconservative, globalist nation-builder. Either way, the Iranians think Trump loses.

After all, Iran knows that Trump got elected by flipping the blue-wall states of the Midwest—in part by promising an end to optional interventions in the Middle East. Accordingly, Iran hopes to embarrass or bog down the United States before the 2020 elections. In Teheran’s view, the challenge is to provoke Trump into a shooting war that it can survive and that will prove unpopular in America, thus losing him the election.

Iran, of course, is not always a rationale actor. A haughty Tehran always magnifies its own importance and discounts the real dangers that it is courting. It harkens back to its role in the 2003-2011 Iraq War, a conflict that proved that U.S. efforts could be subverted, hundreds of American soldiers could be killed, public support for war could be eroded, and a more malleable American government could be transitioned in.

But what worked then may not work now. The United States is not only the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, but soon to become the largest exporter of energy—and without getting near the Iranian coast. Likewise, American allies in the Middle East such as Israel are energy independent. America’s Arab friends enjoy seeing competing Iranian oil all but off the market.

Time, then, is on the Americans’ side. But it is certainly not on the side of a bankrupt and impoverished Iran that either must escalate or face ruin.

If Iran starts sinking ships or attacking U.S. assets, Trump can simply replay the ISIS strategy of selective off-and-on bombing. The United States did not lose a single pilot to enemy action.

Translated, that would mean disproportionately replying to each Iranian attack on a U.S. asset with a far more punishing air response against an Iranian base or port. The key would be to avoid the use of ground troops and yet not unleash a full-fledged air war. Rather, the United States would demonstrate to the world that Iranian aggression determines the degree to which Iran suffers blows from us.

Of course, Tehran may try to stir up trouble with Israel through its Syrian and Palestinian surrogates. Iran may in extremis also stage terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. And it may lie that it has already developed enough fissionable material to launch a nuclear missile.

But the truth is that America has all the cards and Iran none in its game of chicken.

Because Iran is losing friends and money, it will have to escalate. But the United States can respond without looking weak and without going to war—and without ensuring the return to power of the political party responsible for giving us the disastrous nuclear deal that had so empowered Iran in the first place.

Photo Credit: Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz via Getty Images

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Democrats • Foreign Policy • Israel • Middle East • Post

In the Mideast, Statecraft is Not Soulcraft

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For the last decade, Iran has been a rising power in the greater Middle East. Tehran’s influence now stretches across the “Shia Crescent”—the half-moon-shaped part of the Mideast in which many Shiite Muslims reside (and therefore have a nominally religious allegiance to Iran). U.S. military operations in the region have only exacerbated Iran’s rise. Today, Iran has strategic positions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, which threaten our allies in Israel, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

To counter this growing threat, the United States has had to turn to its regional allies, primarily Israel and the Sunni Arab states led nominally by Saudi Arabia. Yet, to be truly effective in deterring and containing malign Iranian influence, the Sunni Arab states must build up militarily as well as connect with their one-time rival, Israel.

President Trump and his administration have fostered some of this since 2017, repairing the U.S. relationship with Israel and bolstering our strategic ties with Sunni Arab nations. But that progress is being jeopardized as a bipartisan group in Congress threatens to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns.

In effect, Washington’s bipartisan fusion party has decided to replace viable statecraft in the Persian Gulf with what George F. Will famously called “soulcraft.” It is an embarrassment and it will lead to more deaths—probably American ones.

Building an Israeli-Sunni Arab Alliance
The Iranian threat has made for strange bedfellows. The last half of the 20th century was dominated by headlines of various Sunni Arab military alliances attempting to drive the Jews of Israel “into the sea.” Now, for the first time, there is real hope not only for a lasting peace between these two sides but for a genuine alliance to be born.

Much like NATO at the dawn of the Cold War, this alliance would be born out of real strategic needs: nations drawing closer to deter an ideological foe from threatening their interests and territory, while preserving and perhaps building upon what little stability exists in the region.

Even three years ago, this budding alliance would have been unthinkable.

During the Obama Administration, the United States marched down the feckless path of retrenchment and realignment away from Israel and the Sunni Arab powers and toward Iran.

Thanks to the consistent efforts of the Trump Administration, the Saudis have been reinforced with American weapons, training, and greater intelligence-sharing while the Israelis have been reassured that the United States is not looking for the chicken switch when it comes to Iran.

Saudi Arabia Does America’s Dirty Work
In Saudi Arabia, particularly, the internal political dynamic is finally working in America’s favor. Long a hotbed radical Islamist sentiment and jihadist activity, Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the 32-year-old, Georgetown University-educated Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has taken real steps toward modernity. While he is castigated for jailing political opponents, MBS has shepherded several reforms meant to make life better for the long-repressed women in his country. MBS is also striving to move Saudi Arabia from a single-resource petro-state to a leading modern economy in the region.

Western pundits excoriate MBS for the pace of his efforts (after all, MBS has merely allowed women to drive in the country—why aren’t they yet burning their bras?) What’s more, the political opponents MBS has jailed (and, at times, tortured or killed) have had deep ties to the jihadist communities throughout Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

Notably, Western elites appear incapable or unwilling to forgive MBS for his apparent role in the heinous slaughter of Islamist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. As gruesome as the murder was, it by no means stands out among the most horrific things that a Mideast state has done.

More importantly, though, Saudi Arabia under MBS is now serving U.S. geostrategic interests without question.

The Saudis have taken the lead in rolling back malign Iranian influence in both the Gulf sheikhdom of Qatar and in the ongoing Yemen civil war. Yemen has served as the festering wound in the inaptly named “Global War on Terror” since former President Obama declared his administration’s anti-terrorism campaign in that country a “success.”

After much neglect by Obama, Yemen had to endure the terror of Iranian-backed forces tearing through the Yemeni countryside and destabilizing the entire country. This occurred as Iran spread its reach across neighboring Iraq into Syria. Saudi Arabia acted quickly and decisively to prevent Yemen from falling completely into Iran’s orbit.

Statecraft Is Not Soulcraft
The conflict in Yemen has lasted years. And, since Bin Salman’s rise to power in Riyadh, the Saudis have renewed their struggle against the Iranian-back Houthi rebels with vigor.

Yet, in the United States, the threat of American retaliation against its ally persists out of concerns over human rights violations. Confusing statecraft with soulcraft, a bipartisan group of American political leaders have taken to the House and Senate Floors to decry Saudi excesses in their fight against the Iranian scourge in Yemen.

These politicians, who are more interested in making sure people know that they think the Saudis are not morally pure than in protecting real American interests, routinely threaten the vital military aid that the United States gives to the Saudis, demanding that MBS supplicate himself on the altar of Western ethical standards. This isn’t helpful.

Of course, the loss of innocent life in Yemen is detestable, just as was the death of Khashoogi. Such atrocities are also commonplace in the region, and Saudi Arabia is hardly alone among Arab nations in spilling civilian blood in the course of fighting its enemies. Nobody passes the purity test.

Saudi resistance to Iran in Yemen has prevented an Iranian encirclement of the Gulf states. Threatening the military readiness of Saudi Arabia in order to display one’s purportedly superior morality makes the situation in the region worse by denying vital equipment and assistance to forces that are acting in America’s interest.

What’s more, Saudi Arabia’s military is primed to fight against terrorists in their own land. Bolstering their capabilities so as to build a credible threat to a rival state, like Iran, on a battlefield outside of their territory, like Yemen, means that their military will make mistakes—and that those mistakes will lead to many innocent people dying. But, the alternative is that we keep Saudi Arabia down, they lose their fight against Iran, and we either have to accept Iranian hegemony in the region or commit more of our forces to yet another distant battlefield.

These are not tenable solutions.

Far better, in this instance, for Washington to back Riyadh in its efforts both to modernize its society and military while they resist Iran, rather than blow up a valuable alliance because Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) want to look good by demonstrating their “higher” morality.

This isn’t a moral issue. This is about preserving U.S. interests in the region.

Photo Credit: Xinhua/Nidal Eshtayeh via Getty Images

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America • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

Promote Regime Change in Iran

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President Trump on Memorial Day said the United States doesn’t seek regime change in Iran. Well, why not?

On March 8, 1983, Ronald Reagan made a speech in which he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

“Isn’t that foolish?” I thought. “Of course, the Soviet Union is evil. And it’s an empire. But what’s to be gained by that provocative language? Why poke the bear in the eye? At the very least it’s undiplomatic, and the president is the chief steward of our foreign policy.”

A couple of years later, The Washington Times sent me to the Ethics and Public Policy Center to interview a representative of Poland’s Solidarity trade union movement, which had been outlawed by the Communist government. Jerzy Milewski, a physicist who had studied at Stanford and MIT, had established the equivalent of a Solidarity embassy in Brussels called the Coordinating Office Abroad. I was among a handful of reporters who listened to the representative and asked questions. No one mentioned Reagan’s remark, but Milewski (who died in 1997) volunteered that it had given Solidarity activists a tremendous boost. Words could not express how important it was to them, he said.

This was an eye-opener and a turning point for me. I realized I had been wrong. Five years after that interview, Poland was free and the Soviet Union was no more. How did that happen?

Just as the State Department and the Europeans recoil today from the idea of regime change in Iran, those same elements opposed helping Solidarity after the national liberation movement arose spontaneously in Poland in August 1980 and the Communist government drove it underground with the declaration of martial law in December 1981. Yet the CIA, under the leadership of President Reagan and Director William J. Casey, undertook a modest effort that ultimately was successful.

Reagan famously rejected the containment of Communism as too defensive and passive. Instead he pushed for rollback and liberation. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland also committed to assist Solidarity in every possible way. But foreign policy “realists” who favored détente with the Soviet Union did what they could to sabotage these efforts.

Exercising martial law, the Communist government confiscated Solidarity’s property, seized its funds, closed its offices, and imprisoned many of its leaders.

“American trade-union funds and millions of dollars from the National Endowment for Democracy . . . were channeled through the AFL-CIO’s Free Trade Union Institute,” wrote Adrian Karatnycky in the Washington Post. “The money underwrote shipments of scores of printing presses, dozens of computers, hundreds of mimeograph machines, thousands of gallons of printer’s ink, hundreds of thousands of stencils, video cameras and radio broadcasting equipment.” The funds also “helped the families of imprisoned trade-union activists and defrayed the huge fines that the Polish authorities were leveling against anyone caught with clandestine union literature.”

This is not the place to catalogue all the gruesome human rights violations that make modern Iran, arguably, even more evil than the former Soviet Union. And, as Lee Smith has written, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ultimately is responsible “for Iran’s expansionist foreign policy, which includes arms and drug smuggling as well as terrorism, now reaching beyond the Middle East to Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.”

Many Iranians are dissatisfied with or even hate the theocratic regime under which they live. Alarmists warn of the dangers of war with the Islamic Republic, but no war is necessary. It’s in America’s interest to help Iranian dissidents just as we helped Polish nationalists in the 1980s.

In the application of “non-kinetic specifics,” we are limited only by our imagination and our inertia. The possibilities are endless, the risks are small, and the potential payoffs are high.

The State Department and the Europeans will squeal. So what? This isn’t neo-imperialism. It’s assisted self-determination. Conservatives criticized Barack Obama for not giving at least moral support to the Iranian people when they rose up in protest against the rigged election of 2009. How can they square that indignation with a policy of “no regime change” by a nominally conservative administration 10 years later?

Ronald Reagan’s Cold War strategy was: “We win. They lose.” Let this be the U.S. strategy in dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Deep State • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

Be Skeptical About War with Iran

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Americans are weary of Middle Eastern wars and skeptical of claims from our intelligence agencies supporting such conflict. While the attack on Iraq in 2003 depended on intelligence suggesting an ongoing nuclear weapons program and attacks on Syria occurred after Bashar al-Assad’s supposed use of illegal chemical weapons against civilians, both of these assumptions either were refuted or at least face serious, evidence-based criticism.

In comparison, the most recent charge against Iran—a mine attack on a Japanese cargo vessel that caused no casualties—is pretty weak sauce. As far as its magnitude, this is hardly Pearl Harbor. At the same time, the grainy video of an Iranian patrol boat parked alongside the vessel does not prove to the satisfaction of reasonable American skeptics that Iran was responsible for the explosion.

War Drums In the Distance
The recent incident occurred in a climate of sharpening anti-Iranian rhetoric from the United States, in particular National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as our country’s regional allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. The three nations have aligned against Iran in recent years. This focus on Shiite Iran has occurred, even as the most dramatic and deadly terror attacks in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East have chiefly come from Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

While much of the anti-Iran rhetoric employs the language of counter-terrorism, balance of power politics are the real source of hostility. Iran is a regional competitor to Saudi Arabia, and the two countries are engaged in a proxy war for influence in conflicts occurring in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Israel has reached a modus vivendi with Saudi Arabia, and appears little concerned with extremist groups unaffiliated with Iran. The whole situation is byzantine in its complexity, and the moral rights and wrongs of the Sunni-Shia conflicts are ambiguous at best.

Skepticism Is In Order
There is good reason to be skeptical of the claims of Iranian involvement in this attack. For starters, an attack like this would not seem to benefit Iran, and Iran is justifiably wary of an American attack. While it has the home turf advantage, Iran faces the prospect of crippling air strikes and other costs if the United States were to wage war.

As far as the alleged maritime attack, the ship in question was operated by a Japanese company with a Japanese crew. The Japanese prime minister was visiting Tehran at the time of the attack. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and American intelligence agencies have circulated a video purporting to be a “slam dunk” showing an Iranian military vessel removing a mine from the side of the damaged cargo ship. But Iran claims to have sent ships to aid the crew, some of whom ended up in Iranian custody.

More important, the Japanese crew said they saw an airborne attack of some kind, which would suggest that the story about “limpet mines” is, at least, disputable. According to reports, “Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of a mine attack ‘false.’”

This attack follows close on the heels of earlier alleged attacks involving mines on ships in the Persian Gulf and a drone attack upon a Saudi Arabian oil pipeline.

The recent history of highly politicized intelligence in the Skirpal poisoning incident, Syrian chemical attacks, Russian collusion, and most notoriously Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have combined to limit the willingness of Americans and their politicians to believe their intelligence agencies uncritically, especially when their advice would lead to war.

Apart from the uncertainty of the intelligence, war could only be justified in an extreme case where the stakes are high and there is a clear path to victory. In Iraq, while the intelligence was ultimately incorrect, the stakes were reasonably high. An advancing nuclear program hosted by an openly hostile state is a serious matter that may sometimes justify a preemptive strike. Even if one accepted the official account of the recent Iranian tanker attacks, a few mines is hardly of the same magnitude.

One should also consider the background of the Iraq intelligence, where various constituencies and ideologues wanted the evidence to reach a particular conclusion. In these cases, particularly high degrees of skepticism are called for. After all, there is no reason to think it beyond the ability or ethics of the Mossad, the CIA, or the Saudi Arabian intelligence agencies to push things along to a desired conclusion. These things have been done or planned before. While we like to think our nation would not do such things, as Trump himself observed during the 2016 campaign, “You think our country’s so innocent?”

Drain Foreign Policy Swamp, Too
As in his domestic policy, Trump faces the risk of individuals and agencies with their own agendas either resisting his efforts or dragging him where they already wanted to go. While America’s Mideast policy has been ineffective and costly, it is constrained by a great deal of inertia and influenced by various stakeholders, particularly our continued alliances with Israel and the various Sunni regimes. Open conflict with Iran obtains support from both of these sources, but while Iran is certainly no friend to the United States, the broader strategic picture does not point to an obvious benefit to American interests from such a conflict.

Whether the attacks came from Iran, Saudi Arabia, or an even worse regime in the region, they all must ultimately sell their oil to benefit from it. Whether Sunni or Shia, both sides appear to be in the grips of centuries-old sectarian conflict in which America has no stake and can do little to resolve.

Iraq was a mistake. The mistake was rooted in excessive trust of our intelligence agencies, excessive optimism about our ability to shape results, and listening to the advice of interested parties, particularly Israel, which accrued the benefits but bore little of the burden of U.S. efforts. The current push for war with Iran has many of the same features. We should ensure that we are not dragged into another conflict by our allies that does little to benefit America or its interests.

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Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • military • Post • Terrorism

America Should Ignore Neoconservatives on Iran

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An Iran war push is underway, but the basis for it is pretty thin. While Iran has been a thorn in America’s side since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, America typically has prioritized other threats. These include Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Sunni terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, and hostile secular nationalists like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Our Middle East policy has many layers, including cozy relations with the Sunni regime of Saudi Arabia and with Israel. But the legacy policy often has an “autopilot” feel, where little effort is made to step back, consider first principles, and determine how much any of this activity benefits American security.

The Iraq Precedent
Iraq should loom large in consideration of a similar campaign against Iran.

In spite of the rhetoric about “weapons of mass destruction” and the later turn to imposing democracy in Iraq, it made sense to many Americans to engage Iraq chiefly as an act of tribal retaliation for the attacks of September 11, 2001. The scale of that terrorist atrocity fueled a rage not fully satisfied by the swift expulsion of the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. Regardless of the lack of any apparent involvement in the 9/11 attacks, Saddam Hussein was hostile to the United States, he was Arab, and this was enough for most Americans.

In this fertile ground, other events combined to allow the Iraq campaign to unfold, including the long-standing desire of Israel to decapitate the unpredictable Saddam regime, the Bush family’s own blood feud with Saddam stretching back to the first Gulf War, and the widely held sense that the risk of a nuclear-armed Iraq was too much too bear.

But the war was an expensive, bloody disaster that failed to deliver on its own terms, dragged on incessantly, cost a great deal of money and blood, soured Americans on excessive involvement in the Middle East, and permanently marred the credibility of the “Intelligence Community.” It was an expensive education for the country at an unspeakable cost to a great many military families.

Trump came into power, in part, through his respect for the American people’s widely held, bipartisan sense that we needed a foreign policy of restraint and caution. Instead of promoting democracy or vague goals like ensuring stability in the tar pits of the Middle East, he promised instead to put America’s interests first. While not an isolationist per se, he was a realist, restrained, and clear-thinking on these matters, asking always and without shame, “What’s in it for us?”

President Trump, however, had another tendency, apparent in his policies toward Russia and Syria, and it came to fruition in his hiring of the seemingly misplaced John Bolton as his national security advisor.

Trump was the anti-Obama, critical of him for nearly everything he did. Where Obama was weak, obsequious to allies and enemies alike, and often in over his head, Trump would be strong, unilateralist, and decisive. Trump was always highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal and withdrew from it under the tutelage of Bolton. The proximate cause is a claim that Iran is funding “proxies” hostile to the United States and its allies and, according to Israeli intelligence, planning some kind of nefarious action against U.S. interests in the region. Iran also may have damaged a few Saudi tankers.

The earlier withdrawal from the nuclear deal presents a dilemma. Deals, by their nature, are two-sided and reciprocal. In other words, in exchange for lifting sanctions and inspections, Iran would gain access to embargoed cash, global oil markets, and other benefits of being a more responsible member of the world community.

More important, the deal, in spite of its flaws, created a united front that included Iran’s occasional sponsors, Russia and China. While Iran is even now also accused of violating the deal, the questions remain whether a deal exists and on what basis can the United States criticize Iranian’s nuclear pursuits if the United States has also withdrawn from the deal that was supposed to put a halt to all that.

Israel and America’s Interests are Distinct
The driving force of much of this is Trump’s—and many Americans’—sense of common cause with Israel. In spite of accusations of anti-Semitic dog whistles, Trump has been a stalwart supporter of Israel and enjoys an extraordinarily friendly relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as promised, and also recognized Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. This policy finds favor both with the largely Jewish camp of neoconservatives, as well as Christian Zionists, who make up a large (but shrinking) plurality within the Republican Party. Both of these groups are hostile to Iran largely because of Israel’s own hostility to Iran. And Israel is hostile to Iran for many reasons, but the largest seems to be its support for Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill during Israel’s 2006 incursion into Lebanon.

Hezbollah is a sophisticated and effective fourth-generation fighting force that finds its largest sponsor in Iran. But Hezbollah’s focus seems chiefly to be on ensuring Lebanon’s territorial integrity and opposing Israel. Unlike al-Qaeda and ISIS, it does not appear expansionist or insane.

In addition, Israel has shown no compunction about making increasingly shrill and implausible warnings that an Iranian nuclear weapon is just around the corner, which gets the attention of our political leaders, but has little credibility because of sheer repetition and how similar Israeli claims about Iraq turned out to be false.

None of this, of course, has much to do with the United States. But the essence of neoconservatism is a bias for action and a conflation of American and Israeli interests in the region. And whether in the Bush Administration or now, none has been more bellicose, foolhardy, or aggressive than John Bolton. As Trump himself put it, “He has strong views on things but that’s OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing . . . That’s OK. I have different sides. I have John Bolton and other people that are a little more dovish than him. I like John.”

A war with Iran is a profoundly bad idea, and nothing in particular makes it necessary at the moment. Such a war would involve the expenditure of U.S. blood and treasure to help another nation, which we already help to the tune of $3.2 billion in aid per year. While Saudi Arabia and Israel are understandably wary of Iran, and I have no particular objection to either of them doing whatever they feel they need to do to protect their security and interests, it’s not so clear how any of this squabbling has anything to do with the United States, whose interests in the region are minimal, because of the renaissance of America’s domestic oil production.

A Needless War
Iran is not a friend to America. Few older Americans can forget the hostage-taking at the American embassy, or their involvement in the Beirut barracks bombing or the arming of Sadr’s militias in Iraq. Notably, though, all of these events happened in the Middle East. In other words, the harm Iran has done to the United States was almost entirely avoidable, and such avoidable harms should be avoided.

True, Iran’s clerics are nearly as radical as al-Qaeda or ISIS, but they face a natural ceiling on their potential global reach, because Shia Islam is a minority sect within Islam. When Western powers are absent, the Sunni and Shia radicals tend to fight one another, as in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Iraq again in the 2000s, and Syria today.

Little good has come from America’s wars of choice in the Middle East. In addition to failing to tamp down the ultimate driver of terrorism in the region—various radical Islamic ideologies—these groups find easy targets and sources of unity in opposing interventionist western powers.

Avoidance is also a strategy for husbanding national power and avoiding unnecessary conflict; this same strategy worked when America avoided the various brushfire wars of the 1970s and 1980s, instead concentrating its military power on the real sources of conflict in the Soviet Union, leading ultimately to victory.

How a conflict with Iran would play out is anybody’s guess. U.S. attempts to impose national power in Libya, Iraq, and Syria suggest that our ability to conduct regime change, while substantial, can be undermined in the post-conflict attempt to usher in a friendly, peaceful political counterpart.

Even the regime change portion is less certain than it used to be, as the ill-fated proxy war in Syria has shown. There, Assad remains in power, and the use of “moderate” rebels have proven to be a costly dead end. Whether in Iran or elsewhere, the enemy gets a vote, and the enemy can study what works as well as we can.

Iraq’s failed conventional resistance to the United States in 2003 provided an important lesson to Iran and other conventional militaries. Their only sure means of resistance is in the form of guerrilla and other asymmetric activity. The U.S. announcement that we dispatched an aircraft carrier and bomber wing to the region to thwart Iran would prove only minimally capable against such forces.

Moreover, geography is an important factor in any conflict. The Straits of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil and any American carrier must transit, are only 21 nautical miles wide. Small boats with suicide bombers, particularly if engaged in swarm attacks augmented by drones and other commercial off-the-shelf technology, could score a surprise win against American forces. After all, it’s hard to hide an aircraft carrier, and the Iranians have shown an appetite for religiously-fueled “human wave” type attacks.

Foreseeable Chaos
The American people have no appetite for another Mideast War over a few damaged Saudi oil tankers. In contrast to the 9/11 attacks or the ISIS atrocities in France, Belgium, and Iraq, this hardly raises an eyebrow.

More important, the American people rightly recognize that more than mere anger is required to go to war. A war must be necessary, it must have some realistic path to victory, and it must have something to do with our interests.

While we have friendly relations with the Saudis and Israelis, it is not in our interest to spend our money and the blood of our soldiers and sailors to relieve them of the obligation of defending themselves and dealing with their own problems. The last time America engaged in such a campaign in Iraq, it ended in disaster. When we tried to intervene for other reasons, in Libya and Syria, it also created a variety of foreseeable forms of chaos that ultimately energized our enduring opponents among extremist Islamic radicals, such as ISIS.

The most logical lesson of America’s last 40 years sojourning through the Middle East is that we should avoid the place as much as possible and defend ourselves at home by keeping out hostile people from these troublesome countries.

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Photo Credit: Rouzbeh Fouladi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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America • Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post • Russia

Be Careful: Hurting Iran Might Help Russia

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The global price of oil is on track to reach $80 a barrel soon. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) voted several weeks ago to curb production, which had already led to global oil prices inching upward. Meanwhile, political instability in oil-producing states such as Venezuela and Libya have caused dislocations in the global energy market, raising the price of oil worldwide. The global energy market has been further strained thanks to the White House’s recent and unexpected decision to deny all exemptions for countries seeking to trade Iranian-produced oil and natural gas sources on the world market.

The decision is part of the Trump Administration’s larger strategy to get tough on Iran. While that overall strategy is necessary for U.S. national security, the tactic of closing all sanctions exemptions without giving the world market advance warning has created severe uncertainty in the global energy market. And, the more volatility that exists in the world energy markets, the higher the price of oil becomes.

This will not only have ramifications for your summer vacation plans, it will also disproportionately benefit the massive petrostate of Russia. Therefore, going after Iran’s oil and natural gas supplies with sanctions might strengthen Russia, which has been weakened from years of chronically low global oil prices.

Russia Loves American Tension with Iran
Considering that Russia is little more than a giant gas station, a consistently higher price of oil makes Russia stronger. When the price of oil drops on the global market—and remains relatively low—Russia suffers.

The last time the political system in Russia seemed stable was during a period of record-high global prices for oil and natural gas. This increase in the price of oil allowed Moscow to engage in a massive military modernization program. Russia was able to get tougher with their neighbors than at any other time in the post-Cold War era.

Between 2007 and 2013, the global price of oil reached historic highs. So long as the global price of oil remained at or above $80 per barrel, Russia benefited. Moscow longs for high global energy prices to fuel its geostrategic return to greatness.

It was during this period that Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the podium at the infamous Munich Security Conference and gave an hourlong tirade against U.S. foreign policy. This moment essentially was Putin’s declaration of a new cold war. If not for the higher-than-usual oil prices, it is unlikely Putin would have had the gumption to act as he did.

Russia’s 2008 National Security Strategy Document
Following this speech, in 2008, Putin ordered his forces to invade neighboring Georgia, in order to prevent what he feared would be Georgia’s accession into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). That same year, Russia released its national security strategy memo explicitly outlining how Russia planned to dominate the mineral resources of the Arctic.

According to Jamestown Foundation’s Roger McDermott:

Much attention [in the national security strategy document] was devoted to the potential risk of future energy wars, in regions including the Arctic, where Russia will defend its access to hydrocarbon resources [emphasis added].

Russian leaders recognized the benefits that Russia’s dominant position as a global producer of oil and natural gas had afforded them. What’s more, Russia had become a primary energy provider to neighboring Europe and China. This gave Moscow immense strategic leverage over their otherwise hostile neighbors.

For Russia to remain a dominant and prosperous state, Russian strategists believed they had to claim and develop as many of these energy resources as possible. Becoming a leading producer of oil and natural gas would be the priority for Russia in the decades ahead, as this position would ensure Russia could make itself as a true equal to the United States as major world power.

As Oil Prices Decline, So Does Russia
What appeared to be an implacable, resurgent Russia in 2014, soon found itself deprived of economic security. It was shortly after Russia successfully annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 that the global price of oil dropped precipitously. As the price plummeted, Russian finances collapsed with it.

The West then added to Russia’s woes by smothering it with sanctions and effectively isolating it from much of the rest of the world (aside from the second-largest economy in the world, China). And, while Russia’s economic situation grew bleaker, Putin ultimately was forced to increase his control at home, becoming a supervillain in the eyes of many people around the world.

Talk of Russian military modernization today is laughable. As soon as those petro-funds dried up in 2014, Moscow’s delusions of geopolitical grandeur were put on hold—indefinitely. Russia will remain a spent force unless the world price of oil increases as it did in from 2007-2013. Given that five years of relatively low oil prices persisted, Russia was unlikely to have the means to realize its neo-imperial dreams any time soon. But the Trump Administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran means the Russian bear might be getting a much-needed shot of adrenaline at an opportune time.

Countering Russia’s Advantages as a Petrostate
It’s not going to be easy for Moscow, though. The world oil market has changed since the days when Russia benefited disproportionately from chronically high oil prices. Today, oil costs $66.15 per barrel—not quite where Russia needs it to be in order to benefit. Also, unlike a decade ago, America can saturate the world market with oil and natural gas to keep the price relatively low, if need be.

What’s more, the primary driver of OPEC—Saudi Arabia—needs the global price of oil to remain between $70-$80 per barrel to balance its budget. If the price goes beyond that range, it might risk a worldwide recession, thereby harming the Saudi economy.

Plus, Riyadh’s rivalry with Iran means that there is incentive for Saudi Arabia to prevent the price of oil from rising too high: the Saudis need the United States to back them and they will therefore acquiesce to Washington’s demands to keep global oil prices in check. Although Russia and Saudi Arabia, as two of the world’s leading oil producers, have formed a close bond in recent years, theirs is not a partnership as valuable to Riyadh as the Saudi alliance with the United States is. Thus, it is likely that Riyadh will attempt to coordinate an increase in oil production with both the United States and OPEC, in order to offset any price shocks from Washington’s recent moves against Iran, effectively damaging Russian dreams of complete, geopolitical restoration.

Yet the Trump Administration should take nothing for granted. In today’s age of durable disorder, things have a way spiraling out-of-control—especially in the complex international energy market. The pessimistic analysts might be right and the price of oil may approach $100 a barrel by year’s end simply because of unintended circumstances from well-meaning actions.

Such an outcome would be welcome news in Moscow.

Self-Restraint with Iran Keeps Russia Down
Iran is a regional threat that must be contained by a U.S.-backed alliance consisting of the Sunni Arab states and Israel. But, inching toward full military intervention against Iran, as U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and several other congressional leaders fear the Trump Administration is doing, just might inadvertently allow for Russia to threaten U.S. interests across Eurasia.

The key here is for President Trump to strike a strategic balance in the Middle East: the United States cannot ignore Iran’s threat to the region. Balancing with regional powers, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, against Iran in order to contain its threat is good. But, unilaterally (and unexpectedly) slapping all oil sanctions back on Iran in a push for greater levels of hostility, as the White House did recently, creates uncertainty and instability in world energy markets. The more instability that the United States creates in the world energy market through its aggressive actions against Iran, the more likely it is that Russia will benefit.

If that happens, expect Russia to resume the wanton aggression against its Eastern European neighbors that it halted in 2014 when oil prices tanked. Hitting Iran too hard and suddenly would be akin to feeding the Russian bear—and we don’t want that.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • Post

To Conquer Chaos, Court It

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For all of the rhetoric about our supposed liberal international order, the world is more chaotic and unstable than it has been since World War II. Disorder reigns.

And for the technocratic, democratic globalist elites in the West, this disorder can only be repaired with the right combination of U.S. tax dollars, the blood of American servicemen and women, and a desire to remake entire societies in our image (or, at least, in the distorted image of postmodern, Western elites).

Yet, with each new U.S. intervention, we have detached the use of military force from serious national interests and, in so doing, done real damage to our interests. As the disorder caused by American intervention proliferates and becomes systemic, rival powers, such as China or Russia, step into that chaotic void, eventually benefiting from the chaos that the United States has sown, even as we squander our temporary gains.

Flipping Gaddafi: The One Upside of the Iraq War
For instance, the disorder caused by the United States in Iraq won us the initial benefit of newfound cooperation from a long-time adversary, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. We managed to get him to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons and to engage with the West.

Whatever may have been the other failings of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, we could always point to Gaddafi and his decision to give up his nuclear weapons as a win. For a time, Gaddafi even turned Libya into an essential partner in America’s ongoing global war on terrorism. Throughout North Africa thereafter, Libyan intelligence worked hand-in-hand with the United States and its allies to thwart jihadist threats there.

Thanks to the alliance with Gaddafi, the George W. Bush Administration was also made aware of the illicit nuclear weapons proliferation cabal led by Pakistan’s preeminent nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan. Washington was able to disrupt Khan’s highly successful nuclear proliferation scheme, which entailed moving nuclear materials and know-how from places like Russia, China, and Pakistan and into the hands of desperate, rogue regimes, like those of North Korea, Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and at one time, Libya.

Despite having benefited from its alliance with Libya’s insane strongman, though, Washington’s planners eventually led the successful international effort to topple Gaddafi in 2011.

How Washington Spreads the Contagion
What followed were years of instability in Libya, as no central government could assert enough control over the vast country to quell the disorder. The chaos quickly proliferated to neighboring countries, such as Mali, prompting greater Western military intervention. Soon, Islamists began taking over provinces of Libya (such as Benghazi), where they promptly imposed Sharia law, slavery, and other horrors upon the citizenry.

The more the chaos in Libya compounded, the less ability the United States (and the West) had to influence events there. Yet Russia experienced a concomitant increase of its own influence over powerful actors in the region. Ever since the end of the Cold War, Russia had been cut out of the region by U.S. foreign policy. As a result, nowadays people in the region view Russia in a more positive light than they do the Americans.

Thanks to this perception, Moscow has had a much easier time inserting itself into the region. Further, Moscow and Beijing have a firmer and more fundamental grasp on realpolitik: play all sides against each other, keep the locals distracted, and rarely take sides, while waiting to see how the pieces fall before fully asserting one’s own will.

This is precisely what Russia is doing in Libya today. As the U.S.-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli founders, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, led by the autocratic General Khalifa Haftar, steadily marches toward Tripoli. Things have gotten so bad that the State Department issued an order for all U.S. government personnel to leave Libya until the dust settles.

Many analysts are convinced that Moscow covertly is supporting Haftar’s military juggernaut. After all, Prime Minister Sarraj’s regime in Tripoli has proven itself incapable of asserting control over Libya. Plus, Haftar’s forces control most of the oil-rich parts of Libya, meaning his is the force with all of the money and resources behind it. The always-cash-strapped Moscow wants influence over Libya’s natural resources as well as access to Haftar’s wealth. By backing his claim to power, Moscow hopes to gain exclusive access to Libya.

Civil Wars as State-Building Exercises

The instability and chaos created by American intervention in Libya have, therefore, been a boon for the revanchist Russians. In fact, we’ve witnessed the resurgence of Russian might all across the Middle East and Africa (what Andrew J. Bacevich refers to as the “Greater Middle East”), where American forces have intervened. From Syria to Libya to the Central African Republic, Russia is yet again reasserting its power in ways that it has not been able to do since the heady days of the Cold War.

None of this would have been possible without the feckless policies of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party.

As Edward N. Luttwak once exhorted, “Give War a Chance.” Civil wars are brutal (just look at our own). But, if they are expected and allowed to play out naturally, the result is often longer-lasting and more stabilizing than any peace imposed by outsiders. Wars—particularly civil wars—are a harsh remedy. But just as wildfires sometimes help cull forests in order for them to thrive again, wars can be a necessary and natural part of state building. Intervening to stop them can have grave unintended consequences for the long-term development of a country, such as Libya or Syria.

Because Washington waded into countless civil conflicts with little understanding of the dynamics involved, in many cases even more bloodshed and instability resulted. As instability expanded, strategic rivals, like Russia, managed to court the chaos and use it to their geostrategic advantage. In Libya, Russia has not only courted Haftar’s forces but, until recently, it appeared to be courting Haftar’s rival, Prime Minister Sarraj as well. This pattern has repeated throughout the world in the post-Cold War era. As states breakdown internally and intrastate conflict—driven by ethno-religious tensions—takes hold, American forces repeatedly are drawn into the conflict by well-meaning but ignorant elites.

The U.S. military is good at killing people and breaking things, but it often cannot discern one tribal faction from another—especially when everyone fighting are bad guys (such as in Syria). For instance, the group of belligerents who captured a cowering Muammar Gaddafi and then gruesomely executed him on the side of a Libyan highway, the National Liberation Army, were not secular “freedom fighters” looking to create Western-style democracy in Libya. Instead, key elements of this American-backed hodgepodge force were unapologetic jihadists looking to spread Islamist governance to war-torn Libya (which, they eventually did until Haftar showed up and started killing them).

When America intervenes in civil wars to “protect universal human rights,” very often American forces end up having to take sides in a civil war with no clear good guy, thereby incurring the wrath of those who are fighting against our preferred side, while our supposed allies use us, and eventually turn on us.

Plus, we often end up removing the players in a civil war who might be able to lead their country to some semblance of stability. Once such forces are destroyed, we have then created a permanent vacuum for others, like Russia, to exploit.

We’ve Met the Enemy and He Is Us!
Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Iran are case studies in how the United States completely destroyed its own dominance in a vital part of the world and allowed for its weaker rivals—particularly Russia—to benefit from the ensuing chaos.

Given this, the United States should stop trying to bring order to chaos and instead start courting that chaos as the Russians and Chinese have so effectively done over the last 20 years.

Why doesn’t Washington ever wait to see what Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran intend to do in a given civil war? Why do we always have to go first?

It is time for Washington to realize that, in an age of durable disorder, there is simply no way to impose stability from the outside. Instead, the goal should be to do the least amount of harm both to ourselves and allies while enhancing our national strategic interests—and our understanding of those should be far more limited than it currently is. At times, the United States should not intervene in a civil war, regardless of the human suffering involved. Other times, we might benefit by replicating Chinese and Russian strategies and exacerbate the chaos; playing all sides against the middle. Rarely, though, should American forces deploy to engage in unwinnable humanitarian warfare as they have done on multiple occasions since the end of the Cold War.

The disease of humanitarian military interventionism has infected the minds of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party; this disease has made those purported great minds dull and has gotten countless American servicemen and women needlessly killed while wasting trillions of hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars. More importantly, these unnecessary wars have quantitatively hurt U.S. strategic interests around the world.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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American Conservatism • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Featured Article • Intelligence Community • Middle East • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • The Resistance (Snicker)

Same People Behind Iraq War Lies Pushed Russian Collusion

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For more than two years they misled us.

Exploiting fear and confusion after a shocking event, they warned that our country was in imminent danger at the hands of a mad man. They insisted that legitimate intelligence, including a CIA report issued a month before a national election and a dossier produced by reliable sources in the United Kingdom, proved the threat was real. The subject monopolized discussions on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the press.

They argued that the situation was so dire that it was straining our relationship with strategic allies. Any evidence to the contrary was readily dismissed. And anyone who questioned their agenda was ridiculed as a coward, a dupe, or a conspiracy theorist. The news media dedicated endless air time and column inches to anyone who wanted to repeat the falsehood.

But an investigative report released two years after the propaganda campaign began found no evidence to support their central claim. The CIA report was highly flawed. The official dossier, some concluded, was deceptive and “sexed-up.”

No, I’m not referring here to the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, although the similarities are nearly identical. I’m talking about the period between 2002 and 2004 when many of the very same people who recently peddled collusion fiction also insisted that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction—including material to produce nuclear bombs. On the heels of the horrors of 9/11, the United States and our allies waged war against Iraq in 2003 based primarily on that assurance.

But in 2004, a special advisor to the CIA concluded Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. There were no stockpiles of biological or chemical agents; no plans to develop a nuclear bomb. The main argument for the war had been wholly discredited. But it was too late: The conflict officially raged on for another seven years, including a “surge” of 20,000 more U.S. troops in 2007 at the behest of the late Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). We still have a troop presence in Iraq to this day.

In between the two scandals was more than a decade of recriminations against once-trusted experts on the Right who led our nation into battle. The Iraq war cost the lives of more than 4,400 U.S. troops, maimed tens of thousands more and resulted in an unquantifiable amount of emotional, mental, and physical pain for untold numbers of American military families. Suicide rates for servicemen and veterans have exploded leaving thousands more dead and their families devastated. And it has cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion and counting.

So, these discredited outcasts thought they found in the Trump-Russia collusion farce a way to redeem themselves in the news media and recover their lost prestige, power, and paychecks. After all, it cannot be a mere coincidence that a group of influencers on the Right who convinced Americans 16 years ago that we must invade Iraq based on false pretenses are nearly the identical group of people who tried to convince Americans that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to rig the 2016 election, an allegation also based on hearsay and specious evidence.

It cannot be an innocent mistake. It cannot be explained away as an example of ignorance in the defense of national security or democracy or human decency. It cannot be justified as a mere miscalculation based on the “best available information at the time” nor should we buy any of the numerous excuses that they offered up to rationalize the war.

In fact, one can draw a straight line between the approach of neoconservative propagandists from the Iraq War travesty and the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. The certainty with which they pronounced their dubious claims, their hyperbolic warnings about pending doom—all eerily similar:

Bill Kristol in 2003: “We look forward to the liberation of our own country and others from the threat of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, and to the liberation of the Iraqi people from a brutal and sadistic tyrant.”

Bill Kristol in 2018: “It seems to me likely Mueller will find there was collusion between Trump associates and Putin operatives; that Trump knew about it; and that Trump sought to cover it up and obstruct its investigation. What then? Good question.”

John McCain in 2003: “I believe that, obviously, we will remove a threat to America’s national security because we will find there are still massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

John McCain in 2017: “There’s a lot of aspects with this whole relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin that requires further scrutiny. In fact, I think there’s a lot of shoes to drop from this centipede. This whole issue of the relationship with the Russians and who communicated with them and under what circumstances clearly cries out for an investigation.”

David Frum in 2002 (writing for President George W. Bush): “States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.“

David Frum in 2016: “I never envisioned an Axis of Evil of which one of the members was the US National Security Adviser.”

Max Boot in 2003: “I hate to disappoint all the conspiracy-mongers out there, but I think we are going into Iraq for precisely the reasons stated by President Bush: to destroy weapons of mass destruction, to bring down an evil dictator with links to terrorism, and to enforce international law.”

Max Boot in 2019: “If this is what it appears to be, it is the biggest scandal in American history—an assault on the very foundations of our democracy in which the president’s own campaign is deeply complicit. There is no longer any question whether collusion occurred. The only questions that remain are: What did the president know? And when did he know it?”

Those are just a handful of examples from a deep trove of comparisons. Other accomplices on the Right involved in both scandals include former NSA Director Michael Hayden; former Weekly Standard editor Stephen Hayes; MSNBC host and former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough; neoconservative think tankers Robert Kagan and Eliot Cohen; and former Bush aides Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner.

Even George W. Bush questioned aloud last year whether alleged Russian meddling “affected the outcome of the election.”

And let’s not forget who was in charge of the FBI before, during, and after the Iraq War: Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel hired in May 2017 to find evidence of Russian collusion. In his February 2003 Senate testimony, Mueller confirmed reports that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and expressed concern that Hussein “may supply terrorists with biological, chemical or radiological material.” James Comey, Mueller’s close friend and successor at the FBI, served as George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Comey, of course, is the man who opened an investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016 and signed the FISA application in October 2016 to spy on Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Both, we’ve been assured repeatedly, were Republicans.

A Deficit of Humility and Introspection
So why did they do it? Why did Kristol, McCain, Frum, Boot, et. al., dive headlong and without shame into a domestic political war with just as much thoughtless braggadocio as they brought to the disastrous Iraq war? Clearly, this war did not have the same deadly results as the war in Iraq but, nonetheless, it fueled an unprecedented degree of anger and division among our countrymen and toward our new president. It ensnared innocent people who suffered real-life consequences, their fate grotesquely cheered by these mendacious fraudsters.

Why?

If you had the blood of so many young Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis on your hands because you peddled a lie, wouldn’t you be a tad more cautious before repeating that kind of mistake? If you assured Americans that the Iraq war would last just a few months, as Bill Kristol said in 2002, but instead it ended up lasting eight years, wouldn’t you be chastened about making more predictions? If your actions led directly to the election of a Democratic president who launched his winning campaign based on your egregious failures, wouldn’t you hesitate before inserting yourself in another scandal that gave fodder to your political opponents at your expense?

The answer, apparently, is “no.”

It’s unlikely any of these collusion propagandists on the Right truly believed the contents of the Steele dossier. One reason they played along was to exact revenge against the man who won the White House over their objections and called their bluff on the Iraq War: Donald Trump.

When Trump stood on a debate stage in February 2016 and said the Iraq war was a “big, fat mistake,” he didn’t just say it to a random Republican opponent. He said it directly to Jeb Bush, the brother of the president who launched the war. “George Bush made a mistake, we should never have been in Iraq,” Trump seethed. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”

The crowd mostly booed. But Trump didn’t back down. In a post-debate interview on Fox News, Trump reiterated his criticism. “The Iraq war was a disaster. We spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives. What do we have?” he asked Tucker Carlson. “We have nothing, absolutely nothing.” Nothing except a massive bill in blood and treasure borne mostly by the middle and working class.

At the time, Trump’s view was well outside the mainstream of conservative orthodoxy. Republicans were not inclined to admit failure on the battlefield, let alone to doubt the motives of intelligence, military, and political leadership we had trusted and were taught not to question. “Challenging the assumption that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction would draw scorn and mockery,” Adam Mill reminded us in an excellent piece for American Greatness. Further, with near-unanimous consent, House and Senate Republicans voted in 2002 to authorize military force against Iraq.

But Trump laid bare the culpability of the failed war’s Republican architects. He exposed the lingering guilt many rank-and-file Republicans felt about their unflinching support for a war that ultimately was based on a docket of falsehoods and empty promises. A war its promoters were eager to get into but had no plan to win.

Crossing a Red Line
Further, Trump intended to halt the Republican Party’s fealty to the Bush Doctrine. The post-9/11 foreign policy of the neoconservatives running the Bush Administration
centered around preemptive war, regime change, and the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

But 15 years later, Trump called out the doctrine’s failures and faulted those who authored it: “That’s why I have to look for talented experts with approaches and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war,” Trump said in a foreign policy speech in April 2016. “We have to look to new people because many of the old people frankly don’t know what they’re doing.”

At a campaign rally in May 2016, Trump specifically mocked Kristol. “All the guy [Kristol] wants to do is kill people even though he knows it’s not working although he doesn’t know because he’s not smart enough.”

A red line, so to speak, had been crossed. The candidate likely to win the Republican presidential nomination was taking direct aim at the elite Republican establishment so they responded in kind. Dozens of Republican national security and intelligence experts denounced Trump in an August 2016 public letter, insisting he would be a “dangerous president and put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” Kristol enlisted an independent candidate to run against Trump.

At the very same time, the Obama White House and top Democratic officials in his administration were circulating the Steele dossier and investigating the Trump campaign for possible collusion with the Russians. (After the election, McCain and one of his advisors distributed the phony Steele dossier to the FBI, lawmakers, and reporters.)

The symmetry is impossible to ignore or dismiss as coincidence. The Trump-Russia collusion hoax was a chance for these jilted influencers to get revenge against a president and a party that no longer had any use for them. Trump threatened their long-held grasp of centralized power, so they did everything they could to hold on to it, including siding with the Left to sabotage him. It was a craven act of self-restoration. Excommunicated by the Right, they sought to redeem themselves by sucking up to the Left, which not so long ago accused Iraq war promoters of being criminals.

Utterly Shameless and Undeterred
The question now is, will the Left shun these useful idiots once and for all? Now that their role in pushing the collusion narrative from the anti-Trump Right is over, will they stop booking Kristol on CNN? Will the 
Washington Post stop publishing Boot and Wehner and Hayden? Will Jake Tapper ask them any hard question, such as, “how can you be so wrong twice in 15 years?” Will the anti-war Left remember the human destruction for which they are responsible?

Further, they viewed Robert Mueller as the man who could destroy Trump. Much like their objective in the aftermath of the Iraq war, their end goal was to be proven right that Donald Trump was unfit to lead, not actually to do what was right for the country. It was pure ego.

Unfortunately, that probably isn’t where the similarities between Russian collusion and the Iraq War will end. The collusion propagandists on the Right will never apologize for supporting the hoax—just like most have not yet apologized for leading the country into a deadly, destructive, and arguably unnecessary war. Even now, after both the Mueller investigation and the House Intelligence committee have found no evidence of collusion, they won’t let up. Kristol is still tweeting Trump-Russian conspiracy theories and both Kristol and Frum are creating new conspiracies about the Mueller report. They know no shame.

In another ironic twist, authors David Corn and Michael Isikoff wrote a book, Hubris, that lamented the lack of accountability for the neoconservative pushers of the Iraq war. “If you look at the media cheerleaders from that time . . . David Brooks, Bill Kristol . . . did they lose one speaking engagement? Did they lose the fee for one column?” Corn asked during a 2013 MSNBC interview. “There was no price to be paid.”

Corn and Isikoff were the two reporters who published Steele dossier-sourced articles prior to the 2016 presidential election. Isikoff’s article was cited extensively in the October 2016 FISA application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Of course, they won’t pay a price, either.

So, there may not be a short-term price for the Iraq War/Trump-Russia propagandists on the Right to pay. The only consolation, if there is one, is that these con men are unlikely to ever to have a home again in the Republican Party. They will not have any influence; they’ll be political poison for any candidate dumb enough to seek their endorsement.

They can never again initiate a foreign war that costs thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. Yes, they’ll be played for fools at CNN, MSNBC and in the Washington Post—trotted out as “conservatives” to condemn Republicans who are actually advancing policies that help the country. But they will never be taken seriously by anyone on the Right; to the contrary, they’ll be a collective cautionary tale for future generations of Republican leaders and influencers.

While they are not directly responsible for enormous bloodshed in this instance, like they are for the Iraq War, their deception about Trump-Russia collusion did result in actual harm to hundreds of people victimized by the farce. Every Trump family member and associate has been under a shadow of manufactured suspicion since the election; ditto for every White House aide, cabinet member, and former campaign worker. The amount of money and time wasted on this travesty will never fully be known.

Carter Page, a former U.S. Navy officer, was stalked relentlessly by the media and congressional investigators—and was a recipient of numerous death threats—not to mention spied on by his own government for a year in a fruitless attempt to find collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, still not sentenced more than 18 months after his plea deal for one count of lying to federal officials, is bankrupt. The home of Roger Stone was raided by the FBI at dawn; he, too, is going bankrupt. The civil libertarians and so-called freedom-loving conservatives all have been silent on these political persecutions.

Will the Fraudsters Get Away With It Again?
The country has been divided by hate and rage and unjustified distrust. Legitimate problems—such as illegal immigration, sustained job growth for the middle class, faulty trade agreements, the opioid crisis—have been completely ignored by our ruling class with the exception of President Trump. Calls to retaliate against Russia have been far and wide, while real international threats, such as China, North Korea, and ISIS have been overlooked by the collusion propagandists. This has been their intention all along; with no solutions to offer for any of these issues, the vanquished neoconservatives cling to relevance by spinning fabulist tales all in service of destroying a Republican president.

The goal of the intersectional Iraq War and Trump-Russia collusion fraudsters was clear: Regime change. The playbook is nearly identical—produce flawed intelligence, rally support from the media, portray any opponent as a bad actor, keep creating new crimes. However this time, instead of seeking to depose an Iraqi tyrant, the collusion propagandists within the conservative establishment sought to remove a duly elected U.S. president.

This is unconscionable and likely illegal. It’s the reason why Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) this week is expected to make at least eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department related to the real scandal: The weaponization of the world’s most powerful law enforcement and intelligence apparatus to sabotage a rival presidential campaign and derail an incoming administration.

That’s a necessary start. But those who did not engage in specifically illegal activity but nonetheless bolstered those venal efforts also must be held responsible. They escaped justice and accountability once—they can’t get away with it again. They must be shamed into political oblivion.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Foreign Policy • Middle East • military • Post

David French Bungles Iraq, Again

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Aristotle said man is a rational animal. A more cynical observer might say he is a rationalizing one. Learning is hard enough on its own, but it is nearly impossible when personal biases cloud out clear thought.

Such is the case with David French, a senior writer at National Review. On the 16th anniversary of the Iraq War last week, French published a defense of that conflict. It isn’t surprising to see why. French himself served in Iraq as a judge advocate general (JAG). He lost friends there.

Admitting that such sacrifices might well have been in vain cannot be easy. But if we fail to confront honestly the failures that led to that war then we do them and future generations an even greater disservice. We must let pretty lies perish and face the plain truth: the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

French’s defense of the war rests on a weak foundation. He believes, contra John Quincy Adams, that America should go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

French notes that Saddam Hussein “invaded his neighbors, gassed his people, harbored and supported terrorists, and was responsible for not one but two of the largest conventional military conflicts since World War II—the horrific Iran-Iraq war and Operation Desert Storm.”

French continues, pointing out that Hussein was the “prime supporter” of a Palestinian bombing campaign against Israel and that he “violated the Gulf War cease-fire accords, interfered with weapons inspections, and hid away chemical weapons by the thousands.” French is correct: Saddam was a nasty dictator. But this world is full of such men. Is it really America’s sacred mission to rid the world of meanness?

French says “yes.” In doing so, he ignores the wisdom of America’s Founders.

For them, the American government existed to protect the lives and liberty of “ourselves and our posterity” not of random foreigners around the globe. John Quincy Adams, again, best sums up that older view in his 1821 Independence Day Speech where he states, “[The United States] is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Virtually all of the reasons French lists to decry Saddam have to do with violations of other people’s rights. Saddam gassed Kurds, butchered Iranians, and attacked Israelis. But these people are not Americans. They did not consent to our government. It is not right for American elected officials to spend the blood and treasure of their fellow citizens to fight on behalf of foreigners. To do so is to reject the natural rights theory of the American Founding.

The Iraqis did not consent to our rule. Nor did the American people consent to make them our fellow citizens. When French defends the Iraq war he argues for nothing less than American empire. Apparently, the United States must govern the earth for the benefit of our supposed allies, international norms, and the amorphous principles of liberal democracy.

French makes a stab at relating the Iraq conflict to American rights, but his arguments amount to little more than mushy pabulum. He writes that Saddam threatened “vital American interests” and actively sought to kill our fellow citizens.

But what exactly were these interests? Was Saddam going to stage an amphibious landing on our shores? Would we have run out of oil if he conquered Kuwait? And just how many of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis?

If French were simply an old veteran defending his service regardless of facts that would be one thing, but his arguments are a level worse.

French doesn’t just think invading Iraq was a good idea, he thinks we ought to have deposed the Assad family in Syria as well! This is mind-boggling folly. French writes that we should have removed Bashar al-Assad from power because his “nation was caught up in the unrest and ferment of the Arab Spring—a movement that began far from the Iraq War.” This unrest caused Syria to become a “charnel house,” created “a refugee crisis that has helped destabilize Europe,” and began a conflict with ISIS that “inspired a renewed wave of terror in Europe.”

Unbelievably, French blames all this on a lack of American intervention!

He is mistaken. It was Barack Obama who said of the Middle East in May 2011 that “America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region . . .” It was the American, not the Syrian government, that fomented the Arab Spring. And it was the United States that used military force in Libya to bring down Gaddafi, an action that helped open the floodgates of refugees fleeing the crisis that followed. Again in 2011 it was Obama who called for Assad to step down, an action that encouraged the chaotic civil war in Syria. Not only that but he endorsed a secret program to funnel money and weapons to the various rebel groups opposing the Syrian government.

That decision was a disaster. Bashar al-Assad might be a bad man, but ISIS was even worse. The Syrian government never rammed trucks through crowds of European Christmas shoppers. By stoking the Syrian civil war, the United States contributed to the chaos.

By opening their borders to an influx of legal and illegal migrants, the European nations exposed themselves to terrorist violence. French acts as if the Schengen Area and the open borders policies of politicians like Angela Merkel are simply mindless acts of nature, like hurricanes. The refugee crisis did not have to happen. The governments of Europe could have stopped it. Stupid immigration policy, not foreign dictators lie at the root of that disaster.

In the end, French’s endorsement of the Iraq war and intervention amounts to a foolhardy embrace of imperialism. Invading foreign countries to defend other people’s rights leads only to disaster. Starting wars that have no direct connection to our own security is likewise stupid. The Iraq war cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives to no avail. A painful but useful lesson . . . if only we’d learn it.

Photo Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

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Center for American Greatness • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post

The U.N. Salts the Wounds of Iranian Women

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Anyone with a passing acquaintance with the irredeemable institution that calls itself the United Nations understand it is a global Tammany Hall that endangers the advance of human freedom and prosperity throughout our world. Perhaps, its only merit is to provide those few remaining doubters with irrefutable proof that the societal scourge of Toxic Imbecility has reached a pandemic level.

In a typical, telling display, the United Nations has salted the wounds of Iranian women by elevating Iran to its Committee on the Status of Women (“CSW”).

As the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reports, “. . . the U.N. on Wednesday said that Iran and Nigeria, another country that is no stranger to human rights abuses, would be promoted to the international organization’s Committee on the Status of Women, which oversees abuses committed by oppressive states, such as Iran and Nigeria.”

The full brief of the CSW is more wide-ranging, per the U.N. website: “The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Condemnations of Iran’s appointment cascaded in from sane observers, who lambasted the decision to place Iran’s misogynistic mullahs—the oppressors and butchers of Neda Agha-Soltan, Taraneh Mousavi, and all Iranian women—upon the CSW. Interestingly, as yet there appears to be no condemnations or even a whiff of criticism about the matter from some of Iran’s biggest advocates—former President “The Oracle” Obama, his former Chief of Staff Valerie Jarrett, ex-Secretary of State John Kerry, ex-Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, et al. Apparently, the plane load of $400 million and the billions in sanctions relief from the Iran nuke pact didn’t change the vile Iranian regime’s behavior, but it has silenced these “esteemed foreign policy leaders” in the face of this sick, twisted joke upon Iranian women.

The silence of these nuanced American architects of appeasement is voluntary. But one courageous Iranian human rights lawyer’s silence has been imposed.

As reported by Women in the World, “After two trials described by Amnesty International as ‘grossly unfair,’ Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.”

A lawyer defending women who publicly remove their hijabs, and one who had already served three years of a trumped up 2010 conviction of conspiring to harm state security, Sotoudeh now absurdly has been “charged with seven crimes and given the maximum sentence for all of them. Five additional years were added from a 2016 case in which she was convicted in absentia. The total 38-year sentence was severe even by Iranian standards—a country often accused of human rights abuses, particularly involving women.”

As with the U.N.’s elevation of Iran to the CSW, Iran’s unconscionable treatment of Nasrin Sotoudeh was condemned by righteous minds, including Amnesty International and the Center for Human Rights in Iran. But, as with the U.N.’s elevation of Iran to the CSW, the evil Iranian regime’s heinous abuse of Sotoudeh’s rights has apparently yet to elicit a condemnation from the aforementioned “Oracle” or his acolytes.

Oh, and there was this bitterly ironic condemnation coming on Sotoudeh’s sentencing day, when the U.N. investigator on human rights in Iran decried the persistent oppression of Iranian women, and argued that the “[w]orrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labor rights activists signal an increasingly severe state response.”

Doubtless, the U.N.’s CSW will put his concerns and Nasrin Sotoudeh’s rights at the top of their agenda.

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Photo Credit: Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Administrative State • Congress • Deep State • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Middle East • Post • Republicans

McConnell and the Iron Triangle vs. Trump and the Voters

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) aligned with the NeverTrump faction of Republican senators Thursday to introduce and pass a resolution to “rebuke” President Trump. The president’s offenses? Trump dared to win the Republican nomination in 2016 and has dared, at least some of the time, to think for himself since taking office.

Instead of supporting the Republican and independent voters who knowingly nominated and elected a man committed to foreign policy change, McConnell is sticking stubbornly to the foreign policy approach that failed America and the world.

The battle lines of the Republican civil war are drawn: Kentuckian McConnell, in league with Mitt Romney of Utah, assailed the president’s order to bring American troops home from Afghanistan as “precipitous.”

Kentucky’s junior and more popular Republican senator, Rand Paul, meanwhile retorted: “It is ludicrous to call withdrawal after 17 years ‘precipitous.’”

The Iron Triangle Asserts Itself
McConnell’s resolution aims to undermine the commander-in-chief of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Syria. It also takes the side of the permanent intelligence bureaucracy against the president. Trump has expressed skepticism about reports from the national intelligence agencies. They are supposed to work for the president, but McConnell is more comfortable if the president is subservient to them. That arrangement perpetuates the Iron Triangle of which McConnell is, as Bill Kristol might put it, a bulwark.

The Iron Triangle is the combination of Congress, the permanent federal bureaucracy, and special-interest groups—often including the special-interest group that is the ideologically leftist mainstream media.

The struggle between Trump and the woefully large number of pre-Trump Republicans in the Senate is not really about the true constitutional separation of powers. McConnell and crew are not standing up for the rightful power of the legislative branch as the Framers intended; they are shilling for the Iron Triangle.

Freshmen senators seem to find out early how to win the good graces of the liberal media and the permanent bureaucracy. Barely four weeks into their tenure, every new GOP senator—Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Rick Scott (Fla.), and (of course) Romney—voted against the president and for the swamp. Meanwhile, Blackburn, Braun, Hawley, and Scott owe their come-from-behind victories solely to Trump’s unflagging support.

There is no clearer sign of hubris than this: Establishment Senate Republicans are breaking with the president because Trump’s approval-disapproval rating is 42 percent-55 percent.

And what is the approval-disapproval rating of the GOP Senate geniuses of self-preservation? It’s 12 percent-69 percent.

Mitch McConnell, call your pollster.

Historical Precedent
Today’s situation is reminiscent of another break-the-mold president and the challenges he faced from the ancien régime of his own party.

When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the pre-Reagan Republican senators were a stumbling block to his policy initiatives. Let’s take the example of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Reagan dramatically announced SDI in 1983, in a shock to Capitol Hill and to almost everyone on his own administration’s national security team. It was a closely held initiative, put forward against what certainly would have been the opposition of his secretary of state, George Shultz, and most of Shultz’s team at the State Department.

Shultz was an excellent secretary of state, but he was not infallible. He would have been quite a bad secretary of state if Reagan hadn’t ordered him to support bold initiatives that Shultz’s bureaucracy fought against.

Recall when Reagan became president, he was inheriting a bureaucracy and a set of policies and a set of diplomatic and policy “processes” that had been cultivated most recently by Jimmy Carter and just before that by Gerald Ford. Reagan’s election was a repudiation of both Carter and Ford; it emphatically was not a mandate for another Ford Administration.

The Iron Triangle fought mightily against missile defense. Why, if developed and implemented, it would have violated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972! Old Guard Republican resistance to effective missile defenses continued into the George H.W. Bush Administration, when, in 1991, Nixonite senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), William Cohen (R-Maine), and John Warner (R-Va.) broke with the White House to water down that administration’s not especially robust proposals.

Just imagine if Lugar, Cohen, Warner and the Iron Triangle had prevailed and Reagan’s SDI had been strangled in the crib. The world would be a different place. There would be no ballistic missile defenses to protect the United States and Israel. Perhaps the Soviet Union would still exist.

But within the Iron Triangle, no bad deed goes unrewarded. The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for “explanatory journalism” for a series of now-discredited articles in 1985 denigrating the strategic rationale and feasibility of missile defenses.

Battling the Bureaucracy
Trump has inherited a bureaucracy and policy and policy “processes” from Barack Obama and George W. Bush and the State Department of Hillary Clinton. Consider: All of the transition briefing books prepared before the election by the Obama Administration for the next president were intended for Hillary Clinton. But Republican primary voters decisively chose Trump, who repudiated the George W. Bush foreign affairs disasters while the other candidates offered themselves as Dubya on steroids.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is wrong when he claims “this is an intel community that the president has largely put in place.”

He may be thinking about his friend, former senator and current national intelligence director Dan Coats. Coats is a good and capable man, as was George Shultz. But much of what Coats delivers, just as much of what Shultz delivered, is the product of an entrenched career bureaucracy.

The current head of the CIA is a career agency bureaucrat. No matter the personal merits of the individual, the CIA never should be run by a careerist. In the instance of the actual director, Gina Haspel, there’s evidence she should have been fired last fall. The CIA leaked misleading reports about the much-publicized death of renegade Saudi agent Jamal Khashoggi, leaks designed to undermine President Trump. That was a firing offense. Why does she still have a job?

No president can change the intelligence community very much. That’s why it’s called the deep state. It’s a permanent bureaucracy, not especially accountable to presidents, and much inclined to preserve its prerogatives by serving the Iron Triangle against presidential authority.

This struggle is about policy differences and preservation of power by a class that American voters emphatically have rejected.

Instead of trying to push the president around, the Senate should get its own national security house in order. In particular, freshman senators elected in 2018 because of Trump’s support should back the president, not the Iron Triangle.

The Senate Is Out of Order
If the Senate wants to exercise its constitutional duty, it should demand that the appointment of NeverTrumper Elliott Abrams, foreign policy advisor to failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio, as “special envoy” to Venezuela be revoked unless Abrams is confirmed by a Senate vote. Abrams’ new position is much more powerful than that of ambassadors, assistant secretaries of state, or even undersecretaries of state. It is a scandalous defiance of “advice and consent” for this deep state figure to be given such a post without hearings or a vote.

If the Senate wants more respect from the White House and the voters, it should get serious about its own breaches of security. When James Wolfe, the director of security of the Senate Intelligence Committee, an epitome of the Iron Triangle, was arrested and convicted of lying to investigators about leaks, Republican chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Democratic vice-chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) appealed for clemency. Fortunately, the sentencing judge ordered Wolfe to prison. Compounding the scandal was that the purpose of the leaks was to harm President Trump and to propagate false witness against Trump’s unfairly vilified campaign adviser, Carter Page.

With Republicans like McConnell and Burr and Romney and Rubio, who needs foes like Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)?

Pre-Trump and anti-Trump Republican senators are gambling that they can ride out the Trump years and that things will return in 2021 to the status quo ante of George W. Bush foreign policy. They resemble the Republican Old Guard that considered Reagan a fluke and a nuisance and pined for a return to the comfort zone they had enjoyed with Jerry Ford.

These will be the questions for voters to decide next year. Would Republican Senate bosses be wise to run their negative 57 percent approval rating against Trump’s negative 13 percent approval rating? For that matter, would Republican donors be sane to contribute to anti-Trump senators in this environment? Most important of all, do Americans really want a reversion to the George W. Bush era?

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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2016 Election • Donald Trump • Economy • Immigration • Middle East • Post • the Presidency

Much Has Changed for the Better Since 2016—Not That Trump Will Get Credit

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The news obsesses over the recent government shutdown, the latest Robert Mueller arrest and, of course, fake news—from the BuzzFeed Michael Cohen non-story to the smears of the Covington Catholic High School students.

But aside from the weekly hysterias, the world has dramatically changed since 2016 in ways we scarcely have appreciated.

The idea that China systematically rigged trade laws and engaged in technological espionage to run up huge deficits is no longer a Trump, or even a partisan, issue.

In the last two years, a mainstream consensus has grown that China poses a commercial and mercantile threat to world trade, to its neighbors and to the very security of the United States—and requires a strong response, including temporary tariffs.

The world did not fall apart after the U.S. pulled out of the flawed Iran nuclear deal. Most yawned when the U.S. left the symbolic but empty Paris Climate Accord. Ditto when the U.S. moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In retrospect, most Americans accept that such once controversial decisions were not ever all that controversial.

There is also a growing, though little reported, consensus about what created the current economic renaissance: tax cuts, massive deregulation, recalibration of trade policy, tax incentives to bring back offshore capital, and dramatic rises in oil and natural gas production.

Although partisan bickering continues over the extent of the upswing, most appreciate that millions of Americans are now back again working—especially minority youth—in a manner not seen in over a decade.

The Supreme Court and federal judges will be far more conservative for a generation—as Trump’s judicial nominations are uniformly conservative, mostly young and well qualified.

For all the acrimony about illegal immigration, the government shutdown over the wall and the question of amnesties, most Americans also finally favor some sort of grand bargain compromise.

The public seems to be agreeing that conservatives should get more border fencing or walls in strategic areas, an end to new illegal immigration and deportation for those undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Liberals in turn will likely obtain green cards for those long-time immigrants here illegally who have a work history and have not committed violent crimes.

Both sides will be forced to agree that illegal immigration, sanctuary cities and open borders should end and legal immigration should be reformed.

Americans have paradoxically grown tired both of costly overseas interventions and perceptions of American weakness that led to the Libyan fiasco, the Syrian genocide, the rise of the ISIS caliphate, and Iranian-inspired terrorism.

Today U.S. foreign policy actually reflects those paradoxes. The public supports a withdrawal from the quagmires in Afghanistan and Syria. But it also approved of bombing ISIS into retreat and muscular efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

Two years ago, most Americans accepted that the European Union and NATO were sacrosanct status quo institutions beyond criticism. Today there is growing agreement that our NATO allies will only pay their fair share of mutual defense if they are forced to live up to their promises.

Europe is not stable and steady, but torn by Eastern European anger at open borders, Southern European resentment at the ultimatums of German banks, and acrimonious negotiations over the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.

Most Americans have now concluded that while the EU may be necessary to prevent another intra-European war, it is increasingly a postmodern, anti-democratic and unstable entity.

Trump has not changed his campaign reputation for being mercurial, crass and crude.

But what has changed is the media’s own reputation in its hysterical reaction to Trump. Instead of empirical reporting, the networks and press have become unhinged.

When reporting of the presidency has proved 90 percent negative, and false news stories are legion, the media are no longer seen as the remedy to Trump but rather an illness themselves.

Since 2016, polls show that Americans have assumed that the proverbial mainstream media cannot be counted on for honest reporting but will omit, twist and massage facts and evidence for the higher “truth” of neutralizing the Trump presidency.

When asked on “The View” why so often the liberal press keeps making up facts, “jumps the gun” and has to “walk stuff back when it turns out wrong,” Joy Behar honestly answered, “Because we’re desperate to get Trump out of office. That’s why.”

Trump’s popularity is about where it was when he was elected—ranging on average from the low to mid-forties. But many of his policies have led to more prosperity and address festering problems abroad.

And despite the negative news, they are widely supported, even—or especially—if Trump himself is not given proper credit for enacting most of them.

Photo Credit: Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

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Democrats • Elections • feminists • Identity Politics • Israel • Middle East • Post • race • Religion of Peace • The Left

Why the Democratic Party Will Become More Anti-Semitic

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Women’s March co-president Tamika Mallory appeared Thursday night on “Firing Line” to discuss her controversial organization, particularly the claims of anti-Semitism that have dogged the group for months. Host Margaret Hoover asked Mallory directly if Israel has the right to exist. “Everyone has a right to exist,” Mallory replied. “I just don’t feel that everyone has a right to exist at the disposal of another group.” Hoover gave Mallory multiple opportunities to state Israel’s right to exist. She refused.

Of course she refused. This is hardly surprising for someone with Mallory’s history and relationships. She has close ties to one of the most virulent anti-Semites in America today, Louis Farrakhan. She called Farrakhan “the GOAT” (as in “Greatest of All Time”) on her Instagram feed. Mallory and others in the leadership of the Women’s March attend Nation of Islam events, even using the Nation of Islam for security in the past.

In light of her comments and relationships, people have wondered why the Women’s March hasn’t distanced itself from Mallory. The fact is, the organization won’t because it doesn’t see a need to: Mallory’s comments are consistent with others in the leadership of the march and as well as with a great many march participants.

Don’t believe me? Consider Linda Sarsour, another Women’s March co-founder with close ties to Louis Farrakhan. Sarsour also has a history of making comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

Take, for example, her statement to the 2018 Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention in Houston just a few months ago. “In my opinion, on an issue like Palestine, you gotta choose the side of the oppressed,” she said. “And if you’re on the side of the oppressor, or you’re defending the oppressor, and you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor, then that’s a problem, sisters and brothers, and we’ve gotta be able to say ‘That is not the position of the Muslim-American community.’” In Sarsour’s mind, to defend Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is to humanize Israel and the Israelis, which is unacceptable.

BDS on the Rise in the Democratic Party
Some people have been taken aback at these recent comments of Mallory and Sarsour, but that’s because they haven’t been following the growth of anti-Semitism on the progressive Left through the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement (BDS) that began just over 10 years ago. Sarsour and others associated with the Women’s March are strong proponents and advocates of the BDS movement. From the stage in Washington, D.C., at Saturday’s march, Sarsour proclaimed her constitutional right to “boycott, divestment, and sanction in these United States.” Her comments were met with loud cheers.

The BDS movement, launched by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, is nothing but an attempt politically and economically to weaken and slowly strangle the nation of Israel. It is financed in part by organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and even those with links to Hamas and others with known links to terrorism.

For those who have been following the BDS movement, it has gained significant momentum in recent years on college campuses throughout the United States. It has spread throughout the Progressive Left and has now infected the Democratic Party.

Just two weeks ago, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted: “The shutdown is not the reason Senate Democrats don’t want to move to the Middle East Security Bill. A huge argument broke out at the Senate Democratic meeting last week over BDS. A significant number of Senate Democrats now support #BDS & Democratic leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”

And it’s not just Senate Democrats who support the BDS movement. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed radical anti-Israel and BDS proponent Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to the powerful House Foreign Affairs committee. Not only should that be seen as a nod to the progressive Left, it should also be seen as a clear sign that the establishment Democratic Party is moving further away from supporting and defending our closest and most reliable ally in the Middle East.

Democrats Veer Further Left
All of this is the result of a far-left movement that relies on social justice warriors, “intersectionality,” and noxious identity politics to guide them. The BDS movement is yet more proof that the parasitic Left has eaten the Democratic Party from within. It might appear on the surface that there are still some vestiges of the party of JFK and Bill Clinton. But the Democratic Party’s essence has changed dramatically and that is changing its core principles.  

This process will continue if traditional Democrats don’t fight for their party. They have quite an uphill battle: the Left has the grassroots and small donor power inside the Democratic Party, as well as mega-donors such as George Soros and Tom Steyer. Add to this mix the change of the super delegate rules for the 2020 primary, which was one of the last bastions of defense by more centrist Democrats and it’s hard not to imagine that only a candidate who swears fealty to the far-left progressive views has any chance of really winning the party’s presidential nomination.

It’s early yet, but it’s a fair bet that the 2020 presidential election between the Democratic Party nominee and President Trump will be one of the starkest and most clarifying moments in American history, pitting Trump’s America First agenda against a radical left-wing, un-American vision for the future. Which course will America choose?

Photo credit: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

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Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Middle East • Post • The ME Agenda • the Presidency

Good Riddance, Syrian Civil War!

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The media and the political establishment’s excoriation of President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the battlefield of eastern Syria has been blistering, as usual. Our exit from the Syrian Civil War is, in fact, well-timed and sensible. President Trump deserves praise for bucking the conventional Beltway wisdom to save the American people and, more importantly, American servicemen from this bloody quagmire.

It pays to recall how we became involved in Syria in the first place. In 2011, in the midst of the chaotic but hopeful “Arab Spring,” a number of global and regional powers, including the United States, decided that now was the perfect time to destabilize the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Accordingly, the Obama Administration encouraged a popular rebellion, while denying the rebels the means to succeed in their revolt.

The result was a strategic and human nightmare. A civil conflict raged that wrecked the Syrian economy, obliterated cities, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, and turned millions into desperate refugees. True, Assad is no angel, but the sufferings of the Syrian people since a host of outsiders, including the sage experts in the Obama White House, decided to “rescue” them have far outstripped any indignities that the Assad family could devise.

What was worse was the fact that the Syrian Civil War quickly devolved into senseless and disorganized violence, as the forces “rebelling” against the Assad regime became a multi-headed hydra of terrorists, fundamentalists, and thieves. True, some Syrians fought for democracy and freedom, but the conflict also became saturated with a wide assortment of villains, and with foreign actors—including Russians, Iranians, and Turks—who wished to exploit the opportunity to expand their influence.

Worst of all, Sunni extremists in eastern Syria coalesced into a new movement that became known as the Islamic State. ISIS imposed ironfisted repression, including slavery and torture, on a vast scale, while gruesome executions became the group’s calling card.

Amazingly, in 2014 ISIS decided to export Muslim theocracy and savage violence to neighboring Iraq (and duly conquered large swaths of that failed state), all while fostering a new wave of terrorist violence in the West. ISIS even became active in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, the Philippines, Palestine, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as it metastasized into an evil empire of limitless ambition and sadism.

And this was when the United States finally said “Enough!” Under President Obama, U.S. forces deployed to Iraq to help government forces there stem the ISIS advance. A bombing campaign was waged against ISIS forces in both Iraq and Syria, and American special forces began to worm their way into the eastern provinces of Syria to assist the mostly Kurdish forces who were fighting the Islamic State’s war machine.

As the first important victories against ISIS were won, the U.S. commitment to the anti-ISIS crusade mushroomed, especially in 2017 under America’s new president, Donald Trump. U.S. forces constructed bases and airfields in eastern Syria, and America invested billions of dollars in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russian, Turkish, and Iranian forces awkwardly shared the battlefield with American soldiers. All were united in a temporary, tacit, and very uneasy alliance against the ravages of the Islamic State.

The good news is that America’s intervention in eastern Syria was an unqualified success, in terms of advancing the goals that brought us to Syria in the first place: we came, after all, not to oust Bashar al-Assad from power, or to found a new American empire, but to strangle and if possible destroy the Islamic State.

It worked. ISIS has lost 99 percent of its territory, and it has been reduced to the status of a bit player in the Syrian Civil War, no longer able to threaten the integrity of Syria or Iraq, no longer able to project power throughout the Middle East or onto the streets of Western capitals, and no longer able to terrorize the long-suffering people of its eastern Syrian heartland. ISIS is not gone, but it is defeated, and American troops are no longer required to shepherd it to its inevitable demise.

President Trump is right: under the circumstances, Americans should be celebrating the collapse of ISIS, as well as the victorious return of American forces. Instead, the hawkish establishment in Washington, D.C. is carping about lost opportunities and potential strategic advantages ceded to our putative enemies in Russia and Iran.

The truth is we have “ceded” nothing but a dusty expanse that was never ours to command in the first place. The Syrian Civil War will grind on, and Russians, Turks, and Iranians will fall in it, to no great purpose, especially now that the eventual outcome is a foregone conclusion: the Assad family will remain in charge of the vast majority of Syria.

So why is the U.S. foreign and defense policy establishment so outraged by our withdrawal from Syria? What could Americans possibly hope to gain through an indefinite occupation of eastern Syria?

Yes, local Kurds and Sunni Arabs might find our presence there more benevolent than that of Assad, or Russia, or Turkey, or Iran. Eastern Syria is not a dependent territory of the United States, however, and we have no right to decide the fate of its people, especially considering the legitimate government of Syria doesn’t want us on its turf.

Moreover, every second that Americans remain on a battlefield teeming with Russians, Turks, and Iranians, the chances increase that a new and wider conflict will be sparked involving several of these great powers. Do we really want to risk war with Russia, for instance, and the potential nuclear horrors this would involve, simply because we have grown attached to some worthless real estate in eastern Syria? To ask the question is to answer it.

The only other viable argument against President Trump’s withdrawal plan—that further U.S. action is required to finish off ISIS—ignores the fact that other regional threats have long since overtaken the Islamic State on America’s strategic radar.

We cannot—we should not—physically occupy every piece of ground on which a terrorist movement or proto-state might someday take root, or re-root itself. That would be a recipe for the over-extension of American military power, and it would invite a terrible backlash from outraged locals.

The time has come to let others have the “glory” of chasing the last ISIS fighters out of their miserable holes, while the United States refocuses on other priorities, including a host of domestic challenges and the consolidation of Western-friendly regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. There the prospects for something resembling democracy and/or stability, while not particularly bright, are at least brighter than they ever were in eastern Syria.

President Trump has taken a wise and bold course of action in the Syrian conflict and in the battle against ISIS. It is never easy to deny the hawks in Washington their pound of flesh, but in this case American interests are well-served by doing so.

Simply put, ISIS is now Syria’s problem (and Russia’s, and Turkey’s, and Iran’s). We, the American people, having done our part (and more!), wish them all godspeed in finishing the noble work of obliterating the stain on humanity that is and was the so-called Islamic State. The sooner Syria and the world can move on, the better.

Photo Credit: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

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