Preserving America's Historical Significance

Election 2014 and Endless War: Buchanan’s Prescient Warning

The Republican victory of November 4 was a summary dismissal of the Obama agenda by the American people. From runaway deficit spending, to the health care disaster that is Obamacare, to a rudderless, bumbling, reactionary foreign policy, Americans overwhelmingly voted against this administration, but will there be a new direction?  And does a new direction include new wars?

That is a poignant question that Pat Buchanan asks, and with good reason. No matter who wins the elections, there is a perennial element that seeks to engage in wars. Our first President, George Washington, warned Americans about the dangers of foreign entanglements in his farewell address. President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned Americans about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

On September 10, 2001, President Bush’s biggest headache was the menacing recession in the wake of the dot-com bust, but 8:45AM on September 11, 2001, his priorities radically changed.

While sending armed forces after the parties responsible for the attacks is perfectly legitimate—although Congress did not formally declare war, its Constitutional responsibility—since when did the mission of America’s military become one of nation-building? 

We toppled the Taliban within weeks, but have spent the last 13 years in Afghanistan, attempting to establish a first-world government, rooted in a Christian understanding of law and justice, among an Islamic people with an 8th-century mindset.

Whereas the Soviet Union wasted a decade trying to impose communism on Afghanistan, President Bush, emboldened by his cadre of neoconservatives, took on the mission of imposing a Jefferson-Franklin style Constitutional republic on a people having no Christian consensus to make it work. To date, 2,347 Americans have died in Afghanistan.

In 2003, Bush, again with a vision drawn by the likes of neocons—Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, and Rice—embarked on an elective war in Iraq, a nation carved out in the aftermath of World War I. While Saddam Hussein toppled in short order, we created a power vacuum that violent Islamic factions quickly filled. By 2005, Sunnis and Shiites were engaged in open civil war, long after we declared an end to “major hostilities”. Ultimately, 4,491 Americans died in Iraq.

The removal of military forces from Iraq, as well as our support of Syrian rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, have given birth to a menacing new Islamic group—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)–which has overrun most of Iraq. Today, Iraq is struggling to survive the onslaught of ISIS, whereas the Taliban controls Afghanistan just as they did on September 10, 2001. President Obama, who marketed himself as an anti-war President in 2008, has now committed more than 3,000 “military advisors” to Iraq to combat ISIS.

The Middle East is worse-off today than on September 10, 2001. And much of the blame for this rests firmly on the backs of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Against this backdrop, Buchanan rightly questions the wisdom of the neocons who from their foxholes in US think tanks promote military action against Iran and increased saber-rattling with Russia.

Whatever his faults, Russian President Vladimir Putin is exerting the same influence in his region that the United States has influenced in her hemisphere. If Europeans consider Putin a threat, then they can take it up with him; it’s none of our concern. War with Russia is about the worst idea on the table: two nuclear powers engaging in the very escalated conflict that we won by avoiding in the Cold War. To paraphrase Clancy (Red Storm Rising), neither side can win, but both sides can lose.

As for Iran, while the Islamic regime is not friendly toward the United States, their having nuclear weapons would hardly be without precedent in that region, as India, Pakistan, Russia, and Israel—each within a stone’s throw of Iran—are nuclear powers. Nor would a nuclear Iran be the only country hostile to the United States to have such weapons, as North Korea has them, and Pakistan and Russia, at best, are “frienemies”. And while Khameini and Rouhani are hardly the stable, pro-Western leaders we would prefer in Iran, they are perfectly rational compared to the Kim regime in North Korea. 

For all their noise, Iran is not a viable threat to the security of the United States. If they are a threat to Israel, then Israel can fight them. It is hardly our job to fight Israel’s wars. To suggest otherwise has no Biblical precedent.  The church must decide “who” or “what” is Israel – real estate or a person/people. 

As ugly as the Cold War was, our victory was possible in no small part due to President Reagan’s ability to pick his battles wisely.

Reagan held a hard line, even as he welcomed Russian President Gorbachev to the table. Reagan built a military capable of defending our borders without engaging in unwise brinkmanship with our enemies. In the aftermath of the Marine barracks bombing in 1983, Reagan wisely chose not to become entangled in the bottomless pit of war in the Middle East. Instead, he focused on the real threat: the Soviet Union.

On January 20, 1989, President Reagan left office with a Cold War victory, and with a Middle East that was no worse than when he took office. He did not allow hawks of the day to draw him into endless wars.

Just as Americans dismissed the Obama agenda on November 4, they must also dismiss the corrosive agenda of the neocons.

They have cost Americans more in lives and dollars than the September 11 hijackers.

Against this backdrop, Buchanan rightly questions the wisdom of the Neocons who from their foxholes in US think tanks promote military action against Iran and increased saber-rattling with Russia.  He cites in particular the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, whose leaders were given generous space to promote their war-mongering in the Wall Street Journal.  The Foundation is highly funded by a small billionaires club who would buy U.S. foreign policy to start a preemptive nuclear war against Iran and Syria.  Who are these billionaires?  Buchanan names Home Depot’s Bernard Marcus who gave $10.7 million, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer who gave $3.6 million, and Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas-Macau casino kingpin, who gave  $1.5 million to the foundation.  It is naive indeed to believe that making the whole world a democracy will solve centuries of violence and hatred that are inbred in Middle East dictatorships. But when you put that many millions behind it, the idea gains traction no matter how ill conceived.