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Thursday, October 29, 2020
HomeOpinionIs Trump the Peace Candidate?

Is Trump the Peace Candidate?

Trump-Putin-AP-Reuters
Trump-Putin-AP-Reuters

New York businessman Donald J. Trump, left, and Vladimir Putin. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP; Reuters)

With Democrats howling that Vladimir Putin hacked into and leaked those 19,000 DNC emails to help Trump, the Donald had a brainstorm: Maybe the Russians can retrieve Hillary Clinton’s lost emails.

Not funny, and close to “treasonous,” came the shocked cry.

Trump then told the New York Times that a Russian incursion into Estonia need not trigger a U.S. military response.

Even more shocking. By suggesting the U.S. might not honor its NATO commitment, under Article 5, to fight Russia for Estonia, our foreign-policy elites declaimed, Trump has undermined the security architecture that has kept the peace for 65 years.

More interesting, however, was the reaction of Middle America. Or, to be more exact, the nonreaction. Americans seem neither shocked nor horrified. What does this suggest?

Behind the war guarantees America has issued to scores of nations in Europe, the Mideast and Asia since 1949, the bedrock of public support that existed during the Cold War has crumbled.

We got a hint of this in 2013. Barack Obama, claiming his “red line” against any use of poison gas in Syria had been crossed, found he had no public backing for air and missile strikes on the Assad regime.

The country rose up as one and told him to forget it. He did.

We have been at war since 2001. And as one looks on the ruins of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and adds up the thousands dead and wounded and trillions sunk and lost, can anyone say our War Party has served us well?

On bringing Estonia into NATO, no Cold War president would have dreamed of issuing so insane a war guarantee.

Eisenhower refused to intervene to save the Hungarian rebels. JFK refused to halt the building of the Berlin Wall. LBJ did nothing to impede the Warsaw Pact’s crushing of the Prague Spring. Reagan never considered moving militarily to halt the smashing of Solidarity.

Were all these presidents cringing isolationists?

Rather, they were realists who recognized that, though we prayed the captive nations would one day be free, we were not going to risk a world war, or a nuclear war, to achieve it. Period.

In 1991, President Bush told Ukrainians that any declaration of independence from Moscow would be an act of “suicidal nationalism.”

Today, Beltway hawks want to bring Ukraine into NATO. This would mean that America would go to war with Russia, if necessary, to preserve an independence Bush I regarded as “suicidal.”

Have we lost our minds?

The first NATO supreme commander, Gen. Eisenhower, said that if U.S. troops were still in Europe in 10 years, NATO would be a failure. In 1961, he urged JFK to start pulling U.S. troops out, lest Europeans become military dependencies of the United States.

Was Ike not right? Even Barack Obama today riffs about the “free riders” on America’s defense.

Is it really so outrageous for Trump to ask how long the U.S. is to be responsible for defending rich Europeans who refuse to conscript the soldiers or pay the cost of their own defense, when Eisenhower was asking that same question 55 years ago?

In 1997, geostrategist George Kennan warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe “would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era.” He predicted a fierce nationalistic Russian response.

Was Kennan not right? NATO and Russia are today building up forces in the eastern Baltic where no vital U.S. interests exist, and where we have never fought before – for that very reason.

There is no evidence Russia intends to march into Estonia, and no reason for her to do so. But if she did, how would NATO expel Russian troops without air and missile strikes that would devastate that tiny country?

And if we killed Russians inside Russia, are we confident Moscow would not resort to tactical atomic weapons to prevail? After all, Russia cannot back up any further. We are right in her face.

On this issue Trump seems to be speaking for the silent majority and certainly raising issues that need to be debated.

How long are we to be committed to go to war to defend the tiny Baltic republics against a Russia that could overrun them in 72 hours?

When, if ever, does our obligation end? If it is eternal, is not a clash with a revanchist and anti-American Russia inevitable?

Are U.S. war guarantees in the Baltic republics even credible?

If the Cold War generations of Americans were unwilling to go to war with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union over Hungary and Czechoslovakia, are the millennials ready to fight a war with Russia over Estonia?

Needed now is diplomacy.

The trade-off: Russia ensures the independence of the Baltic republics that she let go. And NATO gets out of Russia’s face.

Should Russia dishonor its commitment, economic sanctions are the answer, not another European war.

Written by
Columnist

Pat Buchanan has been a senior adviser to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. From 1966 through 1974, Buchanan was a confidant and assistant to Richard Nixon. From 1985 to 1987, he was the White House Director of Communications for Ronald Reagan. In 1992, Buchanan challenged George H. W. Bush for the Republican nomination and almost upset the president in the New Hampshire primary. In 1996, he won New Hampshire and finished second to Sen. Robert Dole with 3 million Republican votes. Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C., educated at Catholic and Jesuit schools, and received his master's degree in journalism from Columbia in 1962. At 23, he became the youngest editorial writer on a major newspaper in America, The St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In 1966, Buchanan became the first full-time staff member in the legendary comeback of Richard Nixon. He traveled with the future president in the campaigns of 1966 and 1968, and served as special assistant to the president from his first day in office through the final days of Watergate. On leaving the White House, Buchanan became a columnist and founding father of three of the most enduring talk shows in TV history: "The McLaughlin Group," CNN's "Capital Gang" and "Crossfire." In 2002, he joined MSNBC where he remained for ten years. In his White House years, Buchanan wrote foreign policy speeches and attended four summits, including Nixon's opening to China in 1972 and Reagan's Geneva and Reykjavik summits with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 and 1986. Buchanan has written 12 books, including seven New York Times best-sellers: "A Republic Not an Empire," "Death of the West," "Where the Right Went Wrong," "State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America," "Day of Reckoning," "Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War,” and "Suicide of a Superpower,” as well as a Washington Post 1988 best-seller about growing up in the nation's capital, "Right From the Beginning." He is married to the former Shelley Ann Scarney, a member of the White House staff from 1969 to 1975.

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