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A Foreign Policy Discussion

Written by Pat Buchanan and Tony Blankley

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This past June, Right Side News attended the American Cause conference in McLean, Virginia. The American Cause has urged the conservative movement and Republican Party to reject foreign interventionism, globalist trade , open borders, and big government. A lively discussion on foreign policy between Tony Blankely and Pat Buchanan ensued. Terry Jeffrey introduced the discussion.

TERRY JEFFREY: Tony (Tony Blankley pictured left), you had mentioned Grenada.  Jeane Kirkpatrick published a book posthumously, "Making War to Keep the Peace," in which she did a brutal critique of President George W. Bush's foreign policy, saying she rejected the invasion of Iraq.  She wanted to draw a bright line between Bush's foreign policy and Reagan's.  Essentially, she said, "We helped the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, but we didn't invade Afghanistan; we helped freedom fighters in Nicaragua, but we didn't invade Nicaragua." 

        That was the Reagan doctrine: We advanced our interest, it was right, it worked.  She said we invaded Grenada because the lives of American medical students were in danger there, plus our actual treaty allies in the Region requested our intervention, but she said Reagan would not have done Iraq; that was basically her point.

        What do you think, would Reagan have done Iraq?

 

TONY BLANKLEY:   The reason some men are great men is because they have a judgment and an intuition that most of us don't have, so we would tend to take a great man, whether it's a Lincoln, or a Reagan or a Churchill and mechanically project out what he's said or done in the past and say, "Well, he would do this." 

        I'm not dodging it, but as Pat was saying, to see him (Reagan) simply as a war hawk was always a mistake.  His opponents and a lot of his supporters saw it that way, but the subtlety and the balance and the sentiment that he had, as well as the understanding of life that he had seen, took a lot of that ideological purity out of him, so I don't know how he would have gone; but I think he would have judged it on a basis of realism.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the question may have been "is it realistically useful, do we need to do it?"

        The truth is the only thing in Grenada was a 10,000 foot runway.  We didn't really need to take Grenada, and I know there were some medical students there that we were able to use as a reason to get there, but I think Reagan was trying to make some bigger point when he went to Grenada; it was the first time American troops fought abroad after Vietnam.  You could make an argument, that in the face of radical Islam, we needed to show to that part of the world and to that culture that we were prepared to fight and die and show the flag.

        In that case, it could have been Iraq, it could have been Saudi Arabia, it could have been anything.  But the instinct is to show your strength, and show your willingness to sacrifice, to let the enemy know, "you've got to deal with us, you're not dealing with somebody who's going to negotiate away a danger, necessarily." 

        So, I'm not going to say which way Reagan would go, but I think he did see the value of showing the flag, and he showed the judgment and the courage to admit when it had been a mistake, as he did in Lebanon.

PAT BUCHANAN:  Let me say, I don't think Nixon, Bush One, or President Reagan would have gone into Iraq.  I think that was driven by the conviction and the belief that came upon the President, after 9/11, when I think he was virtually "converted" to this neo-con doctrine, "we're going to end tyranny in our world, and unless that part of the world is democratic, we can never, ever be secure," and I think that's what motivated him.  Obviously, Bush Sr. did not go to Baghdad; he said, "Let's shut this down, right here."

        On Grenada, Tony, there are about 110,000 people on the island, I don't know if you went down there with Reagan, when Reagan visited Grenada, but there were about 110,000 people on the island, and we found about 110,000 AK-47's!  We didn't think they were all for the Grenadans!  And they had a 10,000 foot runway which looks like it could accommodate Russian planes coming a long distance, and frankly, Ronald Reagan was not going to let the potential hostage situation arise; he was going to take care of the hostage situation before it arose.  And I think, basically, this was a base camp of the "evil empire;" that's why I was for that, where I was against Iraq, and that's why I think Reagan thought the same thing.

TONY BLANKLEY:  I was just making the point that in El Salvador and Nicaragua, we found surrogates to fight it, and in Grenada, we sent our own people in, maybe because surrogates weren't available.  I was only making the point that while Reagan used surrogates there, rather than troops; it wasn't that he was not prepared to send troops in if it was useful.

TERRY JEFFREY:  Pat, the top priority of U.S. foreign policy has been to stop the regime in Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Do you think the U.S. can stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon, and if so, how?

PAT BUCHANAN:  Yes I do. But I'm not totally convinced that the Iranian regime wants to test a nuclear device, explode it, and then put it on a missile. 

        First, The United States and Israel would both put their nuclear arsenals on "hair triggers," and they'd be in real danger, frankly, of a strike by the Israelis; second, they would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with the Turks, the Saudis and the Egyptians going for nuclear weapons as well; third, that would not leave them more secure.  I think they'd want the capacity to understand and be able to build if they have to, which I think the South Koreans have, and I think the Japanese have.  So, I'm not sure they actually want the nuclear bomb or that they'd want to test it.

        However, here's the offer I would make to them.  I would say, "Look, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty you have every right to enrich uranium, you've got the right to our help, you've got the right to your power plant and we also have a right to come in and inspect every single facility.  We don't trust you because of what you've hidden, but if we can get all these things done, then your right to nuclear peaceful power will be respected."

        I think that's the deal we ought to put on the table, and I think there's a possibility we can get that deal.  Also, the 2007 NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) said they've stopped trying to build nuclear weapons; that would be understandable. Khadifi saw what happened in Baghdad and said, "Maybe we can work something out.  This stuff isn't working in here anyhow, in this mountain." 

        I think the Iranians may have stopped their program there; I would really want to get members of Congress to find out.  I have found nowhere that there's been any diversion of this enriched uranium; none of it has been diverted elsewhere. It would take all of it (they've got about a thousand kilograms), to build one bomb, and it's all still sitting there.

        Now, do they have other centrifuges, thousands of them working?  Do they have an advanced centrifuge, where they re-enrich?  I don't know that they have that.

        One thing we don't want to do, Terry, for Heavens sake, we don't want another war based on "Geez, they're going to get a bomb, let's go after them."

 TONY BLANKLEY:  I would just ask, if you gave them that offer and they turned it down, and, based on evidence you saw, you were satisfied that they were going to develop nuclear weapons, what would your policy be?

PAT BUCHANAN:  I would not pre-commit to bomb them any more than we were pre-committed to what we did with North Korea. Here's the thing:  Is Iran, with a couple of nuclear weapons, a strategic threat to the United States?  The answer to me is no. Look, people say these guys are kooks, or radicals; Netanyahu says they're just a crazy cult that will use a weapon as soon as they get it. 

        Why haven't they started a war in 30 years?  If they wanted a war, I mean Ronald Reagan would have accommodated them in an afternoon; and George Bush said right on, "I don't think they want a war," because look at their country, it's half Persian, it's Baluchi, it's Arab, it's Azeris, it's all these different minorities.  Their country would come apart, families would be killed, their revolution would be over, and they get an atomic bomb and they've dropped it on Tel Aviv; they're going to do that and commit suicide?

        I think they are rational, frankly.

TONY BLANKLEY:  Assuming that they are rational, most people think that if they got a weapon, that Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would probably want to go nuclear; we would then have, from Pakistan to Turkey, including Israel, a nuclearized zone, which has been a zone of constant warfare for 3,000 years.  Is that worth avoiding, if we could avoid it, or is it better to manage it?

PAT BUCHANAN:  You're exactly right, that's probably what would happen, and then I think that the United States, with the exception of naval bases, would get out of the Middle East.  Given the volatility, the hatreds, I think nuclear states in there are not a good idea, and a nuclear war is a horrible idea; but if there is one, better that they be involved in it, not us.

TERRY JEFFREY:  A natural follow-up to the Iran question, Pat had mentioned North Korea.  Tony, the North Koreans do have nuclear weapons; it was reported they were cranking up a missile that they might aim in the direction of Hawaii.  What do you do about North Korea?

TONY BLANKLEY:  How many administrations so far have failed?  Frankly, I have not a clue about how to manage North Korea; nobody has, other than China.  China's the only entity capable of influencing North Korean policy.  North Korea's trade has gone up in the last years.  China has been trading more with them, so we don't have a "North Korea problem," we have a "China problem."  We have no influence with the Chinese, and they have no desire, obviously, to rein in the North Koreans.

        An interesting question is: Is China being short-sighted about managing North Korea, because China is having fun with North Korea and us because it creates problems for us with South Korea?  It generally is "in our face" and we have managed to stumble our way into being the primary advocate for stopping North Korea.  Eventually, that will cause South Korea and Japan to get nuclearized; it is not in China's interest to have that zone of their world nuclearized. 

        So, I would have thought that it would be in Chinese middle-term interest to stop them.  But it's not, and I don't think we're capable of influencing China.  I think we have to accept the reality, because we can't accept the war that North Korea could implement in South Korea.  They've got a plus-million-man army, they've got about 38,000 artillery pieces overlooking Seoul; the numbers are ridiculously overly formidable.  I don't think we have any choice.

PAT BUCHANAN:  I agree basically with everything Tony said. Frankly, none of the nuclear weapons have reached Hiroshima levels, and I think they're all partial nuclear explosions, but they're on their way, and they do have missiles, although they haven't married them yet; but I would tell the Chinese, "Look, Americans are trying to deal diplomatically, but if you don't do anything to bring this in, any restrictions we put on the South Koreans and the Japanese from getting nuclear weapons, and missile defense, and the whole thing, that's on the table.

        That's what you're going to be looking at; if those two countries get it, you better take a look at your friends on Taiwan."

        The Chinese are having a wonderful time here, and I think you've got to say, "Look, real interests of yours are being put at risk here," and frankly, the Japanese could probably build a nuclear weapon and explode one in three weeks!  They've got nuclear power plants that are fairly advanced technologically, and I understand that we caught the South Koreans fooling around and experimenting with this stuff; it wouldn't surprise me if they've got a secret program which is very close. 

        Terry, I guess we were saying, I felt the United States ground troops should be off the Korean Peninsula, right after the Cold War was over, to now tell the South Koreans, "Look, you've got an economy 40 times as big, a population twice as large, you got access to every weapon we've got, just about, and they've still got T-54 tanks and you have our air and naval support in the event of an attack." 

        Why should a bunch of Americans be the first to die in a second Korean war?

TERRY JEFFREY: Do you support the ongoing U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and do you think that President Obama is pursuing the right policy there?

TONY BLANKLEY:  I'm not sure I understand what we're hoping to accomplish in Afghanistan.  I understood what we were trying to accomplish when we went in, in 2001, and we accomplished it initially.  The Taliban government had given base rights to Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda had hit us, and we threw out their government; obviously we had to do that. 

        At this point, I don't know what we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan, or can accomplish.  With the tribal nature of Afghanistan, there's a reasonable chance that Iraq is going to work out as a functioning country that has some kind of representativeness and is not hostile to us.  I can't imagine that we can influence anything happening in Afghanistan that matters.  On the other hand, if you get a revolution in Iran, we may well have Iraq, Iran and Lebanon being no longer radical, dangerous places; I mean there's a lot of potential success. 

        I've been in Afghanistan; it is the most formidable territory.  I talked to some guys who were back from Afghanistan, who had also fought in Iraq; they say that Afghanistan is harder on the men and the material than Iraq is; just the physical conditions, the ability to get logistics in is so difficult, the roads don't go both ways, men can't live on bases, they've got to live out in the field. 

        It's a remarkably hard place to accomplish anything and you couldn't get in enough troops.  In Iraq, it's a desert, you can put in as many troops as you want to put in, the logistics work. In Afghanistan, you're driving trucks up the Khyber Pass, and then you can't move around without helicopters once you're there; and the helicopters, with the up and down drafts of the mountains, can crash if you're not careful. I mean, what are we doing there?

PAT BUCHANAN:  I'm inclined to agree with Tony in the Afghan theatre; I understand exactly why we went in, why we had to go in, why we had to take down the regime; they wouldn't deliver Osama Bin Laden.  We should have gone and gotten him and gotten as many of them killed, and captured as many as we could. But having done that, I wonder, what are we doing in Afghanistan?  People say, "Well, they plotted 9/11 in Afghanistan."

        Well, they plotted it in Del Rey Beach, out here in Virginia, in Arizona, some crazy guy was plotting it up in Minnesota, and they plotted it in Munich; in other words, they got their training there and they decide on this operation, and they came over here.  They can plot in Somalia, anywhere, and we can't go in and rebuild Somalia.  Somebody from the Council on Foreign Relations said, when those pirates stole that ship, "Well, that shows we've got to get into Somalia and create the kind of government that can prevent this crap from happening again."  We're going to Somalia now?

        I don't know what the objective is. It would be a nice thing to have a democratic government, but they've got war lords in the North, the Pashtun in the South, very hostile to all foreigners, always have been, and so I don't know what the need is; and I felt that Barack Obama moved too fast when he committed 18,000-20,000 troops to that request.  Apparently he did it to prevent a real disaster from happening in the spring.  Maybe that was right, but I keep looking at it; how long are we going to fight, and for what, because it certainly is destabilizing Pakistan, and they have 170 million people, and they have nuclear weapons.

        This is an example of "mission creep." 

 

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