The Antiwar Right and the New Cold War
(July 31, 2019) — Scott Horton: Alright, you guys. On the line, I’ve got the great Pat Buchanan. He is the author of Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War … that’s a quote from Churchill there, “unnecessary war.” Also A Republic, Not an Empire, and a lot of other great books, and, of course, 10 million articles, about 90% of which we republish at Antiwar.com since he is so good on foreign policy. Welcome back to the show, Pat. How are you doing?
Pat Buchanan: Good to talk to you, Scott. I’m doing just fine.
Horton: Yeah, very happy to have you back on the show here. Listen, so I have so much to talk to you about. I’m not sure where to begin. But, yeah, I am. I was wondering if you could talk to the young people for a minute here about the end of the Cold War, fall of the Soviet empire, but particularly the paleoconservative split away from the rest of the conservative movement, which was, I guess, led by the neoconservative movement, and the rise of this antiwar right wing or the break off of Jude Wanniski and Scott McConnell and some of your friends from back then, and how all that developed through the ’90s, and then your perspective then at the dawn of the Terror War in the 21st century here?
Buchanan: Well, this is quite a turning point in American political history. I had been a supporter of the Cold War and every American intervention and war in it, except for one. That was when I urged Reagan not to send the troops into Lebanon because I didn’t see that as in our vital interest or part of this global confrontation with the Soviet empire.
But, when the Soviet empire collapsed and the Warsaw Pact dissolved in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics, and the Red Army was pulled out of Germany and went home, and then the Russian Federation broke up into 15 countries, I said, “Look, the war is over.” The war that defined my entire life, from the time I went into journalism and politics in the early ’60s, JFK’s time.
I said, “That’s over. If the Russians are … if they’re really going home, we ought to go home and let the Europeans undertake their own defense and let them have NATO. The American troops can come out. We can make some kind of arrangements with them but basically leave the defense of it up to Europe. Europe will be up to Europe. A Russia that is free and independent, and has broken away from the Soviet empire, and given up communism is not an enemy of the United States. We ought to try to make it a friend.”
During the ’90s and up until the first decade … into the first decade of the new century, one of the main things I did, and George Kennan was right there as well, was urge the United States not to bring Eastern Europe or any of those Warsaw Pact countries and certainly not the Baltic states … much as we appreciated them being free, to not bring them into NATO, to not put our own military alliance on Russia’s front porch because the reaction is predictable.
They’re going to see they’ve been treated as a recidivist or someone who is going to be a real problem. You took advantage of our victory in the Cold War or the triumph of the western anti-communism and the Capitalist West. Then, you’re imposing our system or imposing our NATO alliance right there in Eastern Europe is going to bring real trouble. It has proceeded to do so and I think we produced Putin. More than that, I think Putin’s hostility to the West is not altogether unjustified given what we did when they basically laid down their weaponry and went home.
That was the break. I can recall some meetings and gatherings of folks where when I started talking about, “Let’s go home from … let’s give NATO to the Europeans and bring the troops home,” they were stunned. Many of them were neocons and they said, “We’ve got to keep troops in there and we need them for the Middle East. We need them for this, we need them for that.” Under Clinton, and Bush I, and even Obama, the whole interventionist foreign policy that has led to the tremendous disasters we’ve got now, that was adopted and embraced. Take a look at the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen.
What are they … six or seven trillion dollars, 7,000 dead, scores of thousands of wounded and injured, a total distraction from what we ought to be doing. Where are the fruits of this intervention and this Intervention Uber Alles, if you will? They’re really nonexistent, but this is where … it was the break point. I was very much a Cold Warrior. The Cold War was what took me into journalism, and then into politics, and then into the White House, and then to writing a column. But, I was a Cold Warrior because I felt it was my country and civilization that were under pressure, and under threat and under peril.
As I say, when the communist empire collapsed, and communism died, and the Soviet empire disintegrated, and the Soviet Union broke apart into 15 independent countries, that war was over. We should have come home. Now, we find ourselves drifting toward another conflict in the Middle East with Iran, which, I trust, the president can keep us out of.
Horton: Well, I’m glad to hear you say you can trust that… So I want to go back to that time for a second, that, by the time Bush, Sr. wanted to go for Iraq War I, you were clearly against that. In fact, there’s a great video of you, and my partner, Sheldon Richman, and a few others … I’m trying to remember … Joe Sobran and a couple others, the Committee Against the Middle East Holocaust. You can see them on YouTube.
Buchanan: Phil Nicolaides, Sam Francis.
Horton: Sam Francis. Oh.
Buchanan: Let me say this to give you the scoop, the committee raised $13,000 to the million-plus that the pro-war groups got from the enemies. The largest contributor to the Committee to Avert a Nuclear Holocaust was me.
Horton: Well, you guys did great work in that one YouTube I saw.
Buchanan: We did great work. It was great working with those guys. My friend, Phil, died soon after. Sam Francis died about 10 years later.
Horton: Well, this is important to show…
Buchanan: But, they were a good group. They’re a very brave, gutsy group.
Horton: Yeah. It’s important for people to understand that, especially when you’re young and you’re raised in public school and everything is told as though it was all written in stone beforehand or, at least, everything that did happen was inevitable, it had to have happened or it wouldn’t have happened kind of thing. Here, it is, “Told you so from the very beginning. The USSR is gone. Why would we go on a new crusade in the Middle East? That’s nothing but trouble,” said a bunch of people who knew better back before it started.
Buchanan: Sure, sure. The Middle East and … as you know … and, after the … with that war, of course, it was George H.W. Bush. He was indispensable. He said, “This will not stand.” I knew we were going to go to war because I knew the former-president very well. When he said, “This will not stand,” I think in August of 1990, I knew it. I knew he was going to war. But, I will say, I think it was 52 to 48 in the Senate to authorize the war. You can double check that. But, I think Sam Nunn even, who was a strong Democrat, voted against authorization for the war.
The American people didn’t want the war really. I know they were … when the war started and all that new weaponry was seen on television, I think the American people … Bush rose to 90%. People were talking about a great president for the United States, one of the greatest in our history. He was at 90%. I think, around June of 1991, when I went down to that … it was quite something. I went down to the parade on Constitution Avenue where all the military, 8,000 troops, they had stealth aircraft going overhead, they had the new Abrams tanks … were coming up Constitution Avenue, and all their … what was then the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and things.
It was quite a parade. I said to myself, “This is what it must’ve been like when the legions came home from Gaul and marched through the streets of Rome,” so … that we are an empire. Bush was at 90%. Six months later or five months later, I went into the primaries against him.
Horton: Yeah. Yeah, and made a pretty good showing, too.
Buchanan: I think, after 10 weeks, coming off a talk show at about 5% the polls and getting 37% in New Hampshire … yeah, about 37% of Georgia.
Horton: You know what? I’m sorry to go get diverted off into this, but I’m curious now, at what point did Perot announce he was running as an independent there? Because, that probably threw a big monkey wrench in your works, right?
Buchanan: Well, here’s the … yeah. New Hampshire, I believe … was it February? Anyhow, it was on a Tuesday and it was on Thursday night on Larry King, I believe, two days after that primary, that Perot said that he would be available to run for president if they put him on a national ticket. There was no doubt that the country was really … there was a huge slice of the country that was tremendously underrepresented, a huge slice of it in the Republican Party. Eventually, I think a number of the Buchanan voters voted for Perot in the general election. But, the point is, the country … it was amazing that Bill Clinton … that he won against someone that with all the problems he had on the draft, and things, and personal behavior … that he defeated the President of the United States who had been at 90%.
Horton: Yeah. As Bush, Jr. learned the lesson, that war ended too soon. He should’ve gone all the way to Baghdad. Then, that way, we would’ve still been in the fight. You can’t change horses in midstream. Then, things would have been better for him.
Buchanan: Well, I think I was really … we were very strong against going to war against Iraq with the WMD. Matter of fact, that’s the beginning of the American Conservative magazine, was set up as one of the major reasons was to stop the drive to war in Iraq. We failed to stop it. Look what’s happened as a consequence.
Horton: Yeah. Well, let me mention that article, “Whose War?,” is a classic. There’s quite a few of them. But, “Whose War?” that you wrote in, I guess, early 2003, right before the war, is extremely important there at the American Conservative magazine.
You mentioned Iran now and the danger of war. But, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Well, what’s the problem? What’s happened recently that means that we have to go to war with them now? I heard there was some provocation with a ship or something.” But, it seems surprising, I think, to the average person to think that, “Oh, geez, back in the Bush years, we talked about bombing Iran. It never happened. Why now? What is the deal? What’s the problem?” Pat, can you explain it to us?
Buchanan: Well, I think part of it is what was the initiative of the United States. I will say this, President Trump, whom I supported and still support, he was determined and he was convinced by folks near him and by his own looking at it that the Iran nuclear deal was a disaster. I think when he looked at it and said they got back what was somewhere between 50 and 150 billion … but that was money that … as I recall, that the shah had left behind. We kept it and it built up a lot of interest on it. He gave him back … we gave him back the money and we got a deal. Let me talk to you a little bit about the deal…
Horton: Wait, just stick with that point for a minute. Isn’t it funny? You have to give even John Kerry credit for that, that that was our side of the deal, was giving them their own money back that we already owed them.
Buchanan: Exactly, we owed them the money. We said, “Okay, we’ll give you back your money.” But, the interesting thing is the standpoint of the Iranians. I am convinced that the Iranians, they may have considered a nuclear weapon up until 2003. But, it’s clear from all the investigations we’ve done that there was no effort to really build a bomb after 2003.
I remember it was in December, I think, of 2007, when Bush was being pushed to go to war against Iran because of the nuclear weapons, that the American intelligence community, all 16 or 17 agencies, said “with high confidence,” “Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.” It restated that again in 2011. Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. My thinking was quite simple. The Iranian said, “Look, we can probably build a bomb with a crash program and explode it. The Israelis have somewhere between 80 and 300 bombs. As Ahmadinejad himself said, “We build a bomb and the Americans got 5,000. How does that help us?”
I think they decided that a nuclear weapon quite simply would not be in their interest because the Americans and Israelis already had it. The Saudis would immediately get one, the Turks would probably get one. The Egyptians would get one and the Israeli bomb would be put on a hair trigger. The Middle East would be far more dangerous to them. They decided, “Look, we’re better off not having a nuclear weapon. Because, what can it do for us? It’s a suicidal weapon for us.” They decided not to build the bomb and all they had to do to get back their 150 billion was convince the Americans that that they were not doing what they were not doing.
They brought in all these inspectors, and cameras, and things. It was a slam dunk for the Iranians. You’ve got a pretty good deal. If I tell you I’m not going to buy an AK-47 to defend my house, and I don’t have one, and you can come in and check it out, and you’re going to give me something to prove that, that’s simple. That’s how the Iranians … I think they … very wisely and I don’t think they want a weapon now. I’m not sure why they would want one and I think that’s how the whole deal came about. But, I don’t know why we scrapped it. Okay. You could have improved upon it and make it last longer. Sure. Maybe more inspections, although I don’t know what we’re not seeing and also maybe bring the missiles in under the nuclear deal. That’s fine. But, I think it was a mistake to trash the deal and impose sanctions, and then tell the Iranians, “You got to come to the table.” They’ve decided to resist.
Horton: Yeah, it seems like the Maximum Pressure Campaign has made it where neither the ayatollah or Trump have a way out of this with saving much face.
Buchanan: Oh, I think neither of us wants a war. The ayatollah doesn’t want it. They would simply … whatever they could do to us, they would sustain terrible losses if you had a major war, terrible setbacks. The United States, it could be a hellish mess in the Persian Gulf and affect the world economy, and the American economy, and our alliances. What is the purpose at the end of it? It’s to get them to give up the idea of having a nuclear weapon. Of course, I guess the new Pompeo demand is you stop the mischief in the Middle East.
In my judgment, Iran has never been really an aggressive power and that it has not started any of the wars in the Middle East. They didn’t invade Afghanistan, they didn’t invade Iraq, they didn’t knock over Gaddafi. They didn’t go into Yemen. What happened was, it was the Americans, and the Arab Spring, and all the rest of it that brought the changes. They’ve reacted and basically defended their friends and allies, which are primarily Shia.
Horton: Yeah, and all in circumstances that the Americans created for them, especially as you say there. Well, I don’t know, I guess, as long as John Bolton there, there’s a problem. But, what if he wasn’t there? You think anybody else in that position could find an easy way out of this? Because, again, American demands are so maximalist that there should be plenty of room to climb down there, right?
Buchanan: I think so. I think the key point here is that Trump doesn’t want a war, that he’s never wanted a war, that he just wants to get out of the Middle East, and that he’s frustrated that he hasn’t been able to move more expeditiously to take us out. I think he’s totally resistant and he understands that it could be politically devastating if he got into another long war with Iran that did damage to both of us, and settled nothing, and left us sitting there in the Middle East where he had promised to make an effort to withdraw. I think that’s the key, is Trump. It’s not Bolton. I think if it were up to Bolton and the secretary of state, Mister Pompeo, I think we’d already be in a shooting war.
Buchanan: But, I think the narrow issue is how they get the ships back. I think the way to do it is, frankly, the Brits are going to have to let that Iranian vessel go that they’ve got in Gibraltar, I think, in return for the Iranians given up the British vessel or whoever owns it. I guess there’s a lot of question about who really owns it, who’s leasing it, and who’d cruise it.
Horton: Yeah. Well, that’s low-level stuff that ought to be worked out. It just depends if there’s a will at the top to allow it to happen, but…
Buchanan: I think there is a will. There certainly is one on the part of the Iranians.
Buchanan: It’s quite obvious that they’re willing to talk. There is a division there, I think, between the ayatollah… between Rouhani and the foreign minister, and the ayatollah. I think there’s a divergence there. But, it’s clear, it seems to me, that the Iranians are … what they’re doing is very … some of it’s, in ways … they’re putting those limpet mines on those tankers. I think they probably did that.
But, in capturing that ship and shooting down the American drone, that was 130 million bucks … but it still seems to be very, very programmed, if you will, where we go up thus far and no further or response retaliation only in kind that suggest they do not want the war anymore than we do.
But, it also suggests that they’re not going to allow us to basically starve their country to death or choke it to death with these sanctions. I think you got to … and I think … again, I think Trump’s willing to talk.
Horton: Well, I guess the news was that he confirmed, after denying it at first, that he has appointed Rand Paul to some sort of position there to talk to Zarif. That’s, I guess, the best shot we’ve got for right now.
Buchanan: We want Rand on the golf course and not the fellow from South Carolina.
Horton: Yeah. Well, I heard, from a friend, that Rand and Trump were making fun of Lindsey Graham the whole time out there golfing because of his hawkish attitude. I hope that Rand is really that good of an influence on Trump. I don’t know. Can I ask you one more thing real quick?
Horton: It’s a big one, though. But, I know you know a lot about this and care a lot about it, too, is I wonder what you think the Palestinians’ best move is now that the two-state solution is, I think, essentially officially canceled and they face, I guess, recognition globally, whether de facto or de jure, that the West Bank, if not Gaza, has already really been annexed.
Buchanan: I don’t know what they mean by that. The Palestinians are caught in a very rough situation. I think there have been offers in the past that I thought were pretty good … I think Ehud Barak’s offer around the year 2000, if they could have put that really deal together where the Palestinians would have gotten most, almost all of the West Bank, was not a bad deal. But, I think, for the time being, there’s really nothing that can be done. The president is solidly with Bibi Netanyahu. He’s endorsed the annexation of the Golan Heights and the annexation of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, and all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
They’ve cut off the Palestinians, I guess, from access to the American consul in Jerusalem or retired the consul. They’ve cut off aid and I think that the situation is such.
I don’t know that the Israelis can annex and hold the West Bank, and annex the whole place, and deny the Palestinians a right of self-determination without themselves having a terrible problem of creating a de facto apartheid state where the Palestinians are second or third-class citizens. On the West Bank, they’re really constricted. I don’t know how that is a longterm proposition and I think many Israelis believe that it is not.
But, again, I think this is going to take a good while for this to sort itself out. Right now, for the Palestinians, I’m not sure exactly what they would do.
My guess is what they’ll try to do is go through the UN and get world opinion, at least, and as much of European and western opinion as they can united against what the United States is doing.
Horton: Yeah, yeah. They really don’t have any other cards to play than just sympathy.
Buchanan: I don’t think they do.
Horton: Yeah, all right. Well, listen, it’s been great to talk to you again.
Buchanan: Okay, you take it easy.
Horton: Really appreciate it. Alright, you guys. That’s Pat Buchanan. He wrote Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, and Republic, Not Empire, and a bunch of other books like that. We run his articles all the time at Antiwar.com. You can find them in the right hand margin there. Here’s a couple, “Russiagate is No Watergate” – a great one, “Trump: War President or Anti-Interventionist?,” “Is a New US Mideast War Inevitable?,” and more like that all Antiwar.com. All right, y’all. Thanks. Find me at LibertarianInstitute.org, at ScottHorton.org, Antiwar.com, and Reddit.com/ScottHortonShow. Oh, yeah. Read my book, Fool’s Errand: Timed to End the War in Afghanistan, at foolserrand.us.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM
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