The situation right after the Tomahawks destroyed the Syrian air force on the ground appears to be that the Soviets, excuse me, the Russians, made a perfunctory naval maneuver in the eastern Mediterranean to demonstrate they are not wimps and then contented themselves with a stiff protest and a warning, seconded by the Persian mullahcrats, that we had better lay off Syria’s appalling regime — those guys love Bashir Assad — or else.
You do not want a shooting war with the Russians, but there is a Jacksonian reflex in every American, and you almost wish they had gone a few waves too far and got the response they deserved, torpedoes in the hull!
Might not be such a bad idea, either. However, that is for the strategy big-thinkers to determine. What needs underscoring here is that while the swamp creatures in Washington whine and pant and cannot figure out how come a “not-suited for the presidency” man is in real fact doing a presidential thing, after letting Americans watch, for eight years, how to play at being president without doing anything in the service either of freedom and human rights (the Wilsonian idea of American foreign policy, by no means contemptible) or of the national interest (the Jacksonian idea, legitimate likewise).
We noted in this space back when they were all piling on the insurgent candidate and, later, president-elect, that whatever the eccentricities of last year’s campaign and no matter the bad manners of civil servants who probably ought to be fired or demoted for the way they used their positions for political ends, you, the reader, as a normal person, ought to ignore the sore losers, put politics on the backburner, and watch an effective and pragmatic government get to work. Comments — and criticisms, welcome, of course, but hold the hysteria.
It might well have happened this way, save for the radical Democrats’ shenanigans. The president-elect was calling upon serious, experienced, sober men to join his Cabinet. Think back and you are hard put to remember a more sober, experienced, serious Cabinet in living memory. If you can, TAS will send you a prize. (This is on Mr. Tyrrell, not me.)
Now President Trump is showing that he meant what he said. Forget about the campaign excesses — mostly on the Democratic side, note: What is more excessive, an arguably insensitive remark about a former Republican president or calling a legitimate candidate a fascist and a Hitler? Who is then more responsible for debasing the American political system and showing contempt for what America stands for? But forget that stuff. On substance, as we repeatedly noted in this space, Trump was a radical only in the sense of wanting to move aggressively against radical political conventions that have not worked.
Hitting the Assad regime and warning it could happen again, putting the North Korean crazies on notice, is not radical. It is what any normal American has longed for, for a long time. The long wait, in fact, is one important reason that woman was the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have fielded, seeing as how she represents the Long Wait, aka the Washington Way of Doing Things (and getting nothing done.)
In foreign affairs, the key objection to the Democrats, even by the most ardent Republican and conservative Never-Trump faction, was that the Obama administration, in keeping with long-term trends on the American liberal-progressive side, was making the world more, not less, dangerous by kowtowing to tyrants, appeasing aggressor rogue states, lying about Benghazi and other mistakes and their appalling consequences, and in short blaming everybody but themselves for a deteriorating international situation.
Now the bien-pensant polite conservatives, such as Mr. David Brooks, who became something of a weathervane for this milieu after he left the Wall Street Journal some years ago, is applauding, albeit with one hand only, the “surprising” Trump initiative in the eastern Med. How is it a surprise? Mr. David Ignatius, no weathervane he but one of the last of the true-blue Truman liberals and a well-informed working journalist, expresses the wish-it-were-so view on his side that the prez is splitting the difference between Jackson and Wilson and hitting the savages on both liberal (or humanitarian) interventionist grounds and national-interest ones.
Bully to both of these gents, if it makes them happy. But why not give credit where credit is due? This is the fight-back containment doctrine in action. It sends the right message to the usual suspects, warns them they are on the waiting list. After all, why not hit North Korea, which the secretary of defense, James Mattis, a proponent of classic containment doctrine, has named a top threat to our security and stability and peace in Asia.
Obviously it all depends what you mean by hit. You do not want to kill millions of North Koreans or even thousands — this is a prisoner population and if there ever have been victims of totalitarianism who deserve rescue, not death, they are it. But by showing we are serious, as per the attack on Assad’s Soviet-trained (now Russian-maintained) air force, we begin the neglected work of watching out for America by hitting bad guys.
In the North Korean case, what we need is to get a coalition together, consisting of Asian allies and other willing coalitioneers. Their job, after the Kim Pork Chop Suey regime is knocked out, will be to police the region formerly known as North Korea. South Koreans, Japanese, Mongolians — the manpower is there. Plus, they can pay for it.
The same concept applies to the Middle East and SW Asia. Subcontracting security to regional allies is not a new concept. Mr. Nixon (the Mr. is for you, Ben Stein) was well on his way to applying it successfully when a Democratic Party-instigated non-military coup d’état brought him low, undermined the international order, wrecked our last chance for victory in Vietnam, and gave a big kick on the accelerator to the chronic illness of American democracy, house-divided syndrome.
Admittedly it is easy to say this with 20/20 hindsight, but at this point, you may as well forget about the whole catalogue of make-the-world-safe-for-democracy dear to liberal interventionists from Wilson to Bush Jr., who frankly would have been better off listening to Colin Powell than Donald Rumsfeld and his egghead deputy, the kind of intellectual my grandmother used to describe as “smart, smart, stupid.” Personally I always thought Mr. Wolfowitz, a thoughtful man, was over-influenced, or over-stimulated, by a close friend of his who — but never mind what I thought.
It is not that we at TAS are against making the world safe for democracy, but you cannot square a circle, and if your security force is composed of regional powers and willing coalitioneers, you are not going to get democracy in the savage regions on which we must keep the lid in order to avoid a world war. If you have treacherous, back-stabbing, fanatical and cowardly Saudi Arabs policing one part of Iraq while even worse Persians tighten the grip they already have nearby, you are going to get not democracy but Arabo-Muslim tyranny, and those guys do not play patty cake. Best we can do for now.
We must save free Kurdistan, of course — in the containment paradigm, they are our West Berlin in a hostile neighborhood. Make it clear: Mess with the Kurds, we bomb you. In the Mideast regional context, wherein we must consider ourselves to be at war, hot or cold, with the entire Muslim world until they show us why we should not be, they are a second Israel, and none too soon.
By promoting Kurdistan, we take some of the pressure off Israel, with a free, and armed, Kurdistan a permanent reminder to the enslaved Arab masses of what could be, and some day perchance will be. Forget about Kuwait, Qatar, the Emirates, whatever fakers they have down there, and other “moderate Arab states.” We may find it useful and necessary to protect tyrannical regimes in Egypt or Jordan or what-all because the alternatives are worse, but the money should be on those who fight for their own freedom, Israel, Kurdistan, and other non-Arabs in the regions of the umma. But that is for another day.