Barack Obama sought as his legacy to bring an end to the two longest wars in U.S. history. On Oct. 15, he, again, admitted failure.
The 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will remain another year. And, on Inauguration Day 2017, 5,500 U.S. troops will still be there.
Why cannot we leave? Because, if we do, we risk the re-seizure of power by the Taliban we drove out 14 years ago, and a wipeout of all we have accomplished in America's longest war.
When can we come home? Never, if we hope to secure that for which we have already paid with 2,500 U.S. dead.
For not only have the Taliban shown they can capture cities like Kunduz in the north, ISIS has arrived to begin its trademark atrocities. One can only imagine what will happen to the men, women and girls we liberated when we leave, and Kabul falls. Think Saigon, 1975.
In reluctantly deciding not to depart, Obama seems to have learned the lesson of Iraq. There, we have gone back in with 3,000 U.S. troops, after the president had pulled out the last 10,000.
And what is the balance sheet now on Operation Iraqi Freedom, the bloodiest and most costly American war since Vietnam?
The Islamic State controls Mosul, Ramadi and the huge Sunni province of Anbar. Baghdad relies on U.S. air power against ISIS, but looks to Tehran for guidance. The Shiite militias indispensable to the regime's survival are, most of them, pro-ayatollah and anti-American.
Unloved and unappreciated, the American Empire soldiers on.
Understandably, President Obama does not want a collapse on his watch in Baghdad or Kabul, though he opposed the Iraq war and was never an enthusiast of nation-building in the Hindu Kush.
The liberal interventionists and neocons who goaded George W. Bush on got us into these wars. But they had no clue as to what would happen once we got in, and they have no idea today on how we can get out. Indeed, they have no desire to get out.
Rather, they want us to repudiate the nuclear deal that the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany negotiated with Iran, and impose new sanctions. And if Iran refuses to renegotiate and yield, they would happily exercise "all options on the table."
They would not rule out yet another American war, on Iran, which has a larger population than Afghanistan and Iraq put together, and is far better prepared and equipped to defend itself.
They want the United States to sustain the "good" rebels in Syria and to insist that "Assad must go." Asked who rises if Assad falls, if not ISIS, they dismiss the question.
But if ISIS is the enemy with whom we cannot deal, why do we not partner with Putin, the Iranians, the Syrian army of Bashar Assad and the Kurds to all pile on and annihilate ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Kerry's repetitive reply—"Assad must go!"
Vladimir Putin's retort—the Americans have "mush for brains."
Looking at what we sought to do with our interventions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, has any of them turned out as the war hawks predicted, or we had hoped? Do the prospects of any of these failed states look better for our intervention?
Yet the Beltway hawks now want to confront Russia in Syria and Ukraine, and are looking forward to challenging China's claims to islets in the Spratly chain by sailing U.S. warships inside the 12-mile limit.
Republican presidential candidates like Lindsey Graham are even talking up sending U.S. ground forces back into Iraq and into Syria.
What we could accomplish there, and when we could get out, are questions that are not only unanswered, they are unasked.
In analyzing the presidential race, the one conclusion upon which all agree is that the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent sentiment is far deeper and wider than most had imagined.
The surge in the polls of Bernie Sanders at the expense of Hillary Clinton, and of Donald Trump at the expense of the GOP establishment, are the political stories of the year.
And what do Socialist Sanders and Capitalist Trump have in common? Neither is an interventionist—both opposed the Iraq War.
Trump, unlike Carly Fiorina, would talk to Vladimir Putin. Unlike the departed Scott Walter, he would not tear up the Iran nuclear deal the day he took office. He would monitor and enforce it.
Unlike other Republican candidates, he does not look upon Putin's intervention on behalf of Assad with anger and outrage. If Putin wants to bomb ISIS, be my guest, says Trump.
Trump has not laid out a broad foreign policy. Yet, the sense one gets is that, like Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan, he is a "peace through strength" Republican who looks to extricate us from Mideast wars now underway, and not be looking to start any new ones.
For anti-interventionists, Trump vs. Sanders is the ideal race.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. 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.
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