Of Red Lines & Lost Credibility

Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

A major goal of this Asia trip, said National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, is to rally allies to achieve the “complete, verifiable and permanent denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Yet Kim Jong Un has said he will never give up his nuclear weapons.

He believes the survival of his dynastic regime depends upon them.

Hence we are headed for confrontation. Either the U.S. or North Korea backs down, as Nikita Khrushchev did in the Cuban missile crisis, or there will be war.

In this new century, U.S. leaders continue to draw red lines that threaten acts of war that the nation is unprepared to back up.

Recall President Obama’s, “Assad must go!” and the warning that any use of chemical weapons would cross his personal “red line.”

Result: After chemical weapons were used, Americans rose in united opposition to a retaliatory strike. Congress refused to authorize any attack. Obama and John Kerry were left with egg all over their faces. And the credibility of the country was commensurately damaged.

There was a time when U.S. words were taken seriously, and we heeded Theodore Roosevelt’s dictum: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1991, George H.W. Bush said simply: “This will not stand.” The world understood that if Saddam did not withdraw from Kuwait, his army would be thrown out. As it was.

But in the post-Cold War era, the rhetoric of U.S. statesmen has grown ever more blustery, even as U.S. relative power has declined. Our goal is “ending tyranny in our world,” bellowed George W. Bush in his second inaugural.

Consider Rex Tillerson’s recent trip. In Saudi Arabia, he declared, “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against … ISIS is coming to a close … need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home.”

The next day, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi responded:

“We wonder about the statements attributed to the American secretary of state about the popular mobilization forces. … No side has the right to intervene in Iraq’s affairs or decide what Iraqis do.”

This slap across the face comes from a regime that rules as a result of 4,500 U.S. dead, tens of thousands wounded and $1 trillion invested in the nation’s rebuilding after 15 years of war.

Earlier that day, Tillerson made a two-hour visit to Afghanistan. There he met Afghan officials in a heavily guarded bunker near Bagram Airfield. Wrote The New York Times’ Gardiner Harris:

“That top American officials must use stealth to enter these countries after more than 15 years of wars, thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent was testimony to the stubborn problems still confronting the United States in both places.”

Such are the fruits of our longest wars, launched with the neo-Churchillian rhetoric of George W. Bush.

In India, Tillerson called on the government to close its embassy in North Korea. New Delhi demurred, suggesting the facility might prove useful to the Americans in negotiating with Pyongyang.

In Geneva, Tillerson asserted, “The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad … The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”

Well, perhaps? But our “rebels” in Syria were routed and Assad not only survived his six-year civil war but with the aid of his Russian, Iranian, Shiite militia, and Hezbollah allies, he won that war, and intends to remain and rule, whether we approve or not.

We no longer speak to the world with the assured authority with which America did from Eisenhower to Reagan and Bush 1. Our moment, if ever it existed, as the “unipolar power” the “indispensable nation” that would exercise a “benevolent global hegemony” upon mankind is over.

America needs today a recognition of the new realities we face and a rhetoric that conforms to those realities.

Since Y2K our world has changed.

Putin’s Russia has reasserted itself, rebuilt its strategic forces, confronted NATO, annexed Crimea and acted decisively in Syria, re-establishing itself as a power in the Middle East.

China, thanks to its vast trade surpluses at our expense, has grown into an economic and geostrategic rival on a scale that not even the USSR of the Cold War reached.

North Korea is now a nuclear power.

The Europeans are bedeviled by tribalism, secessionism and waves of seemingly unassimilable immigrants from the South and Middle East.

A once-vital NATO ally, Turkey, is virtually lost to the West. Our major Asian allies are dependent on exports to a China that has established a new order in the South China Sea.

In part because of our interventions, the Middle East is in turmoil, bedeviled by terrorism and breaking down along Sunni-Shiite lines.

The U.S. pre-eminence in the days of Desert Storm is history.

Yet, the architects of American decline may still be heard denouncing the “isolationists” who opposed their follies and warned what would befall the republic if it listened to them.


Stuck on Zero Tue, 11/07/2017 - 20:57 Permalink

Russia did not back down in the Cuban missile crisis. The US did. We have spun the message of victory but it was a huge vitory for Russia.The US ringed the Soviet Union with missiles right on their borders: Turkey, Pakistan, etc. The Soviets wanted them removed so they sent missiles to Cuba. In exchange for removing our missiles from around the Soviet Union the Soviets withdrew theirs in Cuba and Cuba was left unmolested.That was a victory for Nikita Khrushchev.

NoDebt stizazz Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:16 Permalink

"Putin’s Russia has reasserted itself, rebuilt its strategic forces, confronted NATO, annexed Crimea and acted decisively in Syria, re-establishing itself as a power in the Middle East."On the bright side, at least there's one mostly-white Christian nation that will survive and protect its heritage.    

In reply to by stizazz

philipat NoDebt Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:31 Permalink

Buchanan knows very well that the chemical wepons used in Syria were a false flag. They were not used by Assad because, as attested to by ALL relevant International Bodies, he doesn't HAVE any to use. Goebbels would be so happy that theories on propoganda are being used so effectively in 21st century USA.

In reply to by NoDebt

EINSILVERGUY Stuck on Zero Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:25 Permalink

BullshitThe US removed Jupiter missiles from Turkey which at the time was obsolete.  Kennedy made a secret deal but there is no way this was a Soviet win.  It was a concession to allow the Soviets (Khruschev) to save face. The United States had a 10 to 1 superiority in all 3 elements of the nuclear triad.  Their missiles were liquid propelled and took 8 hours to fuel.  Our B-52s could have been onsite in that time to take them out.  They had a 3  to 1 throw weight on their missiles but thats becuase they have a looser CPI than the US missiles (we had better guidance systems) After the cuban missile crisis Andre Gromyko told our people that the US would never again embarass the Soviet Union which is why they embarked on a massive buildup from 64 to 72 when the Salt I and SALT II talks began.Khruschev was remove from power because of this loss of face and ushered in Brezhnev as the Soviet PremierMy father was a with the Strategic Air Command of the US Air Force and was sitting on the tarmac at Seymour Johnson Air Force base in a B52 waiting to get the order to strike Cuba. I was pooping my drawers at the time since I was 1year old 

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Son of Captain Nemo Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:20 Permalink

Is anyone on Zerohedge going to have our National Debt with a "counter" on a Big Board in front of the Marriner Eccles Building in Washington D.C. and Times Square in Manhattan should our threats on North Korea "FAIL"?... China's "nuclear option" -that of course is ANYTHING BUT... and LONG... LONG... OVERDUE, that is rational, practical and will put the U.S. economy into the wood chipper where it belongs for it's own bad choices, corruption, fraud and negligence... Giving their money a store of value that it currently does not have (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-10-24/its-huge-story-china-launching…)?!!!...

Proctologist Tue, 11/07/2017 - 20:59 Permalink

Buchanan is right, but until the masses are starving and angry enough to tell the deep state to go to hell the illusion of power will be maintained...

The picking of flesh of the bones of the American carcass is not yet complete.

NoDebt shankster Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:43 Permalink

That part is very true and, I think, largely ignored or unknown to casual observers.  I have friends and family sprinkled around various branches of the military and they're all reporting to me various versions of "we couldn't fight a competent opponent with any real resources without suffering losses severe enough to undermine support from the public."  We've been wedged into nothing but counter-insurgency ops for FIFTEEN YEARS.  All other forms of combat preparedness (equipment and training) have been sacrificed to support this one mission type.  Intelligence, logistics, all a gutted shell of their former selves (the contracting and procurement processes alone would curl your hair).  The people who know how to wage a real war are all gone from service, too.  Pushed out either by simple attrition or due to Obama policies.We currently have three carriers operating in the Pacific.  If we went to war with, say, China, I've been told stories that start with "What if we lost one of them in the first week of combat?"   

In reply to by shankster

Winston Churchill Davidduke2000 Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:32 Permalink

Worse the emperor probably has nothing behind his codpiece.We could try to fight enemies by dropping Admirals and Generals on them fom high altitude,we surely have way too many of them on active duty,so it would kill two birds with one airdrop.Just symptomatic of the bloat and waste,$21tn in adjustments(theft) from the DoD since 2000,managed by so much brass, much like the general population,the rotting head has corruptedto the feet.I'm sure a real audit of the armed services would be just as scary as a stocktake at Ft.Knox.With weapons bunkers full of plastic toy guns(made in China), and gold vaults full  of ?

In reply to by Davidduke2000

BlindMonkey Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:12 Permalink

"Result: After chemical weapons were used, Americans rose in united opposition to a retaliatory strike. " FFS.  Pushing this line as if it were fact.  People rose up because there is no proof the Syrian gov used CW.  

HoyeruNew Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:13 Permalink

why do you Americans have to lie about everything to make yourself the winners? Khrushchev didn't back down, Kennedy did and removed US's nukes from Turkey where it had places them FIRST and where the problem began.Khrushchev won.

shankster Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:15 Permalink

The US is not the power it once was and ...this is not your Father's military anymore, it is not the same caliber fighting force the US had in WWI or WWII.

free corn Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:25 Permalink

 "Either the U.S. or North Korea backs down"Or both, like it was in  Cuban crisis. ironic how much smaller american opponent is this time. 

Able Ape Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:30 Permalink

Hold on there bub; we're still trying to WIN in Afghanistan [16 years and counting] against war lords and their minions and that's not even close to a standing army.  The US will NEVER start a war against NK.  For one thing, it would require a universal draft and that would go over like the Ebola virus.  Our trillion dollar military would get wiped out if it had to face a formidable force...And besides, the US is broke, it can't afford a REAL war...

malek Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:56 Permalink

"Congress refused to authorize any attack [on Syria]. Obama and John Kerry were left with egg all over their faces."

Rewriting history... Congress stopped a war!!1!

Utter bullshite.

frank further Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:03 Permalink

How does our military find new recruits for endless war against countries which do not directly threaten us?And, since 9/11, with the exception of Orlando, ALL mass murderers have been Mericans.Seesh1 

historian40 Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:05 Permalink

Will you allow the government to disarm you?  If not, why would you want them to disarm Koreans?  The US regime has proven it has no laws binding its war making desires.

Let it Go Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:14 Permalink

Recent talk about war with North Korea highlights the problem of nuclear proliferation. In an article recently published by Project Syndicate, Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister, and Vice-Chancellor from 1998-2005 writes; In this new environment, the “rationality of deterrence” maintained by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War has eroded. Now, if nuclear proliferation increases, the threshold for using nuclear weapons will likely fall. I agree with Fischer that today a great number of people have come to accept the idea of a "small or limited' nuclear war as acceptable. The reason they feel this way may center around the fact they have not given it enough thought. The article below delves into the reality few of us are ready to face. http://Nuclear Proliferation Means Duck And Cover May Not Work!.html

Zorba's idea Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:23 Permalink

I don't believe this BS. The PRC is becoming tired of the NK dynasty and Kim Ding Dong. Worked well as its "cats paw" from post WWII and beyond the Korean shooting war. Lately, the NK's lunatic playing with his nuclear toys is growing beyond a distraction China can continue to ignore. Donald is pushing the PRC to act...Preemptively. Put your big boy pants on...past appeasements have only given false courage to Kim's flying monkeys. Time to correct failed policy on both China and USA's part.

turkey george palmer Wed, 11/08/2017 - 00:49 Permalink

Anybody with half a brain can see Americans don't have the ability to fight. The able are out having a good time or working hard to get by but no one cares anymore about policy because it's plainly all made up bullshit to please whatever donor or interest group is on deck. The government need not really fight a war to stop NK. The Chinese will lever the situation anyway they want. I bet there is nothing Kim does that isn't a direct order from China.  That south Korea is a huge chunk in the armor of China is no doubt irritating them as much as we seem to be irritated that NK won't disarm for our benefit. I don't see why they would

Element Wed, 11/08/2017 - 01:13 Permalink


"... The U.S. pre-eminence in the days of Desert Storm is history. ..." - Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org

 Dear Pat, ... can I call you that? ... OK ... Patrick, you have not the flimsiest grasp on the reality of US and Allied conventional warfare preminence nor the scale of available conventional fire-power than can be bought to any fight, against any power.Even during Desert Storm (DS) only a small fraction of the available US and allied air and naval power was actually deployed, or employed once deployed, and it was totally overwelming, regardless. USA and its allies have increased their precision-attack firepower and advanced capabilities by at least 20 times since DS, and these have never been as strong as they are now, and are getting noticeably stronger every year, since DS occurred. But good luck with the fake nuews click-bait gig ... and listen to your mother ... she worries.

onmail1 Wed, 11/08/2017 - 02:39 Permalink

USA is threatening, sanctioning , invading & destroying nation after nation and foolishly picking up confrontation with nuclear armed ones ONLY TO PROTECT BUSINESS INTERESTS (read zewish) As a result many nations experience extreme poverty North Korea is an example of US tyranny US must realise that Nuclear tech is within reach of all any high school student can make a nuclear bomb (if all ingredients r available) So it is foolish & useless to ask nations not to develop these The situation in some countries is very alarming especially with the help of puppet UN , EU etc USA has already crossed the point of no return when the tolerance of suffering nations has broken where ppl r dying , they r forced to live on primitive lives or when all their own has been destroyed by wars over fake WMD SO USA HAS CROSSED THE LIMITS OF DECENCY AND NOW MUST SUFFER it is do or die situation for affected countries so why not die with dignity So US is inviting global nuclear war and with MAD principle, global apocalypse & even extinction of human race

Mimir Wed, 11/08/2017 - 05:21 Permalink

"Either the U.S. or North Korea backs down, as Nikita Khrushchev did in the Cuban missile crisis, or there will be war."Because war involving nuclear weapons is totally out of the question (millions of dead in the the two Korean countries) probably what will happen is, that both the US and North Korea will back down from the warmongering.The Cuban misile crisis was not "won" by Kennedy as the Americans love to tell each other. Krushchev withdrew the misiles and Kennedy withdraw American misiles in Turkey (1962) and Cuba was never treathened again by America and is still there as a communist country a few hundred miles from the US. Who won ? Both !A compromise is more difficult to find in the North Korean crisis. You cannot disinvent nuclear bombs in North Korea, but you can kontrol their further development by international inspections (ref. the Iran agreement, but this time with actual bombs). The US can withdraw its warships and misiles in South Korea, which are considered as a direct threat by North Korea. However a compromise cannot be invisaged with Trump anywhere near the negotiation table (let him twit!). It has to be a North Korea-South Korea-China/Russia negotiation for it to succeed.