Blogs: The Skeptics

How Just One Bomb Could Take America and Russia to the Brink of World War III

Trump's Syria Folly Is Bad for Everyone

The Skeptics

Washington’s threats against Iran and Russia undermine other serious U.S. interests. Turning Syria into a genuine proxy war with Moscow would risk a direct military confrontation with another nuclear-armed power. Russia also can assist—or impede—efforts to denuclearize Iran and North Korea, confront the Taliban in Afghanistan, battle terrorism elsewhere, and counterbalance China.

Indeed, one of the worst consequences of the Obama administration’s tough stance toward Russia was to push it and China together. The two are at best uneasy friends; Moscow has much to fear from Chinese encroachment in the Far East. However, both are unwilling to allow the United States to permanently dominate their regions, and especially their borders. Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant authoritarian, but his government’s ambitions appear bounded and do not conflict with fundamental U.S. security interests. Nothing in Syria justifies a potential great-power confrontation and conflict.

The Trump administration’s virulent hostility toward Iran is as foolish as it is obvious. The Islamic terrorism facing America is almost entirely Sunni, advanced not only by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but nominal allies such as Saudi Arabia, which promotes fundamentalist Wahhabi theology around the world, including in America, and whose people have provided personnel and cash for terrorist groups. Iran is more diverse and cosmopolitan, and substantially freer—with elections that matter and minority religions that worship. The Tehran government remains authoritarian and threatening, but the nuclear deal reduced the likelihood that Iran will develop nukes. Moreover, including the country and its people in the global economy offers more reason to struggle against clerical elites for Iran’s future.

Such a future is likely to disappear if the administration applies new sanctions, and especially if it succeeds in replacing Tehran’s next-door ally with a U.S. proxy—imagine Washington’s reaction if the Soviet Union had installed a friendly regime in Mexico. America bears much of the blame for Iran’s hostility, having ousted a democratically elected government in 1953 and backed Saddam Hussein’s war of aggression against Iran during the 1980s. The Trump administration is threatening to initiate a new round of enhanced antagonism.

Three years ago Trump argued against attacking Syria: “There is no upside and tremendous downside.” That remains the case today.

It’s impossible for outsiders to know whether the president controls his administration’s foreign policy. The claim that he reversed policy after seeing a few photos suggests not. But ultimately he bears responsibility for a policy that looks extreme and unbalanced even by the standards of those he criticized during the campaign.

He explained his flip-flop: “I now have responsibility for Syria.” But that’s what one would expect the politicians he defeated to say. President Trump should recognize that he was elected as steward of the American republic and its people. To fulfill that responsibility, he should keep the United States out of the Syrian Civil War.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Image: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

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Video Interview: Tomahawk Strikes in Syria. Now What?

The Skeptics

Washington’s threats against Iran and Russia undermine other serious U.S. interests. Turning Syria into a genuine proxy war with Moscow would risk a direct military confrontation with another nuclear-armed power. Russia also can assist—or impede—efforts to denuclearize Iran and North Korea, confront the Taliban in Afghanistan, battle terrorism elsewhere, and counterbalance China.

Indeed, one of the worst consequences of the Obama administration’s tough stance toward Russia was to push it and China together. The two are at best uneasy friends; Moscow has much to fear from Chinese encroachment in the Far East. However, both are unwilling to allow the United States to permanently dominate their regions, and especially their borders. Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant authoritarian, but his government’s ambitions appear bounded and do not conflict with fundamental U.S. security interests. Nothing in Syria justifies a potential great-power confrontation and conflict.

The Trump administration’s virulent hostility toward Iran is as foolish as it is obvious. The Islamic terrorism facing America is almost entirely Sunni, advanced not only by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but nominal allies such as Saudi Arabia, which promotes fundamentalist Wahhabi theology around the world, including in America, and whose people have provided personnel and cash for terrorist groups. Iran is more diverse and cosmopolitan, and substantially freer—with elections that matter and minority religions that worship. The Tehran government remains authoritarian and threatening, but the nuclear deal reduced the likelihood that Iran will develop nukes. Moreover, including the country and its people in the global economy offers more reason to struggle against clerical elites for Iran’s future.

Such a future is likely to disappear if the administration applies new sanctions, and especially if it succeeds in replacing Tehran’s next-door ally with a U.S. proxy—imagine Washington’s reaction if the Soviet Union had installed a friendly regime in Mexico. America bears much of the blame for Iran’s hostility, having ousted a democratically elected government in 1953 and backed Saddam Hussein’s war of aggression against Iran during the 1980s. The Trump administration is threatening to initiate a new round of enhanced antagonism.

Three years ago Trump argued against attacking Syria: “There is no upside and tremendous downside.” That remains the case today.

It’s impossible for outsiders to know whether the president controls his administration’s foreign policy. The claim that he reversed policy after seeing a few photos suggests not. But ultimately he bears responsibility for a policy that looks extreme and unbalanced even by the standards of those he criticized during the campaign.

He explained his flip-flop: “I now have responsibility for Syria.” But that’s what one would expect the politicians he defeated to say. President Trump should recognize that he was elected as steward of the American republic and its people. To fulfill that responsibility, he should keep the United States out of the Syrian Civil War.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Image: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

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The Syrian Chemical Attack: Washington Must Not Make a Bad Situation Worse

The Skeptics

Washington’s threats against Iran and Russia undermine other serious U.S. interests. Turning Syria into a genuine proxy war with Moscow would risk a direct military confrontation with another nuclear-armed power. Russia also can assist—or impede—efforts to denuclearize Iran and North Korea, confront the Taliban in Afghanistan, battle terrorism elsewhere, and counterbalance China.

Indeed, one of the worst consequences of the Obama administration’s tough stance toward Russia was to push it and China together. The two are at best uneasy friends; Moscow has much to fear from Chinese encroachment in the Far East. However, both are unwilling to allow the United States to permanently dominate their regions, and especially their borders. Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant authoritarian, but his government’s ambitions appear bounded and do not conflict with fundamental U.S. security interests. Nothing in Syria justifies a potential great-power confrontation and conflict.

The Trump administration’s virulent hostility toward Iran is as foolish as it is obvious. The Islamic terrorism facing America is almost entirely Sunni, advanced not only by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but nominal allies such as Saudi Arabia, which promotes fundamentalist Wahhabi theology around the world, including in America, and whose people have provided personnel and cash for terrorist groups. Iran is more diverse and cosmopolitan, and substantially freer—with elections that matter and minority religions that worship. The Tehran government remains authoritarian and threatening, but the nuclear deal reduced the likelihood that Iran will develop nukes. Moreover, including the country and its people in the global economy offers more reason to struggle against clerical elites for Iran’s future.

Such a future is likely to disappear if the administration applies new sanctions, and especially if it succeeds in replacing Tehran’s next-door ally with a U.S. proxy—imagine Washington’s reaction if the Soviet Union had installed a friendly regime in Mexico. America bears much of the blame for Iran’s hostility, having ousted a democratically elected government in 1953 and backed Saddam Hussein’s war of aggression against Iran during the 1980s. The Trump administration is threatening to initiate a new round of enhanced antagonism.

Three years ago Trump argued against attacking Syria: “There is no upside and tremendous downside.” That remains the case today.

It’s impossible for outsiders to know whether the president controls his administration’s foreign policy. The claim that he reversed policy after seeing a few photos suggests not. But ultimately he bears responsibility for a policy that looks extreme and unbalanced even by the standards of those he criticized during the campaign.

He explained his flip-flop: “I now have responsibility for Syria.” But that’s what one would expect the politicians he defeated to say. President Trump should recognize that he was elected as steward of the American republic and its people. To fulfill that responsibility, he should keep the United States out of the Syrian Civil War.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Image: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

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Will Washington's Hawks Get the Syria War They've Always Wanted?

The Skeptics

Washington’s threats against Iran and Russia undermine other serious U.S. interests. Turning Syria into a genuine proxy war with Moscow would risk a direct military confrontation with another nuclear-armed power. Russia also can assist—or impede—efforts to denuclearize Iran and North Korea, confront the Taliban in Afghanistan, battle terrorism elsewhere, and counterbalance China.

Indeed, one of the worst consequences of the Obama administration’s tough stance toward Russia was to push it and China together. The two are at best uneasy friends; Moscow has much to fear from Chinese encroachment in the Far East. However, both are unwilling to allow the United States to permanently dominate their regions, and especially their borders. Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant authoritarian, but his government’s ambitions appear bounded and do not conflict with fundamental U.S. security interests. Nothing in Syria justifies a potential great-power confrontation and conflict.

The Trump administration’s virulent hostility toward Iran is as foolish as it is obvious. The Islamic terrorism facing America is almost entirely Sunni, advanced not only by groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but nominal allies such as Saudi Arabia, which promotes fundamentalist Wahhabi theology around the world, including in America, and whose people have provided personnel and cash for terrorist groups. Iran is more diverse and cosmopolitan, and substantially freer—with elections that matter and minority religions that worship. The Tehran government remains authoritarian and threatening, but the nuclear deal reduced the likelihood that Iran will develop nukes. Moreover, including the country and its people in the global economy offers more reason to struggle against clerical elites for Iran’s future.

Such a future is likely to disappear if the administration applies new sanctions, and especially if it succeeds in replacing Tehran’s next-door ally with a U.S. proxy—imagine Washington’s reaction if the Soviet Union had installed a friendly regime in Mexico. America bears much of the blame for Iran’s hostility, having ousted a democratically elected government in 1953 and backed Saddam Hussein’s war of aggression against Iran during the 1980s. The Trump administration is threatening to initiate a new round of enhanced antagonism.

Three years ago Trump argued against attacking Syria: “There is no upside and tremendous downside.” That remains the case today.

It’s impossible for outsiders to know whether the president controls his administration’s foreign policy. The claim that he reversed policy after seeing a few photos suggests not. But ultimately he bears responsibility for a policy that looks extreme and unbalanced even by the standards of those he criticized during the campaign.

He explained his flip-flop: “I now have responsibility for Syria.” But that’s what one would expect the politicians he defeated to say. President Trump should recognize that he was elected as steward of the American republic and its people. To fulfill that responsibility, he should keep the United States out of the Syrian Civil War.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Image: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

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