- The Washington Times
Sunday, February 3, 2019


They exchanged insults as GOP presidential nomination rivals in 2016.

Now they are brothers in their skepticism about America’s rush since the 1960s to intervene militarily in the affairs of other nations to make them over in our image.

We’re talking about President Trump and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

That interventionist penchant manifested now and again under the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, it became a more steady inclination since Jack Kennedy’s initially covert actions in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s.

With the exception of Ronald Reagan, our presidents since JFK have been unable to resist the stirring bugle-and-drums call of what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.”

Our presidents, often unwilling to forgo meddling militarily to make other nations over in our image, can’t resist that pulse-quickening proclamation, long after George M. Cohan, that: “We’re coming over and won’t come back till it’s over over there.”

Trouble is, it’s never over, not since V-J Day, Aug. 14, 1945.

We’ve been at war in Syria since Sept. 22, 2014 — four years, four months and two weeks.

We’ve been killing and getting killed in Afghanistan for 19 years, at a cost of $6 trillion and 1,856 U.S. fighters killed in action.

We fought and won World War II in three years, eight months, and 22 days, at a cost of $4 trillion in today’s dollars.

Astonishing as it is disappointing, there was only one Republican, Ted Cruz, a few days ago with the good sense not to wrap himself in the bloody flag of misguided saber-rattling patriotism. Mr. Cruz actually voted with the 22 Democrats in opposition to the McConnell-led scolding of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Paul, one of seven Senate Republicans not voting, has said he’s “very proud” of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal decision.”This is exactly what he promised. And I think the people agree with him actually,” he said on CNN”s State of the Union.

Mr. Paul rightly sees political good sense as well as the national interest in Mr. Trump’s sticking to his campaign pledge.

“We’ve spent several trillion dollars on these wars everywhere, and I think the president promised he’d be different, and it’s really one of the reasons he won,” Mr. Paul said. “Because he actually attracts independents who aren’t beholden to either party who say, you know what? Why don’t we turn attention back to America?”

Virtually every Democratic senator considering a White House run also voted against the McConnell resolution. That means that siding with Mr. Trump were the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar. Not exactly Trump lookalikes.

What that suggests for the future shape and content of the two major parties is worth pondering over a rare liter of Middleton Irish Whiskey.

One thing for sure is that the Senate’s giving the finger to the president and he’s giving it right back to the Senate in the way Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Tom Paine, and George Washington meant for American governance to work.

As I read the funders’ admonitions, keeping our fighting sons (and daughters) out of meddling in other people’s countries and wars as much as possible is what they meant for the new republic from the start.

If with oral and perhaps material support from the United States, anti-Islamist forces in both countries can’t defeat the suicide-bombing mass murderers calling themselves Allah’s only true believers, so be it.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Paul rightly reason that we gave back 99 percent of the Caliphate to Syria’s people. Will they stand up now and fight for themselves?

They’ll have to. And after we withdraw, the rule will be simple.

First, we will make every effort to spare innocent civilians.

Then we will exercise our legitimate right under international law and universally recognized morality to level an Islamist-governed Afghanistan and/or Syria if either is the source of attacks on us.

We will turn the attacking countries into rubble, afterward to be cleared for use as parking lots, shopping malls and rebuilt universities that admit women and students of every or no faith (as, by the way, they always have been in Syria under, yes, the harsh Assad family’s dictatorship).

And, by the way, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks he’s being manly and conservative by leading a legislative rebuke of the president on this most basic and vital foreign-policy position, he’d better think again.

If, however, Mr. McConnell thinks he’s being consistent with the separation of powers that the founders wrote into the Constitution, he’s right.

But he’s not being consistent with the traditional American conservative worldview.

Summed up in the vernacular, that view admonishes us to mind our own business as a nation.

It further reminds us of the founding fathers’ highest desideratum. It was for us to act as an exemplar for the rest of the world to voluntarily emulate — or not.

But not to presume to change other governments by force — unless and until our vital national interest and the lives of our citizens face imminent destruction from identifiable sources.

Any leaders beyond America’s borders who doubt President Trump will retaliate in full and with all deliberate speed raise your hands now.

• Ralph Z. Hallow, chief political writer at The Washington Times, has covered Washington since 1982.

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