Pat Buchanan: Syria Could Consume Trump’s Presidency
Conservative commentator warns president risks war and support of his base with Middle East intervention
Conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan said a U.S. commitment to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an increased troop presence on the ground would risk pulling the nation into four simultaneous wars, during an interview Monday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Buchanan, a former senior adviser to President Reagan, urged President Donald Trump and his administration to exercise the utmost caution in discerning how to move forward on Syria. If Trump continues along the path of major intervention in the Syrian conflict, Buchanan warned of terrible consequences.
“Now you tell me how we win that war and who we put into power after we defeated all six of them?”
“If you try to overthrow Assad, then you will be — the Russians will fight, the Iranians will fight, Hezbollah will fight, obviously Assad and his army and their force will fight,” Buchanan said. “We’ll be fighting all four of them, as well as ISIS and Al-Qaeda and Syria. Now you tell me how we win that war and who we put into power after we defeated all six of them?”
Buchanan noted that several neoconservative U.S. senators — including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and even Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — expressed varying degrees of glee and support for further U.S. intervention in Syria. Over the weekend, Sen. Graham even went so far as to call for thousands more U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.
“Well, that’s McCain and Graham and Marco Rubio — the War Party,” Buchanan said. “But let me say this, Laura — my view is they’re not going to get the war they want. If Donald Trump, the president, takes us into Syria’s civil war — and he’s already made the first strike — it will consume his presidency.”
“So I think that the War Party is going to be frustrated because I cannot believe that Donald Trump on second thought is going to plunge us into Syria, which he told us again and again and again would be an act of folly — that our enemy is ISIS, that our enemy is Al-Qaeda,” Buchanan added. “And we should finish them off.”
Ingraham agreed, saying, “There’s just a number of these people — like Graham, McCain, Rubio, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)— they are not happy unless America is on the verge of sending like 50,000 troops to the Middle East. I mean, they’re just itching for war with Russia. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
What’s more, Buchanan noted that if Trump ultimately decides to increase U.S. intervention in Syria, he risks losing the base that elected him in the first place.
“And the populists and nationalists out there who feel that their voice — they put out a tremendous amount to put Donald Trump in power,” Buchanan said. “And frankly, if Donald Trump marches us into Syria, he will begin to lose these folks. Their main issues are trade, immigration, and American-first.”
But those key issues, Buchanan said, are not the priorities of some of the people Trump has placed around himself in the White House.
“Those aren’t the views of Mr. [Gary] Cohn of Goldman Sachs,” Buchanan said, referring to one of Trump’s advisers. “And if that becomes the adopted policy of the Trump White House, it won’t be too long before those people will depart.”
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, reportedly has been engaging in squabbles with chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Reports even circulated last week speculating that Bannon could be on his way out of the White House.
While Kushner adheres to a traditional, establishment worldview, Bannon represents the populist-conservative base that rallied behind Trump and propelled him to the presidency.
"There's no doubt that Donald Trump is of course enormously supportive of his daughter, and I think he's enormously supportive of and protective of his son-in-law. That's a fight you cannot win," Buchanan admitted. "But I will say this — if they succeed in getting Mr. Bannon and Mr. Bannon has to leave, the shield will be removed from Jared Kushner."
And if that shield is removed, Buchanan warned that the populists will bail on Trump and his remaining administration members. And if Trump engages much further with Syria, his base could retreat even further.
"I think that Trump — I mean, they have to have a second look at this and say, 'Do we really want to start down this road?' Because we all know where this ends," Buchanan said. "And it is obvious where it ends, and that is America inside the Syrian civil war sending in more and more troops."
"And if Trump sees where they're going, then I believe you cannot be blind to seeing where this ends if we keep this up," Buchanan added. "I think he will pull back."