Category: James G. Wiles

Our ‘Cold Civil War’


Angelo M. Codevilla is a retired professor of international relations at Boston University. Apart from his wide-ranging (and voluminous) academic writings, Dr. Cordevilla publishes frequently in CommentaryForeign Affairs, National Review, and the The New Republic. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

“The 2016 election and its aftermath,” Codevilla writes, “reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country.” He elaborates:

“The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal. “

Of course, we see this attitude every day – most recently in the differing attitudes displayed by the U.S. senators towards former acting attorney general Sally Yates’ testimony this week. Similarly, in the oral arguments on Monday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on the president’s proposed travel ban.

Dr. Codevilla elaborates that, since the inauguration:

“Well-nigh the entire ruling class — government bureaucracies, the judiciary, academia, media, associated client groups, Democratic officials, and Democrat-controlled jurisdictions — have joined in “Resistance” to the 2016 elections: “You did not win this election,” declared Tom Perez recently, the Democratic National Committee’s chairman. This is not about Donald Trump’s alleged character defects. The Resistance would have arisen against whoever represented Americans who had voted not to be governed as they have been for the past quarter-century. It is a cold civil war against a majority of the American people and their way of life. (emphasis added).

The task confronting statesmen, Codevilla writes, is to keep this “cold civil war” from turning hot. And that, he says, may require a new, pre-Jacksonian definition of federalism to take root. Specifically, Dr. Codevilla argues that:

“Now that identity politics have replaced the politics of persuasion and blended into the art of war, statesmen should try to preserve what peace remains through mutual forbearance toward jurisdictions that ignore or act contrary to federal laws, regulations, or court orders. “

We need, he writes, to limit “the U.S. government’s reach to what it can grasp without wrecking what remains of our national cohesion.” Specifically:

“Much of the heat in contemporary American politics comes from the attempt, principally from the Left but increasingly from the Right as well, to force the entire nation to live in precisely the same way with precisely the same values. Statesmanship should begin by questioning and moderating that tendency.”

The solution, Dr. Codevilla contends, is a return to federalism – including on several issues on which the federals courts have decreed that there must be constitutional uniformity.

Codevilla’s prescription would allow red and blue states — especially California — to go their own way on red and blue issues, rather than trying to impose a particular side’s views on the whole nation via the federal government.

Something Codevilla omits to mention is that the term “cold civil war” was originally coined by the Left in response to Mr. Trump’s election. And, be it noted, author Elie Mystal’s description of the two sides — prepare to be insulted, folks; we’re “deplorable” — fully bears out Codevilla’s analysis. It was published on January 30th.

Writing in abovethelaw.com, Mystal states:

“It might seem like Trump and his executive branch are conducting a war against immigrants, or against Islam. But that’s just the spin the Trump administration wants you to believe. They’re confident they’ll win a war against immigrants. They know that their bigoted base — people who are too cowardly to seek truth or nuance about our real threats — will support that war.


“No, Trump’s real war is against us. His real battle is with American cosmopolitans. His targets are our sense of inclusiveness, our separation of powers, and our belief in the rule of law. Trump is fighting a civil war, and like the first one, the battle lines are regional. Once again, it’s urban versus rural. Once again, it’s people who think that discrimination against others is integral to “their way of life” versus elites who think America is better than that.” (my emphasis).

Mystal, a double-Harvard, states that he quit the law “to pursue a career as an on-line provocateur.” Good luck to him. And now let’s get back to Professor Codevilla’s thesis — and especially his prescription.

To be frank, I don’t know what I think of Codevilla’s solution. As an initial reaction, it seems certain to accelerate what Bill Bishop in 2004 labeled “the Big Sort” of the American people into red and blue states. This is reflected, among other ways, in the steady rise over the last twenty years of so-called “landslide” Congressional districts.

Second, Codevilla’s prescription could be labeled as the counsel of desperation. He sort of acknowledges this when he says:

“So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return… In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse.”

On the other hand, we may have no choice. Because, if he’s right, we may be running out of time.

For example, much of what Codevilla identifies as the sources of “the heat” would be eliminated if a conservative Supreme Court overruled many of its social issues precedents and simply let the states go their differing ways. Whether that could be accomplished in time to hold the Union together is a matter worth pondering.

So is Dr. Codevilla’s analysis.

Angelo M. Codevilla has written an important article in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books. The piece is generating a lot of attention. It should.

Codevilla sharpens — and amplifies — an argument American Thinker has been making since January 10.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a retired professor of international relations at Boston University. Apart from his wide-ranging (and voluminous) academic writings, Dr. Cordevilla publishes frequently in CommentaryForeign Affairs, National Review, and the The New Republic. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

“The 2016 election and its aftermath,” Codevilla writes, “reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country.” He elaborates:

“The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal. “

Of course, we see this attitude every day – most recently in the differing attitudes displayed by the U.S. senators towards former acting attorney general Sally Yates’ testimony this week. Similarly, in the oral arguments on Monday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on the president’s proposed travel ban.

Dr. Codevilla elaborates that, since the inauguration:

“Well-nigh the entire ruling class — government bureaucracies, the judiciary, academia, media, associated client groups, Democratic officials, and Democrat-controlled jurisdictions — have joined in “Resistance” to the 2016 elections: “You did not win this election,” declared Tom Perez recently, the Democratic National Committee’s chairman. This is not about Donald Trump’s alleged character defects. The Resistance would have arisen against whoever represented Americans who had voted not to be governed as they have been for the past quarter-century. It is a cold civil war against a majority of the American people and their way of life. (emphasis added).

The task confronting statesmen, Codevilla writes, is to keep this “cold civil war” from turning hot. And that, he says, may require a new, pre-Jacksonian definition of federalism to take root. Specifically, Dr. Codevilla argues that:

“Now that identity politics have replaced the politics of persuasion and blended into the art of war, statesmen should try to preserve what peace remains through mutual forbearance toward jurisdictions that ignore or act contrary to federal laws, regulations, or court orders. “

We need, he writes, to limit “the U.S. government’s reach to what it can grasp without wrecking what remains of our national cohesion.” Specifically:

“Much of the heat in contemporary American politics comes from the attempt, principally from the Left but increasingly from the Right as well, to force the entire nation to live in precisely the same way with precisely the same values. Statesmanship should begin by questioning and moderating that tendency.”

The solution, Dr. Codevilla contends, is a return to federalism – including on several issues on which the federals courts have decreed that there must be constitutional uniformity.

Codevilla’s prescription would allow red and blue states — especially California — to go their own way on red and blue issues, rather than trying to impose a particular side’s views on the whole nation via the federal government.

Something Codevilla omits to mention is that the term “cold civil war” was originally coined by the Left in response to Mr. Trump’s election. And, be it noted, author Elie Mystal’s description of the two sides — prepare to be insulted, folks; we’re “deplorable” — fully bears out Codevilla’s analysis. It was published on January 30th.

Writing in abovethelaw.com, Mystal states:

“It might seem like Trump and his executive branch are conducting a war against immigrants, or against Islam. But that’s just the spin the Trump administration wants you to believe. They’re confident they’ll win a war against immigrants. They know that their bigoted base — people who are too cowardly to seek truth or nuance about our real threats — will support that war.


“No, Trump’s real war is against us. His real battle is with American cosmopolitans. His targets are our sense of inclusiveness, our separation of powers, and our belief in the rule of law. Trump is fighting a civil war, and like the first one, the battle lines are regional. Once again, it’s urban versus rural. Once again, it’s people who think that discrimination against others is integral to “their way of life” versus elites who think America is better than that.” (my emphasis).

Mystal, a double-Harvard, states that he quit the law “to pursue a career as an on-line provocateur.” Good luck to him. And now let’s get back to Professor Codevilla’s thesis — and especially his prescription.

To be frank, I don’t know what I think of Codevilla’s solution. As an initial reaction, it seems certain to accelerate what Bill Bishop in 2004 labeled “the Big Sort” of the American people into red and blue states. This is reflected, among other ways, in the steady rise over the last twenty years of so-called “landslide” Congressional districts.

Second, Codevilla’s prescription could be labeled as the counsel of desperation. He sort of acknowledges this when he says:

“So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return… In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse.”

On the other hand, we may have no choice. Because, if he’s right, we may be running out of time.

For example, much of what Codevilla identifies as the sources of “the heat” would be eliminated if a conservative Supreme Court overruled many of its social issues precedents and simply let the states go their differing ways. Whether that could be accomplished in time to hold the Union together is a matter worth pondering.

So is Dr. Codevilla’s analysis.



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Machiavelli's Advice for Mr. Trump – and Us


Perhaps the best explanation for the frustration of President Trump’s first Hundred Days can be found in a not-much-read book by Niccolo Machiavelli.

The great Florentine political thinker is best-known today for The Prince. But his most extended work — which also showed the shape of Machiavelli’s heart — are the Discourses on Livy. It’s an extended meditation on democratic politics in a republic, as exemplified by the history of Rome. Machiavelli, as always, doesn’t mince words — and he has some extremely pertinent (and uncomfortable) things to say to us.

Here’s the question: have the American people been so corrupted by the welfare state that they can no longer reclaim their liberty? Is restoration of the American republic along the lines originally conceived by the Founders, impossible?

Machiavelli offers us ways to think about how to answer these questions. He does it by reviewing Roman history with an eye to contemporary political problems of his own time.

Machiavelli wrote in the 1510s, when Italy was divided into warring city-states, His native Florence had tried to maintain itself as a republic, but foreign invaders and the Medici family overturned that. As a republican, Machiavelli himself lost office and suffered torture and exile when the Medici returned to power.

In Chapter 16 of the Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli remarks that “a people that is corrupted through and through cannot live in liberty for even a short period…” When a state become free, “all those who fed off” the state become “hostile factions.” However, when the Romans overthrew the Tarquin kings in 510 B.C., they were able to establish and maintain a republic which lasted until the time of Julius Caesar.

This was possible, says Machiavelli, because, while the Tarquin kings were corrupt, the Roman people were not. “Had the Roman populace been corrupted, there would have been no effective way for them to keep their liberty.”

In Chapter 17, Machiavelli contrasts this state of affairs with what prevailed in Rome in 44 B.C. when Julius Caesar was assassinated as dictator-for-life by senators anxious to restore the Republic. Also with what occurred when, in 68 A.D., the line of Julio-Claudian emperors expired with the death of Nero. On both occasions, it proved impossible to revive the Republic.

Machiavelli writes:

“[W]ith the deaths of Caesar, Gaius Caligula, and Nero, and the whole of Caesar’s line extinguished, Rome could not maintain its liberty, let alone lay a foundation for it. Such diverse results came about… because in the era of the Tarquin kings the Roman populace were not yet corrupted, while by the later imperial times they had become quite corrupt. In later years, Brutus’ authority and severity with all his eastern legions, were not enough to make the Romans want to maintain the liberty that he, like the first Brutus [who overthrew the Tarquin kings], had restored to them.”

He explains further:

“[T]he institutions and laws created in a state at its birth, when men were good, are no longer relevant once men have become evil. Even if laws in a state vary according to circumstances, its institutions rarely, if ever do. This means that new laws are not enough, because the institutions that remain unchanged will corrupt them.”

It should not have been surprising, therefore, that the Democrats, the MSM, academia, and many corporate and other leaders united with the leftist street to launch the “resistance.” Or that, so far, not one Democrat in Congress has broken party ranks to support Trumpian reforms. This weekend, they will be touting their success in stalling and, sometimes, defeating specific measures taken by the president.

At the moment, the president has just been offered a choice of a government shutdown on Saturday or surrendering his pledge to build a border wall.

As I wrote here  back on January 10, the left means to break this president. One hundred days in, quite clearly, that’s where we are. The left will defend Mr. Obama’s New Normal to the last ditch. If they can regain power, they will expand it. Along the way, they are perfectly willing to undermine the legitimacy of our 2016 election, to impeach this president or to undermine any American institution of government which stands in their way to preserving that New Normal.

Boiled down, the issue is: the New Normal versus Republican rollback. We are going to find out, as Lincoln used to say, which is the stronger.

What corrupted the Roman people two thousand years ago, and ended their republic was the destruction of the yeomen farmers who made up the electorate and the army. The Punic Wars destroyed large swatches of agricultural Italy, replacing it with a slave economy based on large plantations. The two rounds of civil wars which followed only made the problem worse, deepening the conflict between the plebs and the patricians.

It also did something more.

The growth of the empire and the civil wars created immense private fortunes on a scale never seen before, both among military men and the politicians (sometimes, like Caesar and Pompey, the same thing) – and they made Roman generals (and their troops) more powerful than the Senate. Meanwhile the rural poor crowded into Rome. There, they were provided a free daily food ration, public entertainment and cash for their votes — the infamous “bread and circuses.” The steady flow of talents and sesterces into Rome enabled the populace (and the politicians) to be bought off.

The empire endured for over 400 more years. The proud name of “the Senate and People of Rome” endured too. But the Republic, except for its empty forms, was no more.

And thus, we confront Machiavelli’s dilemma.

Has the American voting public been so corrupted by ObamaCare, Medicaid Part B, expansions in food stamps, Social Security, disability coverage, and other benefits that they will sustain the Democrats in their massive resistance? The president will be able to carry out and pursue much of his foreign policy. Without a reliable 60-plus-one votes in the Senate, however, we may be in for a sustained deadlock on Mr. Trump’s domestic agenda.

If that’s so, much rides on next year’s Congressional elections. Will the Trumpsters come out again? Moreover, Mr. Trump will have to buck the historical trend that presidents tend to lose Congressional seats in off-year elections. Gaining a reliable, conservative Republic majority in both Houses so the president can enact reforms may prove as daunting a task as Mr. Trump’s quest for the White House itself.

Machiavelli, of course, advised more radical political surgery. (That’s in chapter 18 of the Discourses, which I have not discussed here.). But, so far, there’s no reason to take Old Nick’s prescription on that, only his diagnosis.

Perhaps the best explanation for the frustration of President Trump’s first Hundred Days can be found in a not-much-read book by Niccolo Machiavelli.

The great Florentine political thinker is best-known today for The Prince. But his most extended work — which also showed the shape of Machiavelli’s heart — are the Discourses on Livy. It’s an extended meditation on democratic politics in a republic, as exemplified by the history of Rome. Machiavelli, as always, doesn’t mince words — and he has some extremely pertinent (and uncomfortable) things to say to us.

Here’s the question: have the American people been so corrupted by the welfare state that they can no longer reclaim their liberty? Is restoration of the American republic along the lines originally conceived by the Founders, impossible?

Machiavelli offers us ways to think about how to answer these questions. He does it by reviewing Roman history with an eye to contemporary political problems of his own time.

Machiavelli wrote in the 1510s, when Italy was divided into warring city-states, His native Florence had tried to maintain itself as a republic, but foreign invaders and the Medici family overturned that. As a republican, Machiavelli himself lost office and suffered torture and exile when the Medici returned to power.

In Chapter 16 of the Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli remarks that “a people that is corrupted through and through cannot live in liberty for even a short period…” When a state become free, “all those who fed off” the state become “hostile factions.” However, when the Romans overthrew the Tarquin kings in 510 B.C., they were able to establish and maintain a republic which lasted until the time of Julius Caesar.

This was possible, says Machiavelli, because, while the Tarquin kings were corrupt, the Roman people were not. “Had the Roman populace been corrupted, there would have been no effective way for them to keep their liberty.”

In Chapter 17, Machiavelli contrasts this state of affairs with what prevailed in Rome in 44 B.C. when Julius Caesar was assassinated as dictator-for-life by senators anxious to restore the Republic. Also with what occurred when, in 68 A.D., the line of Julio-Claudian emperors expired with the death of Nero. On both occasions, it proved impossible to revive the Republic.

Machiavelli writes:

“[W]ith the deaths of Caesar, Gaius Caligula, and Nero, and the whole of Caesar’s line extinguished, Rome could not maintain its liberty, let alone lay a foundation for it. Such diverse results came about… because in the era of the Tarquin kings the Roman populace were not yet corrupted, while by the later imperial times they had become quite corrupt. In later years, Brutus’ authority and severity with all his eastern legions, were not enough to make the Romans want to maintain the liberty that he, like the first Brutus [who overthrew the Tarquin kings], had restored to them.”

He explains further:

“[T]he institutions and laws created in a state at its birth, when men were good, are no longer relevant once men have become evil. Even if laws in a state vary according to circumstances, its institutions rarely, if ever do. This means that new laws are not enough, because the institutions that remain unchanged will corrupt them.”

It should not have been surprising, therefore, that the Democrats, the MSM, academia, and many corporate and other leaders united with the leftist street to launch the “resistance.” Or that, so far, not one Democrat in Congress has broken party ranks to support Trumpian reforms. This weekend, they will be touting their success in stalling and, sometimes, defeating specific measures taken by the president.

At the moment, the president has just been offered a choice of a government shutdown on Saturday or surrendering his pledge to build a border wall.

As I wrote here  back on January 10, the left means to break this president. One hundred days in, quite clearly, that’s where we are. The left will defend Mr. Obama’s New Normal to the last ditch. If they can regain power, they will expand it. Along the way, they are perfectly willing to undermine the legitimacy of our 2016 election, to impeach this president or to undermine any American institution of government which stands in their way to preserving that New Normal.

Boiled down, the issue is: the New Normal versus Republican rollback. We are going to find out, as Lincoln used to say, which is the stronger.

What corrupted the Roman people two thousand years ago, and ended their republic was the destruction of the yeomen farmers who made up the electorate and the army. The Punic Wars destroyed large swatches of agricultural Italy, replacing it with a slave economy based on large plantations. The two rounds of civil wars which followed only made the problem worse, deepening the conflict between the plebs and the patricians.

It also did something more.

The growth of the empire and the civil wars created immense private fortunes on a scale never seen before, both among military men and the politicians (sometimes, like Caesar and Pompey, the same thing) – and they made Roman generals (and their troops) more powerful than the Senate. Meanwhile the rural poor crowded into Rome. There, they were provided a free daily food ration, public entertainment and cash for their votes — the infamous “bread and circuses.” The steady flow of talents and sesterces into Rome enabled the populace (and the politicians) to be bought off.

The empire endured for over 400 more years. The proud name of “the Senate and People of Rome” endured too. But the Republic, except for its empty forms, was no more.

And thus, we confront Machiavelli’s dilemma.

Has the American voting public been so corrupted by ObamaCare, Medicaid Part B, expansions in food stamps, Social Security, disability coverage, and other benefits that they will sustain the Democrats in their massive resistance? The president will be able to carry out and pursue much of his foreign policy. Without a reliable 60-plus-one votes in the Senate, however, we may be in for a sustained deadlock on Mr. Trump’s domestic agenda.

If that’s so, much rides on next year’s Congressional elections. Will the Trumpsters come out again? Moreover, Mr. Trump will have to buck the historical trend that presidents tend to lose Congressional seats in off-year elections. Gaining a reliable, conservative Republic majority in both Houses so the president can enact reforms may prove as daunting a task as Mr. Trump’s quest for the White House itself.

Machiavelli, of course, advised more radical political surgery. (That’s in chapter 18 of the Discourses, which I have not discussed here.). But, so far, there’s no reason to take Old Nick’s prescription on that, only his diagnosis.



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Mr. Trump's – and Ambassador Haley's – Opportunity


If it had to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

That terrible assessment has to govern the U.S. reaction to the news yesterday that Syria’s Assad regime has once again used chemical weapons against its own people. According to the BBC’s reportage, at least 58 Syrian civilians are dead in Idlib and even more injured. Syrian jets, according to activists and NGO’s followed up the attack by targeting hospitals.

So what else is new? And, be it noted, the leftist media has immediately rushed to blame the attack on the Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. That’s malarkey, easy enough. But what, if anything, should the U.S. do?

Is this just another day in the ongoing cascade of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria’s civil war? With at least 400,000 dead and at least 13.5 million Syrian refugees (6 million internally displaced persons and the rest mostly in Turkey and Europe), isn’t the world’s conscience and its willingness to stop this horror exhausted? Terrible, awful, but, you know, nothing can be done.

That, of course, is what the Obama administration did — and said.

Wrong. Quite a lot can be done. In fact, there’s a cascade of coincidences suggesting that an opportunity for a U-turn in American policy towards the Assad regime is being presented by this latest war crime.

First, there’s a new American administration in Washington. Thus, a reversal of the Obama administration’s policy carries little or no political cost. And requires no heavy lifting.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer set the new tone yesterday: “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution… President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”

Correct.

Among President Obama’s notable foreign policy failures was his refusal to act as the leader of the Free World. This was starkly illustrated by his abdication of American power in Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring. Most famously, having drawn a red-line against Syrian use of chemical weapons, Mr. Obama then walked away from that line when, in fact, the Assad regime crossed it.

Since then, as Walter Russell Meade has written, “the world has caught on fire.” This latest slaughter in Idlib is only the latest direct result of that failure.

Second, by coincidence, the United Nations Security Council in this month of April is being chaired by the United States. This means that Ambassador Nikki Haley — who has been outspoken in her criticism of the Assad regime and its ally, Russia — will be presiding over the Security Council. According to the website of the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the United States, as President of the Security Council, “will be responsible for setting the agenda for the month, organizing meetings, managing the distribution of information to Council members, issuing statements, and communicating the Council’s actions to the public.”

In other words: the United States is temporarily in the driver’s seat at the Security Council. And on Tuesday, France called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to take up the latest Syrian atrocity. France, like the United States, the UK, Russia, and China, is a permanent member of the Security Council.

Each has the ability to veto strong action against the Assad regime.

Third, also by coincidence, Russia has just been hit by Islamic terror. And fourth, again, by coincidence, President Trump will be sitting down this weekend with the president of the Peoples Republic of China. Chinese support for decisive UN action against Assad should be on the agenda at Mar-a-Lago.

In short, all the diplomatic pieces are in place for decisive action on Syria if, once again, the United States is willing to lead. The time for mere sanctions is past. Relevant options include: a uniting-for-peace resolution, a referral of President Assad and his government to the International Criminal Court and creation of a Special Tribunal on war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Ambassador Haley said in her Sunday interviews that she is finding that her UN colleagues are glad to see that the United States is “back in the game.” At a press conference held to mark the commencement of her presidency of the Security Council, Haley said: “It’s that we don’t think the people want Assad anymore; we don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have. We have no love for Assad. We’ve made that very clear. We think that he has been a hindrance to peace for a long time. He’s a war criminal. What he’s done to his people is nothing more than disgusting.”

Let us see if the other members of the Security Council are willing to welcome and support U.S. leadership again.

If it had to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

That terrible assessment has to govern the U.S. reaction to the news yesterday that Syria’s Assad regime has once again used chemical weapons against its own people. According to the BBC’s reportage, at least 58 Syrian civilians are dead in Idlib and even more injured. Syrian jets, according to activists and NGO’s followed up the attack by targeting hospitals.

So what else is new? And, be it noted, the leftist media has immediately rushed to blame the attack on the Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. That’s malarkey, easy enough. But what, if anything, should the U.S. do?

Is this just another day in the ongoing cascade of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria’s civil war? With at least 400,000 dead and at least 13.5 million Syrian refugees (6 million internally displaced persons and the rest mostly in Turkey and Europe), isn’t the world’s conscience and its willingness to stop this horror exhausted? Terrible, awful, but, you know, nothing can be done.

That, of course, is what the Obama administration did — and said.

Wrong. Quite a lot can be done. In fact, there’s a cascade of coincidences suggesting that an opportunity for a U-turn in American policy towards the Assad regime is being presented by this latest war crime.

First, there’s a new American administration in Washington. Thus, a reversal of the Obama administration’s policy carries little or no political cost. And requires no heavy lifting.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer set the new tone yesterday: “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution… President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”

Correct.

Among President Obama’s notable foreign policy failures was his refusal to act as the leader of the Free World. This was starkly illustrated by his abdication of American power in Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring. Most famously, having drawn a red-line against Syrian use of chemical weapons, Mr. Obama then walked away from that line when, in fact, the Assad regime crossed it.

Since then, as Walter Russell Meade has written, “the world has caught on fire.” This latest slaughter in Idlib is only the latest direct result of that failure.

Second, by coincidence, the United Nations Security Council in this month of April is being chaired by the United States. This means that Ambassador Nikki Haley — who has been outspoken in her criticism of the Assad regime and its ally, Russia — will be presiding over the Security Council. According to the website of the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the United States, as President of the Security Council, “will be responsible for setting the agenda for the month, organizing meetings, managing the distribution of information to Council members, issuing statements, and communicating the Council’s actions to the public.”

In other words: the United States is temporarily in the driver’s seat at the Security Council. And on Tuesday, France called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to take up the latest Syrian atrocity. France, like the United States, the UK, Russia, and China, is a permanent member of the Security Council.

Each has the ability to veto strong action against the Assad regime.

Third, also by coincidence, Russia has just been hit by Islamic terror. And fourth, again, by coincidence, President Trump will be sitting down this weekend with the president of the Peoples Republic of China. Chinese support for decisive UN action against Assad should be on the agenda at Mar-a-Lago.

In short, all the diplomatic pieces are in place for decisive action on Syria if, once again, the United States is willing to lead. The time for mere sanctions is past. Relevant options include: a uniting-for-peace resolution, a referral of President Assad and his government to the International Criminal Court and creation of a Special Tribunal on war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Ambassador Haley said in her Sunday interviews that she is finding that her UN colleagues are glad to see that the United States is “back in the game.” At a press conference held to mark the commencement of her presidency of the Security Council, Haley said: “It’s that we don’t think the people want Assad anymore; we don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have. We have no love for Assad. We’ve made that very clear. We think that he has been a hindrance to peace for a long time. He’s a war criminal. What he’s done to his people is nothing more than disgusting.”

Let us see if the other members of the Security Council are willing to welcome and support U.S. leadership again.



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