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Populist tide rolls on

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 5:15 p.m.

Now that the British have voted to secede from the European Union and America has chosen a president who has never before held public office, the French appear to be following suit.

In Sunday's runoff to choose a candidate to face Marine Le Pen of the National Front in next spring's presidential election, the center-right Republicans chose Francois Fillon in a landslide.

While Fillon sees Margaret Thatcher as a role model in fiscal policy, he is a socially conservative Catholic who supports family values, wants to confront Islamist extremism, control immigration, restore France's historic identity and end sanctions on Russia.

Next Sunday, Italy holds a referendum on constitutional reforms backed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. If the referendum, trailing in the polls, fails, Renzi says he will resign.

In Holland, the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders, on trial for hate speech for urging fewer Moroccan immigrants, is running first or close to it in polls for the national election next March.

Not only Europe but the whole world that President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit seems in turmoil, with old regimes and parties losing their hold and nationalist, populist and rightist forces rising.

Venezuela, endowed with more oil than almost any country on Earth, is now, thanks to the Castroism of Hugo Chavez and successor Nicolas Maduro, close to collapse and anarchy.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, her approval rating in single digits, is facing impeachment and prosecution for corruption.

Meanwhile, North Korea, under Kim Jong Un, continues to test nuclear warheads and missiles that can hit all of South Korea and Japan and reach all U.S. bases in East Asia and the Western Pacific.

The U.S. is obligated by treaty to defend South Korea, where we still have 28,500 troops, and Japan, as well as the Philippines, where new populist President Rodrigo Duterte, cursing the West, is pivoting toward Beijing. Malaysia and Australia are also moving closer to China, as they become ever more dependent on the China trade.

Responding to our moving NATO troops into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Vladimir Putin has begun a buildup of nuclear-capable offensive and defensive missiles in Kaliningrad, its enclave between Poland and Lithuania.

Should we get into a confrontation with the Russians in the Eastern Baltic, how many of our NATO allies, some now openly pro-Putin, would stand beside us?

The point: Not only is the Cold War over, the post-Cold War is over. We are living in a changed and changing world. Regimes are falling. Old allegiances are fraying and old allies drifting away.

The forces of nationalism and populism have been unleashed all over the West and all over the world. There is no going back. Yet U.S. policy seems set in concrete by war guarantees and treaty commitments dating back to the time of Truman and Stalin.

We have great rivals and adversaries. We are deeper in debt. We are more divided. We've fought wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen that availed us nothing. What we had, we kicked away.

America needs nothing so much as reflective thought about a quarter century of failures — and fresh thinking about her future.

Pat Buchanan is the author of “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”

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