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Hagel didn't start the fire

| Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been fired. John McCain said Hagel “was never really brought into that real tight circle inside the White House that makes all the decisions which has put us into the incredible debacle that we're in today throughout the world.”

What were the “decisions” that produced the “incredible debacle”? Who made them? Who supported them?

The first would be George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, a war for which Sens. McCain, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton all voted. At least Sen. Hagel admitted he made a mistake on that vote.

We dethroned Saddam and destroyed his Baathist regime. ISIS, a barbaric offshoot of al-Qaida, controls Mosul, Anbar and the Sunni third of Iraq. Kurdistan is breaking away. A Shia government in Baghdad controls the rest. Terrorism is a daily occurrence.

A second decision came in 2011, when a rebellion arose against Bashar Assad in Syria and we aided the uprising. Assad must go, said Obama. McCain and the neocons agreed. Now ISIS and al-Qaida are dominant from Aleppo to the Iraqi border, while the rebels we urged to overthrow the regime are routed or in retreat. Had we bombed Assad's army, as Obama, Kerry and McCain wanted to do, and brought down his regime, ISIS and al-Qaida might be in Damascus today.

Lest we forget, Vladimir Putin pulled our chestnuts out of the fire a year ago, with a brokered deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons.

A third decision was the U.S.-NATO war on Col. Gadhafi's Libya. After deceiving the Russians by assuring them we wanted Security Council support for the use of air power simply to prevent a massacre in Benghazi, we bombed for half a year and brought down Gadhafi. Now we have a huge failed state and a base camp for Islamists and terrorists who are spreading their poison into sub-Sahara Africa.

The great triumphs of Reagan and Bush 41 were converting Russia into a partner and presiding over the liberation of Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. Bush 43 decided to bring the Warsaw Pact, three Baltic states, and Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. Bush had the support of McCain, the neocons and the liberal interventionists.

Since 1991, we sought to cut the Russians out of the oil and gas of the Caspian basin with a pipeline through the Caucasus to Turkey, bombed Serbia to tear off its cradle province of Kosovo, and engineered revolutions in Belgrade, Tbilisi and other capitals. A U.S.-backed coup in Kiev succeeded and a pro-Western regime was installed.

Having taken all this from his partner, Putin retrieved Crimea and Russia's naval base at Sebastopol. When pro-Russia Ukrainians rose in Kiev, he backed his team, as we backed ours. Now, we are imposing sanctions, driving Russia into a realliance with Beijing, with which Putin has completed deals for oil and gas running over $700 billion.

As the U.S. and NATO send planes, ships and troops to show our seriousness in the Baltic and Ukraine, Russian planes and ships test Western defenses from Finland to Sweden to Portugal to Alaska and the coast of the continental United States. Who made these decisions that created the debacle? Was it those isolationists again?

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

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