Trump’s Neocon Conversion Almost Complete

Iraq might descend into “chaotic violence”—or worse. The broader Middle East could “go to hell” all over again.

If the United States doesn’t step up under President Donald Trump, Paul Wolfowitz warns in a new interview for The Global POLITICO, our weekly podcast on world affairs in the Trump era, it would represent an “opportunity” blown, a missed chance that would result in “lost American influence” and a win for “hostile actors.”

Wolfowitz, a hawkish Republican known as the architect of the Iraq war for his role in advocating President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion, rarely wades back into the public fray these days over the troubled Middle East, and he insists he’s well aware that the American political consensus—in both parties—is now very much against deepening involvement in the region. “I don’t think we’re up to heroic ventures in the Middle East,” he tells me.

Yet Wolfowitz has not entirely given up on the idea that the United States is essential to stability in a region that has seen very little of it. Without American involvement, for instance, he fears Iraq could splinter apart entirely. “The alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence,” he says. “We may not like to talk about oil, but this is the engine of the world economy and if it’s dominated by the wrong people, the consequences here in the United States are very serious.”

To liberals and other critics, Wolfowitz would be the last person they want Trump to listen to. Long a lightning rod because of the havoc unleashed by the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz has never apologized for advocating the war, although he has said—and repeated in our conversation—that it was not carried out as he would have wanted it to be. In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East. (Emphasis in original.)

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