"It was a damn near-run thing," said the Duke of Wellington.
The Iron Duke was speaking of Waterloo.
And for the United States, it was a damn near-run thing that we are not now in a major war — with an enraged Arab and Muslim world viewing sickening videos of dead and dying Syrian women and children from U.S. missile strikes.
Next time, we may not be so lucky. Next time, we may not have Vladimir Putin to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, as he did by seizing on yet another gaffe by John Kerry and converting it into a Russian plan to have Syria identify and surrender its chemical weapons.
Putin pulled President Obama back off the ledge. He saved Obama from having either to ignominiously climb down from his "Assad must go!" and "red line" bluster — or act on his ultimata and plunge us into a war the American people and U.S. military do not want to fight.
Putin was acting in Russia's interests. But in preventing a U.S.-Syrian war, Putin's interests and ours are one.
Russia does not want a confrontation over U.S. missiles falling on its Syrian ally. Do we? Russia does not want a wider Mideast war, which is what a U.S. strike would bring, with Russia and Iran racing to support and re-equip their stricken Syrian ally. Do we want that wider war?
Russia does not want Assad to fall, not only because that would mean a defeat for Russia, but because of the awful consequences.
Is Putin wrong when he writes in the New York Times of the rebels:
"The United States State Department has designated Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations.
"Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all."
Is Putin wrong? Even Obama seems to fear what Putin fears.
Thus Obama says any U.S. strike would not be intended to bring down Assad. But if he does not want regime change, why is Obama funneling weapons to rebels who are fighting for regime change?
Almost no one fears Assad would use chemical weapons on the United States. But if he falls, some of these weapons would surely fall into the hands of jihadists who would relish dispatching suicide bombers with nerve gas against Americans.
Putin's policy makes sense. It is Obama's policy that is incoherent.
We demand proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" before we hang murderers. Yet we threaten to kill Syrians for war crimes no one has yet been able to pin directly on Bashar Assad.
Why not prove he ordered the strikes, before we start the war?
John McCain comes out of a meeting with Obama boasting a robust attack is coming. Other senators say they have assurances no such attack is in the cards.
One day John Kerry is facing down Hitler in the Rhineland. The next he is promising the world that any U.S. strike will be "unbelievably small."
Obama has to correct him: The U.S. military does not do "pinpricks."
Yet, no one seems able to point to a strategic benefit America will derive, other than feeling better about ourselves, from launching missiles into the middle of what Obama calls "someone else's war."
The natural instinct of the American people — Keep us out! — is correct.
Yet the War Party, though temporarily routed, has not given up on its goal — war on Syria, followed by war on Iran.
Lindsay Graham is urging Obama to attack Syria even without Congress's authorization. Bibi Netanyahu, after a call from Obama, is pushing Congress to back a U.S. strike on Syria. Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor have saluted and signed on to war.
Neocon apparatchik William Kristol is urging Republicans to give Obama a blank check for war on Syria — and for war on Iran. Daniel Pipes of The Mideast Forum has an op-ed in the Washington Times and the title says it all: "Forget Syria, Target Iran."
"We have scorched the snake, not killed it." The War Party is not dead.
House Republicans who oppose a U.S. war on Syria speak for the people and should seize this moment to dump Obama conscripts Boehner and Cantor and replace them with leaders who will stand resolutely against Obama's war, against Obamacare, and against amnesty.
The House should then pass a resolution instructing the president:
—Absent an attack on this country, you have no authority to take us to war against Syria, Iran, or any other nation.
—We are taking back from you the war powers the Fathers gave us.
—We are going to restore our constitutional republic.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.