by Patrick Killough [10/07/1999]
Patrick J. (“Pat”) Buchanan is campaigning again for President. Views allegedly found in a recent book are suddenly being misused to drive him from the race. Pundits thunder. When it isn’t ABC TV’s Sam Donaldson, it is fellow Presidential candidate Senator John McCain or Irving Kristol or William Safire.
The book they say they hate is A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE: RECLAIMING AMERICA’S DESTINY, 437 pages long, with 30 pages of notes and sources. It studies changes in American foreign policy since colonial times. It makes recommendations for a better future policy.
One argument common to the critics is that the book proves that Buchanan is soft on Hitler and faults the USA for waging war against Germany. It also sends coded anti-Semitic and racist messages. Buchanan denies all charges. He doubts that his critics have read his book. So do I.
Is Pat Buchanan Soft on Hitler?
Buchanan's millions of followers will learn much that is useful about American history and foreign policy. For probably 90% of Americans, A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE will be a wide ranging, stimulating and debatable introduction to those interrelated themes. It is not, however, a book for scholars or specialized historians.
Buchanan sees America’s presidents as pragmatists,
trying first one approach, then another to challenges from abroad. Once
an initiative is seen to benefit the nation, then it joins a growing
handful of widely supported policies. Thus, by 1869, America’s political
leaders could choose among elements of four respected American foreign
From Manifest Destiny to Imperialism
The fourth tradition to emerge, Manifest Destiny, carried seeds of future abuse. For it was one thing to reach America’s natural continental boundaries. But Manifest Destiny evolved into a fifth policy, Imperialism, when leaders pushed America’s reach deep into the Pacific and began in 1898 to rule over vast numbers of peoples against their will. Imperialism’s blunder, according to Pat Buchanan, remains with us even today in
our tendency toward irrational overreach, going farther than national interest, self-defense or military power makes prudent (pp. 140f).Foreign policy element number six, Liberal Internationalism, associated with Woodrow Wilson and the semi-pacifist Kellogg-Briand Anti-War Treaty, is actively promoted today in the form of a free-wheeling Interventionism. Definable, limited national interests no longer restrain liberal internationalists, argues Buchanan
Buchanan's ProvocativeMental Experiments with History
In Chapters 15 and 16 Buchanan provokes most of his enemies. Here he makes mental experiments, imagining “what if “ different players or different policies had changed history. If the United States had remained neutral in World War I, would this have shortened the war? If so, there might have been no Hitler and possibly no Stalin.
Pat Buchanan also asks what if the United States had not been attacked by the Japanese. What if Hitler had not, days later, declared war on the United States? Under the Kellogg-Briand anti-war treaty, the USA had no legitimate reason for declaring war on anyone except to defend itself from attack. Second, a war needs the support of the American people. Polls of September 1939 found only 13.5 percent willing to go to war even if Britain and France were on the verge of defeat (p.267). In 1941, two months before Pearl Harbor, two-thirds of polled Americans preferred staying out of war to defeating Germany (p. 280). In late October 1941 Americans were 74 to 13 percent against war with Japan (p. 287).
The America First Movement
Buchanan also defends the America First Movement (AFM). This was formed in September 1940 three months after the fall of France. It dissolved itself within hours after Japan’s attack on Pear Harbor in December 1941. The AFM advocated peace through military strength. It faulted Roosevelt for eight years of growing military unpreparedness in the face of growing aggression by Japan, Germany and Italy.
Buchanan sketches alternative policies by which the United States might conceivably have avoided war with the Kaiser and later with Tojo and Hitler. He clearly hates the political systems we fought. But the worst Nazi excesses against the Jews began in 1942, after, not before American entry into the war, he argues. There was insufficient American public support in December 1941 to launch a moral crusade against a Germany which did not directly threaten America. But once Hitler declared war, America had to destroy him.
A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE argues that America must regain that maximum freedom to act abroad in the national self-interest lost since 1945 through too many treaties and understandings. Absent a Soviet threat to Western Europe, for example, NATO should be dissolved not enlarged.
Pat Buchanan has written a serious book. No one should damn it who has not read it. A fair reading does not detect love of Hitler or hatred of Jews or other races and religions. On these points Buchanan’s critics are intellectually lazy or dishonest. They owe him an apology.
for Asheville TRIBUNE
[NOTE: Is it reading too much into the
foreign policy of President George W. Bush to surmise that he and Pat Buchanan
sometimes sip from the same ideological well spring? TPK 06/24/2001]