Skip to comments.Buchanan-Style Conservatism is a Relic of the Past
Posted on 04/20/2003 9:44:22 AM PDT by Brian S
The outcome of the war in Iraq seems to have vindicated the conservative argument for the war. But as conservatives celebrate this well-deserved political victory, it is important to remember that not all conservatives supported the idea of ridding the world of Saddams regime. Pat Buchanan and his fellow paleo-conservatives at the American Conservative were as staunchly opposed to the war as the anti-war Left.
Buchanans analysis, canvassed in detail on the pages of the American Conservative, had a particular twist which generated something of a mini-controversy. The mini-controversy was focused on whether Buchanans was an anti-Semitic argument. But the first thing to notice about Buchanans argument is how fundamentally implausible it was.
Buchanans theory went something like this. (1) The war in Iraq is not in Americas interest. (2) Rather, it is in Israels interest. (3) There are influential Jewish neo-conservatives who push for war with the Israeli interest in mind. (4) And this is why we are going to war.
All four tenets of this theory are wildly implausible. The American interest in invading Iraq was twofold. First, the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would end up in terrorists hands required preemptive action on our part. Second, and more deeply, its not an accident that monsters such as al Qaeda develop in the dark outbacks of repressive Middle East regimes. The combination of political repression, toxic religious fundamentalism, and denial of basic human rights is the lifeblood of such organizations. You cant win the war on terror by just killing all active terrorists; it is imperative to modify the context in which the very phenomenon of terrorism flourishes.
This deeper reason for going to war has completely escaped Buchanan. Nasty as some of these [Middle East] regimes and groups might be, what had they done to the United States?, he asked. What they have done is create a climate in which intense hatred of western civilization and everything it stands for takes a delusional and violent turn, culminating in the 9/11 attacks. But Buchanan cant see beyond the old rules of the game, where the only way one regime can threaten another is by staging an official military campaign against it. That is, in this as in every other way, Buchanan is behind his times.
A war in Iraq was moreover not in Israels immediate interest. Israel lived happily with the old sanction-cum-containment approach to Iraq. As long as the US picked up the containment tab, and thousands of ordinary Iraqis paid the price of the sanctions, Iraq posed no threat to Israel. Nor were the prospects for Iraqi cooperation with al Qaeda particularly threatening to Israel: in its decade of existence, al Qaeda has failed to stage a single successful terrorist attack on Israeli targets. Unlike the US, Israel is a tiny and hermetically sealed country with few second thoughts about civil liberties. Its virtually impossible to penetrate Israel from another country, let alone highjack an Israel-bound airplane. So neither Iraq nor al Qaeda posed a serious threat to Israel. But once a war was underway, Israeli civilians had become the Wests frontline. It was not improbable that Saddams swan song was to include an attempt to fly a biological or chemical warhead into Israels metropolitans.
Buchanan pinned the war on the notion that Sharonites seek hegemony over the Middle East. To see the absurdity of this notion, just look at the map. Israel is a 12-mile wide country surrounded by five Arab countries stretching from Turkeys border to Sudans. Its powerful military is due mainly to systematic harassment by its neighbors. Perhaps its occupation of Palestinian territories is wrong, but its clearly premised on security considerations, not imperial ambition. All Israel seeks is a place under the sun.
Its perhaps the third tenet of Buchanans theory that contained the seed of actual anti-Semitism. The idea that Jewish neo-conservatives count Israels interest over Americas is begot by the old canard of disjoint allegiance. If Buchanans accusations are right, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle should be tried for treason under the law. Buchanan wrote: What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. This is a serious accusation and quite an idiotic one as well. But first and foremost its a modern blood libel. The accusation of dual allegiance is not the sort anyone would make against, say, Italian-American conservatives. Its reserved for Jews, under the assumption that Jews are not to be trusted you can never know what theyre up to.
Even more fundamentally anti-Semitic was the fourth tenet of the theory. Despite the fact that there isnt a single Jew in Bushs cabinet (unlike both of Clintons), we are told that American foreign policy is controlled by the cabal of Jewish neo-conservatives. President Bush is apparently mindlessly puppeteered by Wolfowitz, Perle, Eliot Abrams, and other Jewish and pro-Israel administration officials.
The first problem with this idea is that these officials didnt insert themselves into the administration in suspiciously roundabout manner they were nominated by the president himself. In any case, at the end of the day its obviously Bush who calls the shots. So how do the opinions of Jewish neo-conservatives trickle their way up to the presidents decisions? Buchanan cites Jewish-written articles in Commentary, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and the New Republic. But if Bush is convinced by the arguments unfolded in those articles, the decisions he makes are fully his, based on his own reasoning. Hes not being coerced in any way and his policies are not being controlled by anyone. To say that Bushs foreign policy is controlled by the Jewish cabal is to say that their words do not appeal to the presidents reason, but somehow work magic on his mind, hypnotically dizzying him into an intellectual vertigo where hes completely beside himself. If this is not the good old central-European mythical picture of Jews as wily manipulators who hypnotize you into submission with their clever, sweet, false words what is?
Buchanans theory is far-fetched, then, and its foundations are genuinely anti-Semitic, his contrary professions notwithstanding. But theres a larger game at play here for Buchanan. In the past few years, Buchanan has been frustrated with the transformation of the conservative movement in America, from his brand of bigoted, intolerant, and economically retarded paleo-conservatism to a kinder, free-market-oriented, more open-minded and inclusive movement. At the moment, Buchanan is still in denial. Of neo-conservatives, he wrote: Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines Few in number? The news hasnt reached Buchanan that neo-conservatives have long become the mainstream of the American Right, while his paleo-conservatism is becoming ever more marginal.
An obvious explanation for the fact that we have so many neo-conservative publications today is that the neo-conservative movement is intellectually vibrant. Neo-conservatives have many ideas, new ideas, ideas many people want to read about. Buchanan quips that a neocon is more familiar with the inside of a think tank than an Abrams tank, but the reason there are virtually no paleo-conservative think tanks is that paleo-conservatives havent had a new idea in three decades. Buchanan is too much in denial, however, to accept these straightforward explanations. If it cant be that the likes of his magazine arent read because nobodys interested and everybody knows what theyre about to say anyway, then it must be that a cabal of Jews have hijacked the conservative movement.
But the main reason the American Right is dominated today by neo-conservative thinking is simply that this is what the American people has grown to want. Buchanan-style conservatism simply has no significant audience in the American electorate any more.
Buchanans bigotry is not peculiar to Jews, but covers immigrants of all non-European stripes: Latin Americans, Arabs, Africans, and others. In his latest book, The Death of the West, he urges that immigrants from these parts of the world are a Trojan horse that will dilute and eventually undermine our western culture and values. But the problem is not only cultural, its also racial: Different races are far more difficult to assimilate than different cultures, he purports to demonstrate.
Further, Buchanans isolationism and xenophobia are not reserved to the realm of defense policy, but extend to the economic sphere as well. For Buchanan, the ultimate purpose of economics is not to generate wealth but to assure national self-sufficiency. Thus Buchanan joins the anti-globalization crowd in their economic illiteracy, celebrating any form of muzzling of the free exchange of private goods.
Todays America has grown worlds away from Buchanans wretched world. The ordinary American still harbors ethnic and racial stereotypes, just like everybody else, but rather than priding in them, struggles with them every day. In Buchanans world, the days after 9/11 would be soaked in the blood of innocent Arab Americans, but fortunately, Buchanans world is dying. Todays ordinary American knows just enough economics to understand that free trade and a free market are in the long term the surest way to prosperity, including for the Third World poor. Todays voters are not deeply suspicious of Mexican immigrants; no longer horrified by homosexuality; not so reckless as to deny their children access to contraceptives. Thats why Bush was voted into office on a platform of inclusive (compassionate) conservatism. And thats why Buchanans Reform Party went bust, barely garnering a singe percent of the vote.
In the eyes of Buchanan, all this cannot be the upshot of fair game. It must be the result of back-door manipulations by dark, faceless forces. When these faceless forces are personified, its only to be expected that they will turn out to be Jews. In other words, Buchanan is in a state of denial about the intellectual and political merits of his worldview, and anti-Semitism is just his way of trying to cope.
And in keeping with the new rule (as declared by me):
Stimpson J. Cat ............................ Patrick J. Buchanan
Separated at birth?
Peace in the Middle East is in the United States best interests. Weapons of mass destruction pose a grave threat to that peace. In order to insure peace in that region of the world, all countries in the Middle East must rid themselves of WMD, including biological, chemical, and nuclear.
Question: As a neo-con, are you in favor of this?
Actually, I'm predicting there won't be many responses to this thread.
Most conservatives, even some of Pat's former die-hard supporters, now recognize his ideology as a failed one, even if they can't admit that he is, in his bones, a hard-core anti-Semite.
The problem is not WMDs per se, but WMDs in the hands of evil people and evil regimes. When a criminal commits a crime using a gun, we blame the criminal, not the gun. Same principle.
There is a huge difference between countries who possess WMDs for defensive reasons (e.g. Israel) and countries who would initiate the offensive use of such weapons against Israel (or against other US allies or even the US itself), either directly or through terrorists.
That's a really harsh (albeit accurate) epitaph.
...An obvious explanation for the fact that we have so many neo-conservative publications today is that the neo-conservative movement is intellectually vibrant. Neo-conservatives have many ideas, new ideas, ideas many people want to read about.
Translation: (Neo)conservatives decided that if they couldn't beat the liberals, they could join them, adopting their language and policies as well as their obsession with the new and exotic, "new ideas" and the like, coming up with their own version of a government-backed prescription drug plan, etc.
If paleoconservatives are so irrelevant and marginalized, then why does Mr. Urinal here feel compelled to write a long article condemning and denouncing the paleos? This Frum-Clone must be worried about something.
Furthermore, I don't believe it belongs exclusively to conservatives. Liberals too can be pretty isolationist when it suits their needs.
But the U.S. is disarming countries pre-emptively, or at least trying to. That's the equivalent of "international gun control."
The U.S. is also re-building these countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, basically putting these countries on a form of "international social welfare program."
I'm puzzled to see that conservatives support policies on the world stage that they would oppose if implemented domestically.
Right...Unlike Bush, Buchanan wanted to stop illegal immigrants coming into the country...So now he's a racist...And you Republicans buy into this spin...
Buchanan has been frustrated with the transformation of the conservative movement in America, from his brand of bigoted, intolerant, and economically retarded paleo-conservatism to a kinder, free-market-oriented, more open-minded and inclusive movement.
Yeh, that scoundrel Buchanan was, and still is worrierd about all those American jobs going to China...And so am I...
For Buchanan, the ultimate purpose of economics is not to generate wealth but to assure national self-sufficiency. Thus Buchanan joins the anti-globalization crowd in their economic illiteracy, celebrating any form of muzzling of the free exchange of private goods.
Illiteracy???? I think it's a matter of where your loyalties lye...I'd wonder if this "salesman" sells any other brand of snake oil... So this guy admits that the neo-concerves have no use for national self-sufficiency if it conflicts with personal Republican wealth...
No doubt we have lost American but I will still stick with Buchanan's idea of America First, NOT personal wealth first...
If the writer wanted to frame the debate this way, it was his right to do so. I don't agree. When boiled down to it's purest form, the Buchanan arguement was this, "The United States by interjecting itself into the affairs of the middle east, in matters that are none of it's affair, alienates interests there that strike out against the United States."
I vehemently disagree with Buchanan over this perception, although it's impossible to completely disregard parts of it. Certain factions in the middle east do hate the United States because of it's involvement there, but I do not agree that those matters do not affect us and we should stay out.
The question is, are we going to allow terrorist leaders, their training camps and their operatives to conduct business there as usual? The answer is no. Buchanan is wrong to object to this and the writer is wrong to try to relate Buchanan's objection solely to his supposed animus for all things Israel. But there is a second question. I'll get to it in a moment.
Buchanan has stated over and over again that he think's Israel has a right to exist. No matter how the loons like to infer otherwise, this is reality.
Once again the borders of the United States are ignored in another thesis on the Great Satan Buchanan. Oh I take that back, Buchanan is a racist for his immigration stance. It only took nineteen aliens to perpetrate the carnage on September 11, 2001. Today we still have millions of foreign nationals pouring across our borders each year. MANY ARE STILL BEING ALLOWED TO IMMIGRATE FROM TERRORIST STATES. Sadly this writer proves that he hasn't a clue on more than one issue pertaining to Buchanan.
This article is yet another in a long series of articles best categorized as Buchanan the anti-Semite 101, Buchanan the Racist 102. Not only does the author (or what passes for one) seek to paint Buchanan as an anti-Semite, he expands on the theory to include anyone of non-caucasian blood.
Totally escaping the author is that our immigration policies are precisely the reverse of this. Is that racist? Evidently not. Europeans caucasians go wanting for entry visas while anyone from terrorist states to neighbor states can just about enter at will. And once here, they remain here forever. Second question: So if Buchanan is a racist, what is our own government? Buchanan is supposedly wrong to address the issue off selective entry involving most non-white nations, but our leadership is pristine to set up a system with a set of racist policies that detractors of Buchanan could only dream he would set up. Still they go pounding the toolies for statements to take Buchanan to task for, then run off like the little rodents they are when confronted with what passes for immigration policy these days.
I do disagree with Buchanan regarding our operations with Iraq and other states. On certain issues he's just flat out wrong. On other issues he's been way ahead of his time. Sadly, there are people in this nation who claim to be well informed who still haven't a clue with regard to the sactitiy of our borders. Here's a third question I'll throw in for extra credit. What price will we have to pay before closing our borders and allowing controlled reasoned entry, will make sense to the Buchanan detractors?
I just suppose it will be easier for them to focus on the middle east while our nation is flooded with potential terrorists. No problem here. Move along...
I'm looking for a good shot of Ren, I think he bears a striking resemblance to Bay.
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