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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pat Buchanan's Error

Over at Human Events, Pat Buchanan writes an essay that looks good on the surface, but doesn't really hold up to a deeper analysis:

Buchanan begins by asking a salient question:
Why would people, who must believe themselves righteous and moral, keen and wail at the death of a monster who did what bin Laden had done?...

In one man's judgment, Osama was admired because he alone in the Arab world had the astonishing audacity to stand up and smash a fist into the face of the world's last superpower, which had become one of the most resented powers in the Middle East.
Buchanan then goes on to make a series of comparisons to other genocidal maniacs, men like Mao tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. He argues that each of these men is held in honor within their own countries because they were seen as men who fought against imperialist powers like the British, the French, the Japanese and the Americans.
Like Mao, Ho and Castro, Osama tapped into the most powerful current of the age: ethnic nationalism, the desire of peoples to be rid of foreign rule and any oppressive foreign presence, and to put up against a wall all indigenous traitors who do the foreigners' will.
This thesis plays well into the meme that Buchanan promotes - the idea that America should remove itself from most of the internal affairs of other nations.

Of course, that very idea is a contradiction in terms.
He wants America to be the last superpower, but he doesn't want America meddling in the affairs of other nations.

But America is the last superpower precisely because she is the last nation capable of meddling in the internal affairs of other nations without provoking declarations of war from the nations whose affairs she re-arranges. Indeed, that is pretty much the definition and measure of a superpower.

The old Roman empire became the superpower in the Mediterranean because she could dictate terms to anyone who bordered that Roman lake, including her major rival, Carthage itself.

Britain was a superpower because her armies enforced British law and British whims throughout the world. The Hindus had to stop burning widows on the pyre, the Chinese had to permit opium dens in their capital, the Muslims had to cease their jihad, for no one could stand up to the might of British arms.

America is now a superpower in no small part because we can inflict unacceptable levels of military mayhem on any nation foolish enough to oppose us in a course of action we have decided to take.

It is impossible to be a superpower and not meddle with others.
Superpowers remake the world in their own image, or try to.
And they get close enough to succeeding to worry their opponents.
That's what makes them superpowers - they can overwhelm any other opponent, militarily, culturally, or in any other way you care to name.

Which takes us to our second point.
It is true that the men named by Buchanan have been honored by their respective governments. But do the great mass of citizens they ruled really have any love for these men? That is a much more difficult question.

It is true that a tyrant stays in power only because enough of the people in the tyrant's country agree with his policies to keep him in power. This is, after all, how we got, and still keep, Barack Obama. But how many Chinese really honor Mao tse Tung? How many Vietnamese hold fond memories of Ho Chi Minh? How many Cubans really love Fidel Castro. How many Americans love the Oreo?

If these were the only errors in Buchanan's essay, I wouldn't bother to write this one. These are common errors and relatively harmless.

It is his final sentence, the summation of his essay, which must be contested.
Osama is dead and gone. But the ideas he tapped into -- the desire of Arab peoples to break free, to reclaim their sovereignty, to restore their past greatness, to be rid of the foreigner and his lackeys -- are also the motivating ideas of the Arab Spring.
And there is the fatal flaw.
This is not a fight to be rid of the foreigner and his lackeys.
There is no Arab Spring.

The Egyptians are not Arabs.
The Libyans are not Arabs.
The Tunisians are not Arabs.
The Syrians are not Arabs.
The Iraqis are not Arabs.
The Iranians are not Arabs.

All of these countries, all of these peoples, have long and glorious histories of their own.
Histories that are not Arab.
Histories that are not Muslim.

These nations may have a largely Muslim population today, but before their countries were raped by Arab Muslims centuries ago, these people were each their own people.

The Arabs know this.
The Muslims know this.
The Arab Muslims have worked hard to destroy these many, varied and rich histories.
It is no accident that the Egyptian museums were ransacked by Muslim crowds, artifacts destroyed by Muslim savages. The Coptic Christians are attacked not just because they are Christians and not Muslims, but also because they are Egyptians, and not Arabs.

If the British, French and Americans were foreign intruders in the nations Buchanan recalls, the Arab Muslims are no less foreign intruders in the lands Buchanan mis-characterizes. As far as the Persians, the Egyptians or the Tunisians are concerned, Mohammed and his Arabs are just another set of foreign rulers complete with sword-wielding lackeys.

Thus, we are not witnessing the rise of ethnic nationalism.
Quite the contrary.
We are witnessing the defeat of ethnic nationalism.
The ethnic nationals who led these countries are being deposed and replaced by a foreign power.

Buchanan has not only failed to answer his question, he failed to ask the real question: why do so many non-Arab nations laud and honor a foreigner who imposed a foreign way of life upon their nations?

By failing to ask that question of Osama bin Laden, he demonstrates his complete failure to grasp the situation in the Middle East.

You see, Buchanan's basic premise is flawed: America is not yet the last superpower.

Her military might is being very successfully challenged, her ability to project her culture is being very successfully combated, her ability to project her laws, project her vision for the world onto other lands is being very successfully fought. There is another power which wishes to project its culture (or lack thereof), its perverse laws, its unwholesome vision onto the world.

We are locked in a war more terrible than the Cold War if only because the vision this superpower projects has risen ascendant over nations not for a mere handful of decades, but for over one-and-a-half millennia. It has sucked billions into its alternative vision for mankind. We have fought this vision from our very founding as a nation, if only because it pre-existed our nation by twelve hundred years.

The Cold War was a 70-year training camp, a blip, a short Hell Week in a long military struggle against this much more insidious, much more evil, much more vicious foe. We know our enemy can survive because it has survived despite everything the ancient and modern world has thrown at it. We have no similar assurance about our own survival abilities.

Today, we fight a foe that has terrorized Europe since 632 AD, a foe that has torn whole nations, indeed, has torn the entire southern half of the Mediterranean, from the embrace of Western civilization. It has suborned and decimated nations and peoples throughout the world.

America is not the last superpower.

Until we recognize, name and fight the real enemy, we will not be the last superpower.


scotju said...

Steve, you're correct about Arab Muslims destroying the ethnic nationalism of the countries they have conquered. Ibn Warraq book, "Why I Am Not A Muswlim" has a chapter on Arab imperialism and colonialism. He shows that Arab Muslims denigrate the cultures of the conquered countries, and try to turn them into defacto Arabs.
Yo're also right about Islam being the real evil empire that we have to beat. IMHO, the only way to defeat it is to destroy the spiritual power of Islam. That can only be done by invading Saudi Arabia, desposing the Saud royal family, leveling Islam's two holy cities to the ground, and banning, under penalty of death, any Islamic worship anywhere in the world. You and some of your gentle readers may find my suggestions to be harsh and bloodthirsty, but consider Islam's history. It has always been a murdering sect of bloodthirsty fanatics who have wanted to take over the world. They, by the grace of God, have always been defeated on the battlefield at crucial moments in our history. But they have always managed to bounce back and become a threat again and again. It's time me put an end to this bounce back by gutting it's spiritual homeland. 1,500 years of rape, murder, and oppression are enough!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

No, I have no problem with anything you've said. As a friend once pointed out, if we were to nuke Mecca until it glowed, that would pretty much be the end of the Muslim faith.

They'd have no place to go for Hajj.

The blowback would be tremendous - Rome would probably be destroyed in response. But Islam is simply evil.

joe said...

i usually agree with Buchanan, but what you say makes a lot of sence. The only problem is that our way of life, our hedonistic culture can't beat one evil with another evil. We kill our children in the womb, these Muslims just wait a little longer. To defeat evil, we must embrace Goodness. True Catholicism is the only way to defeat all these evils.

Elizabeth said...

Guess you're not a Ron Paul fan then...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Yeah, not so much on Ron Paul. I really don't think a return to the gold standard is our salvation.

Now, I don't know much about Herman Cain, but from what I've heard so far, I would LOVE to vote for him.

It would be historic - he would be the first black man in the White House. We've had a lot of white men, and one Oreo, but no real black MEN yet.

Herman Cain or Allen West - I love both of them.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


You're right - the Catholic Faith is the only way to stop Islam.

And we'll win in the end. But it will be interesting to see how long it takes the world to figure out what is needed.

Elizabeth said...

My husband and I have been Ron Paul fans since the last election...he was the only candidate who we thought was insane at the beginning of the election season but made more and more sense as time went on. Everyone else just sounded crazier as time went on. However, Cain does look very interesting and is the only man running (should I mention that I wouldn't vote for a woman...very sexist of me) other than Paul that I would be comfortable voting for. Cain defended life from conception including in cases of rape and incest which I give him "mad props" for. Cain also doesn't strike me as a war monger...but perhaps is a bit more realistic than Paul. Cain is the type of candidate I wanted last time around but didn't exist which turned me into a crazy libertarian...

I don't think returning us to the gold standard will be our salvation because I don't really think it's possible for our country to saved at this point. Time will tell.

Doesn't/didn't Cain fill in frequently on the Neal Bortz show?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I thought Maggie Thatcher did a magnificent job, and in terms of monarchy, Catholics can point to women like Elizabeth of Hungary or Queen Isabella as excellent leaders, so I don't have a problem there. I would be fine with Palin or Bachmann. The problem is, both have been beaten into the ground by the MSM.

The MSM can't do that to a black candidate - they'd be perceived as racist. So they have to ignore Herman Cain and pretend he doesn't exist.

For my money, Cain is the only man who can beat Barack Obama precisely because Cain is a man, and Obama is a pantywaist. The differences would be stark and immediate.

Elizabeth said...

Didn't Queen Elizabeth of Hungry abdicate her authority to the crown at her husbands death? Queen Isabella ruled jointly with her husband...which is a bit different than a country being ruled solely by a woman. It isn't that I don't think a woman is capable of running a country it's that I think she shouldn't. Just like in my personal opinion I'm a lot more competent than my husband on many subjects but I'd never try to take away his headship in our family.

I agree that there is a stark difference in the manliness of Cain vs Obama however I'm not really sure that American's like a manly man anymore. So I don't know if the difference will really help Herman Cain or hurt him.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Queen Elizabeth ruled while her husband was away on state business. After his death, she became a third order Franciscan.

Queen Isabella ruled Castile in her own right. Her husband ruled Aragon in his own right. Indeed, one of the major reasons the royal couple started the Spanish Inquisition was to create a power that could operate in BOTH territories, because neither one of them had the right to rule in the other's territory.

The kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were not united politically until their son, Charles V, took the throne(s) and united the two thrones in his person.

Even apart from my personal distaste for Paul, he's been on the public stage for quite a long time and he's had trouble winning elective office. I think he's demonstrated he can't win the presidency.

Cain has a shot, I think, especially after four years of Obama's effeminate style.

.. said...

Nations are not superpowers because they can meddle. They can meddle because they are superpowers. You have it backwards.

And your two examples of meddling Empires reinforce Buchanan's very point that the US should stay out of foreign affairs not in her national interest.

Rome fell. The British Empire crumbled under the weight of two costly and unneccessary wars. The United States became the world's super power by staying out of these wars for as long as possible while the former powers of Europe crumbled.

As James Madison once said, "Wars are the death of Republics." The US is now engaged in three wars half way across the world spending money it does not have while our economic situation teeters on a precipice.

I suggest you read the following:

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Thanks - the link you provide demonstrates that Buchanan once agreed with me.

Look, superpowers may, indeed, lose their superpower status through excessive war. No argument there.

But they gain superpower status by projecting their power via war. As Buchanan said at the beginning of the essay you link, "And the same may be about to happen to the American Imperium. Its birth can be traced to World War II..."

Rome became a superpower through its wars - everyone agrees on that. Britain became a superpower through its successful wars.

Both lost their superpower status because they thought war was the solution to every problem, each got involved in more than they could handle, etc., but war is what made them superpowers.

By definition, a superpower is a nation that can meddle in other countries' affairs and get away with it.

Precisely because the US stayed out of foreign affairs, she was NOT a superpower. As Buchanan notes, it was only her entry into WW II and her successful projection of power in that event which vaulted her to superpower and led to her replacing Great Britain (which died as a superpower during that same event, losing by war the empire she had built through war).