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.