Thursday, July 3, 2008
Personal Aside: Let Us Return Again to Fantasyland As Pat Buchanan argues Winston Churchill and FDR Pushed Adolf Hitler into War, Evoking an Unnecessary Allied Response.
Pat in Never-Never Land.
Since I have known Pat Buchanan for 30 years (I predate him in years by 10) paid him corporate honoraria after he left the Nixon White House when we enlisted him in reviewing the national political situation for Quaker Oats sales force and suppliers and hosted him once when he ran for president the first time (1992) it is not difficult to see the sentimental feelings for one enamored of his fathers memory in his latest booksas I am proud to say I had the same kind of father.
Pat and I have discussed our similarities before. He comes from the same kind of lineage as Ihalf Irish, half German. In my case, I was the only child dazzled by a father beloved who would instruct me in geopolitics as I, a 7 year-old, listened, fascinated as he prepared his morning abulutions, sharpening his Rolls Razor on a strap, stirring the warm soapy lather in a mug and applying it with shaving brush as he talked about the world.
I, propped on a clothes chute, read as perfectly as I could the editorials from Col. Robert R. McCormicks Chicago Tribune to him and listened to his comments. As father was a very devoted adherent to Col. McCormick in all his views, I matriculated early to become what was termed thenand now--as a far-right extremist, a label I bore proudly. In fact I recall distinctly going to Saint Juliana one morning disheartenedand when my nun, Sister Patricia McGill, OFM, asked why I was downcast told her the socialists have gotten to Bob Taft. It was about 1939 (I then 11) and Taft, a presidents son who had just come to the senate but who had a national lineage was fighting our likely involvement in the war, but deviated somewhat to say that he had supported our joining the League of Nations which to my father was anathema.
I began these chores of listening to father each morning in 1935 (having been born in 1928) and continued them on an almost daily basis every morning through the 1930s and well into the `40s, embracing the rise of the New Deal, the failure of Franklin Roosevelt to rescue us from the Depression, the recession that hit in 1938 and the movement to enlist us in the war to save Great Britain which finally rescued us from the Depression. Not only that but I have never distanced myself from the view that our entry into World War II was manipulated by an unholy consortium of New Dealers as a throwback to the unnecessary World War I (the Pearl Harbor attack having been precipitated by all manner of taunting we imposed on Japan that made the despicable attack predictable) who then, stunningly, did not send a warning that had been intercepted and for some unknown reason, our installations in Hawaii were still sitting ducks for the attack.
That is still my view today and I am gratified at the recent book by the historian Thomas Fleming (NOT the man of the same name who is president of the Rockford Institute) who catalogued the step-by-step moves by Roosevelt to get us into the war. My old boss, the CEO of Quaker, had been as a very young man the president of the America First Committee and flew across the country in the campaign to keep us out of war with Charles Lindbergh. But of course once we entered the war, all of us became chauvinist patriots. Every young man who had been involved with America First and they numbered quite a few famous ones including John F. Kennedy, chairman of the Massachusetts committee, Sargent Shriver, William Benton, Chester Bowles et al went to World War II. Here at home (when the war ended in August, 1945 I was one year shy of draft age) we were fervent patriots; none of us had a thought of criticizing the war effort, including my father, mother and all the way up to Colonel McCormick.
The onset of the Cold War changed conservatisms attitude toward internationalism greatly. Taft died in 1953 and the next generation of conservatives were far more hotly anti-Communist and world-battlefield committed than he. Barry Goldwater was feared not because he was an isolationist but because he was thought to be a warmonger. Joe McCarthy supported international pacts throughout the world to strengthen the fight against communism. The Republicans became the anti-communist party. The Cold War and possession of atomic arms by the Russians and Chinese made Republicans us get involved heavily in trying to contain the Reds. By the time I went to work in the Congress as a staffer, I worked for a strong anti-Communist internationalist, Walter Judd, ranking Republican on House Foreign Affairs. Like me, he did not doubt that FDR ingratiated the country into World War II but we all recognized things were different now. Nuclear missiles could wipe us out and we had to become leading global strategists to defend ourselves.
Whether he believed in what he was doing then or not, no one got involved in globalistic anti-Communism in the early `60s more than the early Pat Buchanan. He was a spear-carrier for Barry Goldwater who wrote the book Why Not Victory? calling on us to utilize all means to defeat Russia and China everywhere, throughout the world. He was a speech-writer for Richard Nixon who went to China in a brilliant move which divided what was up to that time a truly international alliance of Russia and China. He served Ronald Reagan as director of communications, traveling with him throughout the world including to the various summits where Reagan outsmarted Gorbachev. Then for Pat to suddenly revert to paleoand not just Taft nationalism but Ron Paul isolationism, retreatism, is stunning to behold. Then leaving the Republican party
Bob Taft, after all, was not paleo nor isolationist; he understood the world very clearly having been the son of an internationalist, once admired by Teddy Roosevelt, who was secretary of war and governor general of the Phillipines .Bob Taft who as a lawyer served Food Administrator Herbert Hoover at the Versailles peace conference but Pat embracing a paleo-nut like Ron Paul, who wants to abolish the Food and Drug Administration, wants to privatize the highways, wants to obliterate anti-drug legislation and who calls on us to leave the United Nations and live in Fortress America is truly something to behold.
Theres something eerily psychological about it as if, at age 69, Pat wants to atone for all that globalism and at this late time revert to please the memory of his long-dead father who like mine was a paleo, the only type of conservative around then (my own father backed Goldwater, Nixon and was an early admirer of Ronald Reagan before he died in 1966men who were vastly different from Bob Taft but my father wisely understood the world had changed. But to see Pat continue in this old way is weird. Moreover to reject free trade, put a 10-year moratorium on even legal immigration and practice protectionism when any student of history knows protectionism and high tariffs had much to do with the Depression of 1929. One expects to see him to produce a dog-eared copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and harangue from that. Eerie.
The paleo agenda corresponds closely with what is now the moveon.org left. Watch the McLaughlin Group, the funny, dated gathering which used to produce cogent discussion and which now engages in shouting matches. Buchanan supposedly on the right agrees with Eleanor Clift on the farthermost fringe of the left. Both want like Ron Paul immediate withdrawal from Iraq no matter what it takes, including the humiliation of the United States. That spells the difference between Buchanans crimped, sour views and my familys when war struck in 1941. We wanted to win the war. Buchanan, now matter how he dislikes hearing it, is not rooting for us to win this war. Like Eugene McCarthy who said it would pay the U. S. to lose in Vietnamteach it a lessonBuchanan has moved to take his place with the insouciant left that Stands Tall in Georgetown. Bitterness, sourness and crotchety old age have turned him from rooting for the U.S. to win to writing inconceivably bad tracts, perverting history, to try to make a pathetic point.
Sad but true, much of what passes for paleo-conservative thought however paleos may deny it is anti-Semitism, It invaded my own grand parents thought in the Depression `30s when theyIrish and German--huddled before the radio listening to Fr. Coughlin (whose views on many issues approximate Pats) the conspiracy theory that somehow the international bankers (code word: Jews) have bewitched us, beguiled us with their Wall Street money to fight their wars for us.
The brunt of Pats book The Unnecessary War dwells on the blunders of British statesmen that in his words reduced Britain from the greatest Empire since Rome into an island dependency of the United States in three decades. It is a cautionary tale, written for America, which is trading the same path Britain trod in the early 20th century. What a fairy tale. It is truly conspiratorial nonsense. The story of America and Britain is much easier to fathom than that. Long before 1939 in fact, by the end of the 19th century the British empire started to slip because it could not compete with the growing resources of the United States. And it was easy to understand. There were rebellions in its colonies by the restive spirits that imitated our own. What Britain did, perforce, was brilliant. It managed to tie its destiny to ours.(My father said that it beguiled usbut from its own standpoint it was a wise strategy.)
Far from foolishly expending its energies to the point where it became a vassal, Britain followed the cyclical phases of history. Wealth of nations began with the United Provinces of the Netherlands 400 years ago then passed to the U. K. and now to the U.S. Each of these empires defeated huge rivals, from the Spanish Armada to Soviet tanks, they survived for one reasonby building a democratic society at home and by forging its energies to embrace a global economy, utilizing their strength to control the seas, safeguard trade and when necessary overcome adversaries abroad. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 promoted pluralism. The American revolution shocked Britain but the successors of George III wisely linked arms with us for its own survival. My own father admired Churchill saying, would that we had a leader with his vision! He was right.
Churchill beguiled Roosevelt to lead us to warbut that didnt make Churchill a scoundrel: it made him a British patriot. Saying that the treaty of Versailles was unjust to the Germans does not convince me; it was harsh but less harsh than Germany was to nations it conquered. Maintaining the British unwisely provoked Hitler to their own peril does great injury to history and to logic. Since Britain was in dire straits economically, it was not to its interest to goad Hitler with a stick. Hitler was a madman with world conquest on his mindand when Neville Chamberlains government fell because Chamberlain had underestimated Hitler, the country had to turn to the old imperialist, Churchill. And Churchill knew that the only way to save Britain was to encourage the United States to join the war.
The more I pondered over Buchanans book, the more I wondered why he had gone to the stupendous work to convolute such a conspiratorial rationale that defies the recognized course of history. But it is clear that his interest is not history at allbut to forge a weapon that this very bitter man wishes to be used against his former partythe Republicans--with this make-believe scenario: what happened to Britain can happen here.
Frankly, I think there are elements in George W. Bushs outlook that are too Wilsonian; and if and when the Republicans lose the election of 2008, a readjustment will occur. We must limit our global reachbut not withdraw to the borders of Camden, New Jersey as Ron Paul and his extremists believe. There are real dangers threatening our continuance in the worlddangers far more worrisome than communism .the dangers of terrorism which have struck us once and by all odds will strike again if either paleo-ism or leftwing Obama-ism gain ascendancy.