Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review of "Day of Reckoning"--Part I

(This will be the first of several short essays that will serve as a review of Pat Buchanan’s latest book. For more of my previous thoughts on Buchanan, go here, here, and here.)

In his latest book, "Day of Reckoning", Pat Buchanan revisits a number of themes that have animated his work since the late 1990’s, all of which focus on the decline of the American Imperium.

Buchanan is also presently putting the finishing touches on yet another book to be released in May with the title, "Churchill, Hitler, and 'The Unnecessary War': How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World."

Since publishing "The Great Betrayal" in 1998, Buchanan has become a leading critic of the American Empire and is one of the few public intellectuals with the courage to verbalize the obvious--we have constructed our house upon sand. If there is a word that defines America it is "unsustainable."

An Unsustainable Foreign Policy

American foreign policy is bankrupt, with sprawling commitments dramatically exceeding its military assets. With somewhere between 737 and 1,000 military bases strewn across more than 150 nations the sun truly never sets on the American Empire.

The overbearing "footprint" of American power was bound to produce a backlash, as Buchanan presciently predicted in his much pilloried tome, "A Republic, Not an Empire": "If we continue on this course of reflexive interventions, enemies will one day answer our power with the last weapon of the weak--terror, and eventually cataclysmic terrorism on US soil."

Yet rather than producing a re-thinking of American commitments and a revival of foreign policy realism, the 9/11 calamity pushed Bush and Cheney toward a messianic Manicheanism. Spurred on and tutored by anti-Christian neo-cons seeking to construct an earthly utopia through American power, the president professed faith in the idol of Democratism and began reciting a new catechism ("The requirement of freedom apply fully…to the entire Islamic world", "We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name", "Liberty is both the plan of Heaven for humanity, and the best hope for progress here on Earth", "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution", etc.).

The rhetorical pyrotechnics of the Ideologue-In-Chief reached a crescendo in his second inaugural address, a speech dripping with hyperbole and ideological excess culminating in a declaration of the mission of his presidency, and the course of our foreign policy: "So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world."

With 9/11 as a pretext, Mr. Bush stoked the fires of a justifiably angry body politic by creating a Manichean distinction between "us" and "them". Bush and his defenders posit a world where the U.S. and her "coalition partners" are the defenders of freedom and civilization, attempting to thwart the "terrorists" and "homicide bombers" populating the backwaters of the Islamic world.

Aping the words of Christ, Mr. Bush said there is no neutrality: "There is no neutral ground – no neutral ground – in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies; they’re offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands." Hence diplomacy and discussion were consigned to the proverbial dustbin, castigated as appeasement to godless wickedness.

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive strike and preventive war is designed the curb the ambitions of any power that might challenge American predominance in any part of the world. It is hubris, pure and simple, designed to insure American global hegemony and is a recipe for perpetual war.

America has committed to the creation of a "democratic", anti-Taliban, pro-Western Afghanistan, a place where would empire-builders from Alexander to Brezhnev have gone to die. She has committed to defending the Baltic Republics against Russia and maintains a presence in Kosovo defending ethnic-cleansing, church-burning Albanians. She will go to war on behalf of Israel against all enemies while committing to the dual containment of Iraq and Iran. She has guaranteed to defend Taiwan and Japan against China and permanently stationed 30,000 soldiers along the DMZ to defend South Korea against an attack from the north. And with his misguided Middle East excursion, the president has promised to spread democracy from the Nile to the Euphrates--and beyond.

To carry out these commitments is an army of 1.4 million men and women, half the forces available to Eisenhower during the relatively peaceful 1950’s. This is the very definition of imperial overstretch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with your post. I'm going to need to read Buchanan's book.

3:56 PM  

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