October 25, 1999


If you thought the hysteria of our ruling classes over the presidential candidacy of Patrick J. Buchanan reached its height with the publication of his book, A Republic, Not an Empire, and that it couldn't get any worse, get ready for Phase II – scheduled to start today. For now that PJB has every reason to expect that he will do an end run around the two-party duopoly, win the Reform Party's presidential nod, and make our interventionist foreign policy a national issue for the first time since the Vietnam War, the elites are in panic mode. These guys are so desperate that they have scraped the absolute bottom of the barrel for a candidate to oppose him for the Reform nomination, none other than the Great Anti-populist, Donald Trump – a man so averse to the masses that his germ phobia rules out even shaking hands with the voters.


More seriously, if I were Buchanan, I would hire a couple of bodyguards. The sheer hatred whipped up by the "Get Buchanan" crowd is so intense, in certain quarters, that the tired old liberal cliché about how "hate speech" causes "hate crimes" begins to make a certain kind of sense. After all, both the left and the neocon "right" have been equating Pat with Hitler at every opportunity, and some wacko eager for his fifteen minutes of fame is bound to take them seriously. No doubt, our aspiring assassin would expect to be treated as a hero – after all, who could blame anybody for killing Hitler?


The deed would naturally be blamed on someone suitably marginal, yet another "lone nut" who just happened to change the course of American political history. Notice how all assassins in our recent history have been typecast as disgruntled loners, who incubated their hatred in a seeming vacuum. No one else is ever even marginally involved, according to the Official Story, and to believe otherwise is to risk being fitted for a tinfoil hat. What are you, some kind of conspiracy theorist?


But you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that something is afoot, and that the panic of the elites in government, media, and the two major political parties (or do I repeat myself?) is way out of proportion to the apparent threat to their political hegemony. After all, as eloquent and invaluable to the cause as Buchanan is, he is only one man with a small but very dedicated following. No poll I am familiar with shows him even close to winning: the best I've seen is 15 percentage points, less than half of what he would need to take the White House. Other polls show him at 6 percent – and, remember, third party poll numbers invariably drop with the approach of the election. Ah, but there is much more to it than that . . .


Polls measure only the present, but the future is up for grabs. This is what makes the elites nervous about the Buchanan campaign: but what really annoys them to no end is that it places certain constraints on their behavior – especially in the international arena. Pat's campaign, simply by existing, is already a remarkable achievement and a real roadblock to the interventionist schemes of our rulers. The Clintonians have been straining at the bit to strike out again at Iraq in a major way – instead of the low-level assault currently underway – and Serbia is still right up there at the top of their target list. And the players of the "Great Game" in the Transcaucasus, the big oil companies with wide influence in both parties, are impatient to get on with reaping the much-touted profits to be had in the region: the war in Chechnya will no doubt provoke a well-orchestrated outcry for another "humanitarian" intervention – this time against a nuclear-armed power. War clouds gather on the horizon, a condition not at all unusual, as regular visitors to Antiwar.com will attest – what is unusual, however, is that, for once, a ray of hope pierces the darkness.


Before the rise of Buchananism, the internationalists had the field entirely to themselves: since they controlled both parties, foreign policy was almost never discussed – until long after it was too late. Not since the eclipse of the old isolationist Republicans in the early 1950s has there been any national voice raised against the globalist delusions of our modern-day empire-builders and self-styled "hegemons." You can be sure that the Buchanan challenge is now being factored into the war plans of our rulers. They don't dare start bombing Serbia again, and are even hesitant about unleashing the American military on the demonized and practically defenseless Iraqis, for fear of increasing Buchanan's base. In an important and very real sense, Patrick J. Buchanan is all that stands between the would-be recipients of NATO's latest bombing campaign and the grave.


Here is a man who could have had a comfortable and very easy life. He could have gone along with the conventional wisdom, and not challenged the most cherished assumptions of political correctness on the Right as well as the Left. He could have gone along with the globalizers, the militarists, and the Money Power, at the end of the Cold War, and lived off the fat of the land. Instead, he chose to challenge our globalist elites on their own turf with his passionately written and extensively researched popularization of the work of such prominent historians as Charles A. Beard, Harry Elmer Barnes, William Henry Chamberlain, and a host of others all cited in A Republic, Not an Empire. He has left the party he served so well, broken with the Establishment of the right as well as the left, and given up a career as a television star and nationally-syndicated columnist – and for what? To stand between the NATO-crats and their next victims, a human sacrifice to peace and the honor of his country – this is the role Buchanan is now playing on the international stage. With a cool $13 mil to spend on television ads attacking Clinton's latest diversionary act of "humanitarianism," even as the bombs are falling and the troops are moving into position, the War Party does not dare to make its move, wherever that might be. In this sense, Buchanan becomes the instrument of something higher than mere politics, or so it seems to me. It is, indeed, almost enough to make me believe in God.


But I'll spare you the online religious conversion, and get on to the main point of today's column: how the Buchanan campaign is having a huge impact on US foreign policy in the latter days of the Clinton administration. A President in the last days of his second term is always dangerously trigger-happy – after all, he can pass the mess on to his successor. In the case of Clinton, he doesn't have to worry about his legacy, since it is irretrievably soiled: a little more bloodshed wouldn't make much difference. Not only that, but our ex-peacenik President is the biggest warmonger of the modern era, whose record of a military intervention of some sort every couple of months can only be expected to continue. The de facto nullification of our Constitution means that, theoretically, the President can take us into war on a whim. But in practice, however, it isn't as easy as all that. Since wars are expensive and Congress has so far jealously guarded the power of the purse, eventually the President must go to them and ask their approval. Although this is almost never withheld in the sense of cutting off funds while our troops are in the field – that would be "unpatriotic" – this is one risk the War Party would rather not take.


We were all supposed to be so convinced of the moral and political legitimacy of the Kosovo war, with the Establishment media unashamedly blaring a constant barrage of pro-Albanian propaganda, and the pundits hailing Clinton's great "victory." But the aftermath isn't very pretty, and the rationale for the war, in retrospect, is even less convincing as the truth about the so-called "genocide" supposedly committed against the Albanian Kosovars comes out. From half a million alleged victims, the numbers descended with astonishing rapidity almost as soon as the war officially ended, to 50,000, then to 10,000, and on down to the hundreds. Some "genocide"! Does this mean that the wanton slaughter of over 80 victims of a military assault at Waco is a war crime, or a crime against humanity? If it means putting Clinton and Reno in the dock, then I say let the Senate approve the UN's proposed International Court of Justice – if only long enough to prosecute that particular duo. After all, we can always revoke the treaty after that.


The President can launch a war at a moment's notice, but usually needs time to prepare the public and rehearse the elites in their job of articulating the rationale for mass murder. This administration, almost constantly at war with some foreign "enemy" since day one, is perpetually "spinning" to justify its policy of global meddling. But Sandy Berger, the President's National Security Advisor, has really outdone himself this time, with a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that launched the recent Clintonian campaign against "isolationism" (which I discussed in my last column). Although Buchanan's name did not pass Berger's lips, Pat's ideas dominated the speech: indeed, Berger's message to the elite gathering of the CFR could be reduced to a single phrase: A specter is haunting America – the specter of Buchananism.


Berger used the word "isolationism," which he said was making a big comeback – Hurrah! – and in American politics this is synonymous with Buchananism, especially in this political season when Pat is so much in the news. Berger opened his speech with a surprisingly honest appraisal of the political atmosphere, from the point of view of the ruling elites, and the news is not good. Berger told a self-deprecating joke that speaks volumes about the elite's loss of nerve in the face of growing opposition. "The President," he said,

"has been asking his senior foreign policy team to take the case for American engagement and leadership to the heartland of America, to all the places where hard working Americans meet to talk about the issues that matter to their daily lives. We tried that at Ohio State. That's why I'm so glad to have this chance to speak here in the Rockefeller Room to the Council on Foreign Relations."


The War Party is still smarting over what happened at Ohio State, when their Clinton News Network "town hall meeting" called to "discuss" their murderous policies in Iraq turned into a speak-out against war, as ordinary citizens stood up to the puffed-up Albright and her entourage of eunuchs and demanded answers. Humiliated by the depth and vehemence of the opposition to interventionism, they didn't dare even try it during the conquest of Kosovo, but Berger realizes they must regain the momentum. Fleeing to the relative safety of a friendly audience, Berger confesses at the outset the unpopularity of their mutual cause (interventionism), but he has come up with a quick fix solution to this growing problem – it is time for a crusade against "isolationism."


A more disingenuous speech was never given, and the most astonishing stuff was blurted out right out at the beginning: "It is perplexing," averred Berger, "that America finds itself today being accused of both hegemony and isolationism." But who, exactly, is accusing America of isolationism – with troops (and, up until recently, nuclear weapons) on virtually every continent – with or without the permission of the "host" country – how could any rational person describe such a foreign policy as "isolationist"? Ask the Somalians, the Iraqis, and the Serbs how "isolationist" the Americans are becoming. They will laugh, and bitterly. Or perhaps, by now, they have lost the capacity to laugh: their silent bitterness will be answer enough.


Berger's speech sets up the dichotomy between navel-gazing reactionary "isolationists" on the one hand, and the forward-looking champions of the interventionist future, who are associated throughout the speech with all the trappings of modernity: computers, the Internet, globalization, and the march of Science (capitalize that S!) I won't go into the more theoretical implications of these ritual invocations, except to refer my readers to today's Spotlight, a mind-opening essay by Serge Trifkovic, of the Lord Byron Foundation, who explores this subject with far more authority than I can possibly muster.


While the rest of America is marching into the glorious Clintonian future – a Wired World ruled over by the biggest and most benevolent ISP of them all: Uncle Sam – "there are those in our country who do not look to the world – or our ability to thrive within it – with confidence," said Berger to the assembled elders of the War Party. "In fact, they are distinctly defeatist. America may be at the height of its power and prosperity, yet they see America in constant peril of losing our freedom of action."


This is a very interesting choice of words: "defeatist." Now, what, exactly, is a "defeatest" – especially in peacetime? What can this choice of words – and you can be sure that the Clintonians, like their leader, all parse their words very carefully – possibly mean? Are we at war? But the Cold War is looooong over, the Evil Empire is fallen – and aren't we being constantly reminded that the US is the World's Only Superpower? Of course, the War Party is always at war, in the sense that they are always planning one, or at least busy sowing the seeds of the next one. By labeling someone's views as "defeatist," the vocabulary of warmongers is meant to marginalize and eventually criminalize all dissent. Just like the last great interventionist crusade against "isolationism," the War Party means to imply that opponents of their policies are guilty of intellectual sedition. That we are living in an era in which it is possible to have patriots smeared as seditionists, and worse, may be just one indication that we are living in the modern-day equivalent of the late Roman Empire – a society so corrupted that it no longer deserves to be saved.


But the good news is that isolationism is back! If that doesn't perk up the readers of Antiwar.com a bit, perhaps it is because they don't quite believe it. Are all those Republicans who continually vote to increase a military budget already bigger than that of all other countries combined – can these guys, who don't believe in treaties, especially peace treaties, simultaneously be militarists and "isolationists"? A legitimate question, partially answered by Berger when he concedes that "it's not the majority view. There are leaders in both political parties who reject it. But we must face the reality that it no longer is a fringe view. In fact, it is the view of a dominant minority in the Congress." And about time!


But wait a minute. We can imagine a dominant majority: that is, a group that dominates the political discussion because of its overwhelming popular support. But what are we to make of a "dominant minority"? What's up with that?


What's up is that the rulers of this country are facing a growing rebellion at home against their increasingly reckless adventurism abroad. The scolding of Sandy Berger and the tut-tutting of the editorialists who are joining the anti-"isolationist" crusade, is not really directed at the "dominant minority" within the ranks of congressional Republicans, but at the overwhelming majority of Americans who simply want us to stay out of foreign wars. Although it thrills the foreign policy elite, most ordinary Americans are not impressed with the prospect of being a "superpower": the idea of an American Empire seems, to them, profoundly un-American. The real target of Berger's ire – and the President's – is not the Senate Republicans, but the American people, who have always had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into foreign wars.


While asserting that everyone wants us to be "engaged" in the world – from the Kosovars to the Philipinos – we are, Berger admits, increasingly resented by our alleged "allies." The French have the annoying habit of describing the US as a "hyperpower" – a kind of rogue superpower that is fast metastasizing into an American invasion of Europe, achieving cultural penetration as well as military domination. So which is it: do they hate us, or do they love us? Berger seems unsure.


At the heart of Berger's argument is a defense against the "perception [which] persists among some that the United States has become a hectoring hegemon. And
since perceptions do matter, this is a problem we must do what we can to resolve. Let's begin by understanding the various strands of the criticism we face. At one extreme, we are accused of trying to dominate others, of seeing the world in zero sum terms in which any other country's gain must be our loss. But that is an utterly mistaken view. It's not just because we are the first global power in history that is not an imperial power. It's because for years, we have consciously tried to define and pursue our interests in a way that is consistent with the common good – rising prosperity, expanding freedom, collective security."


A "hectoring hegemon" – a perfect description of the Clintonian foreign policy, and a preview of what Al Gore has in store for us if given the chance. With the Democrats, the emphasis is on the hectoring, while the Republicans are more concerned with the hegemonic part of the equation – and that is what is meant by our bipartisan foreign policy.


Incredibly, Berger imagines that the US is "the first global power that is not an imperial power." What he means is that we practice an odd form of imperialism, one in which there is a price of empire but, supposedly, no profit; one in which, as the conservative writer Garet Garrett put it, "everything goes out and nothing comes in." But this is not strictly true: plenty of people, companies, financial interests, hyphenated Americans, and their foreign lobbyist friends, all of these groups – in addition to those old reliables, the War Trust and the munitions-makers – profit from the policy of global intervention, in terms not only of money but of prestige and power.


Furthermore, we are asked to believe that the American Hegemon is "the first global power in history that is not an imperial power." The howling ghosts of the Roman, British, and Russian empires are convulsed with laughter. How fitting that the President's National Security Advisor should call them forth just in time for Halloween.


Berger finally gets around to defining what he means by isolationism by attributing three planks to the isolationist platform; "First: Any treaty others embrace, we won't join. The new isolationists are convinced that treaties – pretty much all treaties – are a threat to our sovereignty and continued superiority." But what benefit is there to being the World's Only Superpower if we have to go around getting the consent of other countries for each and every action we take in the international arena and/or at home? And I'll bet I could come up with a treaty that the "isolationist" Republicans could get behind. How about a treaty – signed by as many as will sign it – pledging not to sponge off the American taxpayers as of that moment? How about a pledge that we won't "have to" send our boys and girls over there to pick up the pieces every time they decide to start butchering each other? How about a pledge for a moratorium, not only on nuclear weapons, but on the international gravy train and welfare scheme known as "foreign aid"? Now there is a treaty that even the doughtiest old isolationist could embrace with real enthusiasm – but I don't expect the Clintonians (or the Republicans) to propose it any time soon.


Which brings us to what Berger calls "the second plank of the new isolationism" which " is this: Burden sharing is a one way street." Here the argument goes as follows: if we are going to prevent US intervention, and not play the role of the world's policeman, the US must pay (i.e bribe) others into policing themselves. In short, we are asked to pay ransom to various governments who, due to the alleged virtues of "collective security," (i.e. entangling alliances), can plunge the world into a global conflict. From the Wye Accords to our UN "dues" – we must pay, pay, pay for the privilege of our thankless hegemony. Good lord, no wonder the internationalists are losing ground politically to us isolationists – with a program like that, they have every reason to be worried.


Berger caricatures the anti-war and anti-imperialist Right by attacking what he calls the third thesis of the new isolationism: "If it's over there, it's not our fight. Foreign wars may hurt our conscience, but not our interests, and we should let them take their course. That is what many said about the war in Bosnia – let it go on until they get tired of killing themselves. A part of the Congress would have let the brutal onslaught in Kosovo rage until it spread." Berger radically understates the conservative critique of that war: not only was it not our fight, but the US was clearly the aggressor, which violated, along with its NATO allies, the sovereignty of a nation which had not attacked us or any of the NATO countries. Anyone who listened to the passionate opposition of John McLaughlin, who used his weekly television program to expose the profound immorality of the war against Serbia, or the speeches in the Congress, especially those of antiwar leaders like Rep. Ron Paul, can only conclude that they opposed that war precisely because of the dictates of conscience.


What is wrong with an administration that can look at what is happening in Kosovo today – reverse ethnic cleansing and the consolidation of a Kosovar Albanian dictatorship – and deny that they are spreading the Balkan contagion, threatening the entire region with instability and the prospect of civil war?


Last, but hardly least, we are given a history lesson, in which Professor Berger lectures to the class on how and why "the new isolationism of 1999 fails to understand precisely what the old isolationism of 60 years ago failed to understand – that local conflicts can have global consequences. In an era of worldwide communication, we cannot choose not to see; we can only choose not to act. Sometimes that's right. But not acting must be a conclusion, not a conviction. We have learned the hard way that when the spread of conflict threatens our interests and our values, often the only realistic choice we have is between acting sooner and acting later."


It is the doctrine of "collective security," and not noninterventionism, that involves us in foreign wars. For if we are entangled in a plethora of alliances and "defense" pacts, with virtually every nation on earth – except a few non-co-opted "rogue nations" – then virtually every regional war has the potential to draw in everyone else in the general vicinity – and beyond. This tendency leads inevitably to the evolution of rival power blocs; a system of rival alliances whose every border skirmish has the capacity to ignite a worldwide conflagration. In a nuclearized world, the risks of such a policy far outweigh the dubious benefits. The new isolationists, while remembering the achievements and insights of their intellectual ancestors, are determined to avoid the mistakes of their forefathers. They will not underestimate the resources and determination of their enemies to make all discussion of foreign policy a "hate crime" punishable by political death – not this time around.


By the time he gets around to the fourth plank of isolationism, his audience was no doubt quite restless, and so no one paid much attention when he made the point that "We can't be a great country without a great adversary. Since the Cold War ended, the proponents of this vision have been nostalgic for the good old days when friends were friends and enemies were enemies. We've seen lately how easily Russo-phobia can be revived. But for the role of new enemy number one, China is most popular with some, with its growing economy, its nuclear program, its missiles aimed at Taiwan."

Here is where us real isolationists – and us hardcore types know who we are – can agree with Berger, and wonder why it is the administration is now attacking "Russophobia" even as Madeleine Albright incites it over Chechnya?


He is right, also, about the power and growing influence of the Taiwan lobby, but fails to mention its influence on the Democratic party, which is considerable, especially on the West coast. With all talk of a Chinese "fifth column" in the US serving Beijing's interests, what is forgotten is the existence of a very active and well-funded Taiwanese lobby, the old China Lobby, which has taken on new life after all these years of dormancy. But the Clintonians are continuously meddling in China's internal affairs, from trying to dictate her trade policies to lecturing her on "human rights" and interfering in a decades-long civil war. This bears such an eerie resemblance to the conditions prevailing in prewar Kosovo that the Chinese have made overtures to the Russians. It looks like the "nostalgia" for the Cold War that Berger bemoans is coming back with a vengeance – thanks to the arrogance and gunboat diplomacy of the Clinton administration's China policy.


I won't burden you with any more long quotations from Berger's turgid prose, or with the subject, any longer than to point out that the Republican enemies of Pat Buchanan have now been joined by their natural allies, the Democrats, in a stunning display of Establishment unanimity against what all recognize is the one major and meaningful challenge to their dominance. A man is known by his friends, but also – and perhaps even more importantly – by his enemies. That the politicians of both "major" parties are in a panic, and scrambling to defend their policies against a public they perceive as basically isolationist, means that the War Party is in retreat – and that is the news, the good news, this morning.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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