Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

December 17, 1999


As one caught up in – and generally blinded by – the vicissitudes of writing a thrice-weekly column (try it sometime), I tend to live in the moment, relentlessly scanning the headlines for new material, always immersed in the latest controversy, with little time for or interest in the Big Questions. But I was so struck by a letter I received the other day that it brought me to a full stop. Here is the letter:


"I rarely disagree with your opinions, however, I think you were a bit too pessimistic in your recent article (12/13) on the prospects of the New World Order. It is true that powerful forces are pushing to throw all of humanity into the blender of New World Order globalism, but, at the same time, it is also true that powerful forces are emerging to oppose this trend. You are one example of this, as is Pat Buchanan, as is "The Battle In Seattle." Also if you caught the Republican debate last night, Keyes, Bauer, even Forbes were attacking different aspects of NWO globalism and interventionism. What a change from 1992 when almost everybody in the Republican party were complaining that we hadn't marched on Baghdad yet."


What struck me about the letter was how this reader had picked up on the emotional subtext of that particular column. It was a column about the meaning of the new spy scare as prelude to a new cold war, complete with Russian spies, air raid drills, and the revival of Boris Badinov and his slinky sidekick Natasha on the Saturday morning cartoons. This is a development that I find monumentally depressing. So depressing, indeed, that I raised, at the end of my piece, the question of whether we were headed "back to barbarism."

"The redivision of the world into power blocs, the rise of militantly anti-Western ideologies, not only in the Islamic world but in the former Soviet Union and China, the return of nuclear saber-rattling, the heightened aggressiveness of US foreign policy, the smug complacency of a hubristic and decadent intelligentsia – all this seems not like progress at all, but a bizarre devolution that can only end in a complete reversion to barbarism. God save us from the future – it's going to be downhill all the way."


Usually, when I finish work on a piece, a click goes off somewhere in the inner recesses of my brain, like the "click" heard by Brick in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that tells him he's had enough to drink. This time, there was no click, and I wondered if the night's labors were over. Did I really want to end on such a down note? There was something I wasn't saying, or had forgotten to say, lost in contemplation of such a dark vision. And yet …


As I read this letter, however, it occurred to me that I had fallen victim to a special kind of blindness. For in dealing, day after day, with the manipulation of power and politics by the elites in government and the media, I had forgotten all about one vital factor – the power of ordinary people to make a difference. The smugness and complacency of our decadent elites inevitably calls forth a disgusted response on the part of ordinary people everywhere. Bereft of modesty, or any capacity for self-discipline, the technocrats who run our lives are busy designing "new international architectures" for the post-cold war world and haughtily declaring the "obsolescence" of national sovereignty – while sitting atop a volcano that will make short work of them in the end.


Francis Fukuyama's famous thesis that we have come to "the end of history" is all the rage with the foreign policy establishment: it is a theory that suits their conceit, their fatuous certainty that they represent the apex of human development. But Fukuyama's "endism" is about to be stood on its head, as the world enters into a phase of what Samuel P. Huntington calls "civilizational conflict."


Huntington, a Harvard professor, and author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order holds the view that, far from ending, history is about to accelerate. Forget the "inevitable" rise of Fukuyama's "world homogenous state" – we're in for a clash of civilizations, with religion taking the place of ideology and the cultural trumping the political as a factor in the new international face-off. Instead of "progressing" to a world order, in the Huntingtonian vision of futurity the monoculture is under increasing challenge from competing traditions. In this view, the future will not be determined by faceless transnational bureaucrats and their corporate collaborators, but by the rise of Islam, and of the Indian subcontinent, China, and Japan as centers of resistance to global cultural homogeneity.


For most of our foreign policy elite, the end of the cold war has been the occasion for a mad triumphalism, a bacchanalia of global preening and posturing: they dream of conquering the Balkans, plundering the Caucasus, encircling Russia and even taming China. But not Huntington, the stern realist, who bridles at the hubris of the policymakers and writes "that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world."


Huntington's faith in the ability of indigenous cultures to reassert themselves in the face of the global MTV/MacDonald's monoculture is not only reassuring, but also entirely believable. We can see the consequences of this growing resistance not only abroad, but in the growing resistance right here 'in the belly of the beast' (as they used to say in the sixties) to globalism and interventionism.


First and foremost is the Buchanan for President campaign, and the tremendous excitement this is generating among conservatives and others whose central concern is the issue of American sovereignty. This is a development that I never expected to last as long as it has: in 1992, when Buchanan first took up the cudgels against the internationalist establishment, it was hard to envision that either he or his movement would endure. Under attack from every quarter for daring to take on a sitting Republican president, and reviled for challenging the bipartisan "consensus" in favor the Gulf war, Pat endured a storm of abuse. I traveled throughout New Hampshire, during the historic 1992 primary, and watched as a band of thugs and disrupters shadowed him throughout the state, staging violent incidents and interrupting press conferences in an attempt to smear Pat as an anti-Semite. Good lord, I thought: don't these people have jobs, don't they live anywhere? But of course that was their job – disrupting the campaign. As to who was paying them, I leave to your imagination . . .


But they failed. I'll never forget that night, as news of Pat's resounding victory was broadcast over the television set in the hall where the Buchananites were gathered. A cheer, a roar went up such as had not been heard in many a moon – and the sound of it echoes down through the years, as strong and resonant as ever. Who would have thought that Buchanan would survive the storm of vituperation that was unleashed on his head? But he did, and more than that, he prospered – and so did the movement spawned by his candidacy. Who would have imagined that, in the year 2000, we would see a merging of the two major populist tendencies in American politics, the Buchanan and Perot movements, rapidly evolving into a formidable challenge to the status quo? Now there is a cause for optimism!


As the libertarian "dynamists" and "free traders" over at Reason magazine excoriate Buchanan for opposing "change" – i.e. abortion, gay rights, and the "right" to clone yourself – at least a few libertarians have not completely disappeared into a world of science fiction, and still retain some interest in what is going on in the real world. For them, Buchanan's latest speech proves the contention I have been making in this column for months: that the Buchanan campaign represents the very soul of libertarianism in its opposition to war and respect for individual human life. In its concern for the fate of the victims of US foreign policy, the essential humanism of Buchanan's vision comes shining through as he denounces the barbaric policy of imposing sanctions on "rogue nations":

"Woodrow Wilson called sanctions the 'peaceful silent deadly remedy.' Today, they may fairly be called America's silent weapon of mass destruction whose victims are almost always the weak, the sick, the women and the young. When Arab terrorists murder Israeli children, we Americans are rightly filled with horror and disgust. But what do Arab peoples think of us when US sanctions bring death to literally thousands of Iraqi children every single month? Can a nation that declares piously it will never stoop to assassinating tyrants, but wields a sanctions sword that slaughters children, truly call itself 'the home of the brave?'"


Buchanan entitled his speech, delivered before an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "Toward a More Moral Foreign Policy" – and this is really at the heart of his opposition to internationalism – sheer horror at the crimes committed in the name of support for "democracy" and "human rights" abroad. Once the most advanced Arab country in terms of medical equipment and care,

" Now, Iraq's doctors cannot even read medical journals; because medical journals are embargoed. Childhood leukemia, a disease with a cure rate of 70 percent in America, is now nearly always fatal in Iraq. Disposable syringes must be used over and over again. Their importation has been blocked out of fear that medical syringes will be used to create anthrax spores. Ancient X-ray machines leak radiation. Chlorine, a vital water disinfectant, all the more necessary because Iraq's sewage treatment plants were bombed in Desert Storm, is embargoed, lest it be diverted into chlorine gas. Even the plastic bags needed for blood transfusions are restricted."


How is it that George Dubya is masquerading as the "compassionate conservative," while saying not a word about the massive suffering of an entire people – except, perhaps, to endorse it?


In Buchanan's injection of morality into the debate over war and peace – not the warlike "morality" of the global crusaders, but the distinctively Christian morality of the devout Catholic who upholds the sanctity and worthiness of the individual soul – he is expressing the profoundly libertarian conviction that violence is justified only in self defense and only against those who initiate its use. The three- and four-year-old kids who are starving to death and suffering brain damage because Madeleine Albright believes "it is worth it" (as she told Sixty Minutes) never posed a threat to the US or any of its citizens. As Buchanan puts it:

" No, Madam Secretary, it is not worth it. A policy that sentences thousands of Iraqi children to death every month, because their parents will not rise up and overthrow a tyrant, is unrighteous and immoral."


This is a magnificent and eminently libertarian answer that underscores the centrality of justice to Buchanan's vision: those Iraqi kids are innocent. They don't deserve to die – and nothing, not any political or economic considerations, can serve to justify their wanton murder. Perhaps the hostility of the quasi-hip "dynamists" over at Reason – who only mention Pat's trade policies and completely blank out his foreign policy views – is traceable to the Christian, and specifically Catholic roots of his noninterventionism. Well, isn't that tough for these alleged rationalists – for all their alleged devotion to "reason" and "liberty," La Postrel and her neocon buddies have never been known to discuss the rationality of mass murder in Iraq. In discussing the concept of a "just war," Buchanan notes that

"Christian doctrine demands that such a war be defensive, and never aggressive. It must be waged only as a last resort, after all other means of negotiating peace have been exhausted. The violence used must be proportional to the threat. There must be a prospect of victory so that soldiers are not sent to their death for no purpose. In a just war, innocents may never be directly targeted; and, after the fighting is over, there must be no acts of vengeance."


This is a clear evocation of the famous nonaggression axiom – enshrined at the center of libertarian political thought – applied to the realm of international relations. The idea that individual human life is sacred, that it belongs, if not to itself, then to God – but not to any State – captures the spirit as well as the letter of the libertarian creed. Of all the presidential candidates, only one dares to raise the question: why are we killing the children of Iraq? What, in God's name, have they ever done to us?" His name is Pat Buchanan.


Besides asking what are we doing to the children of Iraq and Myanmar, of Cuba, and Libya, he poses another question: what are we doing to ourselves? What kind of internal corruption is eating away at the vitals of our republican form of government that we can commit such crimes with impunity?

""As we end this American Century and this decade of national preeminence, we remain a people divided over our role in the world. It is a time for what Catholics call a "retreat," not a withdrawal into isolationism, but a day of introspection. Why is America, its economic and military power unrivaled, its popular culture dominant in the world, so resented by so many? Is it envy? Is it because we are an enlightened nation and they are benighted? Or have we, too, succumbed to the hubris of hegemony?"


Yes, the new cold war is on, and the battle lines are being drawn, but at least a new opposition is rising, and it is not restricted to Buchanan and his movement, nor is it confined to the United States. The fight against globalism is, by definition, global – and that is not an irony, but a simple fact. I am particularly proud of that a rising percentage of our readers come from outside the West – we have regular readers in Japan, Singapore, the Middle East, as well as throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Now there is yet another cause for optimism that I am glad to acknowledge, one that contradicts the dark thesis of a few columns ago – and that is the ongoing success and growth of


The antiwar movement of the new millennium has its leaders, such as Buchanan, its institutions, such as, its cadre of activists, intellectuals, and publicists, and a growing mass following now developing the organizational forms necessary to carry on the fight. Well, then, let the new cold war commence – because we're more than ready for it.

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