A Republic, Not an Empire
Patrick J. Buchanan
Speech to Antiwar.com Conference

Let me begin by commending you all – on the campaign by Antiwar.com and the Center for Libertarian Studies – to forge a new anti-interventionist American coalition. Only an engaged and informed citizenry can bring about a reversal of the neo-imperial foreign policy that has been foisted upon us in the post-Cold War era by the elites of both Beltway parties.

Foreign policy, they tell us, is not an issue in this election year. By that they mean it is off the table, a matter already decided upon and settled by those who know what is best for America. So they, and their media auxiliaries, redirect our attention away from foreign policy to such burning national issues as the dating policy at Bob Jones University.

What is best for America and the world, they tell us, is that the United States should remain a superpower sheriff, the Wyatt Earp of the West, possessed of the sole right to deputize posses, or go it alone if necessary, to discipline evil-doers, wherever our "values" are threatened. I submit that this foreign policy poses a great and growing danger to the peace and security of the United States.

Last year, for 78 days, U.S. pilots flew thousands of missions against Serbia, destroying bridges, factories, electrical grids, and, yes, even hospitals, schools and the occasional embassy. Yet, before launching his war, Mr. Clinton never received the authorization of Congress. But as a consequence of our triumph over Serbia, young men and women from California, Kentucky, Florida and Maine are in Kosovo policing territory that has been violently contested for hundreds of years.

As of now, we do not know if U.S. troops will end up fighting Serbs, or Kosovar Albanians, or first one, then the other. But it is a near certainty that United States will one day be forced to pull out of Kosovo, after having earned the lasting hatred of Serbs – a people who never harmed the United States – and of the Albanians, whose aspirations will not be satisfied until the U.S. helps to carve out an ethnically pure Greater Albania.

Look at the balance sheet of Bill Clinton's unconstitutional war. NATO, a defensive alliance, launched an offensive war against a nation that threatened no member of that alliance, dissipating the moral authority with which NATO had emerged from the Cold War. Serbia is smashed. Montenegro and Macedonia are destabilized. Kosovo was purged first of Albanians, then of Serbs. And lies in ruins. U.S. relations with China and Russia have been damaged. For what? So we and NATO could police in perpetuity a Balkan province that has not the remotest connection to U.S. vital interests. Such are the fruits of neo-imperialism.

Meanwhile, a decade after the Gulf War, American soldiers and airmen stand ready to die to defend Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from Iran and Iraq – as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait conspire with Iran and Iraq to keep oil prices over $30 a barrel – to loot America and gouge U.S. consumers.

For ten years, the U.S. has played the dominant role in maintaining rigid sanctions on Iraq. By one UN estimate, these sanctions have resulted in the premature deaths of 500,000 children. Will the parents of those children ever forgive us? Even our European Allies recoil. By keeping these sanctions fastened on Iraq, we flout every tenet of Christianity's Just War doctrine, and build up deposits of hatred across the Arab world that will take decades to draw down. One day our children shall pay the price of our callous indifference to what is happening to the children of Iraq.

I speak as a proud Cold Warrior who supported every great anti-Communist initiative from JFK to Reagan. And I support a U.S. defense that is second to none and a foreign policy whereby America responds resolutely to any attack on American citizens, honor, or vital interests.

But what purpose is served by our shortening the lives of Iraqi people who have done us no harm? If Desert Storm could not remove Saddam Hussein, how are the women, children and elderly of Iraq, the victims of our sanctions, supposed to overthrow him?

And if 78 days of bombing could not eject Milosevic from power, how does forcing the people of Serbia to endure a brutal winter without fuel or heat advance our goal? What happened to the moral idea of proportionality, even in wartime, between means and ends?

We are in an election season, and the two major parties have made their predictable selections. Their debate over foreign policy – it is no news to anyone sitting here – was devoid of any fresh thinking. Both parties are frozen in the mindset of a Cold War that ended ten years ago.

During one debate, John McCain singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea as "rogue states" and advocated the armed overthrow of all three by U.S.-trained and equipped armies. Pressed on what he would do if his armies were being annihilated, the Senator did not respond. But he did not reject the notion that Iran, a nation of 70 million, should also be designated a rogue state to be targeted for overthrow.

Friends, this is hubris; this is triumphalism; this is the arrogance of power; this is America's Brezhnev doctrine. I single McCain out not because he in particular is misguided, but because such ideas are commonplace among the global gamesmen in Washington.

Governor Bush cried out in anguish when he was compared by Senator McCain to Bill Clinton, but he did not utter a skeptical word about McCain's plans for rogue regimes. Indeed, the Governor has exhibited neither absorbing interest nor extraordinary aptitude for foreign policy – to put it generously. His call last year for the war on Serbia to be waged "more ferociously" was his one memorable foreign policy utterance. But in the cluster of foreign policy aides, the self-styled "Vulcans," now home-schooling the Governor, notions of "rogue state rollback" are music to the ear.

Among the more prominent of the Vulcans is Paul Wolfowitz. A Pentagon aide to Bush the Elder, Wolfowitz produced in 1992 a blueprint for war against Russia that would utilize six carrier battle groups and 24 NATO divisions to rescue Lithuania, should Moscow recolonize that tiny republic.

Richard Perle, another of the "On-to-Baghdad" brigade, is perhaps Washington's premier enthusiast of using U.S. power to topple rogue regimes. Another tutor to Governor Bush is his father's former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. A few months ago, General Scowcroft advocated putting a division of U.S. troops on the Golan Heights, to police peace between Syria and Israel, thereby insuring there would be dead Americans in any future Syrian-Israeli clash.

Not one of the "Vulcans" embraces the new thinking on foreign policy that has taken root in Congress and the country in the aftermath of the Cold War. This new thinking alarms both Clintonites who call it "isolationist," but even more the neo-conservatives who believe America should convert her hour of power into a "benevolent global hegemony."

Indeed, during Clinton's war on Serbia, one neoconservative strategist was so disheartened by the lack of war spirit among the Republican rank-and file, he mused about giving up and leaving the GOP altogether.

But while many Democrats and some on the Left are eager to challenge the Bush-Clinton New World Order, Vice President Gore is not among them. Mr. Gore is a Wilsonian in full. He exhibits a New Republic-style lust for cruise missile strikes on "rogue nations." He was all for the war on Serbia. Nor did he allow a ray of daylight to open up between himself and Mr. Clinton on sanctions against Iraq or the strikes against that poison gas factory in Sudan, that turned out to be a pharmaceutical plant.

Mr. Gore is also an acolyte of the New World Order, ever ready to cede American sovereignty, and an architect of Clinton's Kyoto Treaty, under which global bureaucrats would dictate America's use of fossil fuels. When young Americans perished in a tragic accident over Iraq, Gore reflexively offered his condolences to the families of those who, quote, "had died in the service of the United Nations."

Quo Vadis? Where are you going, America?

Because of our sanctions on scores of nations, cruise missile strikes upon others, and intervention in the internal affairs of still others in the wake of the Cold War, a seething resentment of America is brewing all over the world. And the haughty attitude of our foreign policy elite only nurses the hatred. Hearken, if you will, to the voice of our own Xenia, Madeline Albright, announcing new air strikes on Iraq: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future."

Now I count myself an American patriot. But if this Beltway braggadocio about being the world's "indispensable nation" has begun to grate on me, how must it grate upon the Europeans, Russians, and peoples subject to our sanctions because they have failed, by our lights, to live up to our standards?

And how can all our meddling not fail to spark some horrible retribution? Recall: it was in retaliation for the bombing of Libya that Khadafi's agents blew up Pan Am 103. And it is said to have been in retaliation for the Vincennes' accidental shoot-down of that Iranian airliner that Teheran collaborated with terrorists to blow up the Khobar towers. From Pan Am 103, to the World Trade Center, to the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar – have we not suffered enough not to know that interventionism is the incubator of terrorism? Or will it take some cataclysmic atrocity on U.S. soil to awaken our global gamesmen to the asking price of empire?

America today faces a choice of destinies. We can be the peacemaker of the world – or its policeman who goes about night-sticking troublemakers until we, too, find ourselves in some bloody brawl we cannot handle. Let us use this transitory moment of American power and preeminence to encourage and assist old friends and allies to stand on their own feet and provide and pay for their own defense.

Let me state my present intent: If elected, I will have all U.S. troops out of the Balkan quagmire by year's end, and all American troops home from Europe by the end of my first term. Forty years ago, President Eisenhower pleaded with JFK to bring all U.S. troops home from Europe. Certainly, sixty years after the end of World War II, and fifteen years after the Berlin Wall fell, is not too soon to get all U.S. troops out of Europe and let Europeans provide and pay the cost of their own defense. If not now, when?

And let us quickly adopt a measure of humility about how much we know about what is best for other peoples and cultures. In the words of the great scholar Russell Kirk: "There exists no single best form of government for the happiness of all mankind. The most suitable form of government depends on the historic experience, the customs, the beliefs, the state of culture...and all these things vary from land to land and age to age."

We are entering a fertile and exciting time in our politics. Our ossified two-party system, that has managed to stifle serious foreign policy debate for a decade, is cracking up. Pressure is growing from dissidents within, and this year, there will be a mighty challenge from without. As Joe Namath said, I guarantee it.

Our Reform Party will be on the ballot in 50 states, and, if I have anything to say about it – and I expect to – it will become a non-interventionist party, a peace party, that will reach out to Americans of Right and Left who reject the Third Way imperialism being forced upon us by the elites of both Beltway parties.

In this new era, many of us are rediscovering the old distrust of crusading that was at the center of the world view of the old American Right. We are conscious of our love for this country. We do not wish to isolate America from the world, only to isolate America from wars – the religious, ethnic, and territorial wars of less fortunate lands. We know there is a powerful body of American thought – from Washington to John Quincy Adams to William Jennings Bryan and Robert Taft – as well as all the near forgotten figures written about by Justin Raimondo and others – to help guide us. And their message is one I intend to stamp upon our banners in the campaign of 2000: A Republic, Not an Empire! America First!

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