very informative most of the time and – of course – always
entertaining, Patrick Buchanan's new book, Where
the Right Went Wrong, makes a basic argument that is both
disjointed and incomplete. Its contents are well worth perusing
but prospective readers should be warned that the book will take
them on a carnival ride through topics and histories that often
subtract more than add to Buchanan's most important points.
For example, Buchanan rightly criticizes the expansion of America's
military bases into Saudi Arabia (under George H. W. Bush) Eastern
Europe (by Bill Clinton) and Central Asia as well as Iraq (under
George W. Bush). He also correctly notes that these new installations
mean that the United States now has troops based in over 100 of
the world's 160 countries.
But Buchanan fails to discuss why the vast majority of these bases
were established in the first place. Ostensibly, they were built
to help fight the Cold War. Yet long after the fall of the Soviet
Union, virtually none of the installations have been closed. Why?
Buchanan can not bring himself to admit that these bases have always
had more to do with projecting an American Empire than just defeating
the "Red Menace."
Buchanan's introduction as well as chapters one, two and ten really
hammer home the most powerful themes of his book. But sandwiched
in between are chapters that deal with everything from the political
background of Islam, the history of terrorism, China as an emerging
power on the world stage, American economic malaise, Congress' abdication
of its Constitutional roles and judicial activism in America.
Most of these chapters are both interesting and informative. But
they become distractions as the reader tries to follow the powerful
case against our country's misnamed and hopelessly misguided "War
on Terrorism" that Buchanan makes in his book.
Before America can defeat the enemy that brought down the World
Trade Center, it must be able to correctly identify it. And that
enemy cannot be "terrorism" since it is merely a tactic,
a technique and a weapon. In this regard, Buchanan notes what Zbigniew
Brzezenski said after September 11, 2001: "Declaring a war
on terror after 9-11 made about as much sense as it would have for
Britain and France, after Hitler's lightening invasion of Poland,
to declare war on blitzkrieg."
Nor is the enemy radical Islam, per se. On this point, Buchanan
quotes Michael Vlahos: "This terrorist network is a ring of
military subcultures that represents a much larger political movement
within Islam, one that is nothing less than a civilization-wide
insurgency against the established regimes of Sunni Islam."
This is a battle within Islamic nations that the United States should
avoid involving itself with at any cost.
Yet for decades our country has supported the very autocracies against
which this growing political movement within Islam rages. And as
far as the insurgents inside this movement are concerned, America
really crossed the line when it established military bases in Saudi
Arabia and continued to maintain its presence there long after the
Persian Gulf War had ended.
Ironically, the United States has recently acceded to the demand
that it remove its military bases from Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately,
America is replacing these installations with new ones within another
country of significant religious importance to Islamic peoples – Iraq.
It is exactly at this juncture that Buchanan indicts neoconservatives
and "big government Conservatives" along with their lackey,
George W. Bush. "Interventionism," Buchanan writes, "is
not the solution to America's problems in the Middle East. Interventionism
is the problem. America's huge footprint in Saudi Arabia led straight
to 9-11. The terrorists were over here because we were over there.
Terrorism is the price of empire. If you do not wish to pay the
price, you must give up the empire."
This is the proper context within which the "War on Terrorism"
must be viewed. And Buchanan tells us that history gives us very
little hope that we can win such a war when it is being fought under
false assumptions and pretenses, "the one endeavor at which
Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and
guerrilla war. They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Arden,
the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the
Americans out of Beirut and Somalia, the Israelis out of Lebanon…We
have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we shall
meet those who went before. The only lesson we learn from history
is that we do not learn from history."
Unfortunately, the United States did not "start up the road
to Empire" with its invasion of Iraq. But if this monumental
blunder causes America to begin to finally turn off this road, it
will truly be a case of "better late than never."
W. Tofte [send him mail] is
the manager of the BWIA Private Investment Fund and the author of
Principled and Grow Rich: Your Guide to Investing Successfully in
Both Bull and Bear Markets. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa.