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Sock Time or Patriotism?

Pat Buchanan might be America's best-known anti-interventionist, but come wartime and his lips are zipped.

On the March 18 Buchanan and Press, Buchanan discussed Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's criticism of George Bush before his March 17 address. He said to his co-host:

With due respect to your party, I think you have got to stop acting like the Dixie Chicks [a Texan trio, one of whose members said on March 10 during a London concert that she was ashamed George Bush is from Texas]. These guys are supposed to be responsible political leaders and they're not supposed to be trashing the commander in chief 48 hours before he sends American troops into combat. Give it a rest until after the war is over.

He later prescribed, “Tell Tom and Nancy Pelosi, also, who started up again today on the president, put a sock in it until the war is over!”

Buchanan justified the anti-war moratorium on patriotic grounds in a commentary on President Bush's speech:

He said Saddam Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to get out of town, and, if they don't, we're going to take them down and take down the regime. So, that's what's coming, upcoming, folks. And when that happens and when Americans go into battle, it seems to me that the right thing to do for patriots, when American lives are at risk and Americans are dying, is to unite behind the troops until victory is won.

To borrow a fine solecism from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, “That don't make no sense.”

The great anti-totalitarian thinker Ludwig von Mises observes in Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, “Patriotism is the zeal for one's own nation's welfare, flowering, and freedom.” Patriotism thus entails opposition if one believes invading Iraq will harm America's welfare and freedom.

Imagine President Bush or his successor goes on to invade New Zealand as part of fulfilling a “Manifest Oceania.” According to Buchanan's prescription, anti-war patriots would be obliged to shut up until the victory parade through Wellington.

Where's the logic or honor in that?

Regarding support for troops, an anti-war patriot who opposes war in wartime pursues a course he believes will hasten troops' withdrawal from unnecessary peril. He supports them by trying to bring them home.

Is it to be argued that opposition in wartime is inherently unpatriotic? If so, Russian opponents of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan were traitors, as would be American opponents of conquering New Zealand. Please.

I'm sure some people oppose invading Iraq because they think it will damage America, just as some support invading because they think it will damage America. My claim is that support for or opposition to invading Iraq isn't ipso facto patriotic. I believe there are patriots who oppose invasion, patriots who support invasion, enemies of America who oppose invasion, and enemies of America who support invasion.

Pat Buchanan has written and spoken copiously against an American invasion of Iraq. He believes George Bush's policy is detrimental to America, and neither he nor anyone who loves America and opposes that policy should gag himself at this most crucial time.

That's what amor patriae is about.

March 20, 2003