Buchanan`s Book (***1/2)
Jude Wanniski
October 11, 1999


Memo: To Jack Kemp
From Jude Wanniski
Re Pat's Foreign Policy

You really ought to read Pat's controversial new book, A Republic, Not an Empire. You should note also that the really controversial part of the book has to do more with preventing World War III, not sidestepping Hitler and WWII. For years, you and I have bemoaned the fact that when the Cold War ended, we never did have a serious national discussion about the future of America's foreign policy. President Bush essentially lost interest in his own presidency when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviets gave him the keys to East Germany and the Warsaw Pact. The conflicts we have been sucked into in the years since -- the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo -- were all dubious enterprises, each one the result of diplomatic failures by the regional powers, all of them involving economic decline.

What Pat attempts in his book is just such a discussion. I have plenty of quibbles about the facts he presents, but I fundamentally agree with his overview and analysis. There is no rhyme or reason to our conduct of foreign policy. When Dan Quayle was still in the race, he complained about President Clinton conducting an "in-basket" foreign policy. If he got to the Oval Office and there was a crisis in his in-basket, he dealt with it according to the polls, focus groups, campaign contributors, and relative importance of the ethnic groups involved in the crisis to the Democratic Party. The fact that we are the world's only superpower seems to mean the President can do whatever he wants in the world, without regard to the Constitution, treaties, statutes or "international law." I'm afraid we would get the same from Al Gore. There are hints Bill Bradley would have a more coherent approach -- he might even agree with Buchanan in many respects. There are no other candidates in the GOP who question the triumphalist approach: We are the boss of the world. Steve Forbes sees himself as the candidate whose money will keep him in the race against George W. Bush, but Steve and George are both triumphalists -- a term just this side of "bullies."

Of all the candidates, Buchanan certainly has the most pugnacious image, but his book has none of that. Indeed, the chattering class manages to associate Pat with Adolf Hitler -- George Will actually called Pat a "fascist" -- when the thrust of Pat's book is that the United States should use its military might only in its immediate national interests, and then only as a last resort. The "controversial" part of the book, if read as carefully as Pat wrote it, simply argued that British diplomacy bungled in drawing the line against Hitler in Poland, which it could not help, instead of in France. In Pat's not implausible scenario, Hitler would have left western Europe alone while facing off against Stalin -- fascism and communism exhausting each other in the process. Pat even suggests that the Holocaust, which did not begin until late 1941, might have been avoided but for London's error in Poland. For this, Abe Rosenthal and Bill Safire of the NYTimes insist that Pat must be anti-Semitic! Pat tells me laughingly that he gets no credit from the Jewish community for his lifelong Zionism. You might as well get the book and read it all, but you can whet your appetite with the opening chapters, which the NYTimes makes available at its website: