Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The flawed insight of Pat Buchanan . . .

. . . and why we need to listen to some of the things he says.

Dana has a valid point at Delaware Watch that racist observations come out of Pat Buchanan's writing, and he is also arguably a homophobe.

I don't want the man to be President or hold any other elected office. I despise his take on domestic politics.

That having been said, I'm in agreement with Libertarian Girl, who notes what Buchanan wrote before we invaded Iraq:

With our MacArthur Regency in Baghdad, Pax Americana will reach apogee. But then the tide recedes, for the one endeavor at which Islamic people excel is expelling imperial powers by terror or guerrilla war.

They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon. We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we will meet those who went before. The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.

Why pay attention to Buchanan? Two reasons that I can think of--at least one of which dovetails with Tyler's earlier post about the PBS special on Bush's War:

1) Because it is important to remember that it takes the entire political spectrum of belief in a representative democracy to keep our government in line. We get the foreign policy we get in part because our elected leaders hold their fingers in the wind and willingly (yes, this includes the Democrats) play on our fears to get more power and influence. It should have been blindingly obvious that any foreign policy to which virtually the same exact objections were registered by the far right (Buchanan) and the far left (Chalmers Johnson) is something we needed to take a second look at.

2) And because, despite his other flaws, Buchanan's understanding of the rise and fall of empires and societies across the course of history is--if viewed through a conservative prism--exceptionally well argued and does not take liberties with the facts as historians understand them.

For better or worse, both Buchanan and Johnson see what even our most strident opponents of the Iraq war do not: the legacy of the Cold War has been the quiet establishment of an American Empire. Empires never last. There are only two ways an empire can end. The most usual is for greater and greater strains to be placed upon it until the whole edifice crashes down of its own weight--with catastrophic consequences for the citizens. Or--and this has never occurred before--a people committed to a republican form of government could actually force their government to draw back from the imperialistic brink.

I think the second is unlikely; I also believe it is our only choice.


Waldo said...

Arguably a homophobe?

Anybody with a head who re-reads- or just reads- his 1992 speech to the Republican Convention- an event this reader will certainly never forget- or his contretemps with Andrew Sullivan over the years since then, really can't have any doubt on the point.

I'm sorry to put a broad point on the matter, but Pat Buchanan is a bigot nine ways from Sunday and nothing about the smiley-face conservative act he puts on will change that. It pains me to say it, but what I read on here about his views reeks of the luxurious position of having never been on the receiving end of his contentions.

Philosophically, there are things I agree with him on. But in terms of deal-breaking, real-life, change the law to make some citizens less equal than others stuff, he's way over the event horizon. Saying he has some views that make sense is, in the overall context of his thinking, like saying Mussolini deserves credit for making the trains run on time. Anyone, gay or straight, who could pay the fare got the ride, but when it came to hauling people off, the straight ones had rather less to worry about.

One of the things I find disturbing about Libertarianism is that there's a significant element-most recently seen in the rantings of Ron Paul- whether it be the ones he admits to or the ones he just pocketed money from- of "you can have all the freedom you want as long as you're like me." Which makes it no more attractive an alternative than the two major parties. And which makes the recent postings by various authors here about Mr. Buchanan a bit disturbing.

Steve Newton said...

Actually, he said with grim embarrassment, I don't know why the word "arguably" was in there.

Sometimes, unlike Waldo, I develop an excessive attachment for using adverbs unnecessarily or even counter-productively, to say nothing of inaccurately.

Although I do have to admit I get all my Andrew Sullivan through Waldo these days.

I'd go back and take the word out, but then nobody would understand this interchange.

Tyler is a big boy and can answer for himself.

Libertarian Girl said...

It may be parsing, but I think that while Buchanan has used language hostile to homosexuality (and perhaps benefited from that), he also has had a longstanding alliance with Justin Raimondo, for whom politics has trumped any personal ideas of Buchanan's. Most homophobes don't hire gay people to work on their campaigns.

I honestly always thought Pat Buchanan was a raving lunatic until I started paying attention to what he was saying last year-- and when Buchanan gets it right, he gets it REALLY, REALLY right and argues his point in an articulate fashion. For that reason, I find him worth listening to.

As a counterpoint, it is rare to find any type of politician who is NOT a homophobe in at least some way-- Hillary Clinton has said she thinks homosexuality is sinful, Bill Clinton pandered completely to anti-gay groups in the '96 election as Andrew Sullivan has recently detailed, John Edwards is not for gay marriage. It should also be noted that generations differ on this-- Buchanan's ideas are very commonplace among my grandparents' generation, perhaps agree a bit with my parents' generation, and are anathema to my generation.

Finally, I take umbrage at Waldo's idea that Ron Paul is someone who would say "you can have all the freedom you want as long as you're like me." He has, on the contrary, specifically stated that he thinks anyone should be able to get married and the government should stay out of that business, and I even heard him say on a Christian radio show (where it would have been easy to say something different) that he refused to condemn homosexuals as sinners (he said as a medical doctor, he thought that there was a genetic component to it and that it was God's business to decide, not his). That is the most reasoned idea on homosexuality I've ever heard from a politician-- note Hillary Clinton's ideas above.