Right Wing to the Rescue

Why the anti-war movement needs Pat Buchanan.

Ok, it is truly a sign of the end times when Pat Buchanan starts making perfect sense. He also offers beleaguered liberals a small beacon of hope by suggesting a way to mount a broader-based patriotic resistance to the current American regime.

Remember WTO? Seattle saw a gathering of tribes from all across the political spectrum. Unlikely alliances were personified by "Turtles and Teamsters," the enviro-leftists and the blue-collar Reagan Democrats who found common cause resisting corporate globalization. But they weren't the only odd couple in Seattle. Many right-wingers were in town, too, including Buchanan, John Birchers, and Montana Militia types. Not all of them marched on N30, but some did, carrying the banner for the anti-United Nations crowd that sees globalization as a clear threat to American sovereignty.

In fact, some right-wingers are more devoted global skeptics than their lefty counterparts, many of whom do advocate a different kind of globalization. Marxists want worldwide revolution; moral globe-trotters of the Jimmy Carter ilk favor a globalization of values; and many liberals imagine one world government modeled on the U.N., the European Union, or Star Trek's Federation.

For the most part, the anti-war left is making arguments against the Iraq war that rely on moral values: Invasion is simply morally wrong because war is wrong. But most people don't respond well to arguments that begin with the assumption that anyone who disagrees is a moral inferiora chronic weakness on the self-righteous left (you're also bad because your drive an SUV, eat meat, and wear sweatshop tennis shoes). Most Americans recognize the occasional necessity of force and armed conflict. They also are capitalists and patriotic: For them, anti-war arguments have to make practical sense, and be couched in ways that remind them of fundamental American values. They respond to flag wavers, not flag burners.

Anti-war conservatives speak to these values and place the Bush foreign policy in a context that shows that, as a fundamentally imperial policy, it is un-American. They lay out the practical arguments for why it is doomed to failure, and do this within an American context. You don't have to rely on the Germans or French for arguments against the Iraq war. Look at our own history. Look at our own Constitution.

Pat Buchanan did this just last week in a Feb. 23 Los Angeles Times editorial, "Wages of Empire." It's a forceful critique of the folly of Bush foreign policy and war in Iraq, better than most of what I've read on the left:

"No, empire is not our future, or our fate. The braying Beltway interventionists are only advancing the day when this generation too will rid itself of empire and America returns to the foreign policy written in its history and its heart: the friend of freedom everywhere but the vindicator only of our own." His piece concludes: "To hell with empire."

Letters to the editor that followed came from liberals who found themselves confounded by the fact that they agreed with an old nemesis like Pat. Some hinted that he was in anti-Israel mode, lashing out at the so-called "Amen Corner." But the fact remains that Buchanan was making a stronger case against the war and Bush policy than most Democratic leaders.

Another writer who makes the case against empire is Paul Schroeder, professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He wrote an excellent essay on the problems with pre-emption for Buchanan's new magazine, The American Conservative. The essence was that America was risking its future and moral leverage by breaking the Golden Rule: Do unto others. . . . But even better, check out his remarks on the History News Network Web site (www.hnn.us). Schroeder, speaking at a January meeting of the American Historical Association, laid out succinctly the historical case for why the Bush Imperial Manifesto is both unwise and impossible. "Those who speak of an American empire bringing freedom and democracy to the world are talking of dry rain and snowy blackness . . . by definition, empire is the negation of political freedom, liberation, and self-determination."

Conservatives can be allies in the coming struggle against the Bush Imperium. Some pundits, such as those at the centrist New American Foundation, predict a major American political realignment lies ahead. This realignment must not wind up in the muddled middle that produces Republicrats like Joe Lieberman. It must be a meeting ground where the principled wings of the right and left can find a way to defeat a common enemy: the leadership that is dragging us into pre-emptive war, that is presiding over the massive erosion of civil liberties, and that is speeding us toward fiscal collapse. The left is leading the anti-war and anti-Bush efforts; but it can draw strength by linking with the far right to help re-establish common values that place peace, liberty, and self-defense at the center of our agenda, and that reasserts our commitment to true democracy.

If we're going to be resisting the forces of American empire, I'm one liberal who'd be happy to fight alongside Pat Buchanan.

kberger@seattleweekly.com

 
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