The Long View: A Republic not an Empire

I don't think I have a one-word summary for John's foreign policy preferences. Maybe someone who disliked him could come up with something pejorative, but I don't feel the need. I do know that John didn't have any time for isolationists of any stripe. American foreign policy [and public opinion for that matter] has always had an isolationist element. This was enshrined in our national imagination by George Washington's Farewell Address. John had none of it. He argued that foreign policy always needed to take into account the state of the world, and the contemporary world required us to be far more active [dare I say interventional] than the nineteenth century did in order to secure even domestic peace and prosperity.

Later, John would make the argument that post-Cold War America served as the security utility of the world, in the same way AT&T served as the telephone utility in America for most of the twentieth century. No matter how much people complain about American hegemony, they [mostly] still expect us to maintain the stability of the global political order. I've sometimes wondered about the price America extracts for being the world's policeman. In a sense, we really do this out of a sense of justice and obligation. On the other hand, US Treasury bonds are purchased by much of the world, and we use the money to spend almost as much for defense than the rest of the world combined. The full faith and credit of the United States government means something much more than just our willingness to service our monetary debt.

A Republic, Not an Empire:
Reclaiming America's Destiny

by Patrick J. Buchanan
Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1999
437 pages, $29.95 US
ISBN 0-89526-272-X


Patrick J. Buchanan, noted political commentator and perennial candidate for president, here explains his plan for restructuring the international system in the 21st century. The scale of the proposal puts it among the most radical ever propounded by an American engaged in serious electoral politics on a national level. Essentially, the book envisions the deliberate reconstruction of a multipolar world. Though the author does not note the fact, this world would be like that of about 1900, with a slightly different cast of major actors. For instance, Japan and Germany would be remilitarized and returned to their "traditional" roles as "guardians" of East Asia and Eastern Europe, respectively. The Middle East would be left to settle its own affairs, while the rest of the world broadened its energy resource-base in such a way as to end the dependence of the developed countries on petroleum from that region. Most of the multilateral institutions created during the Cold War would be either abolished or greatly diminished. The security commitments of the United States would be loosened to consultative relationships, except perhaps for a few countries in North America itself. The most substantial differences that Buchanan proposes from the world of 1900 are the militarization of the US-Mexican border and the annexation of Greenland and anglophone Canada.

Why anyone would want to set up the world for a replay of the 20th century will probably seem mysterious to most people, but it is clear enough why Patrick Buchanan would want to do so. In his opinion, the US flubbed the 20th century, while it handled the 19th century almost exactly right. Even the Cold War, of which the author approves, was made necessary only by the departure of the US from its traditional principles by intervening in the First and Second World Wars. The implication seems to be that, having done the last century wrong, we should do it again, but this time do it right.