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
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.
One of John's favorite themes was how slowly intellectual history moved in the twentieth century. In Spengler's Future, he said this:
Even when literature and art leave a conspicuous mark, however, modernity everywhere is fundamentally a time when ever more brilliant people seem to produce less and less of substance. As the period progresses, its art grows more and more-self-conscious until it disappears into technique. It is the time of Wagner rather than Bach in the West, of Legalism rather than the Mandate of Heaven in China. It is also the great age of reactionaries of all stripes, of traditionalists rather than tradition. Many modern political systems which are supposed to embody ancient principles are in fact faked antiques.
One of the remarkable aspects of modern times, considering the amount of energy and creativity expended during the period, is how little of its vast cultural output survives. Science survives since it takes up relatively little space (for better or worse: the facts of one civilization often don't stand up to examination by a later one). But the plastic and pictorial arts, the prose that critics come to blows over and the poetry that briefly seemed to change the world, all this is often known to later ages only through secondary sources. The originals may be destroyed or suppressed in the terrible final stages of the modern era. More often, they are simply lost or neglected as taste changes. As a rule, the more early-modern a thing is, the greater its hope of longevity. Works like those of Dickens survived (with occasional slumps and survivals), while almost none of the modernist Western canon was equipped to outlive the critical apparatus which called it into being. This is the era of experiments. In the nature of the case, they usually fail.
The battle lines over contraception, abortion, and all manner of reproductive technology haven't really changed much in 50 years. John's post still seems pretty topical after 12 years, which tells me the supposed advances of technology haven't done much for the arguments here. I don't think the problem is technology hasn't advanced much. I think the problem is our understanding hasn't advanced much.
Here, John also hits on one of the biggest issues with all manner of reproductive technology: it costs too much to really affect the raising of children very much. There are thorny issues to deal with in law and moral philosophy, but the majority of children will continue to be made the old fashioned way for reasons of cost:
There was a picture of one of these on the cover of The Weekly Standard of February 4, 2002. As you might expect, the theme of the issue was biotechnology and its implications for the suddenly problematical human condition. The prospect of reproductive human cloning is only the beginning of evils, it would seem. I have some scattered observations about the two pieces in the issue on the subject.
"Kass Warfare," by Andrew Ferguson, was about the first public session of the President's Council on Bioethics, which is headed by the bioethicist Leon Kass. The rest of the council consists of jurists, philosophers and a gaggle of scientists. The session stared with a discussion of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1846 short story, "The Birthmark." That's the one about the scientist who tries to cure his otherwise perfect wife's single tiny blemish and kills her in the process.
The liberal-arts types on the council reached for an interpretation of this story as an allegory of the principle that the attempt to perfect humanity destroys humanity. The math-science geeks were offended by the fact that Hawthorne plainly did not know what scientists did or why they did it. Actually, the best interpretation of the story may be rather technical. Writing in the heyday of New England Transcendentalism, Hawthorne may have simply been trying to illustrate the Kantian notion that absolutes are noumenal rather than phenomenal. That is, we never experience perfection or any pure condition. Such ideals should guide our actions, but we will never see them realized.
The article emphasized the insufficiency of the Yuck Factor, meaning the visceral reaction that people usually have to ideas like cloning when they are first proposed. The Yuck Factor is not a historical constant, Ferguson notes. The laws against miscegenation were backed largely by an inarticulate distaste for the idea of congress between the races. The laws disappeared when the distaste did. The Council on Bioethics is supposed to map out principled arguments about what we should and should not do that will stand scrutiny even when emotions change.
I would add that biotechnology often brings something else into play, what might be called the Pet Shop Factor. This refers to the Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese goes to a pet shop to buy a fish, but finds that the shop has only dogs. The shop owner offers to turn a puppy into a fish by vivisection. Cleese agrees, but only on condition that he can watch. It is possible to be greedy of wonders. Quite aside from whether it is a good idea to tinker with fundamental human biology, there is still the raw curiosity about whether it is really possible.
Like Imperium, The Turner Diaries are a mainstay of the lunatic fringe. It is also a classic millennial text. I have never read this book, and I have no intention to. However, John read and reviewed it because the millennial impulse can and does break out in the real world, and we ought to know how bad it can get.
The Turner Diaries
by "Andrew MacDonald" (William L. Pierce)
The National Alliance, 1978
Approx. 80,000 words
WARNING TO THE READER: This is the most repulsive book I have ever reviewed. Persons offended by descriptions of virulent racism and of the advocacy of genocide may not wish to continue reading.
According to Michael Barkun in Religion and the Racist Right (p. 225 et seq.), the author of "The Turner Diaries" is one William L. Pierce, writing under the pseudonym "Andrew MacDonald." Pierce received a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado and worked in industry and as a university instructor before becoming involved with Nazi groups in the 1960s. "The Turner Diaries" appeared from 1975 to 1978 as a serial in "Attack!," a publication of the National Alliance, an American Nazi faction led by Pierce. ("Attack" [Der Angriff] was also the name of the paper Josef Goebbels founded in Berlin in the 1920s.) The book was first published as a paperback in 1978, and Barkun cites a second edition, also published by the National Alliance (Washington, DC 1980). The text for this review was found online, without copyright, at http://members.tripod.com/~EdgarS/TurnerD/turner.html in December 1997.
"The Turner Diaries" has been around for about 20 years at this writing. This work has long been of some interest to students of religious and political cults. What made it famous, however, was the destruction of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. (The date was apparently chosen to commemorate the destruction of the compound of the Branch Davidian sect at Waco, Texas, precisely two years earlier.) The crime was committed with a truck bomb using ammonium nitrate fertilizer as an explosive, a weapon system described in some detail in this book. While there is no reason to believe that the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing were working directly from the historical script set out in "The Turner Diaries," nevertheless the book is well-known in the circles with which they associated. Echoes of names and incidents in the story, such as the racist insurgent group known as the "Order" that appeared in the 1980s, continue to turn up from time to time.
The book purports to have been published in the year 100 of the New Era, which is apparently about AD 2100. In form, the book is a commemorative edition of the diaries of one Earl Turner, a 35 year-old electrical engineer who became a hero of the Great Revolution that preceded the New Era. The diaries cover Turner's activities as an insurgent from 1991 to his death in 1993. The revolution was orchestrated by a guerrilla army known simply as "the Organization." (Its opponents are normally referred to collectively as "the System.") The heart of the Organization was a quasi-religious group known as "the Order," into which Turner is inducted. We learn almost nothing about the governance or history of these bodies, though the Order seems to be inspired by the Templar-model of the SS sometimes favored by Heinrich Himmler, under the apparent influence of the apostate Austrian monk Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. (See "The Occult Roots of Nazism" by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, New York University Press, 1992) For that matter, there is no systematic exposition of the beliefs of either the Organization or the Order. The diaries are supposed to provide a ground level view of a great event, interspersed with occasional reflections.
Before proceeding to an analysis, it would be helpful to look at a full chronology of the dates and events named in the text. The story is built around a system of commemorative dates. The major events of the Great Revolution are almost all timed to coincide with such anniversaries as Hitler's ascension to the Chancellorship of Germany (January 30), Hitler's birthday (April 20) and, especially, the Beer Hall Putsch and Kristallnacht (November 9). Some of these dates, as well as the sophisticated weapons the author describes, may unfortunately have relevance in the future.
John's interests in cycles of history and millennial movements sometimes led him down strange alleys. One of those was his study of modern international fascism. It is pretty common to slur someone as a fascist, far less common to actually meet one. They still exist, and probably loom larger in the press than their actual numbers, and have, if anything, gotten weirder as the twentieth century waned and turned into the twenty-first.
Imperium comes up here because Yockey's main source was Spengler. It is not at all clear that Yockey understood Spengler, but nonetheless he appropriated Spengler's vocabulary. John was my main source of knowledge about modern international fascism, and also the reason I see just about any political discourse about how "fascist" something or other is as just so much piffle. There are real fascists. They sound like something out of a convoluted conspiracy theory novel, except that they keep insisting on self-publishing books about what they are up to.
Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics
by Ulick Varange (Francis Parker Yockey)
The Noontide Press, 1962 (First Published 1948)
626 Pages, US$ 7.75
"Imperium" may be the closest thing that the real world offers to H.P. Lovecraft's fictional "Necronomicon." Though little more than a rumor in the world at large, it is a key text in the underground universe of international fascist ideology, and it seems to have had a significant effect on the development of Traditional Satanism. At the risk of making "Imperium" sound more interesting than it actually is, we may note that the book claims an almost magical essence for itself. By its own account, "Imperium" is "part of a life of action" and "only in form a book at all," so that reading it is more than a merely mental event.
"Imperium" was written in the service of an ambitious cause. The author, Francis Parker Yockey, holds that it is the destiny of the West to found a universal empire, the core of which will be a Nazi Europe. His book promotes European unity and the expulsion of the United States from the continent's affairs, as well as a fascist revolution in the United States itself. "Imperium" is a reprise of history and political theory, designed to show why the outcomes of the world wars of the first half of the 20th century were only temporary setbacks toward the ultimate goal.
If America were a church, Yockey would have been an apostate. Born in Chicago in 1917, he was involved with various right-wing political groups as a young man. He took both a BA and a law degree at Notre Dame University and was commissioned an officer during the Second World War, though he soon received a medical discharge. As a civilian attorney, he served on the staff that helped to prepare war-crimes trials in Germany, but was dismissed for siding with the defendants. (This may have included spying for them.) Yockey retired to Brittas Bay in Ireland to write "Imperium," finishing it in 1948. (January 30 of that year, to be precise: the 15th anniversary of Hitler's accession to the chancellorship of Germany.)
John wrote this book in 1992, based on the output of a program he wrote in BASIC to simulate repeated cycles of history. It is based on the work of both Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. John had a good sense of humor about the enterprise; he always took himself lightly. John knew that any attempt to pigeonhole history would be an oversimplification at best. Nonetheless, while history doesn't exactly repeat, it does seem to rhyme.
This is a report on the output of a computer program. The program was written to predict the future of the world, from a Western perspective, into the twenty-seventh century A.D. The program does not purport to predict specific events that will occur in time to come. Rather, it seeks to suggest events from many times and places in the past which could be analogous to what will be happening at designated points in the future. This is accomplished by using a simple cyclical model of the development of civilizations. The title of the report alludes to the fact that the model in question is an adaptation of the theory of history created by the German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, particularly as expressed in his great work, The Decline of the West.
Readers should note that Spengler never tried to "predict" the future in anything like the detail attempted here. The "future" outlined in this study can be said to really be Spengler's, in fact, only to the extent that some of it was implicit in his ideas. He can hardly be held responsible for most of what you will read here, since his philosophy was "adapted" for the program by being reduced to four lines of algorithms.
Although the program contains hundreds of data lines from various points in the histories of four civilizations, the output is no more self-explanatory than the hexagrams of the I Ching or a laying of tarot cards. To note that a battle occurred on such and such a date in a given civilization tells you almost nothing; you must know what part it played in the history of the culture in question for it to make any sense. Therefore, most of the text, like a good fortuneteller's patter, consists of the author's own interpretation of what the Delphic echoes from the past produced by the computer might someday represent. The method throughout, with the one exception described immediately below, is to look for harmonies and dissonances among the events from the past described in the output lines. The output lines themselves are given for each segment of the future to which they refer. The length of each segment was suggested to the author by apparent "themes" in consecutive groups of lines. (The temptation to edit them to make them fit better into their segments has been largely resisted.) Readers may therefore construct their own futures by seeing what these lines suggest to them.
An amusing feature of the output is that it attempts to "predict" the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (along with a cursory look at the last half of the eighteenth). The accompanying commentary attempts, with perhaps limited success, to treat these output lines in almost the same fashion as the lines dealing with the distant future are treated. However, it was not quite possible to avoid alluding to events in actual Western history which occurred during these centuries. Since the pattern has been established of using Western events as points of comparison, the commentary for future segments continues the procedure by mentioning imaginary future events of the author's devising. These are deliberately conservative suggestions, inserted for stylistic reasons. They should not be taken seriously.
As a matter of fact, these invented events do not closely resemble the future which the author himself anticipates. That future has far more in common with the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin (or at least Teilhard in his more Augustinian moments) than with those of Oswald Spengler. This book, indeed, can be taken as an attempt to exorcise a private ni.htmlare. At least in the author's mind, this is what will happen if Teilhard and similar optimists turn out to be wrong. Despite its fantastic elements, you will be looking at a "realist" version of the future, the one we will get if the future is like the past.
In the Introduction which follows, Spengler's system is discussed in more detail than the program uses. We also consider the more general question of whether a cyclical view of history can be seriously defended. Readers who are not much interested in this kind of question may confine themselves to reading just the highlighted passages in the Introduction, which simply reproduce the somewhat whimsical Instruction section of the program. Following the Introduction are the Antechronicles themselves (that is, chronicles written before the events they describe). As you will see, these are no more than fiction cobbled together from some historical analogies. They can be "right" only to the extent of being apt metaphors.
Finally, it should be understood that the program in question is a very crude piece of work (written in BASIC!) which really only saved the author a bit of simple arithmetic. It has no nifty graphics and will not be in the stores any time soon.
--John J. Reilly