Jonah Goldberg

"Americans are a moral people. They will not sustain a foreign policy rooted in a cold pragmatism that averts its gaze from the tragedy of a little country to maintain cordial relations with its oppressor. Churchill said long ago: 'The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delusion.'"

What neocon mouthed this idealistic pabulum? Paul Wolfowitz? Bill Kristol? Doug Feith? Why, Patrick Buchanan, of course. In 1990, America's most famous living "isolationalist" denounced President George H.W. Bush for not helping a tiny country threatened by a totalitarian regime.

Buchanan wasn't talking about Kuwait, a tiny country famously invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq that year, but about Lithuania, threatened by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

When wolves fed on Kuwait, Buchanan became the "cold pragmatist," arguing that America should indeed avert its gaze from the tragedy of that little country. "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East," Buchanan infamously announced in 1990, "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States."

Now, Buchanan has a new book out, "Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War," in which he argues that a war-lusting Winston Churchill blundered horribly by making war on Nazi Germany, ostensibly to defend Poland from the Nazi wolf.

It would have been better, Buchanan argues, for Britain and the United States to have maintained cordial relations with the allegedly rational Adolf Hitler and let the Nazis have Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. This would have allowed Britain to keep its empire, Buchanan insists, and that would have been just grand.

But Buchanan is also the author of "A Republic, Not an Empire." In that earlier polemic, he passionately insisted: "It is time to let go of empire." The United States is a "completed nation," meaning we are no longer in need of immigrants, international trade or the alliances that add up to imperialism in his eyes. Of course, Buchanan's notion of a "completed nation" wouldn't preclude us from getting rid of Puerto Rico and adding a few Caucasian provinces of Canada to our territory.

My point here is not to play "gotcha" with Buchanan's writings. But Buchanan claims to be a man of abstract foreign policy rules -- in his case, the notion that we must act from objective national interest. As a result, he has earned a strange new respect among antiwar liberals and self-described realists for his opposition to the war in Iraq in recent years. He is a man of principle, we've been told.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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