Jonah Goldberg

In reality, Buchanan is a wonderful example of how those who claim to follow a strict set of abstract foreign policy rules are often just disguising their own biases. A strict and objective application of our national interest isn't the principle he's upholding. No cold pragmatist he. Buchanan's not following anything here other than the loyalties of his own heart.

Here's another example of Buchanan's inconsistency: America should help Croatia fend off Slobodan Milosevic because "Croatia is not some faraway desert emirate," the America First reenactor explained in 1991. "It is a 'piece of the Continent, a part of the main,' a Western republic that . . . was for centuries the first line of defense of Christian Europe." The following year, he argued that the beleaguered Bosnians should twist in the wind. Kuwait? Wolf fodder. Lithuania, not so much. Israel? Take a guess.

Buchanan is hardly alone in failing to apply his principles uniformly. Consider the New Republic. For years, the liberal magazine that once passionately advocated the invasion of Iraq has been backtracking furiously into the mainstream antiwar fold. And yet, in the wake of the Burmese cyclone in May, its editors argued that "even though our standing in the world has been severely diminished by Iraq, we should at least be debating intervention in Burma." So much for the evils of "wars of choice."

This is an old story. William Jennings Bryan was a hero of pacifists and anti-imperialists, even though he volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War, arguing that "universal peace cannot come until justice is enthroned throughout the world. Until the right has triumphed in every land . . . government must, as a last resort, appeal to force." Then-Secretary of State Bryan cemented his antiwar credentials when he resigned from Woodrow Wilson's "crusade" for democracy.

I'm a big believer in abstract rules, but when it comes to foreign policy, there is only one to which everyone adheres: America should be a good country and do what's right. That's the real meaning of the "national interest." It's fortunate for humanity that America's and Britain's definition of good and right in the 1940s differed with Buchanan's creepy version of the national interest.


Jonah Goldberg

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