T Nation

Great Patrick Buchanan Article


Great article in conservative mag Human Events.

by Patrick J. Buchanan
Posted Feb 03, 2006

"The road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline," railed President Bush in his State of the Union. Again and again, Bush returned to his theme.

"America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. ...

"Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need. ...

"American leaders from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan rejected isolation and retreat."

Why would a president use his State of the Union to lash out at a school of foreign policy thought that has had zero influence in his administration? The answer is a simple one, but it is not an easy one for Bush to face: His foreign policy is visibly failing, and his critics have been proven right.

But rather than defend the fruits of his policy, Bush has chosen to caricature critics who warned him against interventionism. Like all politicians in trouble, Bush knows that the best defense is a good offense.

Having plunged us into an unnecessary war, Bush now confronts the real possibility of strategic defeat and a failed presidency. His victory in Iraq, like the wars of Wilson and FDR, has turned to ashes in our mouths. And like Truman's war in Korea and Kennedy's war in Vietnam, Bush's war has left America divided and her people regretting he ever led us in. But unlike the world wars, Korea and Vietnam, Bush cannot claim the enemy attacked us and we had no choice. Iraq is Bush's war. Isolationists had nothing to do with it. To a man and woman, they opposed it.

Now, with an army bogged down in Afghanistan and another slowly exiting Iraq, and no end in sight to either, Bush seeks to counter critics who warned him not to go in by associating them with the demonized and supposedly discredited patriots of the America First movement of 1940-41. His assault is not only non-credible, it borders on the desperate and pathetic.

"Abroad, our nation is committed to a historic long-term goal. We seek the end of tyranny in our world," said Bush. "Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends upon it."

Intending no disrespect, this is noble-sounding nonsense. Our security rests on U.S. power and will, and not on whether Zimbabwe, Sudan, Syria, Cuba or even China is ruled by tyrants. Our forefathers lived secure in a world of tyrannies by staying out of wars that were none of America's business. As for "the end of tyranny in our world," Mr. President, sorry, that doesn't come in "our world." That comes in the next.

"By allowing radical Islam to work its will, by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself, we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals or even in our own courage," said Bush.

But what has done more to radicalize Islam than our invasion of Iraq? Who has done more to empower Islamic radicals than Bush with his clamor for elections across a region radicalized by our own policies? It is one thing to believe in ideals, another to be the prisoner of some democratist ideology.

Bush has come to believe that the absence of democracy is the cause of terror and democracy its cure. But the cause of terror in the Middle East is the perception there that those nations are held in colonial captivity by Americans and their puppet regimes, and that the only way to expel both is to use tactics that have succeeded from Algeria in 1962 to Anbar province in 2005.

Given the franchise, Arab and Islamic peoples from Pakistan to Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Egypt have now voted for candidates with two credentials. They seemed to be devout Muslims, and they appeared dedicated to tossing America out of the region and the Israelis into the sea.

With opposition also rising to his free-trade policy, Bush reverted to the same tactic: Caricature and castigate critics of his own failed policies. "Protectionists," said Bush, pretend "we can keep our high standards of living, while walling off our economy."

But it was protectionists from Lincoln to Coolidge who gave us the highest standard of living on earth. And the record of Bush's merry band of free-traders? The largest trade deficits in history, a $200 billion trade surplus for Beijing at our expense in 2005, and 3 million lost manufacturing jobs since Bush first took the oath.

If America is angry over what interventionism and free trade have wrought, George Bush cannot credibly blame isolationists or protectionists. These fellows have an alibi. They were nowhere near the scene of the crime.

It is George W. Bush who is running out of alibis.


I can't believe I'm agreeing whole-heartedly with Patrick Buchanan.


Yeah, kind of scary that he is the voice of reason in his party.


Is little Patty upset because the big bad president insulted his precious isolationist ideas?

I don't think Pat realizes that we no longer use sailboats to travel the world.


Well said. Patty would not only have us abandon foreign interests but stop international trade as well. That would put the U.S. right back into the 1800s where Patty seems to feel most comfortable.


Pat Buchanan might be a conservative -- nobody's perfect! -- but he is a very wise and experienced man, who has a deep knowledge of History and learnt from his, his boss' and his party's mistakes.

He is one of the few conservatives in this country who sticks to his beliefs and talks intelligently about them.

Even if you don't agree with him -- don't patronize him.


I agree. He does stick to his beliefs and certainly is not afraid of challenging the current administration. While I still believe that the Iraq invasion was in our best interests, his book "A republic, not an empire" challenged alot of my beliefs on foreign policy. I thought it was a well written, historical perspective on American foreign policy.


I don't think Pat Buchanan has learned anything in 20 years.

He is a one trick pony. Every event is viewed through his isolationist view.

I credit him for making a good living off it but that is about it.

Sometimes I envy people like Buchanan their single (simple?) mindedness but I could never be that narrowminded.


You don't have to travel the road to isolationism and protectionism in order to do things differently than they have been done.

However, I am amazed, though I really shouldn't be anymore, at some who can brook no dissent of anything that Bush says. He isn't actually a demigod, in case you didn't know it...


He isn't a bumbling idiot either. When polarized politics give a loud voice to those that dissent on everything Bush says, what do you expect other than defensive remarks from the other side? Cause and effect...


It is interesting that the topic of isolationism found it's way into the SoU address, since, as far as I know, the issue holds no ground whatsoever in the mainstream political discourse. The latter pretty much consists of left and right variants of the neocon ideology. Isolationism as an issue is left to the Libertarian and paleo-conservative movements, which are insignificant on a national level.

Having had ample exposure to Libertarian and Old Right doctrines, there was nothing in this article that stood out to me as being particularly noteworthy. In fact, I think Buchanon has penned much better articles on the same issue in the past. Obviously, some people will have encountered this material having come from a completely different direction than I have, and thus, may find it shocking and/or "radical".

I would simply like to point out, for those who are interested, that there is far more to this school of thought than that which is capable of being breached by a single article.

Here are some excellent sites for Libertarian, paleoconservative, and anti-interventionist viewpoints.


This is a very popular internet news and editorial site which, as the name would imply, is focused on foreign policy issues. It is updated around the clock with news links to events all around the world. It also runs a litany of editorial columns on a wide range of issues.

Their mission statement and self-description can be found here:

And a summary from Wikipedia.org:

[i]The site carries a variety of opinions, regularly carrying authors ranging from the Old Right to the Progressive Left, from Paul Craig Roberts and Pat Buchanan to Alexander Cockburn, and many in between. The editorial position has been staunchly libertarian with a 'big tent' message, arguing for libertarians, paleoconservatives, and the anti-war left to work together in opposition to war.

The site has consistently opposed all U.S. interventionism, from the bombing of Serbia to the present occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.[/i]


This is an editorial site for Conservative and Libertarian viewpoints founded by a prominent member of the paleo-con movement.

Lew Rockwell, founder and president of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., and vice president of the Center for Libertarian Studies in Burlingame, Cal., is an opponent of the central state, its wars and its socialism.

Like antiwar.com, the site maintains a large number of running columns from a diverse set of commentators. Buchanon is one of the writers hosted on the site, and an entire library of his articles can be found in the site archives (along with those of every other site contributor). Now, I would like make a few more comments specifically related to the issues raised in this thread.

First, on protectionism vs. free trade: I haven't encountered a single source associated with free market economics who truly believes that America's current trade policy is one of "free trade". Furthermore, this is an issue where Mr. Buchanon is at odds with much of the Libertarian movement, which overwhelmingly supports completely free, unrestricted trade between nations (as a proponent of economic protectionism, he does not).

There are still a few proponents of the Old Right to be found in the modern Republican party. However, many more of them have gone Libertarian or Independant. For an elected member, I would refer you to Congressman Ron Paul, of the 14th District of Texas. He is among the many contributors to Lewrockwell.com An index of his article contributions can be found here:


Not quite. In regards to his views on protectionism and trade tariffs, he fits right in with the modern political crowd, left and right. "Free trade agreements" are a self-contradictory concept (why do you need a treaty enabling you to do something which could only be prevented by another treaty or law?)

Whenever an American president attends a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), massive rioting errupts in the country holding the meeting (and sometimes even the world over). This is because the "Free Trade Agreements" of the modern political arena are for anything but the encouragement of free trade. Free trade is, by definition, a private sector operation. When governments get involved, there is always more going on behind the scenes than is being let on publicly.

Here is a sampling of Ron Paul's take on the issue (one article out of many):


And another, excellent one by Lew Rockwell, on "Protectionism, War, and the Southern Tradition":


I'm sure that he and many of those who agree with his foreign policy stance would categorize the current neocon/interventionist school of foreign policy in precisely the same terms. After all, Libertarians and disciples of the Old Right don't draw any major distinctions between the policies of the current administration and those of Bill Clinton, who invaded Kosovo, or, for that matter, numerous other administrations which initiated foreign interventions on a global scale throughout the 20th century. The majority of these interventions remain largely unknown to the voting public.

Additionally, there is a lot more to the platform of Buchanon and the Old Right than simple isolationism. A LOT more. And even within the movement, there is a wide range of differing views. Hopefully, the links which I have provided above will serve to illustrate this.

It's always interesting when the exact same, unique conclusion can be drawn by two opposing parties over a given situation. This is the case here. I can't tell you how many times I've encountered the very statement you just made, only written by a Libertarian/non-interventionist in reference to a neocon. The significance of this, in my view, is it's poignant illustration of the fact that those in opposing political camps come to a debate not only from seperate ideological realms, but with completely different sets of information regarding current and historical events. To illustrate: the leftists obtain their news information from their own, Liberal websites, the neocons from theirs, and the same thing with those in the isolationist camp.

Too often, when disciples of seperate political factions clash on a discussion forum such as this one, the inevitable result is the widespread phenomenon known as the "Battle of Anecdotes", in which participants heatedly exchange flurries of news links with one another in order to present an "unassailable" front for their arguments. The problem is that each side has no problem finding an unlimited number of links to bolster its own front -- pretty soon the combatants are staring across at one another from the safety of their own anecdotal fortresses, confined to their own sources and unable to act freely, like the French and Germans in the trenches during WWI. Needless to say, meaningful discussion is impossible under these circumstances. At this point, the "debate" either degenerates into personal attacks or is simply forgotten about by the participants.

The nature of the world today is such that a single event can be interpretted in a way that practically anyone sees fit. A way that either bolsters or discredits any given ideology, philosophical or political platform.

In light of this reality, it is immensely useful to seperate the anecdotal from the theoretical, philosophical, and ideological in all genuine discussions. This is the form of debate which I am committed to. I will not engage in internet pissing contests of news links and anecdotes. I don't control the current news any more than I control what happened in the past. It is beyond my ability to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly what transpired at a given time and place in which I was not present. However, it is not beyond my ability to formulate ideological standpoints based on events which I have experienced and apply them to secondary information sources on a hypothetical basis. This is precisely my strategy for online debating.

Coming back to the topic at hand, and in light of what I've written above, I would like to encourage people to choose a style of argument - anecdotal or ideological - and stick with it, rather than trying to have it both ways and switching styles whenever convenient. The latter only leads to flame wars and unresolved arguments. I don't think the two styles are compatable with one another. Thus, an anecdotal argument over one issue must be countered with an anecdotal response over the same issue, and the same goes for ideological arguments and their counters.

Lastly, for those who choose to argue by using anecdotes (and everyone else, too), it is always helpful to keep in mind the principle which I brought up in response to Zap Branigan's comment earlier: Nobody approaches a given topic from the same ideological standpoint or with the same set of information as anybody else. Everybody, at all times, is operating from the limited extent of his own information and viewpoints. These differences exist even when opinions on certain issues overlap. People are not Gods, and there is no "collective conscious" which intrinsically links them together intellectually. So, do not be angry or even shocked when people draw conclusions opposite to yours on a given issue. This is especially true when it comes to the realm of politics and current events, which is so befuddled with conflicting and contradictory information that it makes figuring out competing nutrition and lifting protocols seem like child's play!


Looking at the muslim worlds reaction to a cartoon it is silly to blame all the problems in the middle east on America's foriegn policy as Pat is trying to do.

For some odd reason I think our standard of living is much higher now.

I know the Roaring Twenties was quite a boom time but I find it hard to believe they had a better standard of living than we do today.

Pat misses the mark on both points.

We are not to blame for the fanatacism of the muslim world and protectionist economic policies in the modern world are suicide.

Trying to withdraw from the global economy would result in economic warfare and be a disaster.


Zap is right on the money here. Pat Buchanan knows history, that's true. But that's all he knows. He doesn't understand basic economics, international relations, or basic logic. He argues from history that the U.S. was prosperous in the 1800s, and yet at that time the U.S. was isolationist and heavy into manufacturing.

This is the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc - just because an event precedes an outcome does NOT mean that the even caused the outcome. It'd be like if someone farted, then saw a lightening flash, and assume that his fart caused the lightening flash.

But even if we can assume that U.S. was prosperous in the 1800s because of its reliance on internal manufacturing and no reliance on imports or foreign trade, we no longer live in the 1800s. Economies develop and change over time. I find Buchanan's thinking to be very simplistic.


I think it is only fair to give Pat a chance to consider the new events to see if his opinion changes.

Taking his comments from before these events occurred is not particularly appropriate or fair.

However, if he maintains his viewpoint, as is, after considering these issues, then you may end up with a point to make.


I would be shocked if he changed his mind on anything. We shall see.