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A Republic, Not an Empire
by Patrick Buchanan

Published 1999

Following Pat Buchanan's defeat in the 1996 presidential primaries the columnist/broadcaster/presidential candidate wrote two books the Great Betrayal, and A Republic, Not an Empire. The first addressed his opposition to globalism and free trade policies and the second a Republic, not and Empire addressed foreign policy.

While Buchanan wrote the second book largely in response to then President Bill Clinton's interventionist foreign policy there is certainly still reason to consider the“traditionalist-nationalist” position he espouses in the book that many paleoconservatives hold as opposed to currently popular neo-conservative interventionism under the Bush administration and the waning progressive neo-Wilsonian interventionism that was seen under the Clinton administration. While the US position in the world has changed in the last five years the relevance of this book to the modern reader has not. The book first puts forth Buchanan's 'America First' model for American foreign policy which is modeled after the isolationist viewpoint of George Washington and other earlier Americans. He then argues that permanent alliances around the world could push the US into wars that do not defend “American interests.” While the examples he gives have not occurred or turned out to be inaccurate as in his prediction in how a second war with Iraq would play out one can easily say that his argument that the US could be forced to go to war in places where the US does not have any interest in doing so still stands as valid.

Over the next 250+ pages Buchanan covers American foreign policy from 1789-1989 and how at least in the first century the United States did not intervene into other countries foreign policy nor was the US imperialistic. While I saw few errors with Buchanan's summary of early US history I think that one needs to wonder whether Buchanan does the best job describing why such a policy that served the country for the first ~100 years should be the current foreign policy. Despite this weakness he does a decent job of demonstrating that the US government wasn't imperialistically minded nor bellicose except for Andrew Jackson's incursions into Spanish Florida.

Buchanan's coverage of the twentieth century suffers from some problems in that it is contradictory at times. He condemns WWI and WWII while defending virtually all of the Cold War with only minor exceptions. While this book does not include some of Buchanan's earlier flirting with denial of the Holocaust or anti-semiticism, (there is some criticism of Israeli influence, but nothing overtly anti-Semitic) he does seem to gloss over the evil of the Nazis. I think that Buchanan's role in both the Nixon and the Reagan administrations seem to interfere with his partiality towards realizing that the direct involvement of US ground troops in Vietnam was hardly in the American interest by the standards that he placed in his earlier coverage of American history.

In the final three chapters Buchanan covers what his views for US foreign policy for the twentieth first century. Some of his ideas are good, and some are downright illogical. One idea that seems irrational is that the US ought to annex Greenland for a defense perimeter. As long as the US maintains good relations with the locals so that they may maintain current US military presence there is no rational reason to annex Greenland. Another odd idea that also comes in the final chapter is that Puerto Rico ought to be a country. He claims that there is a strong nationalistic fervor, but provides no evidence. While he is correct in saying that statehood has failed an the referendum elections he fails to note that independence and the political party associated with it has always been distant third in Puerto Rico politics. His arguments against immigration while interesting seem largely off topic.