A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE by Patrick J. Buchanan

A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE

Reclaiming America's Destiny

KIRKUS REVIEW

A theoretically coherent analysis but an unnecessarily flawed prescription. Political pundit and presidential candidate Buchanan embraces George Washington’s advice to avoid foreign entanglements and argues that American foreign policy has become hopelessly overextended. The hubris which identifies vital interests in every nook and cranny of the world and allows us to believe we should shape other political regimes and even their policies according to democratic and humanitarian standards is folly flirting with disaster. No empire in history has survived such ambitious commitments; indeed, no empire has ever undertaken such commitments. Consequently, Buchanan advocates reining in our definition of national interests and undertaking a foreign policy much more independent of states and organizations outside our borders. Critics deride such suggestions as isolationism, but Buchanan appropriately points out that such charges are made to “stifle debate.” In fact, his approach is that of a true conservative, offering a perspective rooted in American tradition initiated by Washington and maintained until Wilson took us into WWI. Unfortunately, he forfeits the credibility built up through systematic logic and historical analysis by insisting that intervention in Vietnam was “a legitimate war of containment” in a book where the necessity of American participation in WWI and WWII is questioned. Perhaps this inability to overcome old wounds and rigorously apply his own foreign policy criteria reflects Buchanan’s overriding concern with culture-war rhetoric on the domestic front. Certainly this must be the case in his attack on “hyphenated Americanism” and the great dangers posed by the loss of “our American identity as one nation.” Whatever one’s reaction to multiculturalism, it’s hard to see a necessary linkage between Washington’s admonition against foreign entanglements and Buchanan’s flirtation with xenophobia. Why this material is included in a purportedly serious discussion of foreign policy is unclear. Hopefully readers will look past the warts and approach the central argument with the gravity it deserves.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1999
ISBN: 0-89526-272-X
Page count: 437pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999




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