June 25, 2008

Jonah Goldberg, Geostrategist

Over at NRO, Jonah Goldberg has ventured into the Corner to promote his column.  Now that NRO has set up an entire blog for Goldberg to engage in self-promotion, he no longer promotes every column in the Corner, so it is fair to guess this is a column of which he is especially proud.  Goldberg’s target, unsurprisingly, is the neocons’ bete noire, Pat Buchanan.  The gist of Goldberg’s column is that Buchanan is inconsistent because he wrote columns expressing sympathy for the Croatians and the Lithuanians when they were under attack by their neighbors nearly twenty years ago, but later turned a deaf ear to the Kuwaitis and Bosnians, and rather than have a foreign policy based on “objective national interest,” as Buchanan now advocates, “America should be a good country and do what’s right.” 

The neocons are fond of citing Buchanan’s column on the shelling of Dubrovnik—David Frum also cites it in Dead Right —because it represents one of the few times since the end of the Cold War when Buchanan has advocated the use of American military force, and the only time I can recall when he advocated using military force against a country that hadn’t attakced Americans.  Buchanan has been a very consistent non-interventionist since that point, whereas the neocons have seldom found a country they haven’t wanted to invade.  And it should be pointed out that what Buchanan advocated in 1991 was a show of force by the Sixth Fleet to stop the shelling of Dubrovnik, not an invasion and occupation.  As for Lithuania, Goldberg uncovers the unsurprising fact that Buchanan was a Cold Warrior who felt that Soviet Communism posed a mortal threat to the United States and thus opposing Soviet aggression was in the objective national interest of the United States.  Other Americans shared that belief, preeminently among them the founding editors of National Review.   Nor was Buchanan alone in thinking that with the Cold War won, America could return to the traditional foreign policy set forth by George Washington in his Farewell Address and stop trying to run the world.  Jeane Kirkpatrick, too, expressed the hope that America could become a “normal country” again with the Cold War won.  By saying that she wanted America to become a “normal country” again, Kirkpatrick was implying that non-interventionism was in fact the normal foreign policy for America.  And she was right.

And what does Goldberg mean when he says we “should be a good country and do what’s right?”  In 2002, it meant invading Iraq because “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”  Goldberg favored throwing small crappy countries against the wall in the nicest possible way, of course:  “The most compelling substantive reason [for invading Iraq], from my point of view, is that Iraq should be a democratic, republican country, with individual rights secured by a liberal constitution.”  You might suspect that if we need to invade every place that is not “a democratic, republican country with individual rights secured by a liberal constitution” we have a lot of invading ahead of us, and you would be right.  In 2000, Goldberg, true to his beliefs, advocated invading Africa for humanitarian reasons:  “I think it’s time we revisited the notion of a new kind of Colonialism—though we shouldn’t call it that….I mean going in—guns blazing if necessary—for truth and justice.  I am quite serious about this….We should spend billions and billions doing it.  We should put American troops in harm’s way….This would be America and its allies doing right as we see it.”  I do not doubt Goldberg’s sincerity in advocating violent humanitarianism as the basis of American foreign policy.  But seeing how it’s worked out in Iraq, and contemplating what it would actually mean to recolonize Africa by force of arms, should give Americans pause about embracing the type of foreign policy Goldberg advocates.


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