Pat Buchanan, Cultural Warrior

After having bashed his book on protectionism, it was a pleasure to read Pat Buchanan's latest book, The Death of the West, of which I can endorse about 90%. Except for his stylistic peculiarities, the two books read as if they were by different authors, they are so fundamentally opposed in their basic premises and arguments. In substance, the new book is a good general introduction to nationalist issues -- though Buchanan calls himself a "traditionalist," and his ultimate hope is for some kind of religious revival.

This is my only major disagreement. Buchanan echoes the Christian Right's simple-minded dichotomy of traditional religion versus secular humanism, ignoring (or just ignorant of) the fact that some of us "secular humanists" are on the Right, while there are plenty of religious Leftists. While it is true that most irreligious voters lean Democratic, the imbalance is not as great as it is for Hispanic Catholics, Jews, and black Protestants; and on the far Left there are new religions like eco-pantheism and neo-paganism. Buchanan also echoes fundamentalist complaints about the "theory" of evolution, though as a Catholic he should know better (the Church not wanting to repeat its mistake with Galileo), and as a conservative he ought to be familiar with the Right-wing interpretations of Darwinism. Finally, being both non-religious and anti-feminist, my own position on the abortion issue is much too subtle and difference-splitting for either side to accept.

Although rambling and repetitive (and scattered with small but irritating factual errors), the book touches on just about every relevant issue, rehearses most of the right arguments, and makes many good policy proposals. It is written (for the most part) in refreshingly plain, politically-incorrect language. It is probably the best single book around for conservatives, or basically patriotic citizens, who need to have their eyes opened to the dangers of the population implosion, mass immigration, the Left's cultural war against Western civilization, and the erosion of national sovereignty.

My only other cavils are not about what's in the book, but what he left out. First of all, he never defines "the West." On one page he describes it as "Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox -- all the Christian faiths"; on another page, he describes it as "European people, including Americans, Australians, and Canadians" -- apparently a roundabout euphemism for "the white race." On one page he includes Israel -- though the Israelis are, of course, neither Christian nor of European descent. On the next page he equates "the West" with the "First World" -- i.e., the capitalist democracies as opposed to the former Soviet bloc and the undeveloped and unaligned "Third World"; but the "First World" includes Japan, which he had previously described as "an Asian people" who "defeated a great Western power," i.e. Russia, the center of the "Second World" (when there was one).

In short, Buchanan equivocates between the old West understood as traditional Christian European civilization and the new West understood as modern Enlightenment civilization with globalist pretensions. (Orthodox Christian Eastern Europe stands in an ambiguous relation to either.) The former is succinctly described by Arnold J. Toynbee as "the countries occupied by Catholic and Protestant peoples in Western Europe, [North and South] America and the South Seas." The latter certainly influences the entire world; but just as certainly, it only includes the capitalist democracies of Europe, North America, the South Seas, East Asia, and Israel. Once this distinction is made, it becomes glaringly obvious that the new West is the one in danger.

South of the Rio Grande, we observe a wide array of Latin Christian countries that have more or less failed to enter the Enlightenment phase of civilization (though to put this in perspective, Spain and Portugal did not become fully modern until the 1970s). On the one hand, they're our poor relations -- backward, corrupt, chaotic, and generally contemptible. But on the other hand, they aren't yet debilitated by the more subtle evils of modernity.

Latin America is both a danger and a hope. For the United States, it's nothing but a danger: by sheer force of numbers, the Mexicans are Hispanicizing vast swathes of the Southwest and dragging it down to the same level of squalor and wretchedness as the nation they left. Once they've ruined that part of the country, like a plague of locusts, what can they do but spread further north and east, ravaging what's left of North America? If we let them take the Southwest, will we finally wake up and stop them from taking any more? Could we? Better to stop it now -- cut off the inflow, fortify the border with barbed wire and mine fields, round up and deport all the illegals, demand that Mexicans already living here either Americanize or go back home.

For southern Europe, however, immigration from Latin America could be its salvation. Certainly Spain and Portugal, probably Italy and France, could take in and assimilate Latin Americans to replenish their populations and help fend off the Arab invasion. As for Latin America itself, many of those countries are finally showing signs of getting their act together. Perhaps by the end of this century, they will advance to take their place alongside the rest of us as stable, prosperous and democratic nations.

Another major omission is the power of Western science and technology. Medical advances enable us to live longer, healthier, more productive lives; automation can save labor. In fact, one of the common arguments in favor of immigration -- that cheap immigrant labor is "needed" to do jobs natives "won't" do (i.e., at the low wages employers would prefer to pay) -- is actually a powerful argument against immigration. Poor, backward countries are the ones that rely on labor, rather than mechanization; the more expensive labor is, the greater the incentive to save it with machinery.

More immediately and obviously, science and technology translate into military power, as we so forcefully demonstrated against Iraq and Afghanistan. The West in general, and America in particular, have nothing to fear from any alien civilization -- as long as we have the will to use our military power. But of course, that's precisely the great danger today: liberalism is sapping our collective will to survive, in the many ways Buchanan describes. If the peoples of the West do not want to be sacrificed on the unholy altar of "tolerance" for aliens and enemies, we must remember who we are and where our true loyalties lie. We Americans must be one nation, indivisible; anyone who has a problem with that, is free to leave.

2002 by Karl Jahn

Next Page