I often fancy that I'm engaged in a friendly debate with Pat Buchanan, regarding issues near and dear to paleoconservatism. Of course, the truth is that he doesn't know me from Adam, although we have had eye contact once or twice at the Latin Mass at Old St. Mary's on the edge of Chinatown in Washington, D.C. And the point – that I have made on many occasions – is that he is right 99% of the time, and I would not say that about very many other human beings, the late lamented Joe Sobran being another example. Where Buchanan is “wrong”, or slightly off the target, it's usually based on his admirable patriotism, which occasionally seems to edge into nationalism. But he is under no illusions that our constant overseas meddlings are anything but destructive to our economy and our national life; that is not the question. It has more to do with what I call “nostalgia for a past that never was” -- for a nation that, at one time, stood for what it should still stand for. But in fact, I see our history as one that was flawed from the start – which contains within itself a “heart of darkness” that is a compounding of secular humanism, deism, the revolutionary spirit (i.e., revolution for its own sake), Freemasonry, and a marriage of Enlightenment idealism and Puritan fervor... with, early on in our history, an overlay of Manifest Destiny, “making the world safe for democracy”, and all of the follies that have followed. America may, in fact, be the first purely ideational society in history... although it was followed fairly closely (if less durably) by France, and much later by Russia, China, and their various clones in the Third World.
And an ideational founding really is radically different from a founding based on what I call “the eternal verities” -- race, ethnicity, and religion. What it means, for starters, is that the entire nation becomes infected with a kind of missionary zeal, and that self-defense takes second place (at best) to the spreading of ideas – and to their implementation, no matter how difficult cultural differences make it. Note, for example, the irony in our use of words. We call wars on behalf of ideas “defense” whereas most nations call wars on behalf of race, ethnicity, and religion “war”. You'd think it would be the other way around.
Now, in France's case, the revolutionary fervor was pretty much snuffed out by the time of Napoleon's ascent, and it became just another empire-building state (but with the founding myth and language unaltered), and enjoyed awe-inspiring success, at least for a while. (And has any nation worshiped a spectacularly-failed leader the way France worships Napoleon? I don't think so. This is another example of how an obsession with ideas separates people from reality.)
But the ideational motive did triumph, for many decades, in the case of the Soviet Union, which made extreme sacrifices in order to spread communism world-wide – and this, ironically, in the face of Stalin's fight with Trotsky, the hard-core internationalist, which Stalin won. And Cuba – a Soviet clone – made sacrifices in order to spread communism in places like Angola. Even China, as much of a basket case as it was in the Maoist era, managed to lend considerable support to fellow communists in Vietnam and Korea – and elsewhere in East Asia. In the meantime, we were busy spreading “the American way” through whatever means necessary, starting in earnest in World War I and continuing right up to the present day. (Imagine! Nearly a century already of trying to spread the American way – and, by and large, failing – and never learning the slightest lesson from the experience!)
So what I'm trying to point out is that “ideas” trump welfare – of the domestic sort, that is. (And the spread of ideas trumps considerations of individual liberty – as can be seen every day in this country.) And this is not, actually, a brand-new phenomenon, as witness the Crusades. There again, extreme sacrifices were made for the sake of an idea – but at least that idea was based on faith of the religious sort, vs. faith of the purely secular sort which is the dominant force in our time, thanks to the “Enlightenment”.
What makes men willing to die for ideas that have no bearing on eternity? It's a mystery. What I will say, at least, is that it's a co-optation, or short-circuiting, of higher impulses – motives that should be directed toward spiritual ends are misdirected, instead, toward purely material, secular ends – and not even those directly benefiting the actor, but benefiting other people. Again, I say that the Regime uses things like this to exploit people. They set up things like “spreading democracy” as a secular religion, and expect people to adhere to it the way the crusaders of old adhered to their faith. And the damnable thing is, it works! At least often enough for the abomination to persist.
So with all of that in mind, let's look at what Pat Buchanan has to say in a column from last Saturday. His point is that, with the major parties deadlocked in terms of budget issues – what to cut and what to maintain – the only option left on the table is to cut defense. (I call it “war”.) He even says “the Pentagon will be first to ascend the scaffold”. Great imagery there! Right out of “A Tale of Two Cities”. Problem is, it ain't gonna happen – not in any serious way. His point is that the Republicans are going to hold the line on new taxes, and the Democrats are going to hold the line on entitlements. No argument there. So what's left? Defense! But hold on a minute. We didn't get into this fix by passing balanced budgets every year. Au contraire, we borrowed trillions in order to “balance” input vs. spending... and there is no sign that it's going to stop. Has anyone told us that they're not going to buy any more of our debt? Not that I'm aware. They know that this is the best way to acquire a death-grip on our economy and foreign policy.
OK, so “defense already is scheduled for $350 billion in cuts over the decade”. Whoop-de-do! That is so totally chump change... and not to forget, most of the time the “defense” budget doesn't even include the costs of ongoing wars! And – even if we do pull all the uniformed troops out of Iraq, there will still be a mercenary army there, working for the CIA, with a budget that is top-secret. In other words, any funds that are allegedly taken from defense will be kicked right over to “intelligence”, and life will go on. (Although, it must be said, the mercenaries are probably better at their job than our uniformed troops are at theirs; for one thing, they don't have to abide by the Geneva Convention.)
See... it always amazes me that no one ever asks where all the wealth goes. It's like someone in a boat that is filling up with water not even vaguely entertaining the idea that there might be a hole in the hull. We are, supposedly, a “prosperous” country, blessed with endless natural resources, “human capital”, and plenty of good, old-fashioned American “get up and go”. And yet all we hear are cries and moans of complaint and discontent. We're on a weird kind of starvation diet – the kind that makes you fat but leaves you malnourished. Conservatives blame it on the parasites – the tax receivers and entitlement junkies – and that's partially true. But there are much larger and more powerful vampires sucking our blood on a daily basis. Some are on Wall Street... some are in the armaments business... some are in the international financial cartel... there are many sources of our discontent. But we soldier on, believing in our “divine mission”, even if our leaders don't and view those who do with contempt.
And then there is the so-called “supercommittee” -- a body which apparently has awesome powers heretofore not witnessed within the Beltway. Either they come up with some cuts, or defense gets chopped! In other words, defense is being held hostage. Yeah, right. What Pat fails to mention is that the Republicans are as immovable on defense as they are on taxes – even more so, frankly.
But here's the key line in the column – and there is always a key line, and it's always easily overlooked. Among the dire consequences of a defense cut is “a 'hollow force' unable to meet America's commitments”. Well yeah, gee whiz, we can't have a “hollow force”, now can we? But that's not the key. The key is the term “America's commitments”, and it begs the question, to whom? And why? And, did the American people agree to any of this? And, if it means the destruction of our economy, do those “commitments” still hold? Are they to be honored, no matter what – right down to the last man and the last dollar? See, these are questions that are never – and I mean NEVER – asked... on the floors of Congress or anywhere else. At what point do those “commitments” become null and void? When we're bankrupt? (In which case, they already are null and void.) Or, when we cease to exist as an economy (coming soon to a theater near you)? Or when we cease to exist as a society? Sooner or later, someone has to say “game over!” and declare all “commitments” null and void.
But here's where I differ with Pat Buchanan. He thinks that defense cuts will be the only thing left. “America approaches her moment of truth.” The alternative is to raise taxes – not only on “the rich” but on everyone. And my point has been that raising taxes on “the rich” doesn't work, because “the rich” are smart enough to avoid taxes. So raising taxes on the rich really means raising them on the middle class, who are not smart enough... and thus we revert to the Clinton era, where anyone who wasn't feasting on cat food at least once a week was considered “rich” for tax purposes.
Along similar lines to the “commitments” issue is Buchanan's statement that “... the United States must retain a surplus of power to defend all of its vital interests and vital allies...” And what, pray tell, would constitute a “surplus of power”? We already spend more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined; is that enough? Isn't there a point at which the term “overkill” becomes relevant? And when it comes to “vital interests” -- that's usually a code word for oil. But the last time I looked, all the oil-producing countries on Earth were perfectly willing to sell us their oil for the right price, so why is this a “defense” issue? And as to “vital allies” -- well, once again, for the 1000th time, there is no such thing as a permanent alliance; it's all a matter of politics and pragmatism. And who are these “vital allies”, anyway? The only one I can think of that is always described that way (if not as an “eternal ally”) is Israel, and frankly, the best thing that could happen to our foreign policy and our economy would be to cut them loose.
So what does Pat propose as a means to cut defense? What he talks about in the column is pulling troops out of places like Europe, South Korea, and Japan. Funny he doesn't mention Iraq or Afghanistan – but he has criticized overseas adventurism often enough, so I'll let that pass. And yes, he does have the big picture, but maybe not quite big enough. My point has always been that we're no longer even fighting wars over “ideas” -- for which one could gin up some small amount of respect. No, now we're fighting either on behalf of other countries or entities, or on behalf of our own war industries. In other words, we're fighting for the lowest and coarsest of reasons, despite the hysterical pronouncements of the Evangelicals and Neocons. The Evangelicals have been tools and dupes of the Regime, and the Neocons, basically, _are_ the Regime – or an important arm thereof. I don't think they believe in ideas any more than anyone else... but it's the language in which they feel they have to speak.
The other flaw in Buchanan's argument is one of premise. He seems to think that our government, and our wars, and still under the control of sane people... and that they will make sane decisions when the chips are down. But I think we've had more than ample time to come to the firm conclusion that our foreign policy, and our military, are under the control of lunatics – either that or traitors.
Let me explain. If our foreign policy is doing absolutely nothing to enhance the welfare of the American citizen, and yet is spending him, and the economy overall, into bankruptcy, then something is seriously wrong. Either the people in charge are working for someone, or something, other than the American people – ample justification for a treason charge – or they are totally deluded in their notions of reality. If there's a third possibility, I don't perceive it. If our leaders are sane, then they must be working for someone else, because they certainly couldn't be working for ordinary Americans or their interests. If they're insane, then it really doesn't matter who they're working for, or who they think they're working for, because the end result is disastrous either way.
And the question arises, which do we prefer? Sane but cynical, corrupt, and evil people running the nation, its economy, and its people into the ground for the sake of someone, or something else? Or certifiably insane people who are doing what they consider the right thing? And here I have to comment that even when the overall trend is one way, elements of the other can enter in. For example, the armaments makers can be considered simply cynical and greedy, whereas the Neocons are motivated by both power and ideas... and the Evangelicals are motivated purely by ideas (which are wrong). So, if one is motivated entirely, or largely, by ideas, and the result is failure every time, then the persistence of those ideas has to be considered insanity – which means that whereas the Neocons are half-crazy, the Evangelicals are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs... and sure enough, this is what we see whenever we read or hear pronouncements from either group. And yet I say that the topmost layer is anything but crazy... especially the portion of it that resides somewhere off our shores. The Regime may be cynical, but it's in no way crazy; they know exactly what they're doing, which is why I'm always skeptical when I read about all the alleged economic woes of Europe. Since that is where the Regime's power base is, I suspect this economic crisis is nothing but an elaborate act designed to, among other things, open a new spigot to more speedily drain blood out of the American economy and taxpayer – and sure enough, this process has already begun. Whenever you read that the IMF or the World Bank is going to “participate” in some bogus cliff-hanging, lifesaving scheme on behalf of European banks or economies, you can be sure that “World Bank” and “IMF” are code words for “the American taxpayer”. So we will be bled white long before any form of sanity gains the upper hand – and I don't expect it to happen even then.
See, if you disallow sanity and/or patriotism from the motives of our leaders (not to mention their masters in Europe and elsewhere), then all bets are off, and no one can expect any policy decision to be reasonable. Which means, overseas bases will not be closed, and we will continue to borrow. And yes, eventually taxes will be raised on the middle class, disguised as taxes on “the rich”. And defense, rather than suffering drastic cuts, will remain untouchable... or, let's say, the defense/intelligence cartel will remain untouchable. And all of this is a perfectly natural, predictable stage in the decline of empires; it has happened any number of times before in history. While the citizenry collapse from hunger in the streets, the armies remain strong and spread across the map. I'm sure there are cases in history where the armies even survived after the home country had vanished – such is the durability of armies, which can at least live off the land wherever they happen to find themselves. And this is how it is going to be with us – for one thing, we are the Regime's fighting force; there is no other. And so they will do whatever it takes to keep that force in the field, while draining the life blood from its home nation; they won't be finished with us until the last soldier is killed by the last IED... but by that time, the U.S. will be a barren waste. And, as “fast-forward” as world events seem to move these days, this particular denouement may take quite a while to occur – not centuries, certainly, but possibly decades. But the plan is in place, and the mechanisms are operating... and our politicians and leaders have been bought, bribed, threatened, or deluded into submission. And no amount of “tea partying” or “Occupying Wall Street” is going to turn back the tide; it is way too late for that. If the American people has stood up decades ago, there might have been hope... but, again, the ideational nature of our society has, among many unfortunate consequences, a way of causing people to worship government in a way other societies would find insane and laughable. To lose faith in government! Not only is this not the American way, but it seems to contradict all of the most closely-held premises on which the nation was founded. Surely government of, by, and for the people cannot turn, overnight, into government of, by, and for someone else? But as I've pointed out before, this did not happen overnight. The realization of it might have happened overnight for some people, but the transfer of power and resources from the people to the ruling elite has been going on for many lifetimes. And we might have awakened to all of this sooner if we hadn't been hypnotized by “ideas”. But hypnotized we were... and now that a few of us have awakened, we find ourselves wandering through a landscape in which most people are still hypnotized. They are living, comfortably and secure, in the Matrix, and the rest of us are strangers in a strange land – one that we were born in, and yet it has turned into a monstrosity before our eyes.