What baffles me, though, is why Buchanan would ever write such a thing when his own American Conservative magazine has long accused anyone — as Buchanan did Friday — of questioning European resolve and Western European solidarity, as being neocon conspirators and Israeli apologists. ~Victor Davis Hanson
Victor Davis Hanson, yes, Victor Davis Hanson had something positive to say about Pat Buchanan. Naturally, he couldn’t leave it at that, so he dropped in this final remark, which managed to demonstrate just how poorly he understands the problems of foreign policy today.
I’m sure it does baffle Hanson that Mr. Buchanan argued that European dependence on U.S. military protection has gone on for too long and has encouraged all the wrong habits in European politics, but I will try to explain. This argument is entirely consistent with the general view of non-interventionists, America Firsters and some realists who see that many of the nations where we still have large military deployments and defense commitments no longer require us to shield them against foreign threats. Related to our critique of American interventionism and hegemony is the recognition that many of our allies and satellites no longer need our military protection. In the late ’50s, continuing to protect South Korea was quite sensible, but by the late ’90s there was no longer the same need for an American deterrent. Mr. Buchanan’s argument is entirely consistent with our other arguments that, for example, South Korea and Japan can provide for their own defense out of their wealth and their capacity to research and develop advanced technology.
It is also entirely consistent with the anti-NATO position that many of us have been advancing for years. NATO is obsolete and should be abolished, and the continuation of the alliance for purposes other than joint defense of western Europe has not only contributed to horrible policy decisions (e.g., Kosovo) but has contributed to the alienation of Russia and the general worsening of relations between America and Europe, since the latter is not going to pull its own weight as long as we keep doing most everything for Europe. What makes far less sense is to be at once in favour of American hegemony and “leadership” in world affairs and critical of allies that do not have very large military budgets. If you assume that America should prevent the rise of any potential rival superpowers, as the National Security Strategy of 2002 dictates, keeping Europe down, so to speak, and militarily dependent on us is the thing to do. If you think that other nations should take care of their own defense and America should only concern itself with its legitimate and just interests, eliminating European dependency on American arms by pulling out of Europe and dismantling NATO makes perfect sense. Wanting Europe to build up its military forces while also keeping it subordinate is the position that makes no sense at all. Naturally, that is the position held by the anti-Europeans and, so it would seem, by Hanson as well.
It is true that the extreme European dependence on American military protection has not only encouraged unrealistic, unsustainable priorities in their domestic politics, but has consequently encouraged the mentality in anti-Europeans, such as Hanson and many other “mainstream” conservative pundits, that Europeans are effectively our tributaries and vassals who must follow our lead in foreign policy in every way. That is why there is almost never any rational response on the American right to European criticism of Israeli actions, which sometimes actually deserve criticism (shocking, but true!), but always an invocation of the old chestnut of “European anti-Semitism.” It is also no surprise therefore that the most fervently pro-Israel pundits tend to be the most aggressively anti-European.
The insane anti-Europeanism of the last five years, which reached its most fevered pitch in 2002-03, has been a product of this extraordinary and unhealthy imbalance of hard power between two roughly economically comparable parts of the Western world, as American supremacy has engendered resentment of European “ingratitude” and fostered European resentment of American hubris. We paleos have objected to anti-Europeanism because it has generally been an irrational, chauvinistic response of hegemonists who believe that America is “owed” servile support from its allies, which only underscores how unhealthy the entire structure of American military and political hegemony really is. Doubting French or German “resolve” in 2002-03 usually involved making insulting references to a lack of a French martial spirit (this about the people that routinely and successfully waged war for centuries before the United States existed) or ignoring actual German support for antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan, Djibouti and elsewhere. We objected to doubting European resolve in the case of the Iraq debate because, for one thing, the drive to invade Iraq really had nothing to do with collective security or the security interests of America or Europe. European resolve to aid us in fighting Al Qaeda was never actually in doubt, but because neocons and their hangers-on made Iraq the litmus test for allied solidarity their resolve and solidarity were suddenly questionable because some refused to go along with what was always a terrible idea. European opposition to the invasion did not demonstrate their lack of resolve or weakness, but instead usually demonstrated their superior judgement and good sense. That has to be something that really burns up the people who enjoyed spitting in the face of our ancestral countries–those Europeans, whom they had derided so much and so often as pathetic and worthless, had possessed more foresight and wisdom than they had.
It is not possible to accomplish anything for very long with other sovereign states if our government always assumes that European deference and obedience are virtually automatically required for every major policy decision. Even if the policy is a good one, other states will resist being dictated to on the principle that they do not answer to Washington. We paleos have objected to anti-Europeanism because it has insisted on an unrealistic subordination of allied interests to what our government perceives to be our own, and because it has shown a sickening disrespect for the nations that belong to the heart of our common civilisation. There should be some more basic respect for our European cousins because we are part of the same civilisation, even if many of the people in those countries also fail to appreciate and defend the heritage of their civilisation, be it religious or cultural.
Anti-European hate is particularly destructive and ultimately harmful to American interests, as it encourages the Europeans to go into international political opposition against us at a time when both they and we can least afford it. Multipolarity on our terms is one thing, but a multipolar world where all the other poles have joined together against us is something else entirely. Europe’s failure to stem the tide of large migrations and settlements of Muslims, to take one example, will have catastrophic effects on our future relations with European states, but by fostering anti-Americanism through the maintenance of the unhealthy relationship of hegemon and servant and through crude displays of anti-Europeanism we will be helping to push them into the embrace of the people who will destroy them. It is bizarre that those who are often most animated about the threat from jihadis are also the ones with the least understanding that we need the Europeans, including the Russians, to fight them, but Hanson and the neocon anti-Europeans and Russophobes have been preoccupied for years with bashing Europe and provoking Russia.
When American Conservative writers and editors have objected to vilifying European allies, especially over extremely bad policy decisions such as invading Iraq, they do not engage in a full-on apology for everything that Europe is and does. In our cultural and religious attitudes, paleos are more removed from the European elite than are many secular Republicans, so we hardly share the lifestyle or outlook of many Europeans. In political matters, most of us on the paleo side are far more hostile to the European Union and all its works than are many others on the American right, who seem to think that its swallowing up sovereign nation-states into a bureaucratic federation is not terribly worrying (of if some do find it worrying they don’t talk about it very often). The only people who loathe the works of Brussels more than we do are probably the Flemish nationalists. We are consequently much more sympathetic to anti-federalist and nationalist forces that try to resist the annihilation of these nation-states, while the “respectable” American right is only too happy to join in the chorus denouncing any opponents of the Union as bigots, racists, etc. (This is true whether the opponents of the Union are what they are accused of being or not–again, it is striking the right pose that matters here.) For some of the same reasons that we criticise the EU, we are skeptical of or hostile to “free trade” arrangements that diminish American sovereignty and control over our trade policy, while certain advocates of open borders and free trade on the American right are fundamentally more in agreement with the EU model. Being critical of Europeans is not the same thing as reflexive anti-Europeanism, but then people who usually cannot distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism would not be able to understand that very well.
TAC‘s writers have usually been advancing this same general view of the need to end excessive American commitments overseas when they reject anti-Europeanism. We argue for ending these commitments because we believe that it is no longer in the American interest to keep bearing almost all the costs for other rich countries’ defense. It is also true that this defense has had an enervating and debilitating effect on European foreign policy views. Take away that luxury of a relative lack of responsibility, and Europeans would probably become much more interested in confronting regional threats on their own, which would relieve America of taking up those responsibilities as if they were our own. We want Europe to shoulder its own defense so that America can devote her resources elsewhere. What exactly is the hegemonist right’s reason for wanting a European military build-up? Is it to have European soldiers serve as the Gurkhas of their empire? It doesn’t really make that much sense when you get right down to it, but I suppose the effect of freeing up a few more brigades from guard duty in Europe and Asia would allow for a few more invasions than would otherwise be possible.
Hanson’s analysis in this post seems to allow for two options: you can be polemically and hatefully anti-European or you can never say anything critical of Europeans. To be against anti-Europeanism while also criticising European policy choices is simply beyond his understanding, and no wonder. Happily, the editors at TAC and paleos generally are able to consider problems of foreign policy in all their complexity and can offer analysis that describes the flaws of allied states without spouting off with self-righteous lectures about their perfidy and moral corruption. We think getting the policy right for the American interest is actually more important than striking the right ideological and moral pose, which is why it is purely accidental that Hanson has managed to come to the same conclusion about European dependence than Mr. Buchanan has