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On Lukacs And Buchanan

Tom Piatak is right to challenge Prof. Lukacs’ review of Mr. Buchanan’s book, but it seems to me he is quite wrong to pose the question: “Has Lukacs, in his eagerness to smite any dissent from the cult of Churchill, gone over to neoconservatism?”  Of course nothing of the kind has happened, and I think even the question is an unfair one.  I don’t think Tom seriously means to suggest that John Lukacs is neoconservative, which would reduce that term to meaningless nonsense.  However, if there is a view that this is the case, I would argue that there is nothing in the least neoconservative about how he has critiqued the book.  Neoconservatives were from their beginning the most obsessed with magnifying the Soviet threat and denouncing arms reduction treaties as “appeasement,” while Prof. Lukacs and George Kennan were basically correct in seeing the limitations of Soviet power and its eventual collapse under the power of the nationalisms of the subject peoples of eastern Europe.  Like Kennan, he has also correctly identified nationalism as the more powerful force in modern history. 

It remains debatable, however, that German rule over the conquered lands of eastern Europe and Russia would have been more enduring; one nation’s empire could inspire nationalist resistance among its subjects perhaps with even greater ferocity than a communist empire did.  Comparisons between Stalin and Ivan the Terrible may express a certain dislike of Russia, but they are not at all instructive.  The brutality of the Soviets had no meaningful precedent in Russian history, either.  It is likewise debatable that Russia was not “part and parcel of European culture, civilization, and tradition,” and this is seems to be one of those undesirable half-truths once we come to the early 20th century.  Metternich thought that Asia began on the east side of Vienna, but we know this to be a misguided view.  All of Europe dominated by Germany does not sound terribly pleasant to those who would have had to live under German hegemony, but it has ever been the mistake of the British at least since the time of Walpole to think that it mattered to Britain whether a nation dominated the rest of Europe.  Churchill’s view may have been consistent, but it may still have been wrong.  There is no contradiction between recognising a regime as evil and believing that war against it is unnecessary.  And if it is unnecessary, the war is therefore also wrong, particularly as it relates to one’s own national interest.  

P.S.  I incorrectly identified the Lukacs review as part of the 5/19 issue in a previous post.  This is a preview from the 6/2 issue.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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