America First, History Second: Pat Buchanan Refights the Second World War

By Bering, Helle | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 29, 1999 | Go to article overview

America First, History Second: Pat Buchanan Refights the Second World War


Bering, Helle, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Every presidential candidate has his issue, and Patrick J. Buchanan seems to have chosen America's entry into World War II to be his. Mr. Buchanan does not think the United States should have entered World War II; in fact he believes that the world might well have been a safer place if only we had listened to the America Firsters in the 1930s and 1940s and minded our own business.

Most Americans, who have more than enough on their hands worrying about schools for their children, nursing homes for their parents, the safety of their neighborhoods, and other vital if mundane aspects of their lives, will find this a rather exotic theme for a presidential campaign more than 50 years after the war ended.

But Mr. Buchanan clearly cares passionately enough about World War II to want to revisit it again -and again. In the early 1990s, Mr. Buchanan ardently defended accused Treblinka concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was being prosecuted in Israel. At the time, Mr. Buchanan also expended column space calculating whether you could kill as many as 850,000 Jews with diesel truck fumes as the said Mr. Demjanjuk was accused of doing. All of which caused a good many of Mr. Buchanan's fellow conservatives to wonder what on earth was going on. Previously, in 1991, Mr. Buchanan's statements about undue Jewish influence on American policy in the Middle East caused William Buckley in National Review to ponder whether anti-Semitism was at the root of his contentions.

And now, Mr. Buchanan and his views are back at the center of attention again. On the television talk shows on which Mr. Buchanan appears incessantly to talk about, well, himself along with the second of his political campaign books, "A Republic, Not an Empire," Mr. Buchanan has charged that the barrage against him has been merely ad hominem. He has also charged that only when he threatened to bolt the Republican Party did anyone care about the contents of his book, which is shooting up the best-seller charts as a result of the controversy, a not implausible hypothesis that actually cuts both ways.

Leaving aside, then, the question of whether Mr. Buchanan is anti-Semitic or merely strangely obsessed with World War II and the Jews, let's look at his thesis.

Mr. Buchanan intends the book to warn against "foreign entanglements" of which he believes we have far too many. As he writes in the preface, "A day of reckoning is approaching. It is my hope that the price in blood and humiliation America will eventually be forced to pay for the hubris, arrogance, and folly of our reigning foreign policy elites is not, God forbid, war, defeat, and the diminution of this Republic. …

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