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How Not to Succeed in Washington

When I was younger and precociously interested in politics (I subscribed to National Review and looked forward to Firing Line every Sunday), I knew who George Kennan was.  He was the brilliant author of the Containment Doctrine who had later gone soft on communism and become a liberal.  If someone had told me, “No, it is Kennan who is the real conservative—Buckley is a mere Cold Warrior,” I would have been incredulous.  Yet such would have been the truth.

From 1947 through 1989, American anticommunism not only drove our foreign policy but warped our domestic politics as well.  To be conservative was to be anticommunist; to be anticommunist was to be conservative.  And everything was to be subordinated to that crusade.  I have several times asked members of the generation before mine (I’m a late boomer—too young for Vietnam) why the government essentially threw out our immigration laws in 1965.  One said it was revenge for 1924, but of course such a motive could not be avowed.  Another suggested it was linked to the civil-rights legislation of the previous year.  A third, who writes for this magazine, told me that it was a Cold War measure, that we were told that, as we were competing with the Russians for Third World allies, we could not afford to maintain immigration quotas that discriminated against the non-Western peoples we were trying...

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