The Two Faces of American Isolationism

A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny is a pamphlet and a history. Some of the greatest compositions of the human mind were cast in the form of pamphlets, even when they were thrown at a public for immediate political purposes. There is nothing very wrong with Buchanan's pamphlet, which consists of two of the seven chapters of his book, framing the other five. They clang with the repeated sound of his hard-hammered points, sometimes imaginative but not unrealistic: indeed, worth thinking about. He is concerned with the—yes, often thoughtless—practices of international globalism, of excessive immigration, of American military and political commitments all around the globe, of insufficient concern with what the Russians think about their own security. He proposes (among other matters) that the principal task, and duty, of the army of the Republic is to defend its frontiers, especially on the Mexican border; that Puerto Rico should be allowed to become independent; that in the event of the dissolution of the Canadian state some of its provinces should be admitted to the United States; that the expansion of NATO is senseless, dangerous, and wrong. (In his previous book, he urged the merits of American industrial, though not agricultural, protectionism.) Every one of these propositions is worth considering. This book lauds the virtues of American isolationism—which is where the trouble...

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