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Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 1999 /19 Tishrei, 5760

Don Feder

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Don't distort Pat's book -- it's bad enough -- PAT BUCHANAN is a friend and an honorable man. But with his new book, "A Republic, Not an Empire," we part company.

The book is being reviled by those who haven't read it and distorted by those who have. Why? The reality is bad enough.

I had hoped Pat's foreign-policy opus would be an eloquent defense of a sane foreign policy -- one that calls for using force sparingly, but employing it when necessary. Instead, Buchanan has written a book that will be used to discredit those of us who are leery of humanitarian interventions like Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo.

An intellectual, Pat is mesmerized by his theories -- to such an extent that he is driven to deny the obvious and reinvent history to make past and present conform with his doctrine.

It's not enough for America to be wrong in the Balkans. Pat sets out to prove that every American war in this century was a horrendous mistake. In a New York Times column, A.M. Rosenthal claims "A Republic, Not an Empire" sets forth the author's "belief that it would have been better if Nazi Germany had won the war." Nowhere in the volume does Buchanan even intimate such a thing.

However, Rosenthal goes on to note Buchanan's belief that "no vital American interest was threatened by Hitler." Regrettably, that's pretty much what Pat says.

Britain should not have given security guarantees to Poland, Buchanan maintains. Instead, the Allies should have let Hitler have his way in the East and, if he moved West, stop him there.

In the same vein, it would have been better for America if we had let Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia bleed each other to death. Better for America to have held its fire until Hitler directly threatened us. (Landed on Long Island?)

Here, Pat is downright utopian. Better for the West to have let Germany conquer Russia and use its vast resources to fuel the Nazi war machine? Better for America to have waited until Hitler had an air force and fleet capable of crossing the Atlantic and then faced him alone?

But forget Pat's views on World War II or World War I (equally mistaken).

The next president will not be called on to decide whether to refortify the Maginot line. Instead, consider his thoughts on the World today.

Buchanan believes that America's vital interests are confined to this hemisphere, that nothing in Europe, Asia or the Middle East -- is worth fighting to protect.

He would bring home 37,000 U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula. Let the South Koreans defend themselves. And if they can't (against the fourth largest army in the world, led by lunatics and armed with ICBMs), then what? Pat doesn't say. Sayonara Seoul?

"China does not today threaten any vital U.S. interest," the would-be Reform Party nominee airily asserts. But Taiwan is our eighth major trading partner. Imagine what the People's Republic could do with the island's economy annexed to its own.

How far should we let the Beijing go before we say, "enough"? Taiwan? The oil-rich Spratly Islands? Historically, China's empire ran to Southeast Asia and Korea. Have we no vital interest in containing a police state with one-quarter of the world's population, which is rapidly expanding militarily and hungry for territory?

The book has its points. Buchanan effectively makes the case against NATO expansion to the East, which only serves to needlessly antagonize Moscow.

He's right that Russia (with its internal problems of Islamic insurgency and the likelihood that China will one day challenge it in Siberia) is "a natural ally for the United States."

He correctly notes the threat to American sovereignty from New World Order enthusiasts. Unfortunately, his dogmatic approach to alliances and intervention undercuts the book's effective arguments.

Somewhere between Pat Buchanan and Sen. John McCain lies a rational foreign policy. Buchanan believes there are no monsters in the world that we must confront. McCain believes there are nothing but monsters -- and all must be stopped by any means necessary.

McCain believes there's no difference between Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, between the Bosnian Serb militia and the People's Liberation Army. Pat views all with indifference.

Even a republic that doesn't roam the world picking fights has foreign adversaries capable of threatening its survival. Limiting America's defensive perimeter to its borders is a recipe for disaster.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate