In This Review

A Republic, Not an Empire
A Republic, Not an Empire
By Patrick J. Buchanan
Regnery, 1999, 437 pp

Buchanan's book attracted national criticism for arguing that Britain and the United States should have stayed out of World War II -- a case with a small following in Britain but virtually none in America. But this argument would not have seemed that controversial to many articulate Irish Catholics in 1940, the era of Buchanan's father and teachers, when the dominant sentiments of Irish Americans were anti-British, anticommunist, and relatively unsympathetic to China. Couched in terms of realpolitik, Buchanan's argument ultimately turns on unexamined "what-ifs" about hypothetical German-Soviet wars (which in fact could have turned out very badly for the United States). Nor does Buchanan really address Franklin Roosevelt's basic point that America could not flourish as a "lone island in a world dominated by force." But the book as a whole is much more. Buchanan rehabilitates older critiques of American foreign policy commitments made throughout U.S. history, gripped by his ancestors' fears of robust internationalism abroad creating a "garrison state" at home. In this sense, the book is a remarkable, well-restored museum of old ideas -- less libertarian or conservative than nostalgic for a past that never was.