That’s Ortega y Gasset’s definition of history, according to Albert Camus’s 1951-1959 notebooks.
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With a title like Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, Pat Buchanan’s new book might seem designed to court controversy. But that’s not the case, at least not as far as I have been able to tell from the first 100 pages. For one thing, “Unnecessary War” is not Buchanan’s phrase, it’s Churchill’s. Buchanan was spurred to write the book by a letter he received from George Kennan after he sent Kennan a copy of A Republic, Not an Empire. Kennan agreed with Buchanan’s view in the earlier book that the British guarantee of Poland’s security “was neither necessary nor wise” (in Kennan’s words). The new book expands on that idea, among many others.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, alongside volumes by John Lukacs, Nicholson Baker, and Lynne Olson, here. Wheatcroft is critical of Buchanan (“Although Buchanan’s argument isn’t stupid, it requires something like a historiographical sleight of hand, and is conducted backward, as it were”), but he isn’t romantic about Churchill:
Churchill led the way in cruel, brutish, and exterminatory war-making against women and children partly thanks to his uncompromising personality, partly thanks to what was seen as the logic of the situation. Three years after he hoped for “devastating, exterminating” attacks on civilians, he was shown blazing German towns filmed from the air, and exclaimed, “Are we beasts? Have we taken this too far?” And two years after that he tried (not very creditably) to dissociate himself from the destruction of Dresden by Bomber Command.
There’s much more of a Churchill cult in America than in his (and Wheatcroft’s) home country. A reconsideration of him is long overdue.
The season of Kauffmaniana continues, as Bill takes a look at Ron Paul’s book over at Taki’s Magazine. Here’s a taste:
As for the word “isolationist,” which I’ve always thought had a nice pacific ring to it, Rep. Paul gives taxonomic reversal the old college try. He tags the unilateral bullies of the Bush administration “isolationists” and avers, “I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel.” And ‘tis true that the “isolationist” Paul was the only GOP presidential hopeful to support lifting sanctions against Cuba.
He fires off this nice line: “Mine is an ‘isolationist’ position only to those who believe that the world’s peoples can interact with each other only through their governments, or only through the intermediary of a supranational bureaucracy.”
Update: Dave Weigel offers a Reason-ed review of The Revolution here, while Stacy McCain reviews Bill’s book over at The American Spectator on-line.
Funnier than Tory Anarchist? Yes. The Nixon Center’s relatively new blog is called The New Nixon, complete with a picture of a smilin’ Tricky Dick in the upper-left corner.
My article on the Ron Paul campaign and the independent organizations and efforts springing up in its wake — including Young Americans for Liberty, Jonathan Bydlak’s Discover Scholars project, and a cadre of Ron Paul Republican candidates — is now on-line here.
I’m happy to report that one development since I wrote the piece is that Ron Paul has endorsed North Carolina congressional candidate B.J. Lawson, who certainly seems like a worthy contender to me. Here’s Dr. Paul’s statement:
Thanks for your tireless efforts to advance the cause of freedom. As the Revolution shifts into high gear, we’re beginning to identify strong candidates for federal office who can help us take back Washington in 2008. I am pleased to introduce a worthy challenger to the status quo, Dr. William (B.J.) Lawson, who is seeking the Fourth District’s Congressional seat in North Carolina.
B.J. is, like me, a graduate of Duke University Medical School. Also like me, his passion for public service stems from a deep concern for the economic imbalances facing our nation. While I spent most of my life as a practicing physician, B.J. left his neurosurgery residency at Duke to start a hospital software company in 2001, and experienced firsthand the challenges of entrepreneurship as well as the importance of succeeding by putting customers first. He shares my commitment to a constitutional federal government, individual liberty, private property rights, a foreign policy we can afford, and economic growth driven by successful businesses working to satisfy their customers.
I wish I could say B.J. is going to have an easy journey to Washington in November. We certainly need him here. But there is a vocal minority in the Republican party that has other plans. B.J. is battling a neoconservative establishment candidate right up to the primary next Tuesday. While he is leading based upon this weekend’s polling, there remain many undecided voters and he needs funds to finish his media and GOTV plan. As this recent debate footage shows, they are very different candidates indeed:
After you support B.J. in the May 6th Republican primary, he will then take on Rep. David Price. Rep. Price is an 11-term incumbent who defines business as usual. With your help, B.J. can build the bridges necessary to take the freedom message across the Fourth District.
Please make a donation to help B.J.’s campaign today — fundraising is the MOST important thing we can do to help spread the message. Freedom isn’t free, but liberty is priceless!
Peter Hitchens has recently read Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke and Patrick Buchanan’s forthcoming Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. The two books, particularly Buchanan’s, have compelled him to reconsider some of his assumptions about the Good War. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:
On a recent visit to the USA I picked up two new books that are going to make a lot of people in Britain very angry.
I read them, unable to look away, much as it is hard to look away from a scene of disaster, in a sort of cloud of dispirited darkness.
They are a reaction to the use – in my view, abuse – of the Second World War to justify the Iraq War.
We were told that the 1939-45 war was a good war, fought to overthrow a wicked tyrant, that the war in Iraq would be the same, and that those who opposed it were like the discredited appeasers of 1938.
Well, I didn’t feel much like Neville Chamberlain (a man I still despise) when I argued against the Iraq War. And I still don’t.
Some of those who opposed the Iraq War ask a very disturbing question.
The people who sold us Iraq did so as if they were today’s Churchills. They were wrong.
In that case, how can we be sure that Churchill’s war was a good war?
What if the Men of Glory didn’t need to die or risk their lives? What if the whole thing was a miscalculated waste of life and wealth that destroyed Britain as a major power and turned her into a bankrupt pensioner of the USA?
Funnily enough, these questions echo equally uncomfortable ones I’m often asked by readers here.
The milder version is: “Who really won the war, since Britain is now subject to a German-run European Union?”
The other is one I hear from an ever-growing number of war veterans contemplating modern Britain’s landscape of loutishness and disorder and recalling the sacrifices they made for it: “Why did we bother?”
Don’t read on if these questions rock your universe.
“It makes me feel like a traitor to write this,” Hitchens says, “The Second World War was my religion for most of my life.” See the rest of his thoughtful post here. Hitchens will have a full review of both books in a forthcoming edition of the Mail on Sunday. I’ll post a link when the review is up.
And if you’d like to see some more of the Good Hitchens, here’s footage of him recently debating his brother, Christopher:
Paul Gottfried extends and revises his remarks on the “post paleo” generation of the Right here. Helen Rittelmeyer of the Cigarette Smoking Blog comments on Paul’s original thread and some of the reactions it elicited.
Both Gottfried and Rittelmeyer note the Nietzschean interests of the postpaleos. Paul suggests that these, along with fewer inhibitions about “discussing topics which for the paleos have been clearly off the table since the death of Sam Francis,” are a defining trait. Rittelmeyer agrees: “‘constitutionalism, decentralism, immigration restriction and rejection of democratist hegemony’ — remain the same,” she writes, “but the tone is more postmodern than pre-modern (or, if you prefer, more rock ‘n’ roll).”
I don’t know about “rock ‘n’ roll.” And I’m not sure whether the philosophical distinctions between paleos and postpaleos are as pronounced as they might seem at first blush. For one thing, the paleos of the 1980s were quite different philosophically from the paleos of today. Twenty years ago paleos took a much greater interest in sociolobiology and German philosophy — although Curtis Cate published an important volume on Nietzsche as recently as 2005. The philosophical complexion of paleoconservatism has changed over the past two decades as the ranks have thinned (with the deaths of Cate, Sam Francis, and others) and as many of the first generation paleocons have converted to Catholicism — this, by the way, is part of the background to Paul’s remarks about Catholic-Protestant tensions among the paleos.
Paleos have become more pre-modern and less postmodern over the years, and the postpaleos might follow a similar trajectory. Furthermore, it is not clear just how Nietzschean the postpaleos really are. Of the postpaleos I know — and since the paleo and postpaleo universes encompass only about a hundred people, I think I know most of them — just one is a serious student of Nietzsche. Others take a passing interest, as I do. That might not disprove Paul’s point, however, since he suggests that an interest in the pre-war Old Right is also characteristic of the postpaleos, and one can argue that there’s a broadly Nietzschean undertone to the libertarian Old Right. Certainly there is in Mencken, though Mencken has a peculiar take on Nietzsche.
I suspect there are many young rightists — budding postpaleos whom I don’t yet know — who like Nietzsche for the wrong reasons. I remember in high school attending conventions of the Junior Classical League — Latin geeks — and not infrequently encountering bookish types whose version of teenage rebellion was wearing Nietzsche t-shirts, typically with one or another of his more cliched aphorisms (“That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger,” “God Is Dead”) emblazoned upon them. Slightly older specimens of the same genus were much in evidence in my undergraduate days, only they added to their catchphrase Nietzsche a sophomoric veneer of sophistication. Nietzsche was death metal for nerds.
Nietzsche appeals to smart, cynical (or cynical-posing) young men, and even quite sound conservatives are not necessarily immune to the temptations of bastardized Nietzscheanism or clever-dick postmodernism. I wrote in an earlier post on a related topic that I had doubts about whether the postpaleo generation was applying itself seriously enough to education. Especially with the temptations of blogging, we’re in danger of becoming a generation of Bill Buckleys, spurning rigorous, long-form grappling with ideas and instead spouting off shallow quips and impressing ourselves with rhetoric. That can be a quick path to Internet fame, but it won’t produce work of lasting significance. The postpaleo generation doesn’t necessarily have to go back to graduate school — but even its brightest lights ought to apprentice themselves to older, wiser thinkers, and not get too intoxicated with potent but cheap ideas.
(I’m referring, of course, to cod Nietzscheanism, not the genuine, and more elusive, article.)