A generation ago, utopianism was mainly a leftist mental habit. In the past decade, the right has adopted the Utopian frame of mind, not a surprise for groups out of power for so long.
By utopianism, I mean Patrick Buchanan’s lament in Chronicles (“Toward One Nation, Indivisible,” July), a rather one-sided analysis (among excellent observations), closer to a teacher’s dictation to recalcitrant pupils than a viable plan of reform, let alone a major political platform. By claiming to be a realist concerned with the grass roots, Buchanan ignores the following parameters of the situation.
First, America’s identity crisis—hence the ambivalence of the slogan “America First”—is as old as the United States itself It is located in the founding dilemma: Is America a nation or a blueprint for an ideal mankind? Washington has been following both lines at once, confusing friends, foes, and itself alike. This policy has led to an empire malgré lui, an invitation to all to join, and probably to a future implosion. Minority groups are the first to feel that the center is yielding; the sturdy and numerous ones may become secessionist nations in the not-too-distant future.
Second, Buchanan is surprised that in this hesitant empire, like in late Rome, not the “people” but the praetorian guard commands and sets policy on immigration, human rights, foreign affairs, and of course economics. But using the language of economic interest, when he actually bemoans the thinning of national consciousness, leads nowhere, certainly not to the re-cementation of a national consensus. Meanwhile, the “ideal mankind” which is Washington’s not-so-hidden agenda, induces planners to construct a globalist strategy—military, economic, and cultural. America, as she now stands, is not likely to backtrack from the global frontier and its dynamics.
Because of its post-Cold War hubris (see the New York Times op-ed page for daily arrogant details), the United States will soon face global enmity. An implemented Buchanan policy would exacerbate it. Yet, the “values” that Buchanan cites as blocks of popular resistance are in low supply and even lower consumption: America is in no position to sustain a world-siege, from Mexico to East Asia. Those others do not suffer from an identity crisis. “Keeping capital at home” as a means of punishment is a feeble attempt at isolation when American capitalists and ideological strategists can hardly wait to teach free trade and democracy to Afghan tribesmen and Tutsi militia. They want to invest abroad—now.