PC Do you believe the neoconservative dominance of mainstream discourse of US foreign policy is slowly coming to an end or we simply seeing a generational shift? Also, have the neoconservatives in your judgement played a role in instigating the current crisis in Ukraine?
TJF The neoconservatives in themselves are of little or no importance. They do not formuulate policy, they merely repeat the slogans of the Cold War Democratic Party and put a slight conservative spin. Their great success was in making an alliance with American Evangelical Zionists, who have been taught to see the world as a struggle between good and evil, light and darkness.
It was a stupid move to try to take over Ukraine, which is what the past two American administrations have been doing. The Russians are extremely paranoid, and this paranoia is not restricted to the far right, but includes even pro-Western liberals who supported Gorbachev and Yeltsin. I have been astonished, over the years, in meeting various political advisers, politicians, and academics in Russia, by their uniform belief that the US and its allies are circling Russia and one by one picking off former dependencies and allies. Of course, they are right, that is precisely the strategy the US government has pursued. Of course, the Russians are not exactly harmless little lambs, and they are vigorously pursuing a strategy to regain some of their lost regional hegemony. I fully understand and share much of the anxiety about Mr. Putin that has been voiced by Poles. What I do not understand is Mr. Sikorski’s hysterical rhetoric at a time when diplomacy is in order. He sounds as if he were still writing editorial copy for the neoconservative National Review. To an outsider, it would appear that he is doing his best to make sure that the next major European war will be fought in Poland. Poland is not now and never will be again a dominant European power, and the United States has shown itself, over and over, a slender reed on which the rulers of small nations have pinned their hopes.
Last year, Pat Buchanan in one of his columns asked the question "Is Putin one of us"? He implied, that Putin began to sound more and more like a paleoconservative. What is your view of the Russian President?
Putin is perhaps the most able politician in power today. He has climbed to the top of the Russian pyramid by making alliances in every sector where power is to be sought, including military and intelligence circles, banking and industry, and criminal organizations. He is truly the capo dei tutti capi. He is not without flaws, and several times in his dealings over Ukraine he appears to have overreached himself. The greatest threat to his power comes not from the US or the EU but from his own allies who will turn on him if he commits a series of major blunders. He seems to see himself as heir not to Lenin and Stalin but to the the great czars whose portraits he keeps in his office. Whatever he may think of traditional morals or the Orthodox Church, he certainly knows that they are forces to be instrumentalized in the reconstruction. Like most columnists, Pat Buchanan can be carried away by the need for simple formulation to explain the world to naive and uneducated readers.
That said, even if Putin is entirely cynical and unscrupulous, he is, nonetheless, not an enemy of our civilization and religion, which puts him in an entirely different category from the leaders of the EU and the USA.
The late prof. Thomas Molnar, an authority among paleoconservatives, once noted that "Our civilization will no doubt come to an end the day the Catholic Church and the United States join the revolution". 50 years after Vatican II, with a Pope more willing to promote the theory of man-made climate change than castigate such decisions as legalization of so-called same-sex marriage in formerly Christian countries, and the United States moving more and more to the Left politicaly and culturally, is our common spiritual home, Western Civilization, really at an end?
My old friend Thomas Molnar was among the few very wise people I have known. I believe that by the time of his death he had come to recognize that the government and mass culture of the United States were advanced forces of the revolution. That, by the way, is the reason why the once anti-American left has become so nationalistic: It is because they see the United States is the great revolutionary avant-garde, destroying the barriers of religion and tradition around the world. As Hilary Clinton has proclaimed, we are willing to wage war to “liberate” women.
Of this Pope, perhaps the less I say the better. So far I do not see signs of heresy, though he is as clumsy and amateurish a diplomat as our own President. His rhetoric, whoever is writing his speeches, is utterly fatuous, and it is embarrassing to read the floundering attempts of so-called Conservative Catholics who defend him. Those who have made a study of our Church’s history are well aware that the heirs of St. Peter have not always been shining lights of intelligence and erudition or even of common sense. This is certainly not the worst Pope in our history—we survived Leo X and the Popes of the “pornocracy”—and there may be some ways in which he will do some good. As a Catholic, I prefer to concentrate more on what the Church has taught us over the past 2000 years than to engage in either idolatry or criticism of the papacy.
From your perspective, is there anyone in the current field of presidential candidates, who can at least to some degree satisfy the expectations of a traditional conservative such as yourself? What would be 3 crucial areas of policy that a truly conservative president would have to tackle?
No. I think at a minimum, a conservative should have an express a clear view of man’s nature as a finite and limited creature with a fixed nature that cannot be experimented with, as in attempts to make women into men or promote the fiction known as same-sex marriage. With this understanding, he would also begin to devolve the welfare state as an impediment to human dignity and promote a return to the old American union based on federalism and subsidiarity, allowing communities to work out their own problems for themselves. Finally, he would extend that same principle to other countries and refuse to be drawn into conflicts or movements (e.g., Arab Spring) in which there is no advantage to be gained for the American people. I do not see a single candidate who is right on a single one of these issues. For some time now, each new President is worse than his predecessor, and, as impossible as it may seem, a Jeb Bush or Rand Paul could easily be a worse President than Obama, who is already far worse than George W. Bush, who was considerably worse than Clinton….
If you were to give some concrete advise to conservatives in Poland, who are doing battle in our own culture war, what would it be?
Over the years, I have talked to many conservatives in Europe, and the greatest mistake I have seen them make is to assume that Anglo-American conservatism has answers for them. Few of them, unfortunately, knew very much about American history, certainly not enough to draw useful lessons from our experience. Inevitably, they gravitated in the direction, first, of the classical liberal/capitalists at National Review and, then later, of the Catholic neoconservatives, whose theology always seems to take second place to political and economic considerations.
One useful point of contact—on on which I had once hoped to organize a conference in Poland—is the Southern (American) emphasis on states rights, localism, and a decentralized political structure as a parallel with Poland’s decentralized regime that too many historians have stigmatized as anarchic. No system, obviously, is perfect, but in an age that is tending toward global government—the dream of Nazis and Marxists alike—a restoration of this older, Christian understanding of the political order would offer a refreshing alternative.
In the nations of central and eastern Europe, Poles are fortunate in having one of the richest literary and intellectual traditions. My own interests were awakened by conversations with my old boss, Leopold Tyrmand. While Tyrmand's interests—jazz critic and all-around swinger—were not exactly those of Catholic traditionalism—he did have an affection for the Polish literary tradition, and it was he who urged me to read the historical novels of Sinkiewicz. Naturally, one can overdo a good thing, and even a patriotic attachment to a nation’s literary traditions can degenerate into mere parochialism and provincialism. Still, if cultural patriotism is combined with study of classical and Medieval cultural traditions, cultural conservatives in Poland would have a powerful tool for combatting the thin and foolish heresies of the modern world. One English writer from whom Poles could derive much benefit would be G.K. Chesterton, who loved Poland.
This month will mark the the 41st anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Although generally considered a liberal president, I find that many paleocons and rightists have many good things to say about the 37th president. Was Richard Nixon really a petty "crook", a systematic deceiver or is there more to this fascinating man than meets the eye?
I was brought up to hate Richard Nixon, which I did thoroughly until Watergate, when I realized that anti-American leftists in the Democratic Party, joining forces with cowardly Republicans, were prepared to jettison a statesmanlike President at the height of the Cold War. It is a complex issue, but it is enough to say that Nixon did nothing dirtier than his predecessors and that, for as many times as he was wrong on domestic political issues, he was the last first-class political mind in the White House. I knew him, a little, in his later years, exchanged letters and spent the better part of a day with him. He spoke in complete sentences, grouped into coherent paragraphs. His lucid mind had a wonderful grasp of history and a Machiavellian understanding of political realities. He had his dark side and was beset by his own personal demons, but he is closer to being a tragic hero than the stage villain concocted in the popular media.
Ann Coulter titled her recent book "Adios America", referring to the massive influx of illegal immigrants into the United States from Mexico. The proponents of this process continue to refer to the United States as a "creedal" nation, that is not bound by blood and ethnicity. Paleoconservatives from the beginning have been warning that a policy of amnesty for illegal aliens will not only change the cultural face of America, but also bring with it many social troubles. Who is right?
It is good to see a popular columnist finally waking up to the reality of American life, but she is late in coming to this conclusion and trivial in her comprehension of the problem. The main difficulties are not with the Mexican immigrants themselves, who are a mix of good and bad—though the generosity of our welfare state is luring a large proportion of tax-dependent criminals. No, the problem lies with an America that has lost its identity and its principles, an America whose so-called conservatives have championed open borders as a means of attracting low-paid workers for American business and whose leftists welcome the moral and cultural confusion caused by ethnic strife. There is simply no parallel for the national suicide in which the United States has been engaged since the 1960’s.
This is different from previous waves of mass immigration, since Mexicans do not have to assimilate: They can listen to Mexican radio, watch Mexican television and movies, and read the Mexican press. If they find themselves becoming at all Americanized, their loyalties to Mexico are immediately strengthened by more recently arrived immigrants and by low-cost trips back to Mexico.
To complete the picture, the United States has created vast network of propaganda centers—we all them public schools—that teach natives and aliens alike that all of American history is based on bigotry, greed, and exploitation. Small wonder if Mexicans prefer to remain Mexican.
The situation is out of control and beyond remedy. I remember talking with a Senate staffer back about 1980. He explained to me then that unless we stopped mass immigration in less than a decade, America was a lost cause. He was absolutely correct, and there is no turning back. The America I grew up in is gone, except in little pockets, and our popular heroes are now violent athletes, degenerate entertainers, and the narco-terrorists celebrated in the most popular form of Mexican-American entertainment, the narco-coridos. It is not the violence and criminality per se that is the worst problem, but the American willingness to accept the new status quo.
Unfortunately, what little resistance there is tends toward fear, hatred, and violence. It is a struggle in which it is becoming morally dangerous to take sides. I have written much on this subject and edited two books, but I am becoming reluctant to continue for fear that something I say might be used to turn some unstable souls toward hatred. Nationalism—as opposed to a patriotic love of one’s own people and their traditions—almost always turns toward bigotry, and, while we must continue to bear witness to what we are doing to ourselves, we must as Christians, reject any movement that defines itself in terms of hate.