Two weeks ago Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan called
for an end to U.S. economic sanctions around the world and challenged
the notion that it was America’s role to police the globe. “No one has
deputized America to play Wyatt Earp to the world,” he said. Buchanan
denounced the terror wrought by economic sanctions on Iraqi civilians.
He decried the brutality of sanctions and cautioned that they fan the
flames of anti-Americanism. “Have we not learned from our own history,
from British sanctions against the 13 colonies? Embargoes do not cow
people into submission; they unite people in defiance.” And he added,
“Sanctions impose suffering, not on dictators but on their oppressed
In the aftermath of these remarks, a startled Associated Press
reporter commented on Buchanan’s anti-interventionist views. Calling him
the “un-Pat,” AP wrote, “Buchanan has dramatically changed his political
landscape.” He has. He’s become an independent. And that has allowed
Buchanan to speak freely on behalf of ordinary Americans (rather than on
behalf of the special interests) and to fill a void created by the death
of the American left.
One columnist on the left-wing website,
Antiwar.com, wrote that Buchanan had
“outflanked” the left on anti-war issues. He certainly has. But this
turn of the screw is not simply a matter of Buchanan’s turn of a phrase.
It reveals the extent to which the American left has been thoroughly
compromised by its relationship to the Democratic Party.
The left has been outflanked for some time, because the left has
become a flank of the Democrats. As such, it is a supporter — however
inadvertent — of globalism, free trade and the predatory foreign policy
package that comes along with it. If you protest in the streets of
Seattle, but go home and vote for Al Gore or Bill Bradley, you’re
supporting the globalists, no matter what your T-shirt says.
The American left gave up its independent identity in the Democratic
Party’s popular front against fascism in the 1930s and never got it
back. Today it maintains a small sinecure for itself in Democratic
politics, but it is totally compromised.
Some people ask why the left was able to defy the Democratic Party on
the Vietnam War in the 1960s but can’t do it today. Here’s the answer:
That wasn’t the left who defied the Democrats on Vietnam. It was
America’s young people; it was students who rose up and challenged our
foreign policy. By the 1960s the Old Left had been decimated by
McCarthyism. The popular front had been betrayed and the left was on the
chopping block. The New Left came into existence as a result of
the ’60s antiwar movement. That movement was a people’s movement — it
didn’t have an ideology, it had a purpose, to end the war. It was
A few commentators have said that Buchanan himself is now moving
left. I don’t agree. Buchanan is moving independent. That’s the
relevant category. The new parameters of importance are special interest
politics vs. independent politics, rather than left or right. Being
independent has to do with supporting the American people — those who
are left out and who do not gain from the policies of special interests.
And Buchanan’s point about the use of economic sanctions is that they do
not further the interests of the American people and are hurtful in the
extreme to the people of the targeted nations.
Buchanan also raised the inconsistency of the U.S. sanctions policy,
implying that sanctions are used selectively because multinational
corporate special interests have different needs and dictate our foreign
policy accordingly. They do. Our “get tough” Haiti policy, for example,
was designed by President Clinton to make a cost-free human rights show
for black and liberal America; “cost-free” because no major U.S.
transnationals have significant holdings or interests in Haiti and
consequently couldn’t have cared less what America did there.
China, however, is another story. The U.S. multinationals are
relentlessly champing at the bit to get access to the Chinese consumer
market, so they want the human rights situation handled gingerly. Most
of all, they want to give China what it is demanding for that access —
membership in the WTO.
Ironically, the bipartisan sanctions policy turns out not to be
inconsistent at all. It’s just consistent with the needs and strategies
of the globalists.
In this respect, reshaping our foreign policy along the lines
Buchanan suggests requires reshaping the American political process to
derail special interest control of government. That’s why we must keep
going back to the issues of political reform. A “more moral foreign
policy” means a more moral political process — one that is based on
democracy, participation and inclusion. Reforming our ballot access,
campaign finance, voter registration and candidate debates laws is the
precondition for wresting control of foreign policy from the special
interests and putting it in the hands of the American people.
I was deeply inspired by Buchanan’s speech. But I was equally struck
by the lack of media response to it. Why was the response so muted?
Because the media and the “majors” do not want to elevate his candidacy
to be on par with them. The electoral playing field is not level.
Independents are discriminated against. The Commission on
Presidential Debates fully intends to keep the Reform Party
nominee out of the debates. The American people will be denied access to
the antiwar, anti-imperialist point of view, unless we can bring left
and right together — as independents — to take on the special interest
establishment and the policymaking process it undemocratically controls.
So, move over, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda and Eugene McCarthy. The
independents are on the move. And Pat Buchanan’s the antiwar candidate
in Campaign 2000.