Suicide of a Superpower
New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011
Pat Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower is an apt follow-up to his 2002 volume, The Death of the West. Although the new book focuses on the United States, it restates and updates the narrative of the older book. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the former refers briefly to the latter early on.
Buchanan’s main thesis is this:
When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die. That is the progression. And as the faith that gave birth to the West is dying in the West, peoples of European descent from the steppes of Russia to the coast of California have begun to die out, as the Third World treks north to claim the estate. The last decade provided corroborating if not conclusive proof that we are in the Indian summer of our civilization.Suicide has stirred some controversy in the mainstream media for stating what for many is, or should be, known and obvious, but which for the majority is either not so or taboo: the negative consequences of immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism.
Yet, the book has obtained wide coverage and seems widely available—last month, while travelling in the United States, I saw it prominently displayed in the bookshops of major airports. This is a significant achievement that must not pass without notice, for there are others who have been advancing identical theses without the same level of exposure.
Suicide, however, is not without significant limitations, and these merit detailed discussion, for they stem from an outlook that will need to be overcome if we are ever to move forward with an effective solution to the suicide of America and the rest of the West.
The PlusesWith 428 pages of meat in it, Suicide is divided into 11 chapters, each of which is in turn divided into shorter sections with lapidary titles. The chapters are: The Passing of a Superpower, The Death of Christian America, The Crisis of Catholicism, The End of White America, Demographic Winter, Equality or Freedom, The Diversity Cult, The Triumph of Tribalism, The ‘White’ Party, The Long Retreat, and The Last Chance.
In none does Buchanan flinch from presenting the facts as they are. And where there are lacunae, Kevin MacDonald has already filled them with his Culture of Critique. The first chapter is in tone apocalyptic, yet the sheer rapidity of the United State’s decline as a superpower justifies that tone; Rome’s decline in wealth and capability may have taken longer, but America’s is comparable and, as Buchanan presents it, suggests familiar buildings and everyday objects one day becoming ruins and broken artefacts in a continent abandoned to a dark age. Buchanan proposes solutions in the final chapter, but, besides flawed (and I get to that further down), they are conditional, which lends the trajectory of decline traced throughout most of the volume an aura of inevitability. This is not an indulgence on pessimism, because all previous empires eventually collapsed, and all previous great civilisations in history came to an end.
In his detailed discussion of Christianity’s role in the United State, and of the crisis of Catholicism, Buchanan acknowledges the importance of the transcendent. Many of the ills that afflict the West in our age are linked to, if not the result of, a materialist conception of life, and of the consequent subjection to a secular economist criterion of all matters of importance to a nation and a people. The dispossession and loss of moral authority of White peoples in their own traditional homelands was to a significant degree achieved through, or caused by, economic arguments. It was not the so-called ‘civil rights’ movement in the United States that turned Detroit into a ruin; what turned it into a ruin was the reliance on economic arguments—so characteristic of the materialist liberal outlook—that enabled the decision to purchase Black slaves in African markets and ship them to North America. Similarly, the loss of moral and spiritual vigour, which has so enfeebled the White race and sapped its will to live, can be traced to the rise of secularism, to the severing of the race’s link to the transcendent. ‘Where are the martyrs for materialism?’ he asks.
To this Buchanan adds a helpful discussion about equality and freedom. He explodes the liberal conception of them as concomitant concepts, and convincingly presents them as polar opposites in a dichotomy: greater equality means less freedom, greater freedom means less equality. Buchanan makes clear that the only possible way to see these two concepts as concomitant is by ignoring human biodiversity, for, where inborn differences in physiology impose upper limits to human plasticity, equality—the elimination disparities in outcome—cannot be achieved without handicapping the cause of those disparities. Thus, the freedom to choose among the best universities is limited for bright White students when entry requirements are relaxed among less able non-White students in the effort to achieve equal outcomes among all racial groups.
The chapters on the diversity cult and tribalism re-state arguments that have for years been advanced by Jared Taylor. Taylor has done it in much greater detail, but Buchanan will reach a much wider audience, so this is a gain. Buchanan also echoes the Sailer Strategy—‘the idea that inreach to its white base, not outreach to minorities, is the key to future GOP success’—in his discussion of his party’s prospects as Whites decline in the United States. And, like Taylor, he ridicules those who see this decline as a cause for celebration.
Also like Taylor, but in the economic area, Buchanan reveals some astonishing facts. Apparently, the United States military relies on equipment that cannot be made without parts manufactured by potential enemies and economic rivals. Did you know that?
Another helpful discussion is introduced in the final fourth of the book, where Buchanan, following Amy Chua, deals with the fatal design flaw that afflicts multiethnic nations that have embraced democracy and capitalism:
Free markets concentrate wealth in the hands of a market-capable ethnic minority. Democracy empowers the ethnic majority. When the latter begin to demand a larger share of the wealth, demagogues arise to meet those demands.This is a reply to the economic argument for the state-sponsored policy of immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism in the West, repeated without proof and refuted by empirical studies everywhere, that supposedly boosts economic growth because diverse immigrants ‘bring in skills’ and foster greater creativity. In fact, said policy leads to Whites becoming dispossessed minorities, as they already did in a number of other former European colonies. Buchanan points out that people like Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, use ‘principles invented by white men—universal franchise and majority rule—to dispossess white men’. He also quotes 19th century Rightist Louis Veuillot to describe how democrats are dispossessed by non- (or ‘instrumental’) democrats: ‘When I am the weaker I ask you for my freedom because that is my principle; but when I am the stronger I take away your freedom because that is my principle’. He asks: ‘What does the future hold for the West when people of European descent become a minority in nations they created, and people of color decide to vote themselves proportionate or larger shares of the national wealth?’
In terms of solutions, Buchanan offers common sense advice: the United States should live within its means and actively take steps to cut its deficits. For him this means pruning government and government expenditure, including social security benefits and military bases overseas; and instituting a policy of economic nationalism, levying tariffs on imports and cutting corporation tax to zero, so as to revive manufacturing in the United States, attract overseas investment, and reduce reliance on imports. I do not think even economists will agree on whether this would yield the desired results, but at least Buchanan is making concrete policy proposals that place the interests of his country first, and is willing to accept that ethnonationalism is an inescapable reality of the human condition.
The MinusesThere are fundamental flaws in Buchanan’s exposition.
Firstly, he equates European civilisation with Christianity. This is surprising, particularly coming from an American writer, advancing an Americanist position, given that some of the basic principles and practices upon which America was founded, such as the constitutional republic, originated or had their roots in Europe well before the dawn of Christianity. What about ancient Greece? What about ancient Rome? Were those not European civilisations? A more accurate statement is that the United States is a Christian country. This is defensible, even if the United States never had an established religion and even if not all Americans were Christian. Perhaps what Buchanan means is that Faustian civilisation—the civilisation of Northern Europe, of which North America is an extension—is a Christian civilisation.
Buchanan is correct to identify the decline of Christianity in America as one of the roots of its decline. In doing so, however, he has Edward Gibbon as his inverse counterpart, for Gibbon identified the rise of Christianity in Rome, that is, the decline of the Roman religion, as one of the causes of Rome’s fall. Gibbon would have sympathised, perhaps, with the statement, ‘When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die.’ Yet, given that the fall of Rome did not mean the end of European man, and that if the rise of Christianity was linked to Rome’s fall, the rise of Christianity was also linked to the rise of Faustian civilisation. All this tells us, therefore, is that we may be witnessing the end of a cycle involving Christianity. However, even if it is Christianity’s fate to pass, as have other religions, or to become a ‘Third World religion’, as Buchanan puts it, European man will still be there, at least for a while, and, provided he survives as a race, he will give rise to a new civilisation, traceable to the Greek, the Roman, and the Faustian, but founded on somewhat different principles. This will bring no comfort to Christians, nevertheless, and Buchanan, as a Christian, is justified in his alarm.
Gibbon would concede that Buchanan makes a powerful argument for Christianity. A monotheistic religion with a personal god can be a potent unifying force, eliciting much stronger commitments from its followers. The Roman pagans were easygoing, and vis-à-vis other religions, the pagan outlook, as expressed by Nehru in a conversation with the former Chilean Ambassador in India, Miguel Serrano, is generally ‘live and let live’. One can easily accept that it is not difficult to decimate a people with that outlook, for, in as much as it resembles the multiculturalists’ easygoing attitude to all religions except Christianity, it is proving daily in our society an agent of dissolution. It may well be that in a world of intense ethnic competition, a high-tension—even totalitarian and intolerant—religion is the more adaptive group evolutionary strategy. Buchanan’s discussion on the growth and endurance of evangelical Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and militant Islam indicates he is of this view, and that is a plus consistent with his recognition of the importance of the transcendent. Yet he inadvertedly exposes a conundrum: if Christianity is a universal faith, accommodating every race and nationality, as he says, and if, as he also says, non-evangelical forms of Christianity have declined because they are accommodating, then, would this not suggest that Christianity will not survive in practice as the White man’s religion unless it becomes a non-accommodating faith?
Secondly, Suicide makes it clear that Buchanan cannot conceive of anything beyond the America of the 1950s. This is the most unfortunate aspect of this book. It is also the reason why Buchanan offers no real solutions, other than turning back the clock. Were his recommendations implemented in the United States, they would only retard the processes that are in place, achieving a temporary reprieve, a momentary stabilisation, before resuming their course, perhaps with renewed vigour and speed.
What Buchanan seems not to recognise is that, while the 1950s may have felt good for many, the conditions for the modern trends that he condemns were already in place then. They were simply masked by the transient prosperity, stability, and romanticism of the era. The 1950s led to the 1960s. And the upheavals of the 1960s had their roots in the academics of the 1930s, who in turn had their roots in Marxism, dating back to the 19th century, which in turn had its roots in liberalism and the Enlightenment in the 18th century. And this is not merely a question of there having always been a hostile faction within the American republic, seeking to undermine it with its insidious liberalism; the conservatives who opposed Marxism also had their intellectual roots in 18th-century liberalism. Buchanan makes it seem as if the United States has been hijacked by liberals, but the fact is that it has always been in the hands of liberals, right from the beginning: the United States was founded and is predicated on the ideas of classical liberal intellectuals, and its Founding Fathers were classical liberals. If the United States seems to be spearheading the process of Western decline, bringing everyone down with it, it is because liberalism took stronger root there than anywhere else, due to a lack of opposition to liberal ideas.
From this perspective it can be argued that Buchanan’s Suicide of a Superpower is not the result of the United States’ being ‘far off the course set by [the] Founding Fathers’, but rather of the United States’ being exactly on that course, even if the Founding Fathers never anticipated that it would lead where it has led.
As a conservative in a republic founded by classical liberals, Buchanan is by definition a classically leaning liberal, defending a previous stage in the development of liberalism. Hence his failure to see beyond liberalism’s event horizon.
Liberals have a linear conception of history. Thus Buchanan hopes that by prescribing better liberal policies (what he would call conservative policies), the American republic can be set back on course and resume its trajectory of endless progress and economic growth. Unfortunately, treating the problem as if it were a disease in need of a cure is futile when the problem is a congenital defect. In such cases the best hope is genetic resequencing, a form of death and rebirth. Most likely it will mean certain death and a possible rebirth, elsewhere, as something else, perhaps in North America, but at first, if at all, only in a part of it. Concretely this means the break-up of the union into regions and the emergence among them of a dominant republic among weaker ones, with strength or weakness being a function of the dominant racial group in each case.
Similarly futile is the attempt to revert a civilisation to an earlier stage of development. In the Spenglerian view this would be like trying to turn an old dog back into a puppy, or an old tree back into a bush. Technology may make it possible one day to reverse the physical effects of ageing, but it will not erase the memories and conclusions of a lifetime, and therefore not rejuvenate the spirit. This applies even in the non-organic realm: we may be able to restore an old mechanical typewriter so that it looks and works like new, but it will still be obsolete technology, and its reason for being will shift from usable tool to unusable antique.
Unfortunately for those living today, reality is more in accord with the organic conception of history, whereby things go in cycles and slow build-ups lead to rapid changes in state. Following Spengler, Francis Parker Yockey argued that attempts to cause a reversion into an earlier state of development will at best yield temporary results, introducing distortions that will be magnified as the next stage of development indefectibly follows.
One can sympathise with the argument that it would be worse if the current political leadership in the United States managed to stabilise the economy and perform plastic surgery on the face of America, as this would buy said leadership more time and permit existing trends to remain in place until the possibility of a White rebirth in North America, even without United States, became extinct. A Spencerian collapse sooner may open up avenues that may be closed later.
Buchanan wonders whether the United States will implode by 2025. This was my own scenario in Mister, where the United States disintegrates in a hyperinflationary chaos. But it is difficult to predict with accuracy and I would not want to speculate beyond a possible dismemberment along regional lines sometime this century. When it happens, whenever it may happen, those who remember the America we know today and who did not know better until it was too late will be amazed that people thought the United States would go on forever. They will also be amazed that people ever thought as they do now, despite the final outcome being so blatantly obvious. Buchanan’s diagnosis is mostly accurate, but his treatment, well intentioned as it is, is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The BalanceDespite its defects, there is no escaping it: Suicide of a Superpower is a punishing indictment of the United States’ post-war political leadership, authored by a prominent conservative who speaks as part of America’s mainstream establishment. Any White American fed up with the way things have been going in recent decades and looking for new politics beyond Democrat or Republican will find here solid justifications for going beyond convention and eventually adding his muscle to the struggle for fundamental change.
Suicide will not awaken the complacent, induce the fearful to speak up, or cause ideological enemies to change their views. The complacent is comfortable in his ignorance and does not want his world disrupted by inconvenient truths; in most cases he has the means to avoid them by insulating himself economically. The fearful, who knows but remains silent, will not be emboldened by Buchanan’s confirming him in his views; he will wait, as he has always waited, and then side with change once it looks like it is going to win. The ideological enemy is beyond convincing; the only solution is to crush him thoroughly.
Should you buy Suicide of a Superpower? The answer is yes. Not only is it brave, but it contains many helpful insights and bewildering facts to fuel a healthy debate. The fact that the book is everywhere has also infuriated the radical Left, who have renewed their efforts to have Buchanan fired by MSNBC. The radical Left does not want this kind of discussion to take place in a mainstream media forum. In fact, radical Leftists would like Buchanan to be banned from the networks, shunned by his publishers, phlebotomised by the taxman, prosecuted by the ICC, and sent to the gulags, to spend his old age in poverty, obscurity, and hard labour—surrounded, of course, by politically correct diversity. To his credit, Buchanan has not buckled in to criticism. Therefore, every copy that is sold is a kick to the radical Left, and added impetus for the book to reach more persuadables.
With enough manpower and talent it will be possible to survive the cataclysm and make it through to the other side. The other side is something entirely new; traditional, but different—it is not the White America of the 1950s, nor Reagan on steroids, nor is it a linear extrapolation of what is good about the 2010s minus what is bad. For Whites to survive in America, Americanism must end. Those who survive will be the architects of what comes after Americanism; they will not call themselves Americans—the designation may not even make sense for them. Viewed from the other side, with the old certainties gone and new ones in place, it will be impossible to think as we do today, even if future generations carry forward much of European knowledge, traditions, and cultural legacy.