The Magazine

A Revealing Reading List

Rand Paul’s book recommendations.

Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By DAVID ADESNIK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

It would be remiss to ignore the differences between Ron Paul and Buchanan, however. Buchanan is a protectionist who condemns the GOP’s free trade agenda, while Paul is a strong free trader. “The Republican Party,” Buchanan writes, “has signed off on economic treason.” Buchanan also defines America as “a child of Europe” and frets about the impact of nonwhite immigrants on American culture. 

Like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, another of the recommended authors, Andrew Bacevich, defines himself as a conservative. Yet in the preface to The New American Militarism, Bacevich notes, “my views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left.” Much the same can be said for Paul, Buchanan, and others on the list.

Bacevich’s book levels the accusation that American society as a whole is “infatuated with military power.” More recently, Bacevich has joined the ranks of the conspiracy theorists, calling the United States a “de facto one-party state” in which democracy has been “hijacked” and replaced by a “new political elite whose members have a vested interest in perpetuating the crises that provide the source of their power.” But the purpose of The New American Militarism is to expose the delusions of American popular culture, especially the “tendency to see military power as the truest meas-ure of national greatness.” While Bacevich demonstrates that Americans have tremendous respect for their men and women in uniform, one is hard pressed to find any evidence in the book that the United States has become a latter-day Sparta.

With his aggressive rejection of any moral constraints on foreign policy, Michael Scheuer distinguishes himself from the other authors on the list. In Imperial Hubris, he asks, “Can it be proven that it would make a substantive—[versus] emotional—difference to U.S. security if every Hutu killed every Tutsi, or vice versa; every Palestinian killed every Israeli, or vice versa; or if Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians exterminated each other to the last person?” Accordingly, Scheuer has no qualms about inflicting massive civilian casualties in the course of our campaign against al Qaeda. He cites the fire-bombing of Tokyo and Dresden as models for emulation. “The piles of dead,” he writes, “will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.” 

Strangely, while calling for future brutality, Scheuer attributes the rise of al Qaeda to anti-Islamic policies of the past. “The United States is hated across the Islamic world because of specific U.S. government policies and actions,” Scheuer says. “I think it is fair to conclude,” he writes, “that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” If Washington does not want to fight an endless war against Islam, it must remove its military forces from the Arabian Peninsula, sever its ties to “apostate, corrupt” governments in the Middle East, and cease all pressure on Arab oil producers to keep oil prices low. Scheuer also asks (rhetorically), “Do we totally support Israel because it is essential to our security, or because of habit, the prowess of Israel’s American lobbyists and spies, the half-true mantra that Israel is a democracy .  .  . and a misplaced sense of guilt over the Holocaust?” 

Chalmers Johnson stands out among Senator Paul’s favorite authors for his unadulterated moral relativism and thoroughgoing left-wing politics. In Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, he observes that the 9/11 attacks “employ[ed] the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders, whose innocence is, of course, no different from that of the civilians killed by American bombs in Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.” He asserts there is no meaningful difference between the Soviet empire and the United States’ network of alliances. Johnson’s commitment to that false analogy is so complete that he can write, “By the 1990s Japan was the world’s second-richest country, but with a government remarkably similar to that of the former East Germany.” Apparently, all that’s missing is a wall around Tokyo to keep its citizens from escaping to the West. Anyhow, Johnson naturally recommends that the United States dismantle its empire, which would entail bringing home all forces stationed abroad, since there is no threat that justifies a forward military presence.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers