The Rodney Dangerfield Republic

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by Patrick J. Buchanan – October 23, 1997

“African Brothers in Spirit” ran the caption over a photo of a beaming Nelson Mandela holding hands with a smiling Moammar Qaddafi. On entering Tripoli, Mandela’s 50-car motorcade passed under a banner reading: “Mandela’s visit to Libya is a devastating blow to America.”

What about U.S. objections to his visiting a nation now under U.N. sanctions for its role in the massacre of American school kids on Pan Am 103, Mandela was asked. In defiance, Mandela bared his contempt: “Those who say I should not be here are without morals. I am not going to join them in their lack of morality.”

America “without morals”? There was a time when that insult would have gotten Mandela’s ambassador booted out in 48 hours. At least the White House might have replied: “Mr. Mandela has spent so much time in prison, he apparently needs the occasional company of criminals.” Yet, all we have heard from the president’s men was pathetic mewing about how much we “respect” Mandela.

For all our hubristic boasting about being the “world’s last superpower,” the United States under Bill Clinton has become a global doormat, the Rodney Dangerfield republic. “I don’t get no respect!” the old comic used to whine. Neither do we, Rodney.


* France just approved a $2 billion natural-gas deal with Iran in defiance of U.S. sanctions and is selling top-line fighters and air-to-air missiles to China. Twice, Americans died to rescue France.

* Russia, to whom we have been giving foreign aid for years, has also cut a huge natural-gas deal with Iran and is peddling missile parts and nuclear technology to the ayatollahs’ regime.

* Canada has sent its foreign minister to Cuba to exult in his country’s defiance of U.S. sanctions on Fidel Castro.

* Mexico, beneficiary of a $50 billion America-led bailout, continues to flout U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

* Japan is ignoring countless U.S. protests and pushing exports to run its annual U.S. trade surplus back up into the $60 billion range.

* China continues to enjoy privileged access to the huge U.S. market despite its sale of missiles to Iran and nuclear technology to Pakistan, its persecution of Christians, its recent arrest of a Catholic bishop, and steep tariffs and taxes on U.S.-made goods.

* Saudi Arabia, protected by U.S. ships, planes and troops, has dragged its feet in aiding the FBI investigation of the terrorists who slaughtered American soldiers in the Khobar Towers massacre.

* Israel, annual recipient of $3 billion in U.S. aid, has sold Lavi fighter technology, to which we contributed $1.5 billion, to China.

* No sooner had America agreed to defend Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary than France declared she would pay none of the cost of NATO expansion. Other NATO nations echoed Paris.

Now, here we have a list of nations we either rescued, defend, aided or grant privileged access to our lucrative market acting in contempt of U.S. policy and interests. Yet not once can I recall when any one of these regimes felt the sting of American anger or the pain of American retaliation.

Clinton so needs to be liked and wants to be loved that when U.S. interests are ignored or sanctions defied, his White House begins an earnest search for a way to work it out, so the offending nation can say it did not really commit or know about the violation. As in a schoolyard of toughs, foreign nations have caught on that the big, friendly, rich kid will do just about anything to avoid a fight.

Yet something even deeper than the supine character of our president is amiss. It is that U.S. foreign policy is being made today not with U.S. interests foremost in mind but to advance some gauzy vision of a world of friendly nations, all happily trading in peace and harmony. To advance that utopian dream, we repeatedly sacrifice our national interests. America desperately needs a bottom-up review of our entire foreign policy.

As there is no threat to us in Eastern Europe, why should its defense be our responsibility? Let the Europeans have NATO. If the French want NATO’s Southern Command, let France have it, right after we detach the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As we produce half the oil we consume and have plenty of coal and natural gas, and secure access to Western hemisphere oil, let us say to the Europeans and Japan: The Persian Gulf contains your oil, not ours; you work out your own deals with Iran, Iraq and the Saudis. Then, let us announce a date certain for an end to all foreign aid and send a diplomat to Montreal to deliver a toast: “Vive Quebec Libre!”

Let’s start the new century with a foreign policy that says that we Americans henceforth will be looking out for America first.

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