Suicide of the West An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism

Review :

When reading about William F. Buckley and the early days of National Review James Burnham is usually front and center. His practicality about politics was very unique at the magazine. A common story is his support for Nelson Rockefeller in 1964 when his colleagues were behind Barry Goldwater. He agreed with Goldwater on nearly everything, but felt that Rockefeller actually had a chance of winning and the election was too important to fall in love with a pipe dream.

Here Burnham explains why American liberalism has no answers for communism. He takes particular issue with the policy of containment regarding the Soviet Union. He sees it not as a solution, but a way to ignore issues that won't go away. Starting with the foolish agreements at Yalta and subsequent acquiescence at the Suez Canal and Cuba, Burnham wonders why we are so ready to surrender. More specifically he wonders why we are committing slow suicide rather than confront the world in front of us.

The cold war is over but the same inaction is with us. Some in the west hope that our enemies will self-destruct while oters are sympathetic with the anti western criticism and feel that we have it coming. Together they create a pretty big coalition of stasis. With Iran on the brink of getting a nuclear weapon we are likely heading back into familiar disagreements. In that way Burnham's book is timeless.


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