BUCHANAN: America in Search of a Cause?

BUCHANAN: America in Search of a Cause?

BUCHANAN: America in Search of a Cause?

“If the Cold War is over, what’s the point of being an American?” said Rabbit Angstrom, the protagonist of the John Updike novels.

A haunting remark, since, for 40 years, America was largely united on the proposition that our survival depended upon our victory over communism in the Cold War.

We had a cause then. By and large, we stood together through the crises in the first decades of that Cold War — the Berlin blockade, Stalin’s atom bomb and the fall of China to Mao, the Korean War, the Hungarian revolution, the Cuban missile crisis, and on into Vietnam.

We accepted the conscription of our young men. We accepted wars in Asia, and, if need be, in Europe, to check the Soviet Empire.

Vietnam sundered that unity.

By 1967, the Gene McCarthy-Robert Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party had broken with the Cold War consensus. “We have gotten over our inordinate fear of communism,” said Jimmy Carter.

The Reagan Republicans and George H. W. Bush would pick up the torch and lead the nation to victory in the last decade of that Cold War that had been a defining cause of the American nation.

But when it was over in 1990, America was suddenly at a loss for a new cause to live for, fight for and, if need be, see its sons die for.

Bush 1, after leading a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, declared that America’s cause would be the building of a “New World Order.” But few Americans bought in.

Sixteen months after his victory parade up Constitution Avenue, after Bush had reached 90 percent approval, 62 percent of his country’s electorate voted to replace him with Bill Clinton or Ross Perot.

Clinton pursued liberal interventionism in the Balkans, leading to 78 days of bombing Serbia, and he regretted not intervening in Rwanda to halt the genocide.

George W. Bush promised a “humble” foreign policy. But 9/11 put an end to that. After driving the Taliban from power and Osama Bin Laden out of Afghanistan, he declared that America’s new goal was preventing an “axis of evil” — Iraq, Iran, North Korea — from acquiring nuclear weapons. Then, Bush marched us up to Baghdad.