Book Write-Up: Why Not Victory?, by Barry Goldwater

Barry M. Goldwater. Why Not Victory?: A Fresh Look at American Foreign Policy. McGraw-Hill, 1962. See here to buy the book.

Barry Goldwater was a U.S. Senator from Arizona and ran for President in 1964. He was a renowned figure in the American conservative movement. Why Not Victory?, published in 1962, was Goldwater’s defense of a tough American stance against expansionist Communism.

Here are some thoughts.

A. What did Goldwater think that the U.S. should do against Communism? He wanted it to go beyond mere containment, and he believed that all nations of the world should be constitutional republics. That does not mean that he supported the U.S. declaring war on the Soviet Union: he expressly denies that he supports that kind of move. Warfare can occur on a number of fronts: propaganda, economic, and psychological, in short, trying to convince nations that freedom is preferable to Communism. In a number of cases, Goldwater maintains that avoiding certain policies can contribute to victory. He opposes the U.S. deferring to the U.N., pursuing disarmament, and voting to admit Red China to the U.N. For Goldwater, the prism through which the U.S. evaluates its stance towards nations (i.e., South Africa, Algerian independence) should be based primarily on their significance in the Cold War. Goldwater also believes, though, that there are things that the U.S. can actively do against Communism. It can support freedom fighters in Communist countries. It can threaten Communist countries if they seek to be aggressive against other nations. It can enforce the Monroe Doctrine against Communism in Cuba. Goldwater at one point states that the U.S. could have gone in and knocked down the Berlin Wall when it was being set up.

B. A fear during the Cold War was that a belligerent policy on the part of the U.S. could spark a nuclear war. Goldwater argues that people should be willing to die for freedom, but he also doubts that nuclear war will come about as a result of a tough U.S. policy. The U.S. is militarily superior to the U.S.S.R. When it has been tough, as when it threatened Red China not to invade Quemoy and Matsu, Red China backed down. Goldwater actually says that the U.S. compromising its military superiority could lead to nuclear war, perhaps because it could erase a deterrent, make the U.S. an easier target, and cripple the U.S. from defending itself in a war.

C. Related to (B.), while Goldwater thinks that the U.S. can proceed with a firm hand on account of its military superiority, he does not believe that the U.S. should become complacent. Communism is expanding throughout the world, gaining more territory, influence, and resources as a result. The U.S. also needs to take heed not to give up its nuclear superiority amidst calls for disarmament. Not only would the Soviets fail to abide by disarmament treaties, but, even if both sides gave up their nuclear weapons, that would put the U.S. at a disadvantage. The Soviets outnumber the U.S. in population and thus would likely win a conventional war, so nuclear weaponry is what puts the U.S. in the game.

D. Goldwater is critical of the U.N. but, unlike the John Birch Society, his main concern is not that the U.N. could lead to a one-world government. Rather, he thinks that the U.S. should accept its stance and responsibility as the safeguard of freedom rather than deferring to a lot of nations that may not appreciate that concept. At the same time, in the chapter on the World Court, Goldwater does express concern about U.S. sovereignty. He supports bills that affirm that the World Court cannot undermine American laws, against those who support subordinating the U.S. to the World Court. He also speaks against other institutions that he believes compromise American sovereignty, such as GATT, which later led to the World Trade Organization. While Goldwater supports U.S. sovereignty, other countries’ sovereignty seems to take second place, in his estimation, to American interests and anti-Communism. He criticizes Castro for undermining U.S. business interests in Cuba, implying that Goldwater has no problem with the U.S. being in other countries. Moreover, while Goldwater speaks in favor of self-government, he probably would not be happy if people were to vote Communists into power.

E. The will of the people in a country still seems to play some role in Goldwater’s stance. In arguing that the U.S. should get rid of Castro, he refers to the time when the U.S. had the opportunity to rid Cuba of Spain’s oppressive presence. The implication is that the Cuban people wanted the U.S. to intervene then, and they probably did so again in the 1960’s. A complicated question, though, is how one can discern what the people want. Goldwater himself acknowledges that this can be complicated, for, just because people make a lot of noise, that does not mean that they speak for most of the people of a given country. Here, Goldwater is speaking against those whom he thinks are Communist agitators.

This is an eloquent and intelligent book, even though Goldwater acknowledges that ghost writers helped him put it together, since he was busy in the U.S. Senate! As of late, I have gravitated more towards reading anti-war conservatives, so some of what Goldwater said was a turn-off to me. Yet, he was not exactly trigger-happy in this book but advocated a foreign policy that was tough and firm but not entirely belligerent and provocative.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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