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Book Review: Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?

If you are searching for the authoritative Baedeker Guide to the End of the West, search no longer. The book by Patrick J. Buchanan, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? makes a devastating case for the end of what we know as the West.

Pat Buchanan is the unacknowledged godfather of the Tea Party Movement and much more. He has written six other best-selling books and has no match as a polemicist, yet he is also an excellent historian who backs up his opinions and conclusions with copious quotations from a wide variety of sources. (Disclosure: I am one of those quoted.)

His timing is impeccable, as America approaches what promises to be a pivotal presidential and congressional election in the midst of one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. Meanwhile, we confront the ongoing threat of radical jihadism, a Middle East that threatens a possible Armageddon scenario within the lifetime of readers of this review, and the demographic, economic, and spiritual decline of Europe, with the emerging superpower of China there to pick up the pieces.

Buchanan himself has been actively involved in political journalism since the late Sixties as ongoing media maven and presidential speechwriter and adviser under presidents Nixon and Reagan; in addition, on two occasions he has himself been a candidate for the presidency.

With the death of Bob Novak in 2009, Buchanan (along with newcomer Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the Washington Times) has little competition as the representative of the traditional conservatism that in recent decades has been superseded by the neoconservatism so evident in the last Bush administration. Buchanan considers this his most important book and the best summary of his own political views, which are of the Old Right Senator Robert Taft and Russell Kirk variety. Although he has not endorsed anyone in this year’s presidential race, his views seem more sympathetic to Texans Perry and Paul than to the other candidates. Recall that Buchanan left the GOP to run for president under the Reform Party, which has in a certain sense morphed into what is now called the Tea Party.

His thesis is clear:

America is disintegrating. The centrifugal forces that are pulling us apart are growing inexorably. What once united us is dissolving, and this is true of Western civilization. Meanwhile the state is failing in its fundamental duties. It is no longer able to defend our borders, balance our budgets, or win our wars.

Simultaneously, the Middle East in particular has never been less stable, since the disappearance in recent months of several long-entrenched leaders has left a vacuum more likely to be filled by fundamentalist Islamic parties than by Western-style democracy. And then there is China… Need I say more?

Suicide of a Superpower details in 11 chapters a wide variety of societal decline. After his opening chapter, Buchanan examines what he as a serious Christian thinks lies at the root of the matter: that the U.S. is no longer a Christian country. Even President Obama agrees with him on that. And what may be worse than the continuing decline of religious practice in America is the loss of a common morality drawn from natural law and Divine Revelation. As Buchanan notes after quoting the British historian of religious culture Christopher Dawson, “If Dawson is correct, the drive to de-Christianize America, to purge Christianity from the Public Square, public schools and public life, will prove culturally and socially suicidal for the country.”

Buchanan is well known as a Catholic who cherishes happy memories of Pre-Vatican II Catholicism, and he recounts with obvious pain the sad decline of Catholic religious practice, cultural and political influence, and adherence to the faith, bemoaning the spectacle ranging from “the former Speaker of the House to the Vice President of Catholic politicians who openly support abortion on demand.”

Another chapter chronicles “Demographic Winter.” “People of European descent are not only in relative but a real decline. They are aging, dying, disappearing. This is the existential crisis of the West.”

And also the existential crisis of the Jewish nation, which is most threatened not by any Iranian weapon of mass destruction but by its own low reproductive rates. By mid-century, Palestinians west of the Jordan River will outnumber Jews two to one; adding Palestinians in Jordan raises the ratio to three to one.

Other chapters examine mass immigration from Latin America and predict what Buchanan believes is America’s inevitable withdrawal of its military from hundreds of military bases through the world, due in part to our declining economy. Suicide of a Superpower is the work of a man who sincerely loves his country and has served it well. Nonetheless he writes:

America is entering a time of trouble. The clashes of culture and creed are intensifying. …And the Crises that afflict us–culture wars, race division, record deficits, unpayable debt, waves of immigration, legal and illegal, of peoples never before assimilated, gridlock in the capital and possible defeat in war–may prove too much for our democracy to cope with. They surely will, if we do not act now.

Well, we can’t say we were not warned. It would certainly be helpful if candidates for the presidency and other elective offices in the U.S. in 2012 read this book and were asked in the debates about how to stave off the ongoing suicide. Buchanan does not assert that the country will not survive, but rather argues that it will no longer be the country that the Founders envisioned. If, as is likely, the United States does not alter its current trajectory, I can only hope that the book will survive to be read centuries from now by some future Gibbon as a prophetic cri de coeur unhappily ignored in its time.

Perhaps that writer will ask how a republic blessed with a continent of great natural resources, a Constitution unique in human history, and a populace blessed with the Christian faith could have committed suicide. However, Buchanan reminds us: “Demography is Destiny.” In the United States since 1973 more than 50 million future citizens have been aborted, the contraceptive mentality has brought the middle-class population below replacement level for the first time in our history, the top money-making entertainment industry is Internet pornography, and the easing of divorce laws has en-couraged adultery and split up families with devastating impact on millions of children. Now, in perhaps the final step, traditional marriage between one man and one woman is gradually becoming merely one more option. The number one health problem in our country in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression is not hunger, but obesity. The real question is whether America is worth saving. One thing for sure, it is no longer “Exceptional.” Consider what is left of Europe for a sobering view of our future. The only hope for our country is a moral and spiritual revival. Are we up for the challenge? The next decade should give us the answer.

That’s why ultimately we should look in the mirror for the cause of our decline. In the immortal words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

This article first appeared in The American Spectator, March 2012.


Fr. CJ. McCloskey III is a Research fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC.  His website is: frmccloskey.com.


  • laymonk

    Fr. McCloskey; after reading your review of this book, it is one I will put on my ‘to read list.’ The quote from Christopher Dawson, “If Dawson is correct, the drive to de-Christianize America, to purge Christianity from the Public Square, public schools and public life, will prove culturally and socially suicidal for the country” is a good reflection from another article/post to this blog “Catholic Higher Education: Still Not Practicing What We Preach” written by Kathy Schiffer that I read today. Not only has Christianity been pushed or being pushed out in public schools but also in our institutes of highter education. While most of these still have as their president a member of the Clergy or Religious order, most of the boards are made of lay persons of various faith beliefs, but in the moral values they hold. I read a book at the beginning of Lent that was written back in the mid 60’s that devoted a whole chapter on the secularization of the Catholic education system, especialy colleges and universities. This creeping in and slowly dismantling has been going on for some time, we just need to find a way to reverse it.

  • wild rose

    I wish to share this from a Fr. John A Hardon prayer card.

    “Unless we recover the zeal and the spirit of the first century Christians-unless we are willing to do what they did and to pay the price that they paid, the future of our country, the days of America are numbered.”
    Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
    1914-2000

  • George Kadlec

    An anthropologist by the name of J.D. Unwin initiated a study with the premise that marriage was not necessary and possibly even detrimental to the development of great societies. At the end of this study he completely reversed his hypothesis.

    “Perhaps the definitive work on the rise and fall of civilizations,” writes Fitzpatrick, “was published in 1934 by Oxford anthropologist J.D. Unwin”:

    In “Sex and Culture,” Unwin studied 86 human civilizations ranging from tiny South Sea island principalities to mighty Rome. He found that a society’s destiny is linked inseparably to the limits it imposes on sexual expression and that those sexual constraints correlate directly to its theological sophistication and religious commitment.
    Unwin noted that the most primitive societies had only rudimentary spiritual beliefs and virtually no restrictions on sexual expression, whereas societies with more sophisticated theologies placed greater restrictions on sexual expression, and achieved greater social development.

    In particular, cultures that adopt what Unwin dubbed “absolute monogamy” proved to be the most vigorous, economically productive, artistically creative, scientifically innovative and geographically expansive societies on earth.

    The following are grave words for the USA that come from noted Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin who found no culture surviving once it ceased to support marriage and monogamy. None.

    Now we can do a basic analysis of marriage in the USA. Current illegitimacy rates are as follows:

    Black 73%

    Hispanic 53%

    White 29%

    for an overall rate of 41%. The future of the USA has been written. Currently the rate of illegitimacy for women of all races under 30 is 52%.

    “Once a society departs from a social norm of absolute marital monogamy, social chaos ensues within three generations.” — Anthropologist Joseph Daniel Unwin

    Will things change? The west is essentially finished. People love fairy tales and they can’t get enought of them – simply look at television and the press. I will be 70 at my next birthday. I feel sorry for my children and grandchildren.

  • goral

    “Demography is Destiny.” Look at our cities and see how true to the letter that statement is.
    America is, right now, running the Gran Torino in a closed garage and taking in clouds of CO2.
    How many more of Coloreds and Orientals Too can Uncle Sam take in before the populace of a nation no longer match its history and culture.

  • wild rose

    The demographics in our country have indeed changed the country we once knew. We’ll always need people from other countries to fill jobs in the US. Mother Teresa was correct to say that a country that kills its young has no future.

    Fr. John McConnell wrote: “In the United States since 1973 more than 50 million future citizens have been aborted, the contraceptive mentality has brought the middle-class population below replacement level for the first time in our history, the top money-making entertainment industry is Internet pornography, and the easing of divorce laws has encouraged adultery and split up families with devastating impact on millions of children. Now, in perhaps the final step, traditional marriage between one man and one woman is gradually becoming merely one more option.”

    Goral, I have hope for our country’s freedom. The attendance at the Easter weekend liturgies are sign of hope. The good attendance of young people at our parish Faith Formation classes are the greatest a sign of hope.

  • goral

    All of us believers have hope, Wild Rose. We are ever optimists because of the Resurrection, because of Easter and Spring and new life.
    Yet the trend has us moving in a certain direction, a direction that will most definitely have dire consequences.
    We can all see that we are no longer flourishing as a Christian nation. All the reasons and causes stated in the article and comments have us mired in sin, stagnation and moral apathy.

    Divine Mercy Sunday is reminding us that the Lord forever extends to US another opportunity, for the sake of His Sorrowful Passion.

  • I think we are witnessing Our Lady’s prediction at Fatima coming true – “various nations will be annihilated.”