[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]
In William F. Buckley Jr.’s autobiography Miles Gone By, he devoted a chapter to Blackford Oakes, the hero of his series of spy novels. Buckley envisioned Blackford Oakes as a counter to the anti-Americanism he saw in so much of the popular culture. He cited in particular the film Three Days of the Condor, which came out in 1975, just before Buckley began working on the first of his Blackford Oakes books. In the film, Robert Redford played a CIA analyst caught up in a murderous plot involving not the KGB or the East German Stassi, but rogue elements within the CIA itself. In other words, the bad guys were the very people we expect to be the good guys.
Buckley himself served briefly with the CIA after graduation from Yale, and in the Blackford Oakes books he set out to define the Cold War not as a standoff between moral equals, as was and remains widely held among the political Left, but rather as a genuine conflict between good and evil, with, it should go without saying but may not, the United States and the West on the side of the former. The degree to which one agrees with this assessment is probably as good a measure as any in placing him on the continuum between Left and Right.
I say all this merely to preface a remarkable passage I came across in re-reading Miles Gone By today. Presented below are the final two paragraphs of the chapter discussed above. The Cold War may have ended, but threats to America nonetheless abound, a fact Mr. Buckley understood better than most.
Blackford Oakes has weaknesses spiritual and corporal. But a basic assumption guides him. It is that the survival of everything we cherish depends on the survival of the culture of liberty; and that this hangs on our willingness to defend this extraordinary country of ours, so awfully mixed up so much of the time, so schizophrenic in its understanding of itself and its purposes, so crazily indulgent of its legion of wildly ungovernable miscreants – to defend it at all costs. With it all, this idealistic republic is the finest bloom of nationhood in all recorded time, and save only that God may decide that the land of the free and the home of the brave has outrun its license on history, we Americans must contend, struggle, and if necessary fight for America’s survival.
In due course we will all die. But when we die, let us resolve that we shall have died confident that those who follow us will live freely; and that they, living as free men and women, will be grateful that, at the threatened nightfall, the blood of their forefathers ran strong.
Mr. Buckley passed away just over a year ago. He is greatly missed.