I have not yet read Patrick J. Buchanan's book, "A Republic, Not an Empire." However, I am quite familiar with his newspaper writings and television appearances. And nothing in Michael Kelly's Sept. 22 op-ed column justifies the gross smearing of Buchanan as a pro-Hitler antisemite.

Kelly begins by noting that a veritable antisemite criticized his last anti-Buchanan piece. The implication is that only antisemites defend Buchanan. This is beneath the dignity of a supposedly reputable newspaper columnist.

Kelly then exclaims, "My God," in response to Buchanan's argument that the United States should not have been involved in World War I because it had no vital national security interests at stake in that conflict. Buchanan may or may not be right here, but he makes a legitimate historical argument -- one Kelly fails to address but yet dismisses outright as somehow illegitimate.

It seems that Buchanan makes points worthy of consideration -- and which have direct bearing on U.S. foreign policy today. And he is the only presidential candidate who is talking seriously about vital issues of war and peace, life and death. For this he is to be commended. Instead, he is being rhetorically burned at the stake as some sort of evil heretic by the likes of Kelly.

It is certainly reasonable to think that, minus U.S. involvement, World War I would have ended in a bloody stalemate. This, in turn, would have meant no punitive Allied sanctions against Germany, thereby denying Hitler the seething cauldron of resentment that he so brilliantly and demagogically played upon in his rise to power.

As for World War II, no less a patriot and Nazi-hater than Gen. George Patton said the United States should have let Communist Russia and Nazi Germany destroy one another. Perhaps Patton was right; perhaps he was wrong. Either way, this is a historically legitimate argument with a bearing on today's politics.

In any case, Germany's declaration of war on the United States forced us to destroy the Nazi monster -- something Buchanan readily acknowledges, but Kelly unconscionably fails to credit him for saying.

-- John R. Guardiano

Regarding "Buchanan's Folly" by Michael Kelly: It's true Buchanan may have some weird ideas about World War II. That's okay, though, because he's right on the money about World War I -- that pinnacle of horror beyond imagining and politics beyond stupidity. America's entry into that war was brainless and futile.

At least Buchanan's somber take on America's role in the world is a welcome respite from the current, pervasive, yey, rah! rah! America No. 1 chorus of jingoism and militarism, which seems to characterize mainstream discourse about the U.S. role in the world.

And by the way, dissent from this absurd chauvinism is a great thing in a presidential aspirant. What troubles me, however, is Kelly's blithe assumption that any candidate with such contrarian views about foreign policy should be kicked more or less out of his party, should fade to obscurity and, most important, such views should not be heard again. That's the real point of all this, isn't it? America's power, as well as its complete moral innocence, is a fact on the ground: No naysayers need apply. Yey! Rah-rahers only.

-- Margaret McShane

Pat Buchanan posited some interesting historical hypotheses recently, claiming various audacious theories such as if the United States had not entered either world war, Stalin would not have risen to power. Unfortunately, as any credible historian can tell you, it is extremely difficult to argue that, if a certain historical entity had made a different decision than it actually made, certain outcomes would have taken place.

Unfortunately, Michael Kelly instead of saying that Buchanan's historical backtracking is absurd to begin with, has the audacity to use Buchanan's alarming manner of historical guessing by asserting about Buchanan's theories, "This is all a fantastic, hideous lie."

How are Buchanan's theories a lie? The assumptions Buchanan made when he altered history were not true to begin with.

When Buchanan asserts wild theories about things that might have been, the best way to combat him is to challenge his ridiculous method of historical analysis, not to buy into his outrageous guessing game and claim we know what might have happened better than he does. Because with this guessing game, no one is right and no one is wrong. Rather, we're all just fools for trying to play.

-- David Ellis