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Hunkered Between Santorum and Paul Lies Peace Through Total War

Is our choice in foreign policy really between pointless perpetual war and recklessly naive peace? (Also read Barry Rubin on Santorum's foreign policy.)

by
Walter Hudson

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January 31, 2012 - 12:06 am
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The Peacemaker

Imagine discovering that your police force, funded through local taxes, has begun diverting patrols to a neighboring town instead of protecting your own. Most people would be up in arms, and rightfully so.

A similar impulse informs Ron Paul’s foreign policy. He claims our military is off adventuring outside its jurisdiction. It is a message which appeals to a loyal base of supporters who believe that America’s military ought to respond to direct threats against American lives, rather than police the rest of the world.

There is a legitimate argument for refocusing our military, but not as Ron Paul and many of his supporters articulate it. Paul imagines a world where there are no credible threats, and thus nothing worth responding to. He imagines that the Constitution of the United States is binding over the lot of man, regardless of whether they are citizens or foreign enemy combatants. Worst of all, he imagines no cultural distinction motivating the behavior of regimes like Iran’s:

I don’t know of anybody who can militarily threaten [Israel]. They have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody’s gonna touch them…

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a multitude of imams and Islamist fanatics disagree. They don’t value life as Western civilization does. Indeed, they embrace death as a path to salvation. In their hands, a single nuclear weapon is a far greater threat to human life than the 300 held by a nation like Israel, which hopes never to use them.

Paul’s inability to make such an essential distinction has kept his support from rising above a particular ceiling. Yet, what support he has remains impressively stable, indicating that he speaks to some chord within many voters.

Opposite Paul stands Rick Santorum, a candidate who has struck an entirely different chord. Santorum is a proud neoconservative interventionist who believes America has a unique place in the world which endows it with an esoteric duty to spread democracy and freedom. The Hill reports,

Listening to Rick Santorum, one imagines he would lead America to more war, very quickly. Santorum speaks loudly, carries a big stick and speaks with a trigger-happy enthusiasm common to neoconservatives. The winds of war blow from Santorum’s lips with an almost casual air of breathless excitement that virtually guarantees more war if Santorum is elected president.

Listening to Ron Paul, by contrast, there is an isolationism that worries almost all leading national-security strategists, from conventional liberals to conventional conservatives. While Santorum gives the impression he would jump to war quickly, Paul gives the impression he would never wage war under any circumstance.

Both of these candidates miss the mark for the same reason. Both maintain flawed concepts of sovereignty.

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