Ron Paul has built a reputation — through the farce of his views rather than his personality — as a man harping back to the ideals of a bygone era that never really was.
In an age of uncertainty and instability, it is not surprising that he gained somewhat of a cult status during the presidential elections with his overtly populist (but fatally misguided) prognosis of world affairs. Presenting himself as the avuncular and “wiser statesman” of U.S. politics, an arch opponent of U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and just about every other form of contact with the outside world, Paul advocates the most sulphuric cocktail of credulous and self-defeating policies. The definitive foreign policy of neo-isolationism which he spews (sadistically it seems, as 9/11, the recent economic meltdown, and humanitarian disasters in Darfur and Zimbabwe should demonstrate to even the most committed “realist”) is just sheer folly. It is a platform that ominously resonated with vast swathes of the electorate and should be exposed for the dotty “one point plan” to peace and prosperity that it actually is.
Events reverberate through countries, continents, and wallets, and are dangerously unprejudiced to the national emblem on a passport. With shattered stock markets, defaulting loans, mass refugee influxes, and failed states that harbor terrorist networks, the idea of burying your head in the sand and allowing a poisonous ant nest to fester around it is national security suicide.
In his often recited critique of 9/11, Paul never once mentions the fiery rage of jihadi fundamentalism that aims to restore “the lost caliphate” and invoke medieval Sharia. In Paul’s world, resentment towards “U.S. entanglements” led a group of sexually repressed Muslim men, brought up on a doctrine of aggressive Wahhabism (and the promised 72 virgins), to crash two planes into the Twin Towers.
Not once does he answer why, if U.S. foreign policy causes so many people around the world to “hate us,” Islamic murderers carry out their belt-exploding best in India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and other unaligned (Muslim) nations.
From 2007 in the Washington Post, here’s Paul talking about America’s defenses:
There’s nobody in this world that could possibly attack us today. … I mean, we could defend this country with a few good submarines. If anybody dared touch us we could wipe any country off of the face of the earth within hours. And here we are, so intimidated and so insecure and we’re acting like such bullies that we have to attack third-world nations that have no military and have no weapon.
Not only does his rhetoric shadow that of Ahmadinejad’s “wiping off the map” spiel, it unforgivably ignores the fact that a domestic passenger flight from Boston to Los Angeles inflicted 9/11. On how a submarine is supposed to infiltrate terrorism from within, he is less clear or visionary.
Isolationism is a hypnotic platform that has seduced the American public (and other great powers) throughout its history. It is not and never was part of the founding fathers’ long term ideals — despite the selective quotes that “Paulites” may recite about Washington‘s address on “foreign entanglements.” (Robert Kagan writes a convincing study of America’s consistent engagement with the wider world since independence in Return of History and the End of Dreams. It effortlessly demonstrates American exceptionalism.)
The most simple rule of history, as Paul Kennedy unwittingly provides in the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, is that if you don’t entangle, “they” will entangle you, and usually from a position of superiority and untapped aggression. The twentieth century was a depressing list of lost opportunities to confront extreme leviathans that were once just sea urchins — from Prussian militarism, fascism, and communism to Islamism. Mr. Paul and his allies would do well to understand that it is precisely those entanglements that must and will continue to enhance our security.
China is indefatigably on the rise with its finger on U.S. debt. North Korea is governed by a temperamental adolescent seeking ever more dangerous toys. Russia is rediscovering how to bully a country into submission with its paws firmly on the oil throttle. Pakistan (a big kid already with dangerous toys) is staring itself and the world into potential anarchic terrorist meltdown. Is Ron Paul seriously suggesting withdrawing and leaving the world “to it” in the belief that the U.S. will be unaffected by such regime lovelies?
One can only assume the ease with which Mr. Paul is cringingly taken in by Bruno represents accurately his general perception of dealing with world and international menace. For the sake of U.S. security (and as a humble Brit, dare not I say the rest of the western civilized world), keep your foreign policy fantasies to yourself. In the era of sound bites, doing nothing will in the end ultimately mean doing much more (and perhaps when it is a mushroom cloud too late).
It is time for RP to say “R.I.P.” to his delusions.