Ron Paul’s poor policy and poorer defenders
For a group of people who supposedly pride themselves on the principles laid down in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other U.S. foundational documents, one would expect a genuine and enlightened debate instead of groundless emoting. Nevertheless, in response to Young Americans for Freedom’s (YAF) decision to expel Rep. Ron Paul from its board of advisors, the only line from pro-Ron Paul mouthpieces has been deflection. Addressing the blatant failures of Paul’s foreign policy — and/or his utter disregard for the threat posed by radical Islamists — is not permitted by any of his supporters. Best, if not most amusing, among the critiques defending the Paul line was penned by Christopher Preble and published in The Daily Caller. Preble is the director of the esteemed libertarian Cato Institute’s foreign policy studies. Despite his title, Preble’s article stands as a case study for the illogical reasoning and retorts offered by Ron Paul’s defenders. What’s worse is that this is the norm coming out of this group.
Immediately following YAF’s expulsion of Paul, his supporters scrambled to affirm the narrative they’ve been honing for years: “Ron Paul is being painted as a fringe figure by the fearful ‘establishment’ because he is the true embodiment of Republican values.” In this case, YAF got to play the “establishment.” The Paul camp has only been able to offer specious arguments to defend their chosen one’s honor. First step for Paul-defenders was to include a bit on how “irrelevant” YAF has become. So irrelevant, that in 2001 Rep. Paul honored YAF and praised the Sharon Statement in Congress. Ron Paul still displays the award he won from the group on his official House of Representatives website. No mention is made about his pet group, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). For such a web-savvy representative (who just had his website updated on February 11) it draws into question which groups are truly extraneous. YAF’s added “unimportance” was also demonstrated when Paul didn’t step down from the organization even after YAL was formed in 2008.
In light of the very concise argument put down by YAF Vice-Chairman Christopher Bedford, Preble tried to obfuscate the issue of Rep. Paul’s expulsion by turning YAF into a big-government-supporting “neo-conservative” organization. To Preble, YAF only wanted “neoconservatives who generally favor government intervention, both at home and abroad” in the broader conservative movement. In a feat of rarely-matched logical-fallacy, he went so far as to argue that YAF’s support of supposedly “aggressive U.S. militarism” necessitated that YAF and members like Christopher Bedford expressed “support for federal expansions.”
Contrary to the accusations and representative of YAF’s “big tent” mentality, Mr. Bedford’s tenure as executive editor of YAF’s The New Guard magazine has been one which welcomed countless articles in support of libertarian views (in addition to a number of other conservative positions). The magazine hosted articles combating attempted FCC control of the Internet, fighting against “unconstitutional” healthcare, opposing the nationalization of student loans, and even one entitled, “Will the Real John Galt Please Stand Up?: A Brief Examination of the GOP’s Failure to Defend Capitalism” (note: I am just including articles from two editions of New Guard). In his first New Guard article of his tenure, Bedford even commented that, “We are, indeed, on what Frederick Hayek called ‘the road to serfdom.’” Not really the purview of an individual or group which, according to Preble, supports “spiraling debt, a loose interpretation of the Constitution, a growing state apparatus at home, and endless nation-building missions.”
In fact, YAF’s open letter and the article by Bedford made no mention of overseas nation-building. YAF’s open letter on the issue only continues the earlier sentiments of YAF’s ideals. Both pieces echoed Thomas Paine’s assessment that, “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”
The failure of Ron Paul’s Baghdad Bobs to push their talking points against YAF further unveiled the mask hiding the real problems surrounding the reason he was expelled: his refusal to acknowledge a violent enemy hell-bent on destroying the country he swore to defend. The transparent failures only serve to highlight the unreal worldview demonstrated by the congressman and his ilk. It also reflects the depths to which they will go to defend their own utopian image of how America should exist.
Reminiscent of the Islamist Takfiri-Salafists who spend their time declaring fellow Muslims apostates (they often murder those they don’t find Islamic enough), Ron Paul’s supporters, who claim to be the only “real” followers of the Constitution, continually label our effort against America’s Islamist enemies in Afghanistan as “illegal.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Congress and Senate voted on and approved of a law (Public Law 107-40) to authorize military force against the perpetrators of 9/11. When Thomas Jefferson fought against the pirates of the Barbary Coast, he approached Congress in a similar way.
In the end, this effort to delegitimize a very legitimate defensive war against our Kalashnikov-wielding, taqiyah-donning enemies is only done to promote Ron Paul’s flawed approach to foreign relations under the guise of “non-interventionism.” For a lover of liberty, this is quite a Machiavellian way of going about proving a point.
The Sharon Statement, which Paul signed onto, is quite clear in its objectives vis-á-vis Communist and later totalitarian threats.
THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;
THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace.
The Statement was drafted as the forces of international Communism were aggressively spreading their tentacles across the globe. A mere four years before the Sharon Statement was enshrined into YAF’s ideology, the Soviets crushed anti-Communist uprisings in Hungary and workers’ riots in Poland. The rapid decolonization occurring in African, Middle Eastern, and East Asian states led many to side with the Soviets. There were many strategies (deterrence, containment, armed action, and covert action, to name a few) pursued in the eventual defeat of Moscow. Regardless, no one picked everything up and hunkered down in Missouri until ninety percent of the planet was red. It is impossible to misinterpret the clause stressing victory over coexistence.
Today we have a clear-cut example of a totalitarian menace with dreams to destroy America. This menace has murdered Americans and wishes to impose extreme and unenlightened alien values that completely oppose the freedoms we hold dear. What exactly do Paul and his supporters expect when well-armed and trained Islamists take power? Ron Paul once said that “we need the courage of a Ronald Reagan,” in reference to Reagan’s decision to pull our Marines out of Lebanon in February 1984. The pullout occurred after an October 1983 Iranian-sponsored Hizballah truck bomb took the lives of 241 Marines and sailors. What Paul obviously missed was that even with the pullout, Hizballah continued kidnapping and, at times, killing American civilians and diplomats in Lebanon. Hizballah didn’t stop there — they bombed the American embassy in September of 1984 and hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985. Osama bin Laden viewed the American pullout from Lebanon as evidence that America was a “paper tiger” and should be attacked more.
Imagine the Islamists are running the show in the Middle East. Shall we simply follow Paul-logic and “be friends with people and trade with them”? Groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir not only hate the West; they also despise capitalism. The highly influential Muslim Brotherhood’s lead ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, was the author of “The Battle between Islam and Capitalism.” For a number of reasons, Islamists made it clear they don’t want any American influence or products in their countries, including innocuous items such as food, CDs, and novels. These are all symbols of a decadent West.
Let’s take a word of advice from Representative Paul: “We should listen to our enemies.” This is one point all conservatives can agree on. However, Paul and company would rather muddle the facts for their own myopic foreign policy purposes. Paul has said that “they don’t come here to attack us because we are rich and we’re free. They come and attack us because we’re over there.” In Paulspeak, American malfeasance is to blame for 9/11. The four kamikaze 757s, piloted by a team of nineteen box-cutter-wielding “Allahu Akbar” screamers, was all “blowback.” Is Ron’s take on these events correct?
Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden stated that his reasons for waging war on the United States extended beyond issues of “occupation.” In Bin Laden’s “Letter to America” he asks the question, “What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?”
Bin Laden then answers the question:
“The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam . . . We call you to be a people of manners, principles, [honor], and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest . . . You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Sharia of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature . . . Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people . . . Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.”
It remains true that liberty cannot coexist with a group that promotes the stoning of women as punishment for showing too much ankle, spits grenades in the face of the very idea of individualism, and gets its kicks sawing a “kafir’s” head off because he refused to prostrate himself to Mecca five times a day.
The Ron Paul “movement” may very well be another attempt (this time with rightist trappings) to, in the words of William F. Buckley, “immanentize the eschaton.” If the conservative movement is going to be home to drone like unwavering support for a fact-ignoring foreign policy and an unwillingness to pragmatically pursue American interest, we could be heading down a road we walked in the 1930s. If mainstream libertarians — not just of the Ron Paul stripe — who hold the ideals of the Founders to heart are willing to blatantly lie about something as important as the physical safety of their fellow citizens, then the conservative movement is in for a rough time.
Phillip Smyth works as a freelance journalist, researcher and political consultant in the United States and in the Middle East. He is a managing editor with the Young Americans for Freedom’s New Guard Magazine, a researcher with the Middle East Political and Economic Institute, and has been published on the Counterterrorism Blog and NOW Lebanon.