Even as Texas Rep. Ron Paul
rises in the polls and positions himself as a serious contender to win the Iowa caucuses, it is important to remember this: He has absolutely no chance to win the Republican nomination for president.
This is largely, though not entirely, due to his foreign policy views. Without question, Paul is attracting many Republicans who are tired of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After ten years of war, the siren song of “come home America” strongly resonates. But what Paul is actually calling for is something far more absolutist than merely ending America’s presence in Afghanistan.
Paul wants to cut the military budget drastically and close America’s bases around the world. He has in the past called for the abolition of the CIA and FBI.
“I am opposed to any covert military actions by the U.S. government,” he once declared on the House floor. “Such actions have no place in a free society. Any action the government takes must be open to examination by all.”
Essentially, Paul wants to end Pax Americana, full stop. America’s military might would no longer be preeminent in the world — and with its decline, America’s influence will undeniably wane.
To put his foreign policy in perspective, it might be worthwhile to imagine what our foreign policy might have looked like had Paul been at the helm during key historical moments. Admittedly the congressman’s foreign policy prescriptions may have helped America avert certain overseas debacles, but overall they would have produced catastrophe.
What would a President Paul have done during the lead-up to World War II? In October, he told me in Las Vegas that he would not provide financial aid to an ally even if it were in “mortal danger.”
“I would let the banks make their own decisions, I wouldn’t prohibit them. But I wouldn’t take money from these people to give it,” he said, referring to repurposing tax money from the assembled crowd.
This fits philosophically with his previous calls for “armed neutrality,” which would turn America into Switzerland.
If Paul had been president in 1941, such a policy would have precluded America from aiding Britain and the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease. Both countries would likely have fallen to Nazi Germany, or been forced into some type of accommodation with Hitler. And with Great Britain and the Soviet Union out of the fight, the Germans would have been free to consolidate control over Europe — and perhaps next the Middle East — with all the utter evilness that would have entailed.
Then again, a Paul presidency would probably have averted the Pearl Harbor attacks since his foreign policy philosophy would have been opposed to an oil embargo on Japan. But without American involvement in World War II, there would also likely have been no Manhattan project, meaning Germany would have have had an open playing field to develop atomic capabilities first — and then global nuclear dominance.
Could American fealty have followed? However you look at it, if Ron Paul were president during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the 20th Century would not be remembered as the American Century. It would have been the Nazi Century.
And if Ron Paul had been president at the precipice of the Cold War? It his hard to imagine him standing up to the Soviet Union and their quest for supremacy. Can you imagine a President Paul articulating the Truman Doctrine? He has derided it in the past.
Paul is categorically against foreign aid; so the Marshall Plan, which built Europe up after the war and helped it ward off communism, would have been off the table. He is against covert operations, so there would have been no clandestine efforts to buttress liberal forces against the Communists’ attempts to infiltrate Western Europe after World War II.
A President Paul in the 1980s would never have demanded that Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down” the Berlin Wall. With the “Evil Empire” speech doomed to abandonment at the first-draft stage, we would have seen no effort to prevent Communists from taking over the whole of Europe, and no support of Polish Solidarity or other dissident groups that helped end Soviet domination of — as Churchill put it — “all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”
It isn’t hard to envision Paul, cloistered in the White House at some point during the Cold War, shrugging at the news that the final capital of Western Europe had just fallen to the Soviet Empire.
“Oh well,” he would pithily remark. “Not our concern.”
This is not a foreign policy vision that will be attractive to Republicans. Not even to Republicans who believe the war in Afghanistan has run its course. Republicans still largely believe in a strong and dominant America that leads the free world. When casual Ron Paul supporters begin to really pay attention to what their candidate stands for, many of them will recoil from his radicalism.
Radicalism is the right word. Paul isn’t simply infused, George Will-like, with a Burkean concern for the unintended consequences of foreign intervention. He wants to dismantle the national security apparatus America has spent seven decades building.
And what of the foreseen, and unforeseen, consequences of that? Once dismantled, what took three-quarters of a century to establish can’t be so quickly and readily be reestablished if withdrawing from the world doesn’t turn out quite as well as one renagade Texan foretells.
Paul’s supporters incessantly whine about how the news media have ignored their chosen one. They should be careful what they wish for. Once media scrutiny is applied, there is a zero-percent chance his candidacy will survive it.
The only question is whether he will go quietly into the night, or instead seek to destroy the GOP’s prospects of success in 2012 by mounting an insurgent third-party campaign for the White House.