Ron Paul, Foreign Policy and the Military
Probably the most common objection to Dr. Ron Paul heard from conservative voters is the well-worn line: “I like Ron Paul, except on foreign policy.” This isn’t because the typical Republican voter agrees with the current Bush-Clinton-Obama foreign policy: a November CBS News poll found nearly three-fourths of Republicans believe “the U.S. should not try to change dictatorships to democracies…” More likely, it is because they hear the same drivel incessantly repeated by people they have been accustomed to respect. A delusional Dick Morris, speaking on the O’Reilly Factor, recently claimed that Ron Paul is a “left-wing radical” who “wants to dismantle the military” and “blame[s] America for 9/11.” Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann called his foreign policy ideas “dangerous,” while Newt Gingrich pompously announced that “Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.”
Perhaps we should clarify that “Ron Paul’s views” aren’t just random gleanings from the Huffington Post. Unlike Santorum, whose chief foreign policy adviser might as well be Toby Keith, Ron Paul is one of the most well-informed people in the beltway when it comes to the Middle East, its history and America’s involvement there. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, you can’t help noticing the depth of his knowledge when he warms up to this subject. His thorough historical studies and his own observations over the last 35 years form a solid basis for understanding world events. His advisers have included Michael Scheuer, a 22 year CIA veteran who spent over 17 years focused exclusively on Bin Laden- and Al Qaeda-related intelligence analysis, and who for some time headed the “Bin Laden desk” at the CIA, and Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and contributing editor for The American Conservative. His foreign policy views are more or less those of George Washington, Grover Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Sen. Robert Taft, Russell Kirk – even William F. Buckley’s views on foreign policy come closer to Ron Paul’s than those of any other current presidential candidate. With that said, let’s take a closer look at these “extreme” views.
Ron Paul’s budget calls for cutting defense spending back to 2006 levels. That’s right, the same spending levels we had four years into the so-called War on Terror and three years into the Iraq War. If that were done, our defense budget would only amount to 35-40% of the entire world’s military spending, approximately equal to the next ten countries combined (Russia, China, UK, France, etc.). It is beyond difficult to imagine that Dick Morris is unaware of this fact, so he must be either nuts or disingenuous.
On “blaming America for 9/11,” Paul has merely pointed out that our policies and actions in the Middle East have – predictably – caused an extreme backlash among Muslims, of which 9/11 was a result. To the neocon hawks who measure the strength of America’s defenses by the number of bombs we drop in a given week, this view may sound extreme and radical. It is shared, however, by the previously mentioned left-wing radicals – sorry, I meant intelligence experts – Scheuer and Giraldi. It is also the view expressed by the 9-11 Commission and by many of the counter-terrorism experts who testified during its investigation. Even more relevant to the absurd claims of Dick Morris is the prediction conservative icon Russell Kirk delivered back in 1991 in a speech to the Heritage Foundation. Speaking of the Gulf War and the policies pursued by the first President Bush, Kirk warned that “We must expect to suffer during a very long period of widespread hostility toward the United States — even, or perhaps especially, from the people of certain states that America bribed or bullied into combining against Iraq. In Egypt, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Morocco, in all of the world of Islam, the masses now regard the United States as their arrogant adversary …”
Those of us who have admired Ron Paul for years were entirely unsurprised to hear him say that 9/11 reflected a backlash to American policies. After all, he had called for President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 after the Sudan and Iraq bombings, noting that “our national security is jeopardized by allowing this to happen… We’re liable to have more attacks … by terrorists. ” Many Republicans agreed with him at the time. Prior to September 2001, Dr. Paul had repeatedly predicted that the arrogant course we pursued since the 1950s in the Middle East would lead to increasingly deadly terrorist attacks. His warnings were largely ignored, but given the accuracy of his predictions, those who ignored them should not be astonished that he still maintains the same views.
Speaking to Sean Hannity back in October, Rick Santorum credited Ron Paul with extensive experience and a “deep” understanding of foreign policy issues; and, while noting that he and Paul had “different viewpoints,” added that “when the phone rings at three in the morning” Paul would likely know the history and the characters and have a plan to handle the situation. But last week he called Paul “dangerous,” falsely accusing him of saying that a nuclear Iran is not a threat to Israel. Actually, Paul has said that a nuclear Iran does not pose a credible threat to America, and that Israel has both the right and the capability to respond should they determine that Iran poses a risk to them.
A little known fact bears mentioning here: when Israel bombed two Iraqi nuclear reactors in 1981, the United States Congress passed an almost unanimous resolution condemning Israel’s actions as reckless and unjustified. I said almost unanimous – Ron Paul was the only vote against the resolution. He opposed it on the grounds that Israel had a right to defend itself and that America should stay out of their affairs unless our involvement was requested.
Santorum also recently attacked Paul’s assertion that military aid to Pakistan is not in America’s best interest, arguing that because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, America has no choice but to buy Pakistan’s allegiance, whatever it takes. There is a lesson here if one can get past the embarrassment of a presidential candidate making such a cowardly argument in public. Maybe Rick doesn’t realize this, but if he is smart enough to make the connection between Pakistan’s nukes and the billions of dollars their political and military leaders siphon away from American workers, you can bet the Iranians are too. As Dr. Paul has pointed out before, we talked Gaddafi out of his nuclear ambitions and then turned on him. Bomb = aid; no bomb = lots of bombs dumped on you; what possible motivation have we left Iran for abandoning a nuclear weapons program, if indeed they have one?
But Newt Gingrich stands out in the lineup of Paul bashers. His sweeping, all-inclusive, and arrogant attacks are earning him the disrespect of many, if not most, Americans. Imagine that you are a soldier in Afghanistan, or a sailor in the Persian Gulf, and a Ron Paul supporter. You’ve gone beyond merely supporting him; you’ve given a chunk of your shamefully low combat pay to his campaign. You’ve made this sacrifice, along with thousands of your fellow fighting men and women, precisely because of Paul’s views on foreign policy. You know why active duty military personnel are far and away the largest group (by employer) among his supporters. You know why he has received more in donations from military men and women than all the other GOP candidates combined. You are living the war on terror; your life is on the line every day; you’ve seen firsthand how the effort to win hearts and minds in the Middle East really works; and you believe Ron Paul is right when he says we are less safe because of our military adventurism. Now a narcissistic career politician and lobbyist who studiously avoided military service in Viet Nam declares those views – your views – to be “totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.” How exactly does that feel?
Which brings to mind one thing I really don’t like about Ron Paul: he is way too kind to Gingrich and his ilk. He tends to stick to his own argument even when seemingly irresistible opportunities present themselves for showing up windbags like Newt. He did finally call Newt out as a chickenhawk last Saturday night, which brought an angry reaction from the former Speaker: he denied using college deferments to avoid the draft, claiming that he was married with a child and thus wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. To which Paul responded icily, “When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went.”
And one more thing for the record, Newt: he’s still married.
Here's a great article by John Nichols on why Ron Paul isn’t just a conservative, he’s the only conservative running for President this election cycle: