I have been watching with interest the candidacy of Libertarian Ron Paul. Like many, I’ve been wondering what the heck is is doing in this race in the first place. Let’s face it, even in the GOP field of candidates he doesn’t fit in well. Naturally, he is a whipping boy for the GOP establishment… well, maybe just a laughing stock, would be more accurate. But, there is real substance to Mr. Paul, a substance that is all too easy to gloss over by focussing on his quirks. And he does serve a very important purpose; he helps bring the debate to the right. A necessary pull with Mitt the Malleable and Rudy the lefty in the race.
Being of a libertarian bent myself, I see a lot of merit in Mr. Paul’s focus on taking government out of things as opposed to trying to find new and expansive (not to mention expensive) ways for government to meddle in our lives. His voice is a welcome change in this direction.
However, his chief flaw is his overly simplistic approach to the war — and this is the single most important issue of our day. This is the main reason he is uncredible as a possible president one who, should he be elected, would have to deal far more with foreign threats and diplomacy than that of other, past presidents.
Last Sunday’s debate was a prime example of the unsuitability of his candidacy for our times. From his constant and easily ridiculed use of the word “Neocons” in practically every answer he gave, to his policy suggestion that we “just leave” Iraq as if it were merely a bad movie we could walk out on with no consequences, made him look… well… off his nut.
Like I said, I agree with much of Mr. Paul’s ideas on government. But his claim that we should “just leave” Iraq is entirely empty of any thought whatsoever. If he were the president in charge of the original decision, he could have been heeded and let the chips fall where they may. However, he would be a president that would inherit this situation already developed. This being true there is no serious option to “just leave” and be done with it without causing irreparable damage to all parties concerned. Well, all parties but al Qaeda that is.
In fact, during the debate he mentioned that we should also have “just left” Vietnam but didn’t seem to recognize the many millions that communism murdered after we did, ultimately, just leave. Additionally, his denial that the “domino theory” is discredited was so wrong it is laughable. The theory that communism would over take every small nation in its path was absolutely true. The only reason they are not all still communist (even as some still are) today is because the Soviet’s communism failed to sustain itself. This ultimate failure does not discredit the domino theory and the fact that more countries didn’t turn to communism is expressly because we fought communism via the Cold War. It was not mere happenstance as Paul seems to contend.
Still, I disagree with people that say his ideas of isolationism are not “conservative” ideas, of course. In fact, his stay-out-of-it attitude is one of the oldest conservative policy ideas since day one of any conservative movement in America. Since the turn of the century the GOP had the stay-out-of-it mode of thinking and this idea persisted as a common GOP attitude until recently. This included being skeptical of the 1900s “American Empire” as well as wishing to stay out of both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. This particular idea is based on a somewhat mistaken belief in language contained in Washington’s Final Address to the nation upon his retirement. Many conservatives feel George Washington warned against foreign entanglements in that address. This, however, is based on an incomplete knowledge of what was already going on in Washington D.C. (and had been for decades before Washington retired) between the US government and foreign nations and what Washington really meant. A closer reading of history would support that, at the time of his retirement, Washington thought the USA was not militarily ready for such entanglements, and could not back up whatever position the country would take, not that the USA should never get in them in the future. Regardless of its beginning, though, Republicans have usually leaned toward a trade-with-them but stay-out-of-it ideal.
In this Paul is living up to the more prevalent GOP inclination. And I cannot say he is wholly wrong in this inclination on an average day, in a relatively safe and stable world.
But we are not in average times. Al Qaeda would love us to fall back to old GOP isolationism so that they could roam the world unopposed doing their level best to murder and steal their way to power. There is no material difference between the threat that Islamofascism offers us and that which Hitler’s empire building offered in the 1930′s. The only real difference is that Islamofascism is not all rolled up in the personage of one man who controls one militant state as did Hitler.
But, this difference makes their efforts at the same time more resilient and far more dangerous than was Hitler. And this is a point that Ron Paul’s overly simplistic policy of “just go home” cannot contend with.
Abandoning the battlefield will neither make us safe, nor solve the Islamofacist problem. Nor would our “just leaving” turn Islamofascism from “our” problem to “their” problem by virtue of our barricading ourselves within our own borders, leaving the problem to Europe and others to contend with. It would not be safely left “over there” should we just abandon the whole enterprise of the War on Terror. Not only is this a craven action against our allies by abandoning them in a time of great need, but it will not, in the end, make us any safer at all for the simple fact that it will merely follow us home from Iraq.
By the terrorist’s own words and deeds, Iraq is the central front for the Jihadist movements. If we turn tail and run, this will not mollify them but will embolden them to gather strength and follow us home, here , to our very shores.
Ron Paul has some great ideas about limited government. I like a lot of what he says. But Ron Paul is not the man we need to lead us in these dangerous times.