Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ron Paul, Our (Bad) Ideas Guy

Michael A. Cohen is out with a good piece in Foreign Policy debunking the foreign relations plank of the latest top-tier Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ron Paul. While he's cast himself staunchly in the conservative/libertarian camp, Ron Paul is drawing interest - and even some measure of support - from folks on the left; high-profile pundits like Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher have both voiced their approval for his foreign policy stances, so too have several of my more liberal/progressive friends.  Typically they cite Paul's belief that the United States needs to lessen its military footprint around the globe, along with his opposition to a possible war with Iran as factors that set him apart from the Republican crowd and reasons for their support.

But in reality, these positions are less examples of “good ideas” than they are simply of Paul having a more realistic view of America's current geopolitical situation than do any of his fellow Republican presidential candidates, all of whom have wrapped themselves in the cloak of “American exceptionalism” and all the rhetoric that entails.  The reality is that the United States spends too much money it doesn't have on maintaining a military presence in places that don't really affect life in the USA all that much, like say, Afghanistan, where the US spends billions of dollars a month to prop up the kleptocracy of Hamid Karzai.  In this regard, the US is following in the historic footsteps of other empires like the Roman and British, which spent much money and effort in their declining years meddling in the affairs of minor kingdoms at the fringes of Empire.  As for Iran, it is clear that no military intervention is going to achieve our desired result – the end of Tehran's nuclear research program – nor does our military have the ability to now fight a prolonged war after a solid decade of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Paul's position then is more an accurate assessment of the global situation than it is an example of groundbreaking “good ideas”.

And once you take a step past these Left-approved positions, Paul quickly goes off the deep end.  Paul pushes an isolationist policy, one that would see the United States withdraw from international treaties and bodies (Paul insists that he's not an isolationist since he would allow free trade with foreign nations, though like his defense of his 1980's era newsletters, it is a pretty weak insistence).  Under President Paul, the United States would withdraw from treaties like NAFTA, alliances like NATO, and organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations.  So at a time when the world is becoming “smaller”, and countries becoming more integrated, Paul's foreign policy would amount to “hey you kids, get off my lawn”.  For good or bad, the United States can't simply withdraw from the world, not if we expect to maintain our level of international prestige, or keep our economy running – the global economy works because countries are bound together by a host of treaties and compacts, one can't then simply drop these obligations and expect to keep your seat at the table. From the time of our founding, presidents have understood that the United States needs to be engaged with the world.  As a nation, our first military actions abroad were the “Barbary Wars” at the dawn of the 19th century, where US sailors and marines fought with the pirates of the Barbary Coast (current-day Libya) over their harassment of American merchant vessels.  200 years ago, presidents realized you couldn't simply pull up the drawbridge and disengage from the world, a fact that seems to have escaped Paul today.

From isolationism, Paul's foreign policy musings quickly go into tinfoil hat land.  Part of Paul's opposition to NAFTA is a belief that it is the forerunner to the North American Union – a merger of the US, Mexico and Canada under a single government with a single currency allegedly to be called the “Amero”.  This conspiracy theory has been floating around the Internets since the mid-90s, though Paul has taken it seriously enough to introduce legislation to prevent it from occurring (one does have to wonder why, since clearly the United States would dominate such a union).  But it's not just the NAU that wants to subjugate the USA, the United Nations also has it in for us. According to Paul, the UN is merely a front for a one world government that will deprive Americans of their liberties, including their right to own guns.  Again, here Paul strays into the realm of far-right conspiracy fans, since anyone who has ever had any experience with the United Nations can tell you that the place is far too disorganized to ever come up with a one-world anything.

A fundamental misunderstanding of two centuries of American foreign policy and a penchant for taking far-right Internet ramblings way too seriously, things to consider next time Ron Paul is put forward, like Jon Stewart has done, as our “ideas guy”.
Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Grotusque said...

Well thought out, man and an entirely appropriate response to much of how Dr. Paul thinks about how we should interact with the world.