Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Anti-Neo-Con Candidate Getting Serious Look

Perhaps at the expense of his more eccentric domestic political views, Ron Paul’s anti-interventionist foreign policy has attracted considerable interest from left and right alike.

 

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who 24 years ago performed dismally as the standard-bearer of the Libertarian Party, has begun making waves in the 2012 presidential campaign, to the extreme discomfort of neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists who dominate the foreign policy rosters of most of his Republican rivals.

While his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses disappointed loyalists who felt he had a good shot at winning the first Republican primary test of the election year, the 76-year-old physician came within three percentage points of the top two finishers – the party's establishment candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and the latest far-right insurgent favourite, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – out of a seven-candidate field.

Political insiders still believe that Romney, who gained the formal endorsement Wednesday of the 2008 Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, will eventually win the party's nomination. But Paul's showing – as well as the increased media attention he has received in recent weeks – suggests that he could well emerge as a force to be reckoned with at the party's convention next summer and could pose a major threat to Republican hopes of ousting Barack Obama if he decides to run as an independent in the November.

While Paul received just over one in five votes at the caucuses, it was who those voters were who flocked to his banner that proved most significant, and perhaps most alarming to the party's power brokers and its prospects for victory in November.

According to a New York Times survey of participants who entered the caucuses, a whopping 48 percent of those aged 17 to 29 said they supported Paul. By contrast, only 13 percent were for Romney.

One in three voters who participated in caucuses for the first time said they favoured the anti-interventionist libertarian. And, perhaps most significantly, 44 percent of participants who described themselves as "independents" or "other" (rather than Republicans) said they supported Paul, as opposed to 18 percent who said they preferred Romney.

Independents, who, according to most surveys, make up around 40 percent of the electorate, are generally considered critical to the outcome of next year's election.

Why independents, young voters, and first-time caucus-goers were so attracted to Paul is now the subject of considerable speculation and research, if only because the candidate himself holds such unorthodox, and, in some cases, seemingly inconsistent views on a wide range of subjects.

On economic issues, he is a loyal follower of the tenets of the so-called Austrian School founded by such free-market ideologues as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. In his more than 20 years in Congress, he has consistently voted against proposals that would increase the size and spending of the federal government, which he considers the greatest threat to individual freedoms. He has frequently called for the elimination of government departments and even of Social Security and the Federal Reserve.

A proponent of "states rights", he believes those powers that are not explicitly allocated to the federal government by the U.S. constitution, such as social issues like a woman's right to an abortion, the definition of marriage, and the legalisation of marijuana, should be left to the individual states.

Consistent with his libertarian views, he has also been outspoken in defence of basic constitutional rights, including everything from the right to bear arms to restrictions to be free from warrantless searches and seizures.

Unlike any of his Republican rivals, he has strongly and repeatedly denounced the 2001 Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the government's powers to detain terrorist suspects, the use of torture against detainees, and the growth of Islamophobia, especially among Republicans.

But he may be best known for his strongly anti-interventionist and anti-war – critics say isolationist – views on foreign policy, views that have garnered him a growing following on the left of the political spectrum, as well as the fervent opposition of Israel-centred neo-conservative and nationalist hawks.

Paul, for example, opposed Congressional resolutions authorising military force against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and has called for radical cuts in the U.S. defence budget, in major part by withdrawing troops from bases in Europe, Japan, and South Korea, as well as hastening the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan.

"…(W)hen I see … a candidate like Ron Paul, whose foreign policy is, if anything, worse than the Obama administration apparently leading in Iowa according to some polls," said former U.N. Amb. John Bolton late last month, "it just gives me great concern."

Bolton, an aggressive nationalist par excellence now based at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), described Paul as living "in fantasy land".

Indeed, the divergence between Paul and the rest of the Republican field has been most dramatically illustrated during debates about Iran.

While the other candidates have accused Iran of building nuclear weapons, described Tehran as the greatest threat faced by the U.S., and pledged to use military force as a last resort to prevent it from obtaining a bomb, Paul has not only expressed scepticism on the first two counts and strongly opposed the third, he has argued that Washington should be able live and negotiate with a nuclear Iran, just as it did with the former Soviet Union and China and asked a logical question:

"Just think how many nuclear weapons surround Iran," he told a Fox News interviewer in August. "The Chinese are there. The Indians are there. The Pakistanis are there. The Israelis are there. The United States is there. All these countries ….why wouldn't it be natural if they might want a weapon. Internationally, they might be given more respect. Why should we write people off?"

More recently, he cited the downing of a U.S. drone over Iranian territory to question both the hawkishness of his rivals and the militarisation of U.S. foreign policy under both Republicans and Democrats.

"Why were we even flying a drone over Iran?" he asked. "Why do we have to bomb so many countries? Why do we have 900 bases in 130 different countries when we are totally bankrupt? I think this wild goal to have another war in the name of ‘defence’ is a dangerous thing. The danger is really in us overreacting…"

While such reasoning is an abomination to the many neo-conservatives and aggressive nationalists who are advising Romney, Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in particular, others, including some leading opinion-shapers across the political spectrum, suggest that Paul is asking precisely the kinds of questions that U.S. voters should be considering as Washington faces an increasingly multi-polar world.

In "an era of unprecedented elite failure…," noted conservative New York Times columnist Russ Douthat last week, "it sometimes takes a fearless crank to expose realities that neither Republicans nor Democrats are particularly eager to acknowledge."

"(T)here is no denying that Paul's worldview has helped him to launch a powerful critique on American foreign policy," wrote another conservative commentator, Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on his foreignpolicy.com blog who nonetheless stressed that he would never vote for Paul as president.

"His hypothesis that the United States has invited some blowback by overly militarizing its foreign policy cannot be easily dismissed."

And his critique has gained traction from left-wing analysts as well, including Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald and Katrina vanden Heuvel, the publisher of The Nation, who recently tweeted, "I have big problems (with) Ron Paul on many issues. But on ending preemptive wars & on challenging bipartisan elite consensus on (foreign policy), good he's in."

Yet another commentator, author Robert Wright of theatlantic.com, noted this week that the value of Paul's foreign policy views lie less in their substance than "in the way he explains them".

Citing several examples, including his questioning of why Iran would not want nuclear weapons, Wright observed that "Paul routinely performs a simple thought experiment: He tries to imagine how the world looks to people other than Americans."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org). His blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share