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Deconstructing Dr. Paul
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Even though Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States, some pundits are now beginning to wake up to the fact that his campaign gave birth to an awareness among many voters, young and old, that there is something very wrong with America’s two party political system. Paul’s ideas about constitutionalism, non-intervention, and the rights and responsibilities of both government and the citizen will not go away and the presence of many Paulistas at state and local levels suggests that the principles that he promoted will be with us for years to come if the institutional GOP is unable to stamp them out.

Inevitably, the attempt to destroy an idea whose time has come has produced a lot of silly commentary attempting to demonstrate that what Dr. Paul stood for is unrealistic and possibly even eccentric. A recent piece by Matt Johnson, “The Rest of the World: Ron Paul Revelations,” seeks to dismantle the Ron Paul legacy. Johnson opines “…it’s a dismal reminder of how frivolous American politics can be. Though some of his supporters fancy themselves ‘revolutionaries,’ Ron Paul is one of the most reactionary candidates in recent history, and he should be consigned to obscurity as soon as possible.”

How does one come to that conclusion? Well, Johnson, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science, appears to be something of a self-designated foreign-policy expert. He zeros in on what Dr. Paul would do internationally, noting that

Osama Bin Laden would still be alive and the CIA would be dead. The United States would no longer be a member of NATO or the United Nations. Federal foreign aid for the victims of disasters such as the Asian, Haitian and Japanese earthquakes would be rescinded… The Iranian nuclear weapons program would be given an idiotic American blessing. Iraq would still be privately held by a band of murders and sadists known as the Ba’ath Party, and they’d have Kuwait under their bloody thumbs. Yugoslavia would have been ethnically “cleansed” and absorbed by Greater Serbia. American aircraft would not have protected innocent civilians in Libya. And our present conversation about Syria would be reduced to a series of sighs and shoulder shrugs… Ron Paul’s vision for the United States is dank, self-serving rot masquerading as ‘freedom.’ The freedom that Ron Paul advocates is the freedom to deny the very existence of international obligations. It’s the freedom to abandon our allies and help our enemies. It’s the freedom to permit genocide, sectarian madness, and mass suffering without even a hint of self-criticism.

Wow. Dr. Paul’s denunciation of secret government and unconstitutional death squads somehow translates for Johnson, who is a self-described Obama supporter, into being soft on terrorists. NATO, which has no raison d’etre whatsoever, presumably should hang around to fight future wars of choice and the US should happily surrender its national sovereignty to something called the UN. Iran, which has no weapons program, should be attacked anyway and more wars in the Balkans, Middle East, and Africa should be initiated by the president even though he has no constitutional authority to do so and even when there is no conceivable U.S. interest in what is taking place. Per Johnson, America’s “international obligations” include becoming both the world policeman and the first source for alleviation of suffering.

Johnson might usefully recall that Dr. Paul’s objection to “foreign entanglements” is sound advice coming originally from George Washington’s Farewell Address. He might also want to do a little more reading on what is happening in Syria as it is precisely outside interference that has created a crisis that is very close to civil war. Johnson appears to think that a policy of non-intervention means non-engagement with the rest of the world. Quite the contrary, a United States that is not involved in fighting one quarter of the human race might actually find that its interactions with foreigners go a lot better. A restrained and proper international role for the U.S. would mean no budget deficits, no unnecessary wars, and quite likely no terrorists targeting Americans.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Ron Paul 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    johnson is possibly correct on one thing: bin laden may very well still be alive. because if we subscribed to dr. paul’s foreign policy, 9/11 would’ve never happened.

  2. Clint says:


    Apparently,Johnson never read George Washington’s Farewell Address, nor Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address.

    ” George Will, “Today, we have a very different kind of foreign policy. It’s called Wilsonian. And the premise of the Bush Doctrine is that America must spread democracy, because our national security depends upon it. And America can spread democracy. It knows how. It can engage in national building. This is conservative or not?”

    William F. Buckley, ” It’s not at all conservative. It’s anything but conservative. It’s not conservative at all, inasmuch as conservatism doesn’t invite unnecessary challenges. It insists on coming to terms with the world as it is …”

  3. Noah172 says:

    johnson is possibly correct on one thing: bin laden may very well still be alive. because if we subscribed to dr. paul’s foreign policy, 9/11 would’ve never happened.

    Wow. Great line. Would have made for a great zinger for Paul in the debates.

  4. tbraton says:

    Clint, what is the date of that George Will comment? Will was a strong backer of the Iraq War back in 2002-03, which was not surprising since it was well known that he was tight with Richard Perle for many years. (I have often wondered if that friendship survived Will’s subsequent apostasy on Iraq.) A few years later, after the war had turned sour, I heard Will proclaim on national TV with a straight face that the Iraq War violated every conservative principle he held. Like many others, he probably wants to completely forget his embarrassing enthusiasm for a totally unjustified war.

    educatedowl, I want to repeat noah172’s praise. That line made me laugh out loud.

  5. Borodino says:

    “Johnson might usefully recall that Dr. Paul’s objection to “foreign entanglements” is sound advice coming originally from George Washington’s Farewell Address. ”

    I doubt that Mr. Johnson has much time for the shopworn opinions of old fogies like George Washington. He’d rather indulge in narcissistic fantasies regarding our wasteful, corrupt, corrupting and incompetent interventions in the affairs of other countries.

    Of course foreign aid has skyrocketed from 16 billion 10 years ago to over 50 billion in 2012, much of it blown on countries implicated in our ever-widening web of wars, bribes and ripoffs. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it makes my bosom swell with pride. Also glad that we rang in the millenium in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, that lions have taken to lying down with lambs in the Balkans, and that Israelis can sleep better at night knowing that Americans will (once again) do the dying in any hot war with Iran.

    Does it strike anyone else as odd that before we engaged in the internationalist, interventionist activity of the past few decades, Americans used to be welcomed and viewed affectionately in the same places that we are now hated and subject to State Department travel advisories?

  6. Clint says:

    tbraton,that interview by George Will of Bill Buckley occurred in 2005.

    Will learned that Neocon agendists,such as Pearle are Faux Conservatives.

  7. tbraton says:

    “tbraton,that interview by George Will of Bill Buckley occurred in 2005.

    Will learned that Neocon agendists,such as Pearle are Faux Conservatives.”

    Thanks, Clint. That accords with my memory of about when Will started singing a different tune when it came to the Iraq War. As far as I know, he never did apologize for his mistaken support of the war in the first place. As far as Perle is concerned, I believe Will’s friendship with him dates back to before 1980. So it took him a long time to learn that Perle was a “faux conservative.” Will was also close to John Lehman, the Secretary of Navy under Reagan from 1981 until 1986 (?), who, at one time, was also very close to Perle. Lehman is an adviser to Romney, and it has been rumored that he might become Secretary of Defense under Romney.

  8. I confess I did not read the rest of the Johnson article, but if the man has any familiarity at all with non-interventionist arguments he would see the obvious reply:

    [If we followed Paul’s foreign policy, then] Osama bin Laden would have had no following and the CIA would not torture in our name. The United States would no longer have NATO or the United Nations to serve as political cover for wars of aggression. Foreign aid for the victims of disasters such as the Asian, Haitian and Japanese earthquakes would be a matter of charity rather than government compulsion… The Iranian nuclear weapons program would be superfluous since they would not be under constant sanctions and the threat of invasion knowing that actually having the bomb at least prevents the latter. Iraq might still be privately held by a band of murders and sadists known as the Ba’ath Party, instead of the corrupt mobs that currently fight for control, but they’d have their noses bloodied by the other Gulf States who’d be forced to defend themselves. Yugoslavia would have continued its ethnic “cleansing” on both sides and would have continued the violence that, in fact, continues today. American aircraft would not have inadvertently supported the expansion of Al Quaeda in the Maghreb to protect European oil interests in Libya. And our present conversation about Syria might be an actual debate about whether rebels against a thuggish regime are never thugs themselves… Matt Johnson’s vision for the United States is myopic, utopian presumption masquerading as ‘responsibility.’ The responsibility that Matt Johnson advocates is the responsibility to deny the very existence of international law. It’s the responsibility to abandon principles of just war and help our enemies. It’s the responsibility to pursue wars of aggression, to drop bombs on civilians in countries that are nominally allied, and to support (only subsequently to abandon) client dictators without even a hint of self-criticism.

    Of course, since we’re throwing out counter-factuals and calling it an argument, I suppose many things could be said with equal certainty. I think the more reasonable man would say what has happened rather than what he fancies would have happened. What has happened is that our policies in the Middle East have led to blowback (especially as regards our relationship with Israel and our activities on the Arabian peninsula and in Iran). What has happened is that our preemptive war in Iraq led to a civil war wherein the weakest people, including the minority Christians, suffered the most. What has happened is that our undeclared war in the Balkans only helped remove one set of criminals and often replaced them with another, while our undeclared and quickly forgotten war in Libya has loosed violence on the whole region. What is happening now is that responsible people like Johnson, who mind their self-designated international obligations, would like to start dropping bombs in Syria. A hint of self-criticism might doubt whether we can sort out the good and the evil people in a foreign civil war and if such were even possible whether the good would be helped because foreigners attacked one group of the evil.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Washington’s admonition to avoid foreign entanglements was wise in its context of the French Revolution and conflict between Britain and France and prescient for the times that followed. The United States was military weak and was able to consolidate its power only through an extended period of isolation. Isolationists dogmatically continue to point to Washington’s sage advice in a contemporary context where the U.S. holds by far more military might than any other nation, and where geography no longer offers the shield it did two centuries ago. This reminds me of someone who is cured of an illness, then would make himself ill by continuing to take the medicine when its no longer appropriate. Isolationism was good medicine for a weak United States in antique times, but would be poisonous in the modern world.

  10. c matt says:

    A hint of self-criticism might doubt whether we can sort out the good and the evil people in a foreign civil war

    Heck, we can hardly sort out the “good and evil” people from our own civil war 150 years later.

  11. […] just another guy defending the empire, says Phil Giraldi. And it won't work. (Thanks to Tom […]

  12. Clint says:

    Apparently, Holland is confused.

    ” Nonintervention or non-interventionism is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy, and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense. This is based on the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination. A similar phrase is “strategic independence”. Historical examples of supporters of non-interventionism are US Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who both favored nonintervention in European Wars while maintaining free trade. Other proponents include United States Senator Robert Taft and United States Congressman Ron Paul.

    Nonintervention is distinct from, and often confused with isolationism, the latter featuring economic nationalism (protectionism) and restrictive immigration. Proponents of non-interventionism distinguish their policies from isolationism through their advocacy of more open national relations, to include diplomacy and free trade.”

  13. Freedom says:

    @Adam Holland

    So, you are saying there are a lot of countries now that have troops that can walk on water or an airlift or navy strength that could actually move enough troops here to have any chance of doing any real damage to the US?

    Are you saying that the person/country with the biggest weapons has an obligation to use them on others? I have Army Ranger training and 20 years of hand to hand combat, so would it be ok if I came over to your house and beat the snot out of you and then instructed you on how to clean your carpets properly?

    You make unsubstantiated claims to what would or would not be right, but your points are ridiculous at best and brainless at worst.

    Moral relativism is no morality at all. Thinking that some change in circumstances changes what is wrong to what is right means you don’t believe in right and wrong anyway, it is all circumstantial. That means you have no base to argue from as your philosophy is rooted in water.

    Pick a side and come back with a coherent argument.

  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Moral relativism is no morality at all. Thinking that some change in circumstances changes what is wrong to what is right means you don’t believe in right and wrong anyway, it is all circumstantial. ”

    This is one of the most powerful statements I have ever seen posted in a comments section like this…the sad thing is the significance of this statement is lost in the very “moral relativism” that is the problem to begin with. It is the height of irony that today’s conservative will base casting their ballots for a candidate almost solely on a particular candidates pro-life credentials while quite hypocritically accepting the bombing of innocent civilians abroad as unfortunate “collateral” damage. And conservatives wonder why independents don’t trust them?!

  15. worthy says:

    The silly sad commentary that sparked Giraldi’s reply is militant humanism (or humanitarian interventionism) at its worst: misreading the world, hubristic and juvenile. If I were King for a Day, they declaim, here’s how I would reorder the world more perfectly, given enough military might and money.

    But for all its spending and vaunted military might, the American Empire couldn’t reformulate Iraq and cannot hold Afghanistan all the while spending itself into bankruptcy with multi-trillion dollar deficits.

    Naysaying isolationists (non-interventionists, if you will) scorched the follies of new imperial wars of choice from day one of the Second American War on Iraq.

    I remember when the liberal rebuttal to critics of the Castro butchers was, “so isn’t it better than Cuba under Batista?”

    Uh, no.


  16. […] Giraldi at American Conservative defends the relevance of Paul's non-interventionism, while Paul writes an op-ed condemning what he sees as a move to war with […]

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    @Adam Holland

    “Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. The period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.” – George Washington, Farewell Address

    Washington’s non-interventionist admonishing was meant to be projected forward to a point where we are strong enough to choose peace or war. Washington wasn’t naive, he left a door open for our involvement with his words being ‘guided by justice, shall counsel’. Our nation was designed to be the cheerleader of liberty, but wasn’t meant to bring it to the world at the end of a bayonet.

    I believe John Quincy Adams put it best:

    “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

    But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

    She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

    She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

    The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

    She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

    [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice. “

  18. cfountain72 says: • Website

    @Adam Holland

    “Isolationism was good medicine for a weak United States in antique times, but would be poisonous in the modern world.”

    Ok, I disagree with your entire comment, but I’ll bite: How would non-interventionism (not isolationism, since no one advocating such a thing) be ‘poisonous’?

    Peace be with you.

  19. phelps says:

    Adam doesn’t know the difference between intervention and isolation so he will be unable to anwer any ?’s on these subjects. He is only repeating a general statement he has heard in college or in the media.

    People like Adam, either think only in military terms, or he believes the world is full of potential customers for U.S. goods and services. Adam fails to realize that the rest of the world will not conform to our way of life by force.

    Many of the young in Iran hate the current regime, but they hate U.S. as well. They want to be a strong independent country able to chart their own course. Not one dictated to them by Washington DC.

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