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Ron Paul's Moderate Foreign Policy
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During the Republican presidential primary debate from Des Moines on December 15, Ron Paul caused uproar when he said that a strike against Iran “would risk a repeat of the useless Iraqi war.” In response to a question from Bret Baier, Paul made this statement: “To me the greatest danger is that we will have a president that will overreact and we will soon bomb Iran.” Further: “We ought to really sit back and think, not jump the gun and believe that we are going to be attacked. That’s how we got into that useless war in Iraq and lost so much.” Paul finally suggested that the Obama-administration may be doing the right thing “by backing off on sanctions,” which may be seen as an “act of war.”

Ever since, Paul’s rivals have been denouncing him for peddling radical foreign-policy views. Although far from the only one to have done so, Congresswoman Bachmann may be the politician who has spoken most emphatically for the GOP establishment on Paul’s apparent madness. According to Bachmann: “We know without a shadow of doubt that Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe out our ally Israel, off the face of the map. And they’ve stated they will use it against the United States of America. We would be fools and knaves to ignore their purposes and their plan.” There were equally publicized attacks by Weekly Standard and by National Review’s editor Rich Lowry on Paul as a bigot and hate-America leftist, but these off-the-wall hit jobs may have more to do with the fear of the neoconservative camp that Paul is not going away than with factual reality.

Having heard both sides, allow me to come down somewhere in the middle. From the tone of its remarks, it would seem that the Iranian government is hoping to do us harm and we are right to keep this government under close surveillance. What Paul calls a “little bit of diplomacy” may not be enough to contain the possible threat; and even if the Republicans are manic on the subject, the U.S. does face real enemies in the world. Not every political confrontation has been our fault, and contrary to Paul’s suggestion, allowing the present Iranian rulers to develop atomic weapons, which they’ve announced their intention to use, is not the same as quietly watching other countries acquire them. The Iranian case may be different.

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Moreover, Ron Paul may have lost ground by allowing his irritation to show when Bret Baier began to bait him. Paul should have been able to present a foreign-policy alternative to the American “exceptionalist” bombast served up by his rivals. He should have offered in a measured manner a realistic approach to international relations, in place of the ideologically fueled one that the Bush administration called for. Obama has been less of a sabre-rattler than his predecessors, but one gets the impression that he’s just muddling through, without a coherent foreign policy.

To whatever extent Obama speaks about foreign relations, he is furnishing a less violent version of what the GOP proclaims. Traditionally international relations have been about restraining violence. But Paul’s rivals want armed ideological crusades, a tradition that goes back to Woodrow Wilson and his crusade to make “the world safe for democracy” in World War I. Obama speaks the same language even if he doesn’t always walk the same walk.

There is one distraction that Paul would do well to ignore. It won’t help him that the Los Angeles Times and various liberal commentators are praising him for his moderateness in foreign policy. There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell that any of these apparent admirers would back him in a presidential contest. Every time I hear a liberal academic talk up Ron Paul, I mutter under my breath “what a liar.”

But it’s the other GOP candidates who upset me. They are not addressing foreign policy like grown-ups, let alone conservatives. All they do is rant on and on about invading or scaring undemocratic countries or the “enemies of Israel.” This is not what the public cares or should care about. The background noise may thrill Christian Zionists and Fox News addicts but probably no one else. Whereas Paul should stop ascribing reasonable motives to our self-proclaimed adversaries, his opponents should start looking for new foreign-policy advisors. Gingrich’s statements about naming John Bolton secretary of state indicates the havoc he’d unleash if he ever got into the White House. And Romney’s call for ringing the Earth with democracy-inspectors and his attempts to sound even tougher than Bachmann in international affairs inspire even less confidence.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: Neocons, Ron Paul 
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  1. As I’ve said before, Mr. Paul’s position is quite mainstream in America today, but is not “moderate”. It is the natural outgrowth of his ideology, extended to foreign relations. It is a rational position, it is a consistent position, and these days, notwithstanding media bias, a popular position. In practice, it would be prudent.

    Those liberals who won’t support Ron Paul in a general election should he be nominated, are not liars for this. They give praise where it is deserved. They likely also believe, as I do, that his plans for the abolition of entire governmental departments, major changes to regulatory and probably commercial law, negation of long-settled judicial precedent in Constitutional law, and a sudden proclamation that nobody has any money except those who own gold, would be chaotic and destructive. Yet it would still be of a piece with that same pleasant, prudent foreign policy.

    The demand for Libertarian purity will not be any more reasonable, once ensconced in power, than Fox and NR’s demand for conservative movement/establishment orthodoxy, and for that matter, putrid, The-Nationista Leftist orthodoxy. Even for the well meaning, true believing, non-force-initiating Libertarian, there is a mold into which the world must be remade. I say, more muddling and hypocrisy, please.

  2. I’m willing to give the Hon. Dr. Paul a chance. Come to think of it, America needs a doctor right about now.

    As to “moderate” foreign policy, the neocons have convincingly demonstrated that what didn’t work before still doesn’t work, so why not see if what worked before will work again?

  3. Mr. Patrick,

    You are wrong about monetary policy and should read some Austrian economics to understand what Dr. Paul is talking about.
    There are many many bad and wrong precedents that need to be reversed if we are to restore the real Constitution. The destruction of what the founders intended in the Constittuion has been under attack for decades setting bad precedent after bad precedent. Dr. Paul is in line with the likes of Thomas Jefferson on the meaning and intent of our Constitution.

  4. Very interesting article. I wish Ron Paul would build bridges to national security hawks rather than alienate them so much. His son, Rand, did this quite well in his KY Senate race. I find many of them are open to a less aggressive foreign policy if you equate it with fiscal conservatism. Even friends of Israel will listen if you point out that the Iraq war made Israel less secure and maybe one against Iran may not turn out so well either.

  5. Like Paul, I believe the threat posed by Iran has been grossly exaggerated. I’m not sure where the concept of “allowing the present Iranian rulers to develop atomic weapons, which they’ve announced their intention to use” comes from. If anything the Iranian government has denied that it is developing weapons and has called their use un-Islamic. When did they announce any intention to use them?

    That “Obama has been less a saber rattler” than Bush may be true and one might well point to the incoherence of his foreign policy, but he has actually expanded secret wars in many places using drones and hit teams, including the assassination of American citizens. He seems to believe that as long as a war can be hidden or can be fought avoiding American casualties it does not count as a war. That makes him more dangerous than the openly belligerent Republicans.

  6. “which they’ve announced their intention to use”

    With all due respect Dr. Gottfried, when did Iran announce their intention to use nukes if they get them? For that matter, when did they announce their intention to even get them?

  7. Michele Bachmann shows herself ignorant almost beyond belief, given her membership on the House intelligence committee. Does she think Iran would destroy Jerusalem, kill millions of Muslims, in order to wipe out Israel? What an idiot.
    Israel’s security problems are primarily internal, and created by Israel’s own foolish policies.

  8. TomB says:

    Let us say you have three neighborhood families, A, B and C. And Families A and B are very friendly with each other.

    And Family B has a great giant tree on their property undeniably of the sort that could fall on Family C’s house, (Not to mention on everyone’s house in the surrounding area.)

    And Family C has a teensy little shrub on its property that only *might* be of the sort that could grow and fall on the houses of Family B (and maybe even Family A), but only if it *is* that sort of tree, and only if Family C tends it in a certain way, and only if enough time goes by so tended, and etc. and so forth.

    And let’s say you overhear the conversations in and between Family A and Family B.

    And in those conversations you heard, over and over, debates over what exact kind of tree that is on Family C’s property, how Family C has been tending it, how it might change tending it, how much time it would take for Family C’s tree to be a threat if indeed it is the dangerous kind and if indeed it is tended badly, and etc., etc.

    And all those conversations revolved around the smartness of Families A and/or B trying to bomb that tree on Family C’s property.

    But never, not once in all those conversations between Families A and B, did you ever hear them mention the idea of Family B and Family C just mutually promising to give up their respective trees peacefully.

    Never.

    Not once.

    You would conclude something very very odd was going on in and between Families A and B.

    And then you found out that Family B had adamantly stated that it would never get rid of its own tree. Ever.

    You would conclude that the conversation amidst and between Families A and B was irredeemably, fundamentally corrupt. That it made no sense whatsoever to even try to argue with them within the bounds of their conversations as those bounds were utterly, artificially rigged.

    And that’s the situation with the conversations in the mainstream in and between the U.S. and Israel over Iran. They have an understanding that because Israel has categorically announced that it will not entertain membership in any Nuke-Free ME Accord they will simply not look at the idea of asking Iran to abstain from nukes in exchange for Israel giving up its own. (Even despite Iran, I believe, having said at least at one point that it would be in favor of same, not to mention lots of other ME countries.)

    It is the complete answer to all the parade of horrible “ifs” we keep hearing (and indeed has other virtues too, such as non-proliferation ones more widely), and yet it is also the completely unspoken one. And because of this situation, it simply cannot be said that Israel is really truly in favor of the idea of everyone in the region being free from the fear of nuclear annihilation.

    Instead, *inarguably,* its position is that *it* will be the *only* country to be so free. And *it* will be the only country that can threaten others with annihilation.

    Like I say, you wouldn’t even be able to stomach the debate amidst and between A and B after awhile. You would turn away in disgust, and maybe even say they deserve whatever ill results their corruption and machinations produce.

  9. “To whatever extent Obama speaks about foreign relations, he is furnishing a less violent version of what the GOP proclaims. ”

    Obama just downplays what the neocon wing of the GOP plays up.

    It’s difficult to measure the comparative levels of actual violence of the Bush and Obama years, but I’d guess that Obama will have presided over more real violence than Bush. For example, in three short years he quadrupled the US body count in Afghanistan over the entire total of the Bush years, with Lord knows what “collateral” Afghan deaths.

    Obama is the best friend that the neocons never acknowledged. He confirmed, defended and codified their policies.

  10. isn’t it funny how mainstream Conservative foreign policy views have gotten so insane that conservative realists like Mr gottfreied have to associate themselves with non interventionists

  11. tbraton says:

    *”Like Paul, I believe the threat posed by Iran has been grossly exaggerated. I’m not sure where the concept of “allowing the present Iranian rulers to develop atomic weapons, which they’ve announced their intention to use” comes from. If anything the Iranian government has denied that it is developing weapons and has called their use un-Islamic. When did they announce any intention to use them?”

    I share Philip Giraldi’s disquietude about your characterization of Iran’s stated intentions to use nuclear weapons, Prof. Gottfried. I have come to expect a higher level of care in language than that from you. Can you point to any such Iranian statements? I can point to numerous articles where Americans and Israelis have openly discussed their intentions and plans to attack Iran, but I can’t recall any such Iranian plans to attack Israel or the U.S. unless you are referring to the discredited translation of Ahmadinejad’s remarks about “wiping Israel off the map.” Somebody recently posted on a TAC blog the 2007 antiwar.com article that completely eviscerates the charge that became widespread in the MSM about Ahmadinejad’s supposed threat to Israel and probably underlie Michelle Bachmann’s wreckless claims. http://antiwar.com/orig/norouzi.php?articleid=11025
    I am more than a little surprised that you would lend your name to such spurious accusations.

    I also agree with PG’s dissent re Obama’s more peaceful attitude. After all, he is the one who vastly expanded the war effort in Afghanistan, launched an illegal and unjustified war against Libya, and spoke in a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune before his election to the Senate about the necessity of launching missile strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities if ecocomic sanctions against Iran didn’t succeed. I fail to see any Nobel Peace Prize material in that record. In many ways, he is much more warlike than George W. Bush.

  12. tz says:

    If you remember an earlier debate, Santorum, when asked about Pakistan said we need to be friends BECAUSE they have the bomb.

    Apparently Iran wants to be our friend to as it seems we guarantee befrending members of the nuclear club.

    Iran wanted to hand us over many al-queda just after 9-11 and Bush rudely rebuffed the offer.

    Diplomacy might be able to diffuse the mutual distrust. Though it will be hard to convince them we can ever be friends if they cease being a threat. Especially after Quadaffi.

  13. Why does Paul Gottfried claim Iran has announced its intention to use nuclear weapons? Iran time and again states that it does not want nukes. I’m with Philip giraldi on this point, strongly.

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