Ron Paul’s Middle East Foibles
Tibor R. Machan
At Saturday's (1/05/08) Republican presidential candidates debate nearly all the candidates ganged up on Ron Paul for his stance on the U. S. role in instigating 9/11 and other Middle Eastern terrorist activities. Although Dr. Paul has some valuable points to make concerning how U. S. foreign policy exacerbates the terrorist problem--namely, by providing terrorists with some valid reasons to criticize elements of that policy--he is also careless in blaming what the terrorists do primarily on U. S. Middle Eastern foreign policy.
As several of his rivals pointed out, radical Islamist hostility toward the West and, thus, its leading power, the U. S. A., is based on ancient hostilities. Terrorism against Western targets actually predates considerably even America's support of Israel, another supposed reason for the terrorists' anger and attacks.
For some reason, however, Dr. Paul will not relent in blaming it all on America. His moral equivalence thesis, invoking a hypothetical expansionist foreign policy by China, is way off the mark.~ Most of America's so called "imperialism" is economic, an element of global capitalism, whereas what China would be exporting is anything but capitalism and its free institutions but innumerable coercive ones. (There is in Dr. Paul's rhetoric an unfortunate relativism so that exporting free institutions is just as bad as exporting coercive ones.)
It is unfortunate that Dr. Paul refuses to finesse his views on this topic because on so many other fronts a great many Americans have no trouble supporting him. They will not yield, however, on the issue of whether, all things considered, America is a more just and decent country than are the Middle Eastern dictatorships--admittedly often supported by the American government--that support the terrorists who are bent on bringing it down. Now that it is evident that Mrs. Clinton’s politics and public policy ideas do not sit all that well even with many Democrats, Dr. Paul’s limited government, sound monetary policy philosophy, could take off but for his insistence that around the globe America is the criminal.
Among libertarians this is no novel dispute. Even during the Cold War there were some who insisted that it isn’t the Soviet Union but America that is aggressive, that is a greater threat to human liberty. These libertarians were--and some still are--of the “anarchist” persuasion, believing that government of any kind whatever is coercive, tyrannical, evil. And from this it tends to follow that whichever government is close is the worst, the greatest threat.
Actually, these libertarians are mistaken in calling their view “anarchist.” They believe in government but of a peculiar type, one that isn’t stationary but fluid, floating around from area to area providing its “clients”--citizens--with legal services. But they are, allegedly, not monopolistic.
Genuine anarchists, however, believe in no government at all, no law or legal authority, regarding all of that a source of mischief. Libertarian “anarchists,” however, disavow only governments that claim to be the sole representative of a group of people. So what seems to irk libertarian “anarchists” is that they cannot up and select some alternative representation right where they live, without having to move.
Now this is like complaining that Macys has a monopoly because in order to compete with it one must actually leave its premises and go to another store. But we often have just that kind of competition in a free market, so if a country did have a genuine free government--taking care only of protecting its citizens’ rights, and anyone could emigrate--there would be nothing libertarians could object about it.
Anyway, all this anti-American stuff coming from Dr. Paul is misconceived and self-destructive. It is too bad because otherwise Dr. Paul’s ideas are superior by a long shot to those of his rivals. And that would seem to be something he and his supporters could advocate with considerable success, especially to young people in the country who do prize America above most other countries around the globe, often for very good reasons.