Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Troubles

Tibor R. Machan

When he was recently booed by a lot of the audience in Tampa, Florida, for invoking the infamous blow-back doctrine, some of Representative and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul’s defenders blamed those who did the booing. Yet at least one friendly commentator made mention of the fact that Dr. Paul has a tough road to hoe because the matter of explaining how to understand anti-Western/American terrorism is not simple, not susceptible to sound bites.

Is it a good idea to explain 9/11and other terrorist attacks on Western and especially American populations by reference to the fact that the West has inserted itself into many regions of the Muslim world without much popular support from those who live there? The idea is that because governments such as that of the US have indeed done this, there can be no complaint when those who live there carry out attacks on Westerners including hundreds of innocent people who had nothing at all to do with the foreign policy that perpetrated the insertions.

Consider that in most civilized societies if one protects one’s property against invasion, vandalism or loitering by setting up lethal booby traps, one will be prosecuted even if those who invade it are deemed to have trespassed, violated the owner’s rights. In a similar vein, even if American and Western countries have intruded on various Middle Eastern and Islamic states--via oil operations, military outposts, etc.--if these have not been lethal or have produced only moderate violations of the rights of local populations, the response--the blow back--of murdering 3000 innocent individuals (and countless others around the globe who probably had little to do with engineering the invasive policies) is way over the top. Put bluntly, the blow back would have to be no more severe than the invasion. There is no proportionality here and thus justice is not served.

Of course, things get complicated because many in the regions involved have been complicit in the West’s “invasions.” Lots of these have at one time and even recently welcomed Western oil companies into their countries so as to take advantage of Western technology in extracting oil there. Similarly, quite a few of the governments in those regions have asked for and welcomed military support, often with consent from at least a large portion of the population--think Saudi Arabia.

There are, of course, other complexities involved and to sort them all out would take an elaborate scholarly discussion, involving such disciplines as morality, history, geography, politics, economics and so forth. Yet since most people in Western, quasi-democratic societies are called upon to form judgments about these matters, it is safe to say that the simple idea that “we asked for 9/11 and other atrocities” is entirely unjustified, even if there is some small truth hiding in it.

Perhaps when it comes to Ron Paul’s foreign policy positions it would be helpful to know that they are importantly informed by the positions of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and that the organization’s stance has been heavily influenced by the views of the late Professor Murray N. Rothbard, among others, famous or infamous for a principled anarcho-libertarian politics in terms of which all governments are criminal organizations. This is what Llewellyn Rockwell, president of the Mises Institute wrote about this recently:

“Every close observer of the events of those days knows full well that these crimes were acts of revenge for US policy in the Muslim world. The CIA and the 911 Commission said as much, the terrorists themselves proclaimed it, and Osama underscored the point by naming three issues in particular: US troops in Saudi Arabia, US sanctions against Iraq, and US funding of Israeli expansionism.”

It is all the West’s fault. They asked for it! As if the reactions from “the Muslim world” were quite rational, quite just instead of dastardly over the top! They were crimes for the likes of Rothbard’s followers only in the sense in which many unjust laws make just conduct criminal.

Now, Professor Rothbard, a brilliant economist -- check out his magnum opus, Man Economy and State (Princeton, N.J., Van Nostrand, 1962) -- was not just a WW I but also a WW II revisionist historian, a frequent critic of Western and especially American foreign policy positions during the Cold War, often favoring the Soviet as opposed to American stance. These positions at least indicate where someone who follows his lead would stand on such matters as dealing with anti-Western terrorists from the Middle East. They are merely responding to Amerca’s imperialism! Mr. Rockwell’s points confirm this.

In my own estimation, Professor Rothbard’s and his followers’ anarcho-libertarianism has inclined them to oppose everything that the American government does, in part because it is the closest of big governments and thus one that deserves the most concentrated opposition from champions of justice and anarchism. All governments are evil but those nearby are the greatest threats! So attacking them is the moral high road! At least, so seems to go the Rothbardian thesis that has most likely influenced Dr. Paul’s foreign policy position, the one rightly booed by many in Tampa for its crude anti-Western, anti-American outlook.

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