For all the talk about democracy, the will of the people got little play during the presidential debate in South Carolina. Polls repeatedly show that 70 percent of the American people want out of Iraq. But no sooner does the pesky popular will intrude into the debate than the top Republican contenders begin to yammer about their obligation to demonstrate “leadership.” “Leadership,” of course, is a euphemism for overriding the will of the people.
Ron Paul is the exception. As Rudy Giuliani and his posse flap like black crows over Rep. Paul, we’d do well to remember that, unlike most of his colleagues, Paul understands that truth is timeless, not temporary. September 11 didn’t change that al-Qaida (the aggressors), not Iraq, needed to be punished for killing innocent Americans. September 11 didn’t alter the wisdom of John Quincy Adams’ counsel that America not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, but remain the well-wisher of the freedom and independence of all, but the champion and vindicator only of her own.
At this juncture in American history, in the midst of a catastrophic conflict which cannot be won, the opinions of the daft, dirigiste Dubya still carry the day with most of the presidential hopefuls. Extolling “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft can thus be dicey. Paul was mocked for “voting against authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq,” and asked if he was “running for the nomination of the wrong party.” To which he responded by reminding his colleagues of the bygone Republican tradition of non-interventionism: Republicans were elected to end the wars in Korea and Vietnam. When confronted with “the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics,” and the loss of 241 Marines, Reagan extricated Americans from Lebanon.
Whereas his colleagues effected a schizophrenic split between warfare and welfare spending—the first good; the last bad—Paul warned against these twin perils. “Policing the world and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on nation building,” coupled with splurging on “an entitlement system that has accumulated $60 trillion worth of obligations”—these are parts of the same statist equation. Nipping and tucking at the bureaucratic behemoth is meaningless unless we “change our philosophy about what government should do,” Paul explained.
When asked how he could possibly consider eliminating the Department of Homeland Security in the midst of a war, Paul dared to suggest that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t do what it purports to do. Like most government endeavors. “We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11” and “had all the information [we] needed there to deal with the threat,” but didn’t. Recall, Condoleezza Rice insisted that intelligence received about suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaida crashing an aircraft into U.S. targets belonged to the realm of “analysis,” not “actionable intelligence.” Rice failed as national security adviser. The addition of a layer of government has done nothing to remedy Rice’s inability to perform the rudimentary tasks assigned to her.
Paul might have galvanized popular support had he reminded the American people that the Department of Homeland Security has been working consistently against them. This bureaucracy’s laws mandate the tormenting of the traveling public, and ensure that airlines are routinely sued for discrimination if they so much as attempt to protect their charges by screening suspicious passengers. The word “treason” comes to mind when one considers the Department’s refusal to stop the breach of the border with Mexico. Establishment Republicans don’t use the “treason” word nearly as often as they should to describe the America-hating actions of their government.
Indeed, Paul might consider taking up what is a central cause for conservatives. According to Human Events, 86 percent of its conservative readers consider illegal immigration the most pressing issue. While his Republican colleagues insist the American military’s obligation is to patrol the borders of Kosovo, Korea and Kurdistan, our own borders remain perilously porous; Americans living alongside them forsaken. What’s more, the treacherous political class and the “parrot press” is intent on retaining the status quo. Paul might have mobilized the masses had he pointed that out.
Paul is after a shift in foreign policy—away from grand, utopian schemes to compensate for deficits in democracy around the world. He needs, however, to frame this desirable, and desperately needed, change in direction as a circling of the wagons at home. To wit, the real war is on the border, not abroad. Defending and preserving the homeland, the conservative base believes, begins with beefing up the borders and reforming immigration policy. This excludes the amnesty program touted by the presidential front-runners. Paul would do well to remind Americans that Bush’s recipe for minute-made Americans will legalize the status of an estimated 300,000 individuals from Wahhabi-worshiping lands, whose customs do not preclude killing their hosts.
Paul was wrong to imply, reductively, that Islamic terrorism in general and September 11 in particular are the sole consequences of American foreign policy. Libertarians cannot persist in such unidirectional formulations. As I’ve said previously, our adventurous foreign policy is a necessary precondition for Muslim aggression but it is far from a sufficient one, given that Muslims today are at the center of practically every conflict across the world. The received leftist wisdom that the Arabs were (and remain) hapless and helpless victims of the West is false and patronizing. As scholars such as Efraim and Inari Karsh have shown, “Middle Eastern history is essentially the culmination of long-standing indigenous trends, passions, and patterns of behavior rather than an externally imposed dictate.”
Ultimately, a rational suspicion of power, upon which libertarians pride themselves, must be predicated on distrusting all power, not only American power.
©2007 By Ilana Mercer