“If you ever hear of a group forming up to stop X, put your money on X,” said Richard Nixon to Pat Buchanan, in 1968—repeated approvingly, in 2014, by MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews. The X on whom Matthews, a Democrat in bone and blood, was putting his money is Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, whom Matthews has praised for prosecuting a “fratricidal war” within the Republican Party, over foreign policy, in general, and the war on Iraq, in particular.
Matthews was genuinely taken with the philippic Rand delivered against his Republican detractors. “Today it’s another Texas hawk defending himself against Rand Paul,” he exclaimed. “Can Gov. Rick Perry stop Rand Paul? Can he lead a Stop Paul movement …? I say this because, whether you like his libertarian philosophy [or not], Rand Paul has street smarts. He doesn’t let Rick Perry get away with calling him an isolationist. He’s gone on offense and nailed Perry this morning for saying he wants to send U.S. troops back into Iraq. Well, let Perry carry that around on his back for a while. … Perry acts like it was such a great idea, attacking, invading and occupying Iraq, he wants us to do it again.”
Perry was not the only Republican warbot to pile on Sen. Paul. “In the past three days alone, recapitulated Politico, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used a Washington Post op-ed to warn about the dangers of ‘isolationism’ and describe Paul as ‘curiously blind’ to growing threats in Iraq. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused the Kentucky senator on CNN of wanting a ‘withdrawal to fortress America.’ And former Vice President Dick Cheney declared … that ‘isolationism is crazy,’ while his daughter, Liz Cheney, said Paul ‘leaves something to be desired, in terms of national security policy.'”
Like McMussolini, the vampiric father and daughter duo are a spent force, easily dismissed by a young turk. But can Rand stand up to the Joint Chiefs? Military movers and shakers are heavily vested in the sunk-cost fallacy—the irrational notion that more resources must be committed forthwith in Iraq (and elsewhere), so as to “redeem” the original misguided commitment of men, money and materiel to the mission. To that end, repeated ad nauseam is the refrain about our “brave men and women of the military,” whose sacrifice for Iraqi “freedoms” will be squandered unless more such sacrifices are made. The Skeptic’s Dictionary dispels this illogic: “To continue to invest in a hopeless project is irrational. Such behavior may be a pathetic attempt to delay having to face the consequences of one’s poor judgment. The irrationality is a way to save face, to appear to be knowledgeable, when in fact one is acting like an idiot.” Besides, it’s time the military heed its paymasters, The American People, a majority of whom “don’t want to send U.S. soldiers back into Iraq.”
No small part of Paul’s mission is to break the curse of Chucky Krauthammer and Co. The very identity of the punditocracy is derived from its position within “the nimbus of great power.” Hawks like him reap “the benefits of being at the center of the Imperium.” The eclipse of American power threatens Krauthammer and his ilk. For how else will the Washington-New York set retain its top-dog status? Like most neocon artists—who were once radical leftists and are still hardcore Jacobins—on the invasion of Iraq, Krauthammer dished out dollops of ahistoric, unintuitive and reckless verbiage.
The neoconservatives had dismissed and maligned the libertarian Old Right and rubbished generals and government officials who warned against that war: Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Secretary of the Army Thomas White, former general and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft; former Centcom Commander Norman Schwarzkopf; former NATO Commander Wesley Clark; former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, and Marine Corps Commandant James Jones: all were cool to W’s war. Retired General Anthony Zinni, distinguished warrior, diplomat and card-carrying Republican, cautioned Congress against the “wrong war at the wrong time.” At the time, the neocons dismissed them all as “yesterday’s men.”
Still, the tide is turning, albeit slowly. A passionate populist, influential broadcaster Laura Ingraham has dropped hints about being prepared to reject the War Party’s scorch-and-burn tactics. “Congressman Gutierrez,” Ingraham said on ABC’s “This Week,” “is closer to the Republican grassroots on the issue of Iraq, than the Republican leaders are. He’s on to something.” What did Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez say? “We shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place.”
Soon, the only holdout will be Mark Levin. The brainy broadcaster galvanized his rhetorical firepower to defend Dick Cheney from Bill Clinton’s coruscating attack. “Meet the Press’s” David Gregory had asked “Bill Clinton about the current crisis in Iraq and whether Dick Cheney is a ‘credible critic’ in going after the Obama administration for ISIS taking over major cities there. Clinton chuckled and said, ‘I believe if they hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, none of this would be happening.'” A no-brainer.
Rand Paul is no Ron Paul, who is sui generis. The son has been a disappointment to those of us who take the libertarian injunction against the initiation of aggression very seriously. Rand’s support for renewed airstrikes against Iraq and his advocacy of ongoing American “assistance to the government of Iraq, by way of “armaments and intelligence”—these are unfortunate and unsupportable.
However, Rand Paul is to be commended for creating political oscillation where none existed, and reminding those who insist on “repeating the history, the rhetoric and presumably, the mistakes” of Iraq of their folly. More materially: For once, this deeply divided territory—for the U.S. is no longer a nation—is united in its aversion to the political elite’s adventures abroad. Witness the avowed lefty Chris Matthews praising Paul’s perspective and panache.
The GOP should grow a brain and hop on the peace train.