Ron Paul Versus U.S. Foreign Policy

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For those paying
any attention, the recent Republican presidential candidate debate
in New Hampshire was an eye-opener. No, there were no surprise announcements
or gaffs from the so-called front-runners. Romney, Giuliani, and
McCain came off predictable and scripted in their replies to questions;
yawn, yawn. The real fireworks, instead, came from 10-term congressman
Ron Paul who showed up to debate, yes actually debate, U.S. foreign
policy.

Unlike the
other Republican candidates for president, Paul has always opposed
the U.S. war in Iraq. He voted against the war resolution in 2002;
he opposes the "surge" and would withdraw ALL U.S. troops
immediately from the Arabian peninsula. The other candidates giggled
as Representative Paul explained his non-interventionist positions
to debate moderator Chris Wallace. Given the frequent audience cheers
to Paul’s arguments, however, they had best stop giggling and listen
up.

The mainstream
media has pretty much decided that the "Republican" position
on the war is identical to the Bush administration’s position: Iraq
is a part of the war on terror and the U.S. military must "win"
so that Iraq’s various factions can establish a viable democracy.
Now that’s a real cute story, and perhaps all of the Republican
big-whigs really believe it; but in my judgment it is emphatically
NOT what many rank and file conservative Republicans believe at
all. Indeed, my guess is that many rank and file conservatives believe
that nation-building is not an appropriate activity for our government
and military, that "democracy" there is an impossibility,
and that the U.S. occupation in Iraq is a tragic mistake and not
worth one more American life.

We need some
history here. The Eisenhower/Goldwater/Reagan school of Republican
conservatism held that individual liberty was the highest political
goal and that the federal government was generally inept at managing
the economic and social affairs of society. This is why old fashioned
conservatives believed in free enterprise, tax cuts, balanced budgets,
and school vouchers, and why they were skeptical about government
regulation and interventionism, including and especially foreign
military interventionism. Even George W. Bush ran in 2000 on a basically
conservative platform but he abandoned the bulk of that platform
when the looney neo-conservatives hijacked U.S. foreign policy.

Both Eisenhower
and Reagan may have carried a big "stick" but they never
fired many shots, never started a foreign war and never attempted
to invade and "nation build" an occupied Arab country.
Indeed, both were extremely leery of any Middle East military adventure
involving U.S. combat troops. When push came to shove in places
such as Suez or Beirut, both U.S. Presidents decided (correctly)
that a direct long-run military confrontation was ill-advised. After
all, protracted wars meant higher taxes, mountains of red-ink federal
debt, and a larger "military industrial complex" and these
results were impossible to square with basic conservative principles
and a minimalist reading of the Constitution.

Ron Paul’s
chances of becoming President are thin; nonetheless, his candidacy
of ideas is a stark reminder that to be a conservative Republican
is not necessarily to be "pro-war." As our heavily mortgaged
economy slides into recession and as the quagmire in Iraq continues,
Paul’s "peace and freedom" libertarian supporters may
well provide the crucial swing vote in the presidential election
of 2008.

Reprinted
from the Vero Beach Press Journal with permission from the
author.

September
19, 2007

Dom
Armentano [send him mail]
is Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford (CT) and the
author of Antitrust
and Monopoly

(Independent Institute, 1998) and Antitrust:
The Case for Repeal

(Mises Institute, 1999). He has published articles, op/eds and reviews
in The New
York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Financial Times, Financial
Post, Hartford Courant, National Review, Antitrust Bulletin
and many other journals.

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