Ron Paul: The Only Presidential Candidate to Challenge the American Empire

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Flying under
the radar of mainstream media coverage, supporters of Dr. Ron Paul,
a seventy-two-year-old ten-term congressman and obstetrician from
Texas, have staged a political revolution. Despite little publicity,
they have raised over $15 million, mostly in small donations, giving
Paul more money in the bank than John McCain.

In a November
5 “money bomb” (inspired by Guy Fawkes Day as depicted
in the film, V
for Vendetta
) the Paul Revolutionaries raked in $4.3 million.
In doing so, they set a new one-day record for all Republican candidates.
In addition, Paul’s backers have spontaneously organized over
1,100 meet-up groups. That’s more than any other candidate
in the race including the youthful and photogenic Barack Obama.
By all indications, most of the meet-up group members, now numbering
over 60,000, are under age twenty-five. Paul’s appeal can be
attributed to his no-holds-barred small government, pro-liberty
message as well as his consistent call to bring home the troops.

Reporters are
right to emphasize the wide gap between Paul and the pro-war Republican
presidential field but they should not stop there. If they dig a
little deeper, they will find that his disagreements with Democrats
are equally great. Paul is the only candidate in either party who
wants to shut down the entire American overseas political and military

Rather than
“isolationist” in foreign policy, however, Paul embraces
as his own Thomas Jefferson’s stated goal of “peace, commerce,
and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with
none.” But, unlike our third president, Paul appears bound
and determined to apply these words across-the-board. His voting
record shows a consistent support for free trade and legislation
to redirect the military strictly to home defense rather than foreign
occupation. The Democrats, by contrast, largely share the bi-partisan
post-World War II consensus of spreading democracy, human rights,
or “vital interests” by military force.

Few subscribe
to this consensus more zealously than Democratic front-runner Hillary
Clinton who has considerable credentials as a hawk dating back to
her husband’s administration. Most notably, she was an aggressive
cheerleader for the bombing campaigns against both Iraq and Serbia
in Kosovo. Paul, like many Republicans at the time, opposed both.
Although Hillary later broke with Bush on Iraq, she rejects a non-interventionist
approach. She wants to leave U.S. troops behind in Iraq to fight
al Qaeda as well as keep them in the region. When asked in a recent
debate whether she would promise that the troops would be home from
Iraq by the end of her first term, Clinton refused. Although Barack
Obama opposed the war from the outset, his current views are not
much different. He also intends to station U.S. forces permanently
in the region and reserves the right to put them back in Iraq again
in full force to stop “genocide” (a term he never defines).
John Edwards advocates the same approach.

While it is
true that the Democrats are dovish on Iraq when compared to Bush,
they blow bugles on the Darfur region of Sudan. The front-runners
demand tougher sanctions, imposition of a no-fly zone, and U.S.
aid for more UN troops. Edwards pledges to work with NATO and deploy
U.S. “military assets” to enforce the zone. Clinton has
even suggested a blockade of the Port of Sudan, an act of war under
international law. The truculence of the Democrats on Darfur defies
logic given their objections to the Iraq War. The same conditions
apply in Darfur that also led to the Iraq quagmire including a history
of Islamic sectarian strife, a long civil war, and no real tradition
of the rule of law and democracy. Despite widespread violence and
Sunni fundamentalism in Sudan, there has never been a suicide bombing
there. Were the Democrats to spread the War on Terror into Darfur,
that statistic would certainly change.

Rather than
avoid all foreign political entanglements, as would Paul, the Democratic
front-runners promise to extend them. All three, to quote Edwards,
hope to exercise “American leadership to forge powerful alliances
– with longtime allies and reluctant friends, with nations
already living in the light of democracy and with peoples struggling
to join them.” In contrast to Paul, they do not intend to scale
down foreign American bases, much less reconsider the merits of
George McGovern’s old dream to “Come Home America.”
As Obama puts it, the United States “cannot afford to be a
country of isolationists right now….we need to maintain a strong
foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in
promoting our values around the world." Woodrow Wilson could
not have said it better.

If Americans
expect a “great debate” about foreign policy fundamentals
in 2008, absent an upset by Paul and his campaign against the American
empire and for free trade, they will not get it. That would be a
pity. As examples of “blowback” from previous and ongoing
interventions continue to mount, such as spiraling oil prices, the
free-fall in the value of the dollar, and the current strife in
Pakistan and Kurdistan, Americans need such a debate more than ever

This originally
appeared on the History News Network.

20, 2007

David T.
Beito [send him mail]
is a member of the Liberty
and Power
group blog at the History News Network and Scott Horton
[send him mail] is the host
of Antiwar Radio in Austin, Texas and runs The
Stress blog

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