Recently by Michael Scheuer: Listening to Gary Bauer
Ron Paul’s treatment by mainstream media, other Republican hopefuls, and the punditry makes me think the W.B. Yeats lines “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” also describe the year 2012 in the United States. Indeed, Paul’s experience in the nomination campaign suggests U.S. politics lacks reasoned substance, common sense, and an understanding of what America’s Founding Fathers intended.
Open up any newspaper to see the mess America has sunk itself into around the world: for example, facing off with China over a lone, non-American dissident whose safety has no relation to U.S. security. Yet today, Paul’s call for staying out of other people’s wars unless genuine U.S. national interests are at stake is deemed radical, immoral, even anti-American. Amazing.
If elected president, Paul’s most valuable contribution to a prosperous and secure American future might well lie in his application of a noninterventionist foreign policy, following the wishes of George Washington and the other founders.
Before explaining why Paul’s foreign policy would benefit the United States, it is worth rebutting those ill-educated jackasses in politics, the media, and the academy who denigrate the founders as “dead white males.” To them, the modern world is so different from Washington’s time that nothing the founders said or wrote pertains to contemporary foreign-policymaking. Such self-serving and ahistoric attitudes allow their advocates to pursue policies negating the Constitution, piling up debt, and fueling relentless intervention abroad.
Several years ago, Georgetown University’s distinguished professor emeritus Daniel Robinson cogently explained that the founding generation did not prescribe specific policies for unforeseeable future problems, but, rather, conducted a prolonged and profound seminar on “the nature of human nature.” They examined history and their own experiences and devised a set of principles true not only in their own era and in ancient Sparta, but also for the unknowable American future: Human nature never changes; man is not perfectible; individuals and governments must live within their means; man is hard-wired for conflict; and small government, frequent elections, and secure private property best protect liberty. Most crucial today is the principle that foreign interventions when no genuine U.S. interest is at risk will yield lost wars, deep debt, and decreased domestic liberty. These common-sense principles were the key to national security in the early republic and would regain that status in a Paul presidency.
A President Paul would infuse these principles into U.S. foreign policy and produce a noninterventionist doctrine: far fewer unnecessary and costly wars, far fewer dead soldiers, and far greater U.S. national security. This is a workable, adult approach to the world – especially the Muslim world – unlike the adolescent approach America’s bipartisan governing elite has hewed to for decades.
What the founders and Paul advocate, and what the U.S. political elite have forgotten, might be termed the “Schoolyard Rule.” Most of us, in the halcyon days of youth, learned at recess that every action elicits a reaction: Push someone in the schoolyard, and you will be pushed back. We also learned that a single, cavalier push meaning little to you might quickly turn into a bigger fracas, complete with cuts, bruises, or worse, until Sister Mary Lawrence and her metal-edged yardstick arrived to stop the fight and restore order.
We also learned the Schoolyard Rule’s corollary: If you are pushed during recess, you better push back – even if the instigator is bigger – and hope that the good sister arrives to save your bacon. If you do not push back, the pain you receive becomes a daily occurrence. Militant Islamists assiduously apply this corollary to defend a Muslim world they perceive as too-long passive in the face of murderous superpower pushing. The Islamists are pushing back and depending on Allah – in the role of Sister Mary Lawrence – to give eventual victory to the Muslim David.
This action-reaction lesson is a key part of a youngster’s practical education, and in the course of his or her pre-college schooling the Schoolyard Rule is reinforced by courses in subjects like history, physics, religion, and chemistry. At high school graduation, most American teenagers have a handle on the idea that if you push, you will be pushed back, and are confident that this is an iron law. When was the last time you met a schoolyard Gandhi?
But then comes college. The unfortunates who trundle off to Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and elsewhere in the Ivy League are cleansed of the Schoolyard Rule’s common sense, emerging four years later with few contact points with reality. They have learned to shape policies for the world they want, not the one on offer. They believe it their duty to use whatever tool available, be it laws, bayonets, or cruise missiles, to turn the world’s people into semi-socialist, spendthrift, ahistoric, anti-religious democrats – in short, mirror images of themselves.
These Ivy League graduates who have forgotten the Schoolyard Rule now dominate U.S. foreign policy. Eager to push hard any person or state they disagree with or dislike, they blithely assume the pushed will know such punishment is indispensable in becoming as smart, cool, and sophisticated as people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain.
Nearly alone among Republicans and Democrats, Paul knows that ignoring the Schoolyard Rule, its corollary, and the founders’ warning against nonessential intervention in foreigners’ affairs would be ruinous for America. As president, Paul would push only if a genuine U.S. national security interest were at stake. Wars would be fought only over life-and-death matters – like access to energy and freedom of the seas – and not over ephemera like Israel’s interests and women’s rights and human rights overseas.
Paul would listen to the enemy. Not to empathize or sympathize, but to understand his motivation and form policy to defeat him, ensuring the motivation of today’s enemies is not passed to the next generation. The failure of both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama to understand that it is U.S. government actions in the Islamic world that fire Islamist motivation, not hatred of freedom or how Americans live at home, proves that only Paul’s approach can restore U.S. security. The Islamists have educated Americans just as clearly and openly as Ho Chi Minh and General Giap did; the United States’ failure of perception has already ensured that much of the next generation of young Muslims will become Islamists.
A Ron Paul presidency would reverse a half-century of Republican and Democratic leaders maintaining national security policies that lethally push Muslims, premised on the delusion they will not push back. President Paul would replace the interventionism of these men and women – who are merely miseducated, not evil – with the founders’ guidance, the Schoolyard Rule, and a belief that the federal government is an engine of national destruction and bankruptcy. For President Paul, the protection of the United States’ genuine interests by avoiding unnecessary wars and frivolous interventions is first, last, and always the main foreign-policy priority of the U.S. government.
This article was originally published on Foreign Policy’s website and is reprinted with the author’s permission.
Michael Scheuer [send him mail] is the author of Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq and Imperial Hubris and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes. He recently resigned after 22 years at the CIA. He served as chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit.