Despite Dr. Ron Paul's courageous campaign against Washington's relentless overseas interventionism, the presidential primaries have been largely free of substantive foreign-policy debate, aside, that is, from quirky assertions that sleeping with a president, serving as a prisoner of war, and setting records for using the word change constitute adequate commander-in-chief training. Having spent a year warning Americans that the 9/11 attackers and our tens of millions of Islamist enemies draw their main motivation from the impact of U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world, Dr. Paul has done as much as one man could do to save Americans from the huge coming blood-and-treasure costs of U.S. intervention. For his effort, Dr. Paul has been ridiculed, damned, and vilified by the media and the country's political class, but has earned the enduring respect and thanks of Americans who do not understand why their children's lives and the outrageous taxes they pay are continually wasted in other peoples' wars — especially other peoples' religious wars — where no genuine U.S. national interests are at risk.
As readers of this site know, I am not a libertarian. I have, however, written several pieces here and at Anti-War.com strongly supporting Dr. Paul's non-interventionism. He is, after all, speaking for the security and financial solvency of all Americans and their country. And I have recently published a book called Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq, which suggests those who think our Muslim-world problems will end when Mr. Bush returns to Texas are badly mistaken, and that the next presidential term will see nothing but more war and escalating human and economic damage resulting from the interventionism both parties have advocated as divine scripture for 40 years.
The reception my book is getting from the press has given me a small taste of Dr. Paul's experience. Some reviews have taken a serious look at the book's arguments — agreeing with some, questioning others — but the New York Times' Sunday review discussed nothing in the book, simply denouncing it as crude, simplistic, implicitly unpatriotic, Machiavellian (is that bad when defending America?), and outside what De Tocqueville described as the closed-circle of permissible debate. After reading it I thought: Now I know a bit about how Dr. Paul felt when Rudy Giuliani struck his patented Mussolini pose and denounced Dr. Paul's precisely true statement that U.S. policy in the Muslim world motivated the 9/11 attackers and is motivating the growing millions of our Islamist foes. Interventionism, it seems, is holy gospel for our political class; to question the gospel is treason and excludes the questioner from public debate.
Well, perhaps interventionism is so deeply engrained in the U.S. governing elite and its media acolytes that the issue cannot be taken on whole. It is, after all, a broad and multifaceted topic; raising opposition to it as a whole allows men like Il Duce Giuliani to avoid specifics and assail non-interventionists as appeasers and blame-America-firsters. Perhaps, the best non-interventionists can do in this presidential cycle is to ask a limited number of specific questions which, if answered honestly, would show Americans how poorly their interventionist leaders are protecting them and how the defense of America is not a high priority for Obama, McCain, and Clinton, despite their rhetoric.
There are many questions to be asked of Senators Obama, McCain, and Clinton; Dr. Paul has asked them continually, but the media for the most part refuses to ask any. As long as the media — left, center, and right — neglect their duty to ask pointedly specific foreign-policy questions, Dr. Paul's is a lone voice of sanity. Obama, McCain, and Clinton are all status-quo interventionists. They all helped light the fuse for a future Balkans War by supporting Kosovo's independence, and Obama's recent pro-Israel turn means he, like the other two, will stay in Iraq. The candidates' call for health care, job creation, tax cuts, and other domestic initiatives is empty talk; intervention's past, present, and future costs precludes each. The candidates know this, but will remain silent until the inauguration unless the media step up to the plate — as Dr. Paul has — to ask the questions that need answering.
Readers of this site are sure to have other, better questions than mine, but here are eight specific ones that reflect concerns I outlined at length in Marching Toward Hell. I think each merits a full and frank answer from our would-be presidents. Each is followed by a proposed answer, a form of which we ought to hear if the candidate understands the threats America faces from its enemies, and perhaps, more important, from its own failed and counterproductive policies
1.) Q: Why are we fighting much of the Muslim world and what is our enemy's motivation?
A: We must accept that the U.S. government is seen as the mortal foe of Islam and Muslims because of its foreign policies. We need not don sackcloth and ashes or immediately abandon policies motivating bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and other Islamists. But no nation-state should keep bankrupt policies for fear of having changes seen as appeasement.
We must deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it: we are hated for what we do not who we are. Armed with this vital understanding, we can define the talented, pious, and growing foe we confront; start to alter counterproductive policies; and begin drafting military plans that can protect America better than a policy of "bringing terrorists to justice one at a time."
2.) Q: Given the tax burden Americans shoulder for defense, why is the U.S. military not winning?
A: We must change the rules-of-engagement for U.S. soldiers that make them targets not killers, and which are based on U.S. leaders' fear of media and foreign criticism. In the few cases in which America must fight, the military needs to make U.S. might felt to whatever extent needed for victory. This includes death and destruction broad enough to make the local populations giving indispensable support to our enemies demand peace. It wastes U.S. lives and is fatal to our security to go to war if we do not mean to win. Without this change, moreover nation-building programs are useless. History, as well as our Afghan and Iraqi nightmares show durable nation-building is impossible if the enemy is not first definitively defeated.
3.) Q: Can Americans really be safer if our ports and borders are virtually unguarded, and police must cope with 11-plus million undocumented aliens?
A: We must stop the political posturing and media debate and close our borders to gauge the internal threat. Until this is done, little of what we do against al-Qaeda makes America safer. Indeed, the Islamists are America's most serious post-1865 internal threat because of negligent immigration/border control polices based on the unproven value of diversity and multiculturalism, rather than America's essence, a respect and even reverence for the rule of law. Controlling immigration and borders has nothing to do with human rights or civil liberties; it deals with national survival and giving police a fighting chance to defeat the enemy without extra-constitutional procedures.
4.) Q: Why is U.S. energy security in the hands of anti-American Arab tyrants thirty-five years after the Saudi-led oil embargo?
A: We must accelerate conversion to alternative energies, expand nuclear power, and further exploit U.S. fossil fuels. When we celebrate Independence Day, few note that our foreign-energy dependence means America has lost independence over the most crucial foreign-policy decision — whether to go to war. If disaster occurs in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province or the Niger Delta, Washington will have no choice; it will go to war to restore production.
Nothing should deter America from gaining energy self-sufficiency. Demands for absolute protection for Arctic hares or shrimp-inhabited reefs, at the cost of dead Marines and soldiers, should be ignored. Beyond oil, America has no national interests in the Arab Peninsula region — save freedom of navigation — and as our energy dependence ends, this will be clear. Self-sufficiency will allow America to stop protecting the Gulfs' tyrannies which now cloud our economic destiny, export religious hatred for us, and make our advocacy of freedom pure hypocrisy.
It also will end the cruel fact that some of the escalating price U.S. parents pay for gas is flowing to the Islamists killing their soldier-children. 5.) Q: Why does America back the major antagonists in the Arab-Israeli war — Saudi Arabia and Israel — and what are U.S. interests in that war beyond emotional ties to Israel and dependence on Gulf oil?
A: We must keep out of other peoples' wars, particularly their religious wars. America is a major loser in the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war; the Israel-Palestine war; and the economic strangling of HAMAS; indeed, America is in part losing to the Islamists because of its backing of Israel and its blind-eye for Saudi jihad-spreading. America must withdraw from this savagery. We should define the settlement that suits us; call in both sides, and say: “50 years of your brutal and selfish behavior is enough. Here’s what we want implemented. If you don’t, you are on your own and can kill each other forever.” We also can tell Americans that Israel's under-dog status ended when it went nuclear and built a WMD arsenal. 6.) Q: Why is Washington supporting the Russian and Chinese campaigns to annihilate parts of their Muslim populations?
A: We must stop building Muslim hatred by supporting Russia in the North Caucasus and Beijing in western China. Moscow will do what it must to win in the North Caucasus; our rhetorical support for it deeply stains us in the Muslim world. Beijing is conducting genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang by inundating them with Han Chinese, exactly as it is doing in Tibet. There is no reason for America to support silent genocide.
7.) Q: Why has the U.S. government failed since 1991 to secure the Former Soviet Union's (FSU) nuclear arsenal, leaving a chance for an Islamist nuclear attack in America?
A: We must fast complete the program to help Russia secure the FSU's 22,000 weapons, an effort reduced by the last two administrations. Full security for those weapons is infinitely more vital than Russian democracy. Seventeen years after the USSR's dissolution, Senator Luger — co-sponsor of the U.S.-Russia control plan — says success is far off. Thus, al-Qaeda has had a 17-year window to procure a weapon it has sworn to use in the United States.
8.) Q: Why do U.S. politicians claim to follow the Founders' foreign-policy advice, when the Founders warned that overseas intervention to build democracies would destroy our republic?
A: We must stop trying to spread democracy abroad by military, financial, humanitarian, or political intervention. No American should die for the goal of "giving the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy." No small "r" republican government has the right to spend lives in military crusades for such a patently unobtainable abstraction as gaining liberty, justice, and democracy for foreigners.
Foreign policy must revert to what it was before the anomaly called the Cold War licensed to U.S. politicians to be democracy-mongering interventionists. Foreign policy defends, it does not define us. It need do but one thing: protect America to allow the domestic expansion of liberty, freedom, and opportunity. If no additional foreigner ever votes in an election, America would be no worse off. There is no better definition of pure waste, than spending the lives of our Marines or soldiers so Mrs. Muhammad can vote in an Iraqi or Afghan election.
Post-Cold War, democracy-crusading U.S. administrations have impoverished us in treasure, blood, political unity, and what has been called the "rightful influence of our republican example." We must return to the Founders' goal for America to be, "the well-wisher of freedom and independence for all" but "the champion and vindicator only of her own."
I believe that these and other specific foreign-policy questions must be repeatedly asked of the candidates until they give direct answers. My proposed answers clearly are not definitive, but any candidate that answers the queries above in an evasive or dismissive manner would show Americans his or her intention to continue the full-bore intervention that is now bleeding America of lives, money, and political cohesion.
March 24, 2008