Congressman Ron Paul's new book, The Revolution, is an unusual presidential campaign book in that the candidate — Dr. Paul — is almost entirely absent. This is not to say that his presence is not felt; indeed, Dr. Paul is with the reader every step of the way and writes in a clear and very direct style. But the reader will find that Dr. Paul is not offering the audacity of hope or chanting change; he does not argue that it takes a village or having slept with a former president; and he surely does not hold up his military service as a reason why he should be elected. Instead, Dr. Paul politely, laconically, but frankly lays it on the line for his countrymen: America is in significant and potentially catastrophic trouble economically, financially, and militarily; the country's political class is homogenous, gutless, and ill-educated; its two major parties do not offer a nickel's worth of difference on important issues, especially foreign policy [pp. 2, 26, 163]; and our leaders are consciously negating parts of the Constitution, compromising America's national sovereignty, and circumscribing the liberties of Americans. But then, astoundingly and correctly, Dr. Paul does not say "Only I can fix this mess" — as have Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain — he says: "Only you, the American people, can fix this mess." Dr. Paul confronts Americans with a reality that ought to both chill and inspire them.
Ours is not a fated existence, for nowhere is our destiny etched in stone. In the final analysis, the last line of defense in support of freedom and the Constitution consists of the people themselves. If the people want to be free, if they want to lift themselves out from underneath a state apparatus that threatens their liberties, squanders their resources on needless wars, destroys the value of their dollar, and spews forth endless propaganda about how indispensable it is and how lost we would be without it, there is no force that can stop them. If freedom is what we want, it is ours for the taking. [p. 167]
At the risk of angering some of this website's readers, to my conservative-but-not-libertarian mind no American presidential candidate or serving president since Abraham Lincoln has put so clearly to Americans the problems they face and the sole means of their solution. "I wish you to remember now and forever," Mr. Lincoln told an audience in Indianapolis on 11 February 1861,
that it is your business not mine; that if the union of these States and the liberties of this people, shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who inhabit these United States and to their posterity, in all coming time. It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union and liberty, for yourselves, and not for me.
Albeit through far different philosophical lenses, Dr. Paul sees much the same thing as did Mr. Lincoln: an approaching national calamity that only the American people themselves can act to avert. And Mr. Lincoln's reference to "posterity" is an appropriate point from which to look at Dr. Paul's concern for America's future because he, as did Mr. Lincoln, believes that the guide for ensuring the welfare of our posterity lies in the Constitution left to Americans by the Founders of their republic.
Dr. Paul reminds Americans that they are the inheritors — the posterity, if you will — of the work and guidance of the single wisest, most courageous, and most foresighted group of leaders who ever lived at one time and labored successfully to form a new republic. Refusing to be fashionable — a most admirable characteristic — Dr. Paul forthrightly declares that the Founders' work and guidance remain just as relevant to Americans today as it was two-plus centuries ago. [p. 10] In making this argument, he echoes Oxford Professor Daniel N. Robinson's contention that the Founders drew from "the political life of early America [which itself] is an extended treatise on the nature of human nature," a treatise that held as a certainties the beliefs that man was a flawed, non-perfectible creature whose attitudes and character did not change over the ages. The Founders knew that people do not change, that good and evil are constants in history, and — most important — that power not freedom is the universal value.
As Dr. Paul notes, all U.S. politicians in this era pay lip service to the Founders and their work, but few seem to know anything about what the Founders thought, fought for, or passed on to us. In so saying, Dr. Paul is being kind. I doubt a single one of the other presidential candidates could extemporaneously compare and contrast the differences over the draft constitution that put fellow Virginians James Madison and George Mason at odds in 1787. Indeed, it would not surprise me if they failed to distinguish between a paper by Ben Franklin and the latest political pronouncement from Ben and Jerry, the Vermont socialists. Dr. Paul has a well-honed contempt for charlatan politicians who talk a good game about their fidelity to the Founders, but by their actions show they regard them as a group of irrelevant and thankfully dead white males. "These critics should have the honesty to condemn the Founding Fathers … [but] they wouldn't dare," Dr. Paul writes, "But it would be refreshing to hear it stated in so many words: our current political class is blessed with historic genius, and Jefferson, Washington, and Madison were contemptible fools." [p. 14]
Let me say that I am not competent to assess the entire range of issues discussed by Dr. Paul in The Revolution, but that at least makes me the equal of all his presidential competitors. On the issue of U.S. foreign policy and its impact, however, I have had a bit of experience and can say with confidence that no sections of Dr. Paul's book are more immediately important to Americans than those dealing with foreign affairs. America today faces a quickly approaching, total, worldwide, and economically ruinous war — in which the conscription of our young will be unavoidable — against growing numbers of Islamist fighters and their broadening support base. And if there was ever a war that the United States did not need to wage in a total manner, it is this one.
At base, the war is about matters overwhelmingly internal to the Muslim world. America has been attacked and will continue to be attacked not because the Islamists hate our freedoms and liberties or even because we are their main enemy. We are being attacked because of the unrelentingly interventionist foreign policies our bipartisan political class has pursued in the Muslim world for more than 35 years. This interventionism — as Dr. Paul so well argues — has involved us in other peoples' wars in which America has no genuine national interests at stake, most notably in the Arab-Israeli religious war. We were attacked in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, Yemen, again, New York, Washington, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan because of our decades-long record of interventionist policies, which have included unqualified and unconscionable support for Israel and equally unconscionable and unqualified support and protection for Muslim tyrannies like Saudi Arabia. So mindless has been what Dr. Paul terms "hyperintervention" [p. 16] that the United States finds itself in the absurd position of being the major backer and protector of both sides in the Arab-Israeli religious war, Saudi Arabia and Israel. As Dr. Paul rightly says, the Islamists' "grievances are basically that we're u2018over there," [p. 18] and we are "over there" because of the lust of U.S. leaders to intervene. "The point is a simple one," Dr. Paul concludes, "when our government meddles around the world, it can stir up hornet's nests and thereby jeopardize the safety of the American people. That's just common sense. But hardly anyone dares to level with the American people about our fiasco of a foreign policy." [p. 19]
Hardly anyone, that is, except Dr. Paul. In The Revolution, Dr. Paul has some kind things to say about my work, that of Dr. Robert Pape, and for the studies of others who have tried to focus Americans on the growing dangers to the United States posed by their political class's overseas interventionism. Always the self-deprecating gentleman, Dr. Paul does not mention that it is really those of us he compliments who ought to be thanking him for making it possible to begin a debate on the issue of interventionism. Without Dr. Paul's courage, persistence, and the popularity of his non-interventionist views among Americans in their mid-20s to mid-30s — which must be profoundly disturbing to the two major parties — there would be no such debate and bipartisan interventionism would continue to be the unquestioned order of the day.
Dr. Paul's detailed and outspoken defiance of our political elite's interventionist gospel, however, has begun to expand what Alexis de Tocqueville called the remarkably closed circle of acceptable speech in America. Dr. Paul's success is evident in that non-interventionists can now speak publicly and be smeared as appeasers, America-haters, and anti-Semites no more than 80-percent of the time. This, believe me, is a marked improvement as compared to several years ago. And in an April, 2008, talk I gave about my book Marching Towards Hell to San Francisco's World Affairs Council and Chicago's Global Affairs Council, I tried in the following brief digression to make a small payment on the large debt all non-interventionists owe Dr. Paul. "And, if I may be frank," I said to the hospitable San Franciscans and Chicagoans,
Americans today face no bigger threat to their national security than Senators McCain, Obama, and Clinton who in May 2007, along with those presidential candidates now withdrawn, condemned and tried to silence Texas Congressman Ron Paul for speaking the truth. When Dr. Paul said that the Islamists attacked us on 9/11 because we had been intervening in their world for more than fifty years, he spoke the non-partisan truth on behalf of all of us.
And, yet, Dr. Paul was dismissed as absurd by most of his fellow candidates, and faced demands that he recant and apologize. On that occasion, free speech was acceptable only if it meshed with our political class's all-party line, which is summed up in the phrase: "The terrorists hate us for who we are, not for what we do." Today, this is the quite dishonest operating assumption of Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama.
The most important impact of this sorry episode, however, is that Dr. Paul's fellow candidates and the unctuous media deliberately halted the first post-9/11 foreign policy discussion among senior U.S. politicians that would have worried Osama bin Laden and his allies. When Dr. Paul told Americans the truth and was shunted aside by other candidates and the media, bin Laden and his ilk breathed a heavy sigh of relief. For the time being, bin Laden's only indispensable ally — the status quo in U.S. foreign policy — was safe.
To conclude, I can only urge Americans to get Dr. Paul's The Revolution; read and think about it; and then share and talk about it with your family and friends. But be prepared to feel a new burden of responsibility in your life because Dr. Paul makes it clear that America's future is in its citizens' hands. Again at the risk of angering this site's readers, Dr. Paul's book will tell you exactly what Mr. Lincoln told Americans 170 years ago: "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." Dr. Paul recognizes this reality and closes his book with the simple sentence: "Let the Revolution begin." [p. 167]
And so let it, but let us first underscore the importance of Dr. Paul's exhortation by remembering that it must begin from our recognition of duty. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object," a certain Mr. T. Jefferson of Virginia wrote in the summer of 1776, "evinces a design to reduce them [Americans] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." Perhaps Dr. Paul should have written: "Do your duty Americans, let the revolution begin."
May 7, 2008