America’s bipartisan governing elite never expected their common interventionist foreign policy to be damned by a man who has long worked among that august group. But Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) proved himself not only a political maverick, but one of the few elected federal officials who still prizes — indeed, treasures is a better word — his status as an American citizen. Rep. Paul does not view himself as a citizen of the world who deems unrelenting U.S. intervention abroad as the acceptable price the world demands of America for this higher form of citizenship. Rep. Paul rejects that price, which is, of course, enormously expensive in monetary terms, as well as in terms of the blood of American kids, most of whose parents and other kin are seldom if ever found in the country’s governing elite.
In the Republican debate in South Carolina, Dr. Paul had the unmitigated gall to tell his fellow candidates the exact truth: America was attacked by Islamists on 9/11, and untold other times since Osama bin Laden declared war on us in 1996, because of the United States government’s foreign policies and their impact in the Muslim world over the last thirty-five years. Dr. Paul then consigned to history’s trashcan the motivations assigned to bin Laden and his ilk by the Bush and Clinton administrations; the nine other Republican candidates; the eight please-don’t-ask-us-about-what-Ron-Paul-said Democratic presidential candidates; most of the media; and the think tanks, left, center, and right. Quite correctly, Rep. Paul deep-sixed — hopefully forever — the idea that our Islamist enemies are attacking us because of our freedoms, liberties, elections, freedom of speech, and gender equality.
In response to Rep. Paul, Rudy Giuliani — is there a more unctuous, ill-informed, and arrogant man in American politics? — dismissed the idea that we were attacked for being “over there” as, in his opinion, “absurd.” Giuliani added that he had never before heard such an analysis, demanded Dr. Paul retract his words, and clearly implied that Dr. Paul was unpatriotic. In other words, Giuliani applied the usual crude denigration reserved for any American citizen who dares question the establishment’s self-serving interventionism.
Sadly for Americans, Giuliani probably was telling the truth, both for himself and the American governing elite. None of the elite’s denizens appear to have heard, read, or even sensed anything that runs counter to the Muslims-hate-us-for-our-freedoms dictum that became revealed scripture on 9/11 and which, in truth, has governed the elite’s perceptions of and actions in the Muslim world for decades. Dr. Paul is right, our governing elite are obsessed with searching abroad for dragons to destroy, especially Islamic dragons; they thereby ignore the Founders’ clear warning that such activity all but assures the ruin of our republic.
Soon after the debate, the bone-deep interventionism of both parties focused on by Rep. Paul was underscored for Americans by the spending bill for the Iraq war passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. The bill allowed the intervention in Iraq to continue until at least September and showed there is no real difference between the two parties; the Republicans want to continue pursuing the military option, while the Democrats argue the military option has failed and there must now be a U.S.-dominated political solution. Neither party wants to leave Iraq; each just has its own view of how the intervention should be managed. And they cynically have stage-managed the next three months so that each will have ammunition — in the form of dead U.S. military personnel — to support their agendas when the next Iraq spending bill is debated. The Republicans will argue that the “surge” has been costly in lives but is succeeding and cannot be given up; the Democrats will argue the surge has failed and the high number of U.S. dead show that we must find a political settlement. Odds are the next spending bill will be signed and leave the situation substantially unchanged because no one — save Rep. Paul — really wants to get out of Iraq. Indeed, there is every chance that the next presidential election will come and go and we will still be in Iraq because the gentleman from Texas is the only presidential candidate who is not a rank interventionist.
Faced with this reality, the struggle to make Americans face facts on foreign policy must be fought now and the spark struck by Rep. Paul fanned into a fire. Make no mistake, the United States is fighting and losing a growing war against al-Qaeda and its allies. And our evolving defeat is not the result of military weakness on our part, or any God-is-on-the-side-of-the-Islamists factor on al-Qaeda’s side. We are losing because we have underestimated the enemy’s strength and motivation thanks to the belief of Mr. Giuliani and our bipartisan elite that Mr. Paul’s assessment of the Islamists’ motivation is “absurd.” That belief — which can now be called the “Giuliani Doctrine” — is al-Qaeda’s only indispensable ally and its maintenance is the Islamists only hope for victory.
Our Islamist enemies are motivated by the U.S. policies that have produced America’s military presence in the Muslim world; approval for the repression of Muslims by Russia and China; exploitation of Muslim oil resources; unqualified support for Israel; and a half-century of protecting Arab police states. No American, of course, has to agree with Muslim perceptions of U.S. policies. But perception always is reality, and there is no doubt that most of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims — even those opposed to bin Laden — perceive U.S. foreign policy as an attack on their faith, lands, and brethren. Thus, while our bipartisan governing elite fight a non-existent threat — the freedom-haters and the liberty detesters — the threat fueled by hatred for the impact of U.S. foreign policy grows broader, deeper, and more visceral among Muslims.
What to do? Take Rep. Paul up on his idea of debating the components of U.S. foreign policy that are at issue, not to denigrate their authors and upholders, but to allow Americans to assess whether the policies are doing the only thing they must do — protect America. In this nation there should be nothing too dangerous to talk about; energy, Israel, and our tyrannical Arab “friends” ought to be on the table for thorough, even vitriolic debate. An honest, wide-ranging debate would do two things: (1) It would destroy the myth that Muslims hate us for who we are and how we think and live, and (2) it would help Americans see that U.S. foreign policy has consequences, good and bad, and that Washington’s current policies ensure war with the Islamists for the foreseeable future, and probably much longer.
Might I suggest, therefore, that the next Republican and Democratic debates focus on a single proposition, and that proposition be taken from the finest book on the history of U.S. foreign relations published in the last quarter century, Walter A. MacDougall’s, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776. In the debates, the proposition before the house for discussion — to adapt the words of Dr. MacDougall — should be:
“Foreign policy defines what America is at home and is the instrument for preserving and expanding American freedom at home. Foreign policy conducted in the form of crusades for democracy or other ideologies abroad belie America’s ideals, violate its true interests, and sully its freedom. The Founders never intended foreign policy to impose their values beyond America’s own land and waters. None of the Founders perceived a mortal conflict between morality and the national interest; indeed, foreign policy is moral when it is in the national interest.”
Initially, such a debate would amount to Dr. Paul against all comers, but Dr. Paul would be quickly joined by tens of millions of Americans when they hear the fatuous, theory-stuffed attempts by the seventeen other candidates to justify the profligate waste of American lives, treasure, and security for exactly the kind of ideological crusading — democracy, freedom, human and women’s rights, etc. — the Founders not only warned against, but damned. At debate’s end it would be clear to Americans that their self-appointed, inbred emperors have no clothes. And the way then would be clear to think about a foreign policy that protects American liberty at home and genuine U.S. interests abroad, and one that is not the republic-destroying play thing of our elite interventionists and the interest groups, foreign lobbies, and domestic military industries that fund their election campaigns.