The mainstream media was long ago identified as an enemy of the Conservative Movement in the United States. So it should be no surprise that whenever an opportunity arises to disrupt the Republican Party to the advantage of Liberals, the media is quick and eager to assist in that mischief. This, in sum, is the media’s reason for their fascination with Congressman Ron Paul’s candidacy, the perverse hope that casting him as a true Conservative will split the Republican vote and assist the Democrats’ candidate in claiming the White House.
There are many reasons to reject Ron Paul’s claim to the nomination, but the man has been successful in fooling people into thinking his positions reflect a well-considered plan and a solid grounding in historical Conservatism. In actual fact, Paul’s positions are naïve and contrary to proven historical precedents, but they are at least illustrative in how people can fail to understand basic lessons from History and Ethics. For this article, I focus on one volatile yet essential lesson, America’s duty regarding the War in Iraq.
Paul’s Foreign Policy is predicated on a historical model which has failed many times before; the immediate and total abandonment of alliances and defense treaties signed with allies across the globe. Paul’s contention is that American military presence outside our national borders constitutes a provocation to other nations and non-government forces, and that we can correct our National Debt in large part by decimating our military in size and capability. An impotent America is the cure for the world, says Paul.
Radical as this sounds, it is aligned with a certain mind-set, which often shows up in debate about the morality of the Iraq War. Philosophers, who by the nature of their work have little practical comprehension of the realities of war and conflict, separate moral arguments about War into three broad groups; those who argue War may be pursued if it achieves desired gains at an acceptable cost, those who argue War may be pursued if it can be defended as “Just”, and those who argue that War is never a valid action, always something to be avoided at any cost. These positions could be interesting to discuss, but they all share one critical flaw – they presume that War is an action which may be judged impartially by the “international community” or some similar body (“International Law” is another popular term) which carries the authority to punish those nations and leaders who pursue a war judged to be wrongful. In actual fact, the “international community” is, in this context, a purely hypothetical construct with no true substance. Where a body of nations exists which could fill this role, there is always a specific leader, one nation which directs the course of that group. Napoleon was defeated by a coalition of nations, but that coalition was led by England. World Wars One and Two were clearly and plainly fought by many nations, but won by the United States’ leadership. Half the world fought off the Soviets, but again it was America which led the fight. For nearly all of America’s history, when the world is in direst need it callls for American help, and American arms. This is the American Imperative, the clarion call to lead the world. To say anything else is to ignore the lessons of two centuries.
Consequently, whether a war is moral and just or immoral and unjust is decided not by the world as a whole, but by America. We have the leadership and set the course in motion, and it is the American people who will punish a leader or reward him for his decisions. It sounds arrogant to say so, but on this point the opinion of the rest of the entire world is plainly irrelevent to the matter. This fact is why the debate over a war is especially strong and so often divisive; people sense the significance of our decision and defend their position with every weapon at hand. This is also why personal attacks are so common in this debate – advocates of a position excuse slander against leaders, even the most false and defamatory statements and attacks, as necessary in the pursuit of a “greater good”, even if the true character of that ideal is never scrutinized to verify its claims.
Paul’s arguments against the U.S. involvement in Iraq follow this wholly subjective course. Paul contends that the United States chose to invade a sovereign nation on no just cause, and therefore that only abandonment of the nation is an acceptable course of action. He is not merely wrong in his assumptions, but his chosen position would be catastrophic for all parties concerned. First, to cause. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of a number of provocations, including Iraq’s refusal to honor the terms of the 1991 Cease-Fire from the first Gulf War. Iraq turned back and even physically threatened weapons inspectors, they moved materials and documents to hide them from discovery and inspection. Iraq fired on Coalition aircraft monitoring the no-fly zones to which Iraq had agreed in 1991. Iraq’s intelligence service attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush, likely with the approval of strongman Saddam Hussein. Iraqi intelligence had connections to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing through Ramzi Yousef. Saddam used chemical weapons at least twice on civilian populations in Iraq. Biological weapons were tested on prisoners at least six times in various locations in Iraq. Any of these constituted a basis for action, and together they demonstrated a regime in clear and continuing defiance of the sovereignty and security of its neighbors and its own citizens. The WMD question is hardly the sole basis for the invasion, although it must be noted that at the time of the invasion, the consensus of every major intelligence agency with whom the U.S. had friendly relations, was that Iraq was developing WMD and would use such weapons without moral restraint.
It may be said simply, that the second Gulf War occurred because America did not finish the first one properly. The reader will recall that the first Gulf War ended with the United Nations pressing for the United States to allow Iraq to simply return to the initial position, providing no penalty for invading Kuwait in the first place. Had the U.S. occupied Iraq then, the present war would not have been needed. Forseeing the inevitable objection from the Paulites, that Saddam would have been dealt with by his neighbors had the United States not intervened, again History proves that claim a lie. Just after Saddam claimed top power in Iraq, he began a war with Iran which killed literally millions of people and lasted throughout the 1980s. The United States tried to stay out at first, but no Middle East state intervened to end the war or stop the war. The 1990 invasion of Kuwait was deplored by all the Gulf states, but again none of them made a move to stop Saddam until they first demanded American intervention, and had the U.S. declined to intervene there is no evidence they would have “taken care” of Saddam. No one but the United States had the means or the resolve to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. After the 1991 cease-fire began, Iraqi forces crossed the border into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria on a number of occasions, but again none of those nations did anything about it for years, instead depending on the United States to take action. Indeed, American involvement in the 1990-1 Gulf War began not with the actual invasion of Kuwait but the official request from Saudi Arabia for U.S. troops to defend their borders.
For an example of what happens when the United States stays out of a conflict, the reader need only consider the cases of Rwanda and Bosnia. In both cases the United States was persuaded to allow the countries in the immediate area to address the crisis, but nothing happened, except that a lot of innocent people got raped and murdered, and the nations of Rwanda and Bosnia ceased to exist in any normative sense. As much as we may dislike the phrase “world’s policeman”, absent American intervention the condition becomes much like neighborhoods where the police are known to be missing. In the end, if the United States does not protect the world, no one does. The United States eventually did get involved in both Rwanda and Bosnia, but well after many casualties were sufffered. There can be no question, at all, that American action is literally the life-and-death decision for many millions of people in dozens of locations.
Paul also makes the mistake of judging American actions as unilateral actions, with no consequence except immediate response to our acts. The fact that the United States prevents aggression from certain groups, and establishes accountable government where such would otherwise not exist, is well beyond rational dispute, so it should be understood that, aside from the direct interests of the United States, if the U.S. were to remove its troops from their commitments, the regions concerned would immediately lose stability and the welfare of the people in those areas would be imemdiately imperiled. Again, we can see this in Iraq. For all the noisy speeches made by Democrats, it is well understood by all that if the United States had not removed Saddam, Iran would have invaded Iraq at some point and seized the land and resources as its own – the fate of the Iraqi people would be grimly bloody. If the United States were to remove troops from Iraq prior to the stablization of the government (the military matters are proceeding well just now), again this would invite incursion by avaricious forces in Syria and Iran. For all the whining about the cost and the cause of the war, the decision is clear – support the U.S. mission and establish a truly functional Arab democratic republic, which would create impetus for the entire region towards stability, representative government, and economic prosperity, or else desert our allies and abandon precedent, treaty, and commitment, and see the enemies of freedom and democracy set upon these places like jackals on their prey. It really is that simple.
I now come to the basic question of American self-interest. That is in no way a bad thing, you know, especially if you understand what Globalization really means in practical application. Leaving aside labels of ‘Superpower’ and the like, there is no country in the world, indeed in History, to match the present power and influence of the United States. That, to put it bluntly, is one of the big reasons why some folks hate America – they resent America’s stunning success and wrongly believe that the destruction of America would benefit their own position, when in fact the opposite is true. In Economics, for example, nations often find that there are certain things they do well, and certain products where they make the best. This has limited value in a pre-Globalization economy, because you are trading like products between economies. In the Global economy, nations seek to export services and products where they excel and have surplus, for services and products where they have need. While the specific cases vary in success and it takes some tweking to get the balance right, the general effect of Globalization is to raise the standard of living and trade levels for all participating countries. They quite literally live better in a Global economy than they could on their own.
The same effect occurs in military and political matters, as well. Alliances based on common goals and mutual interests allow the partipatory nations to protect themselves more effectively with less expense of resources. The political sphere is somewhat less effective, as nations tend to take a more proprietary view of their policies, but even there nations find that open dialogue benefits everyone, even when there are sharp disagreements. This is one reason why France is closer to the United States in spirit and policy, than it was in 2002.
America is the quintessential Global partner, the sole nation which posseses abundant wealth of resources, population, services, military ability, and political influence. Accordingly, those nations which work with the United States will profit by it, while America’s enemies will generally suffer from their own spite. The disbursement of American forces exist not only to advance American diplomatic objectives and to maintain peace in sensitive regions, but also to protect American ventures throughout the world. It is therefore the most rational course for an American leader to advance American interests through the maintenance of U.S. bases and force projection. Again using Iraq as an example, if the United States were to abandon the region, Iran’s inevitable invasion would lead to Persian control of oil supply throughout the world; gasoline prices would quickly reach $10.00 a gallon and the American economy would fall into serious recession within four months, quickly followed by European and Asian markets.
The abandonment position embraced by Ron Paul, and to a lesser extent by foreign policy beginners like Barack Obama and Duncan Hunter, is to my mind sufficiently serious to disqualify a candidate from any further consideration. While I like neither of them overall, I am satisifed that both Senator Clinton and Senator McCain understand the American Imperative, and I support Giuliani and Romney in part because I am confident they support that imperative. The other candidates may well find that the survival of their candidacy depends on showing their own comprehension of and dedication to American supremacy on all counts and in all theaters of conflict.