The Problem with Paul

As Social Security is considered the third rail of national politics, Ron Paul is the third rail of the Republican Party.  Paul's detractors are vehement in dismissing the Texas representative as the party's loose nut.  Contrarily, Paul's supporters are dedicated to crowning him the savior of the GOP and the United States overall.

If Paul is as inconsequential as his detractors claim, they needn't work so hard to dismiss him; he'll render himself irrelevant.  But the GOP hierarchy cringes when Paul speaks because he's correct on so many issues.  Audit the Fed?  Ron Paul has a calculator.  Worried about federally controlled health care delivery?  Dr. Paul supports free-market solutions to rising health care costs.  Tired of burdensome regulations and Washington's shredding of our Constitution?  Paul promotes personal liberty and states' rights, viewing bureaucracy like a drunk at a Baptist picnic.  His position on limited government offends Beltway Republicans who've fallen in love with federal largess.

Ron Paul is crystal-clear on America's domestic problems.  However, when it comes to foreign policy, the more Ron Paul talks, the more his fatal weakness is exposed.

That's not to say that Paul's foreign policy positions are totally flawed.  For instance, Paul suggests that a non-interventionist policy would save money.  He's obviously correct.  Fewer foreign engagements would require lower government expenditures.  Besides, acting as the world's policeman isn't a conservative principle.  Conservatives weren't interested in policing the world when Clinton engaged in the Kosovo conflict, and Libya is on no one's agenda.  Paul's non-interventionism doesn't necessarily equate to a refusal to defend the United States.

On terrorism, Paul believes that America's presence in Muslim lands provokes hatred toward us.  Paul reasons, "What would we do if another country ... did to us what we do to all those countries over there?"

Well, what would we do?  We'd fight, of course, just as we did following 9/11.  Were another country to establish a military presence on U.S., soil we would summon every weapon from pitchforks to Tomahawk missiles against the foreign occupier.  Americans would demand all-out war against the infiltrators.  Should we not do unto others as we would have them do unto us?

Paul believes that our "foreign occupations" spurred the 9/11 attacks.  However, "foreign occupation" falls short in explaining the reason Islamists choose violence.  The culture reflected in the jihad movement relishes conflict.  If there were no Israel, Islamists would find another justification for violence.  The Muslim Brotherhood was anti-Zionist before the post-war establishment of Israel.  If there were neither a United States nor an Israel, another enemy would spark the fanatic's flame.  Even in biblical history, pre-Islamic Arabs and Persians fought not only with Jews, but with each other.  Any reason, provocation, or insult, whether real or perceived, can stir Islamist violence.

America certainly isn't perfect; we've made foreign policy blunders.  For better or worse, the United States has propped up unpopular dictators to further our interests in the Middle East.  If an outside interest so meddled in our affairs, we'd be seething, and rightly so.  But the problem with Ron Paul -- his fatal flaw -- is his belief that America will be safer if we bring all troops home and adopt a quasi-isolationist foreign policy.

Paul's view of international relations is similar to the one America held prior to World War II.  The U.S. thought that neutrality was an option in an increasingly hostile world.  Thus, Hitler's Germany went from a defeated and demilitarized nation to a burgeoning and aggressive war machine.  A huge price was extracted, in blood and money, for our ambivalence.  Is the next Third Reich on the horizon?  Maybe not.  But protecting U.S. sovereignty relies on the ability to respond quickly to gathering threats.

A strong and ready military is essential to our survival, but that fact does not necessarily support the "neo-con" view of militarism.  While America can and should promote liberty and a better opportunity to an oppressed world, we aren't responsible for overthrowing dictators in every third-world hell-hole.  Suppose we follow Thomas Jefferson's advice: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."  Was Jefferson averse to the aggressive use of force?  Ask a Barbary pirate.

America would be better-served if all its military engagements were defensive in nature.  This is especially true if we continue fighting wars like police actions, which has become our standard strategy regardless of the party in charge.  Yet an aggressive foreign policy must remain an option for dealing with demonstrable threats.  The jihad has a track record of attacking the United States and her interests, at home and abroad.  America must confront Islamists even if it means acting preemptively, unilaterally, or overwhelmingly.  The reason for Islamic terrorism is found in the prejudices and cultures of the Islamists, not on an air base in Riyadh.

This is the problem with Ron Paul.  On domestic, economic, and constitutional issues, he is right on target.  Ron Paul is correct in believing that the United States isn't responsible for forcefully establishing freedom and self-government throughout the world.  But Paul is dangerously wrong regarding how America must deal with external threats in the modern world.

President Ron Paul isn't the answer.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ron Paul?  Now, that has a nice ring to it.

Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 300 articles for various newspapers, periodicals and websites.  Contact him via his website,