Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ron Paul's raison d'être (and the opposite from Norman Podhoretz)

Some time ago, Montana Headlines commented that it would be good to see Ron Paul stay in the GOP presidential race just so he can show up at debates and keep reminding Republicans that the GOP (until the Presidents Bush) was the party that stayed out of wars. Or cleaned up after crusading Democratic wars.

Predictably, Rudy Guiliani -- who might actually manage to be nearly as authoritarian as Hillary Clinton or John McCain as President -- hammered on Ron Paul for stating the obvious in the S.C. debate. Namely, that maybe, just maybe, having the American military in the Middle East non-stop since the first Gulf War might have something to do with Arabic terrorists wanting to hit America.

Yes, yes, we all know that these folks just hate us because we have freedom of speech in Peoria. Now let's move on.

It is a sad commentary on the GOP circa 2007 that there would actually be serious talk of banning Paul from future debates because of his non-interventionist convictions. Ban him (and the other minor candidates) because he is polling at less than 10% -- but don't ban him because he holds views that Sen. Robert Taft, "Mr. Republican" in the 1940's and 50's, would have found to be fairly unremarkable.

Paul has a bent for tilting at windmills to an extent which makes him someone that even a sucker for a lost cause would have a hard time backing seriously.

But read a couple of recent articles on Paul -- one from the right in the American Conservative:

Recently, when speaking to a group of skeptical conservative journalists, he pointed out in his grandfatherly tone, “In 1952, Eisenhower ran as a peace candidate. In 1968, Nixon ran on obtaining peace with honor.” Paul also mentions that Bush won, in part, by touting a “humble foreign policy.” Even warmongers won elections that way: “Wilson ran on peace. FDR, same thing.”

And then there was the quirky but interesting article in the New Republic:

In a Republican field that has marched in lockstep with George W. Bush on the war, Paul's libertarian isolationism has exposed an intraparty fissure over foreign policy that is far wider than has been acknowledged, encompassing not only disgruntled libertarians but some paleocons and social conservatives, as well as such GOP lions as William F. Buckley, George Will, and Bob Novak. As populist-isolationist Pat Buchanan wrote in an op-ed last week, Paul was "speaking intolerable truths. Understandably, Republicans do not want him back, telling the country how the party blundered into this misbegotten war."

While Paul doesn't mind the attention he has been getting from the left, he is unmistaken about where the lines are drawn, as is seen in the American Conservative article:

When he is inevitably asked if he is running in the right party, Paul states plainly, “I don’t think the Democrats have any intention to change our policies in the Middle East. I want the antiwar position to be traditional, conservative, and constitutional and not only for the far Left. I don’t object to the Left being opposed to the war. But that Michael Moore image is not going to persuade housewives. I think a lot of Republicans have forgotten their traditional position of being antiwar.”

After all of that sensible talk, there is no reason not to end by referring readers to the latest diatribe by Norman Podhoretz in Commentary on why America should bomb Iran. Not why the option should be kept open as a last resort -- a respectable and defensible position -- but why it should simply be done. Now.

Reading Podhoretz, one has more sympathy for the curmudgeonly conservatives who warned us back in the 1980's about the dangers of letting neoconservatives take control of the conservative world's think-tanks and periodicals, and snap up positions in the Reagan administration.

Neoconservatives (never short on hubris) informed us that they were here to save the Republican party, and that only they could do it, since only they were smart enough. As former liberal Democrats (the original definition of a neoconservative,) they promised that only they could outsmart their former colleagues and achieve conservative policy victories. What they didn't tell us was, as Paul Harvey might say, "the rest of the story."

Reagan never did allow himself to be goaded into foolish military adventures by that lot, much to their frustration -- unfortunately the Bush clan had a weakness for such things and didn't take much goading.

Neoconservatives led the most vicious aspects of the attacks on President Clinton in no small part because they were frustrated at having just started to get what they wanted -- they wanted power back, badly. Worst of all during this period, they introduced the thinking that big government (at home and in actions abroad) wasn't intrinsically bad. Their motto was that big government run by them was good -- big government run by their opponents was bad.

Podhoretz now seems determined to try to cajole and shame the current President Bush -- whose administration has already been ruined by embracing neoconservative thinking -- while the clock is ticking on what could be the neoconservatives' last presidential administration, into plunging into yet one more disastrous foreign adventure:

...George W. Bush, a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it.

It now remains to be seen whether this President, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions...

The sad thing is that they have a knack for getting their way -- and leaving the rest of us holding the bag.

No comments: