Is Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Good For America ?by Doug Mataconis
Last week, the Manchester Union-Leader, one of the leading newspapers in New Hampshire, and well-known for having a conservative editorial page, criticized Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as the same type of isolationism that gripped the Republican Party, and the nation, in the years prior to Pearl Harbor.
Today, Ron Paul responds in a column in which he says that he advocates the same foreign policy as the Founding Fathers, a foreign policy that would still work today
If I understand the editors’ concerns, I have not been accused of deviating from the Founders’ logic; if anything I have been accused of adhering to it too strictly. The question, therefore, before readers — and soon voters — is the same question I have asked for almost 20 years in Congress: by what superior wisdom have we now declared Jefferson, Washington, and Madison to be “unrealistic and dangerous”? Why do we insist on throwing away their most considered warnings?
Well, one legitimate reason for thinking that this might be that the foreign policy that guided a nation of a few million people situated on the Atlantic seaboard in an era when the nearest threatening nation was weeks away by sailing ship might not be entirely applicable in guiding a nation of several hundred million spread across a continent in an era when weapons capable of annihilating a city can be delivered within hours, or delivered without warning in a cargo container. Or when a commodity that is, quite literally, the lifeblood of the world economy could be held hostage.
I’m not saying that the Founding Fathers were wrong, just that even they might have a different view of the world if they lived in the one we did.
Paul goes on to describe what his vision of a non-interventionist foreign policy would be:
A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them.
American citizens would be allowed to spend their hard-earned money wherever they wish across the globe, not told that certain countries are under embargo and thus off limits. An American trade policy would encourage private American businesses to seek partners overseas and engage them in trade. The hostility toward American citizens overseas in the wake of our current foreign policy has actually made it difficult if not dangerous for Americans to travel abroad. Is this not an isolationist consequence from a policy of aggressive foreign interventionism?
On the surface, Paul makes a point about the blowback that comes from aggressive interventionism without regard for consequences. That, quite honestly, is a fairly good description of the history of American involvement in the Middle East for the past several decades. Whether through ignorance or stupidity, the United States has engaged in policies that have served more to create resentment than to actually solve the problems that they were directed at.
But Paul’s criticism of embargoes as a tool of foreign policy, and his suggestion that the United States should not have any concern about radical or expansionist regimes obtaining potentially dangerous technology strikes me as a bit naive.
As Stephen Green points out, does this mean that Ron Paul would have no problem with American high tech firms selling the latest technologies to regimes like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syira, or North Korea ? Or with General Electric and Honeywell competing with the the Russians to decide who will sell the Iranians the latest nuclear reactor technology ? Only the most naive view of foreign intentions would assert that these regimes will simply go away and play nice if the United States withdrew from the world in the manner that he suggests, and that regimes led by men who have already made clear they apocalyptic visions will suddently turn peaceful.
Neville Chamberlin was wrong about that in 1938, and its still wrong today.
Or, as Stephen points out:
In 1940, The Imperial Japanese Navy was made from American scrap metal, and powered by American oil — as it shelled Chinese coastal cities. We should be proud that in 1941, we stopped selling oil and scrap iron to Japan. And we should be prouder still, that by 1945 the US Navy had reduced the Japanese fleet back into scrap. And we should be just as proud today that we’re using our strength and influence to prevent rogue regimes from gaining access to nuclear materials.
Why ? Because it’s in our national interest to prevent them from having those weapons and, unlike 1789, the national interests of the United States don’t stop at the Atlantic seaboard.
I like Ron Paul and I support him because he is the most pro-liberty candidate to run for President in a generation, if not longer. Whatever happens to his campaign, I would like to think that it will have positive benefits for the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, because it will remind people that we still exist and that we still matter. Like many libertarians, though, his foreign policy, when taken to it’s logical extreme to the extent he does in this Op-Ed response, simply doesn’t work in the modern world.