Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”     Ayn Rand

May 12, 2008

The Revolution: Reviewed

by Doug Mataconis

Glenn Reynolds reviews Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto:

The main shortcoming in Paul’s book, as with his candidacy, is in the follow through, the transition from critique to action. Although he does include a chapter entitled “The Revolution,” about reducing the size of government, it’s a pretty skimpy plan. Were we to see a Ron Paul Administration, with a House and Senate made up of, well, Ron Pauls, it might have a chance of succeeding, though even so he’s a bit timid in places – proposing a freeze on the budgets of cabinet departments instead of their outright abolition, for example, despite noting that only State, Defense, and Justice have clear constitutional mandates. But given the unlikelihood of a Paul Administration, and the even greater unlikelihood of a Paul Congress, his policy prescriptions aren’t likely to bear fruit. But those who want to see liberty progress right here and right now will look in vain for suggestions on what they might do, right here and right now, to make progress.

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and today’s monster government didn’t spring up overnight. It was the result of incremental expansion. Given that we’re not likely to see an opportunity to downsize the federal government overnight, or even in a single Presidential term, those of libertarian inclinations might well look to incremental approaches to reining in Big Government. They will be well advised, however, to look elsewhere than Revolution: A Manifesto. Still, if Fabian Libertarianism is to have a future, it will owe much to the consciousness-raising of the Paul campaign. Socialist candidate Eugene Debs, after all, never got elected President either, but within a few decades much of his platform was adopted by the Democratic Party. May Paul enjoy similar influence on the future of national politics.

Reynolds also points out the difference between Paul and those libertarian Republicans who did not rally to his cause:

Paul and I are both libertarians, but of different varieties. Paul is an old-fashioned Rothbardian. I’m more of a Heinleinian libertarian and we, like the Randian libertarians, tend to view national defense as more important than the Rothbardians do. Paul’s view, essentially, is that if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us. I’m not particularly persuaded by this. First, even during the minimal-government era of Thomas Jefferson we wound up at war with the Barbary Pirates (in many ways, the spiritual antecedents of today’s Islamic terrorists). And second, Paul is not an isolationist – he favors much more commercial and cultural engagement with foreign countries, something which, if experience is any guide, is as likely to anger Islamic fundamentalists and other varieties of terrorists and tyrants as is the establishment of foreign bases.

All in all, though, it is a fairly positive review, even though I probably agree more with Reynolds on foreign policy than I do with Paul.

I’ve got my own copy on the way from Amazon at some point this month — thanks to an apparent “book bomb” by his supporters, Paul’s book is currently on back order — and I’ll have a review of my own up after I’ve read it.

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49 Comments

  1. Umm, its a bit too dismissive when it shouldn’t be. For example:

    But given the unlikelihood of a Paul Administration, and the even greater unlikelihood of a Paul Congress, his policy prescriptions aren’t likely to bear fruit

    Nonsense. Paul’s policy prescriptions should still be pursued in many areas, regardless of how much support they receive and how many congressman would vote in favor of them.

    The only thing that might be said is that donating millions towards a Ron Paul presidential campaign hasn’t borne much fruit, and hasn’t brought about a libertarian revolution.

    Comment by Jono — May 12, 2008 @ 10:19 pm
  2. Paul’s view, essentially, is that if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us.

    Doug, this is officially your favorite strawman. You bat it around (sometimes by proxy) way too often for someone I’m sure fancies himself as intellectually honest.

    There always has been and there always will be some country or group that wants to do us harm. That is true of practically every other nation throughout history.

    No one is foolish enough to think that an entirely passive approach to national security will result in puppy dogs and brotherhood for all.

    The difference between proactive and reactive defense isn’t binary; it’s a simple spectrum and our goal should be to find the optimal spot on it. There are obvious tradeoffs in either direction with various risks increasing or decreasing in one direction or the other.

    One need only take an honest look at the opportunity cost of all the money we’ve spent on Iraq to realize that we are not currently at the optimal spot. That doesn’t even factor in the moral arguments in favor of reactivity.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 12, 2008 @ 10:29 pm
  3. Why, why, why do people quote Rand to justify aggressive national foreign policy? She wrote over over and over about the insanity of war and torture. Reynolds has no business quoting her to justify his fantasy that Iraq is a front in the war on al Qaeda. And remember, Jefferson had a giant grudge against Britain. When the Barbary Pirates attacked, he sent the military to the Barbary Coast… not Canada to settle a personal vendetta. That’s a libertarian foreign policy, not foreign adventurism. Reynolds really does need to actually know what he’s talking about already. But what do you expect from somebody whose most insightful commentary is “Heh”?

    Comment by Sean — May 13, 2008 @ 5:36 am
  4. Jeff,

    That’s not my sentence, that’s Professor Reynolds.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 5:46 am
  5. I understand what a blockquote looks like, Doug. However, you did choose to quote that particular paragraph and you immediately followed it with an affirmation and made no attempt to point out that he had blatantly mischaracterized Paul’s position. I’ve also been around long enough to hear you say pretty much the same thing on multiple occasions.

    Do you now acknowledge that it was a mischaracterization?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 7:42 am
  6. Jeff,

    I choose it to point out that, while Reynolds admits that he and Paul disagree on some things, they agree on far more.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 7:59 am
  7. Do you now acknowledge that it was a mischaracterization?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 8:40 am
  8. Jeff,

    Now you want me to apologize for something someone else said ?

    One, I won’t do it.

    Two, I think he fairly characterized what Ron Paul’s foreign policy position is.

    If you disagree, please cite evidence.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 8:57 am
  9. I didn’t ask for an apology. I wanted clarification of whether or not you agreed with Mr. Reynolds.

    Now that you acknowledge that you do, it begs the question: why did you try to distance yourself from the statement just a few hours ago by responding that you weren’t the one that said it?

    I couldn’t quickly find a direct statement because I don’t know which terms to search for, but this statement, pulled from his National Defense Issues page, clearly implies that there will still be people that want to kill us.

    A defense policy designed to keep Americans safe should start with the idea that we must secure our borders from those who would cross them to do us harm.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 9:32 am
  10. Jeff,

    You’re creating your own straw man here. Doug simply cited a review of Ron Paul’s book that has been cited in several other places…there wasn’t a dig at Ron Paul, he didn’t mischaracterize Paul’s position, he just noted that the book came out and quoted the most widely-referenced review. This wasn’t a hatchet piece by any stretch of the imagination and Doug doesn’t bear responsibility for Reynolds’ work simply because he quoted it.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 9:34 am
  11. Jeff,

    And to weigh in on your other argument…

    I couldn’t quickly find a direct statement because I don’t know which terms to search for, but this statement, pulled from his National Defense Issues page, clearly implies that there will still be people that want to kill us.

    I have heard Ron Paul specifically state that if we pull out of foreign countries, nobody will want to attack us (I believe it was in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, not 100% certain of the source but I have heard him make those remarks). Perhaps this was a misstatement on Paul’s part, but it certainly didn’t come off that way. You know that I whole-heartedly agree with Paul’s foreign policy suggestions, being a non-interventionist, but I have found Paul’s stated expectations of many of the policies he advocates to be rather naive and utopian, often overlooking or minimizing the fact that even the best policies will still have downsides. That doesn’t mean his policies are wrong (because they certainly aren’t, but there are negative consequences no matter what course of action you choose) but I think that it does bring up concerns on the depth of Paul’s analysis on specifics. I believe that’s what Reynolds was questioning in his review…the feeling that Paul is giving rather vague and shallow suggestions of where we should go without discussing the nuts and bolts of how to get there.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 9:47 am
  12. Jeff,

    Perhaps you didn’t see this part of my post:

    even though I probably agree more with Reynolds on foreign policy than I do with Paul.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 9:59 am
  13. Doug,

    And in Jeff’s defense, you have mischaracterized Ron Paul’s foreign policy positions in the past, we’ve pointed out your inaccuracies to you and cited evidence of how it differed from what Ron Paul was actually saying and how you were confusing “isolationism” with “non-interventionism”.

    So while Jeff is incorrect in this particular instance, his accusations aren’t completely baseless…just to be fair.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 10:00 am
  14. This wasn’t a hatchet piece by any stretch of the imagination

    No, it wasn’t a hatchet piece, but it did contain one very tired strawman.

    Doug doesn’t bear responsibility for Reynolds’ work simply because he quoted it.

    Right, but he bears responsibility because he implied that he agreed with it in the post and then confirmed his agreement an hour ago. Not to mention the numerous times he’s stated it himself over the past year.

    I have heard Ron Paul specifically state that if we pull out of foreign countries, nobody will want to attack us (I believe it was in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, not 100% certain of the source but I have heard him make those remarks). Perhaps this was a misstatement on Paul’s part, but it certainly didn’t come off that way.

    I remember him specifically clarifying his position on numerous occasions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had oversimplified things at times. That’s par for the course in American politics these days and he definitely showed that he was willing to engage in such less-than-honest tactics.

    But seriously, now. Separate the product from the sales pitch. Do any of you actually believe that he’s so stupid as to create a foreign policy dependent on the assumption that no one would want to kill us? If so, why didn’t he advocate the wholesale disbanding of the military?

    C’mon.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 10:23 am
  15. Jeff,

    Tell me, specifically, where Reynolds is wrong in his statement about Paul’s foreign policy views.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 10:37 am
  16. Reynolds on Paul:

    Paul’s view, essentially, is that if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us.

    Correct characterization:

    if we quit sending troops abroad, fewer people and countries would want to kill us.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 10:41 am
  17. Amended “correct characterization”:

    if we quit sending troops abroad, fewer people and countries would want to kill us and their desire would be less intense.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 10:47 am
  18. Jeff,

    I would submit that this is a distinction without a different. Reynolds correctly characterized something that Ron Paul said in more than one Republican Presidential debate that I watched.

    In the context of a relatively positive book review, I would say that the characterization was entirely fair.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 10:54 am
  19. Jeff,

    Your “correct characterization” is the accurate assessment of non-interventionism’s results. I have, however, heard Paul specifically state that if we engage in non-interventionism then no one will want to kill us. Thus my argument about his utopian outlook on the results of his policies. But you are correct in that Reynolds is incorrectly smearing non-interventionism because of his disagreements with Ron Paul.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 10:55 am
  20. Jeff,

    I remember him specifically clarifying his position on numerous occasions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had oversimplified things at times.

    Actually, he does it quite often. His little diatribe about the Civil War being illegitimate and avoidable was full of such oversimplifications, as are his policy arguments about how to downsize government. That’s the gripe Reynolds has and I tend to agree with it…mainly because I see it in his issues (especially in regards to immigration reform).

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 11:02 am
  21. Do any of you actually believe that he’s so stupid as to create a foreign policy dependent on the assumption that no one would want to kill us?

    I believe that he’s got enough of a tin ear (particularly in regards to the quality of his staff) that he’ll take an ill-advised course of action without considering the consequences or weighing how the negatives will affect the long-term achievement of his goals. That’s why I consider him a better gadfly than a politician.

    To quote his own national defense page that you linked to…

    When I voted for the authorization to use force against those who attacked us in 2001, I did not imagine that we would be getting bogged down for years in a nation-building exercise in Afghanistan while the perpetrators remain at large.

    I agreed with his vote, but if he seriously didn’t seriously consider the possibility that the mission would eventually change into nation-building or that the president would exceed his mandate, then he was very foolish and simply hasn’t been a very good student of history. Almost every single time we’ve invaded or intervened in a foreign country, we’ve ended up engaging in some sort of nation-building (Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Japan, Bosnia, Somalia). Failing to recognize that quite obvious fact is the sign of a man who doesn’t consider the possible consequences of his actions before he acts.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 11:10 am
  22. UCrawford,

    For me, it also boiled down to the idea that I had no confidence that he’d appoint advisers (i.e., Sec. of State, National Security Adviser) who had any idea what the heck they were doing.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 11:15 am
  23. then does this put Barr? from his campaign website http://www.bobbarr2008.com/issues/ :

    “For far too long and at the cost of American blood and treasure, our great military has been too willingly and quickly used for purposes other than national defense. Our fighting men and women deserve better and the integrity of our nation must be restored.
    Our National Defense policy must renew a commitment to non-intervention. We are not the world’s police force and our long, yet recently tarnished, tradition of respecting the sovereignty of other nations is necessary, not from only a moral standpoint, but to regain the respect of the world as a principled and peaceful nation.
    The proper use of force is clear. If attacked, the aggressor will experience firsthand the skillful wrath of the American fighting man. However, invading or initiating force against another nation based upon perceived threats and speculative intelligence is simply un-American. We are better than the policy of pre-emptive warfare.”

    he’s basically Ron Paul, without having yet been seriously asked where he stands regarding national defense. i wonder what Barr will say when it’s brought up.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 13, 2008 @ 11:18 am
  24. Reynolds correctly characterized something that Ron Paul said in more than one Republican Presidential debate that I watched.

    I have, however, heard Paul specifically state that if we engage in non-interventionism then no one will want to kill us.

    I have already acknowledged that Paul has oversold non-interventionism; he engaged in the same kind of exaggerated rhetoric as virtually all politicians.

    Having said that, I’ll repeat two questions that I haven’t received direct answers to.

    Separate the product from the sales pitch. Do any of you actually believe that he’s so stupid as to create a foreign policy dependent on the assumption that no one would want to kill us? If so, why didn’t he advocate the wholesale disbanding of the military?

    Every one on this site is very capable separating rhetoric from policy for every other politician out there, why the resistance to do it with Paul? Yes, he his rhetoric is exaggerated and disprovable. His actual policy is more realistic and arguably good. You should be able to acknowledge that even if you would argue against him.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 11:23 am
  25. I believe that he’s got enough of a tin ear (particularly in regards to the quality of his staff) that he’ll take an ill-advised course of action without considering the consequences or weighing how the negatives will affect the long-term achievement of his goals.

    You’re probably right on that, but still you’re talking about execution, not policy.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 11:29 am
  26. how does is that rectified in Barr’s case. from his campaign http://www.bobbarr2008.com/issues/

    * For far too long and at the cost of American blood and treasure, our great military has been too willingly and quickly used for purposes other than national defense. Our fighting men and women deserve better and the integrity of our nation must be restored.
    * Our National Defense policy must renew a commitment to non-intervention. We are not the world’s police force and our long, yet recently tarnished, tradition of respecting the sovereignty of other nations is necessary, not from only a moral standpoint, but to regain the respect of the world as a principled and peaceful nation.
    * The proper use of force is clear. If attacked, the aggressor will experience firsthand the skillful wrath of the American fighting man. However, invading or initiating force against another nation based upon perceived threats and speculative intelligence is simply un-American. We are better than the policy of pre-emptive warfare.

    so basically he is Ron Paul, without yet having been asked specifically what he’d do with the GWOT, given this philosophy. considering how dodgy Barr was on Hannity/Colmes when asked specifically about the drug war, i wouldnt be too surprised if he caved on this one either.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 13, 2008 @ 11:38 am
  27. but i guess for the “national defense libertarians,” if Barr does cave in when he’s called on this philosophy, that would be a good thing for you.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 13, 2008 @ 11:41 am
  28. Jeff,

    Do any of you actually believe that he’s so stupid as to create a foreign policy dependent on the assumption that no one would want to kill us? If so, why didn’t he advocate the wholesale disbanding of the military?

    I don’t have any confidence in his managerial abilities to believe that he would have appointed the right people to implement whatever policy he advocated.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 12:21 pm
  29. oilnwater.

    Except for the fact that Barr has said, rightly in my opinion, that it would be idiotic to set a withdrawal date for troops in Iraq (or, presumably, anywhere else).

    Ron Paul has already said differently.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 12:22 pm
  30. Jeff,

    You’re probably right on that, but still you’re talking about execution, not policy.

    Policy is meaningless without the ability to implement or execute it competently. If stated policy was all that mattered we might as well be voting for whoever promises to “eliminate poverty” or “give everyone health care” because none of the politicians who promise that have the ability to implement either.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 12:25 pm
  31. oilnwater,

    so basically he is Ron Paul

    I actually agree with Ron Paul’s foreign policy…I just didn’t trust him to implement it (meaning I don’t trust him to put someone capable in charge, not that I think he’s lying about his intentions). I consider the fact that Barr shares Paul’s foreign policy to be a plus, and I have more faith in Barr’s management ability and judgment than I do Paul’s. That’s why I’ll vote for Barr.

    Now if Barr were to cave on that position (or go back to being a drug warrior), I’d certainly condemn him for it. But at this point I don’t think there’s any serious indication that he’s being less than sincere in what he’s espousing.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 12:31 pm
  32. Policy is meaningless without the ability to implement or execute it competently. If stated policy was all that mattered

    I never meant to imply that policy was all that mattered when deciding for whom to vote. I have no problem with you for abandoning Paul when it became obvious he was bad at executing things. Likewise for Doug below.

    But this whole conversation started with a (mis)characterization of policy, so for the purposes of this conversation about that characterization, yes, policy is all that matters.

    You can bash him for his lack of ethics and you can bash him for his poor leadership skills, but we should all be able to agree that his policy is defensible whereas Mr. Reynolds’ characterization of Paul’s policy is laughably easy to disprove.

    Paul failed and he failed miserably. It is very important to be precise about why he failed.

    I don’t have any confidence in his managerial abilities to believe that he would have appointed the right people to implement whatever policy he advocated.

    That’s not an answer to either question. I’ve already addressed why I draw a distinction between policy and execution.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 1:15 pm
  33. Jeff,

    Fair enough. My point was, though, that Doug isn’t responsible for what Reynolds wrote…and all he said was that he tended to agree with Reynolds version of foreign policy. To claim that remark is a shot at Ron Paul’s foreign policy is a stretch at best and I think you’ve overreacted a bit because the point of the article was that there was a Ron Paul book out, not a dissection of Ron Paul’s foreign policy. All Doug did was blockquote the most commonly cited portions of Reynolds’ review.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 13, 2008 @ 1:21 pm
  34. My point was, though, that Doug isn’t responsible for what Reynolds wrote…and all he said was that he tended to agree with Reynolds version of foreign policy. To claim that remark is a shot at Ron Paul’s foreign policy is a stretch at best

    I did give him a chance to disavow Reynolds’ “mistake” and for awhile it looked like he was going to do so, but then he embraced the characterization at 8:57. I should have asked for clarification with my first comment instead of my second, but as it turned out, my assumption was right anyways.

    I think you’ve overreacted a bit because the point of the article was that there was a Ron Paul book out, not a dissection of Ron Paul’s foreign policy.

    But that’s how Doug takes most of his shots, especially on this particular topic.

    He could have disavowed the comment and this whole conversation would have been over before it even started, but he didn’t presumably because then he would have had to weigh the pros and cons of the two foreign policies instead of simply dismissing non-interventionism as wishful thinking.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 1:50 pm
  35. Jeff,

    Why would I disavow a comment that I agree with ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 13, 2008 @ 2:49 pm
  36. You wouldn’t; the problem is that you agree with it. The comment is demonstrably wrong, notwithstanding your insistence that it is a “distinction without a differen[ce].”

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 13, 2008 @ 4:01 pm
  37. Jeff,

    If it’s demonstrably wrong, then demonstrate it.

    I’ve heard Ron Paul say basically the same thing more than once.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 6:26 am
  38. oh cool, then Barr’s already caved. no wonder you’re such a fan, doug :P

    Comment by oilnwater — May 14, 2008 @ 7:21 am
  39. Where has Barr caved ?

    The only thing he’s said about foreign policy differently from Paul that I’m aware of is his suggestion that it probably isn’t a good idea to set deadlines for withdrawing troops under the general principle that you don’t tell your enemies what you’re doing.

    Makes sense to me.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 7:32 am
  40. If it’s demonstrably wrong, then demonstrate it.

    I’ve heard Ron Paul say basically the same thing more than once.

    I have already acknowledged that Paul has oversold non-interventionism; he engaged in the same kind of exaggerated rhetoric as virtually all politicians.

    Having said that, I’ll repeat two questions that I still haven’t received direct answers to.

    Separate the product from the sales pitch. Do any of you actually believe that he’s so stupid as to create a foreign policy dependent on the assumption that no one would want to kill us? If so, why didn’t he advocate the wholesale disbanding of the military?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 14, 2008 @ 8:53 am
  41. Jeff,

    What I believe, based on what I’ve heard him say, is that he believes that most threats to the United States are little more than reactions our own allegedly bad actions. Therefore, he goes on to conclude, withdrawing our military to within our borders and closing every overseas military base, will eliminate those threats.

    It’s a policy based on incredibly naive assumptions, and I simply can’t trust a person who believes stuff like that to make the right decisions.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 9:10 am
  42. OBL himself has stated the same motivations for 911 as the 911 Commission has stated. RP only pointed that out, and is supported by both the 911 Commission and the CIA. all you’re doing right now is false extrapolation.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 14, 2008 @ 10:30 am
  43. OBL himself has stated the same motivations for 911 as the 911 Commission has stated. RP only pointed that out, and is supported by both the 911 Commission and the CIA. all you’re doing right now is false extrapolation.

    Because, you know, what motivates a fascist Islamic mass murderer should be the only thing that we base our foreign policy on.

    Yea, I don’t think so.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 10:42 am
  44. What I believe, based on what I’ve heard him say, is that he believes that most threats to the United States are little more than reactions our own allegedly bad actions. Therefore, he goes on to conclude, withdrawing our military to within our borders and closing every overseas military base, will eliminate those threats.

    There, now was that so hard? You’ve spent the last two days defending someone who said “all” instead of “most”.

    I simply can’t trust a person who believes stuff like that to make the right decisions.

    That’s fine. I don’t care that you disagree. Just make sure you describe his position accurately.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 14, 2008 @ 11:44 am
  45. Jeff,

    I still don’t think that Reynolds’ sentence was a mis characterization.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 12:19 pm
  46. if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us.

    This statement could be taken two ways. It could be taken to mean that “some people and countries” or “all people and countries”. If Reynolds intended the latter, it was a blatant mischaracterization. If he intended the former, he’s pretty stupid for disagreeing with what is obviously true. I’m sure there is at least on person somewhere that hates us because of something we did to him, his family, his country, ethnicity, etc.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 14, 2008 @ 12:39 pm
  47. Jeff,

    Well,yes, on that much you’re right. And when Paul made that argument and Rudy Giuliani objected to it last year at one of the first GOP debates, I defended him (links available upon request).

    At the same time, though, I think it’s incredibly naive and stupid to base American foreign policy on the idea that “we better not offend anybody.” (In that regard, you’re talking to a guy who was pissed off to high heaven when he found out that American servicewomen in Saudi Arabia were being forced to comply with that countries barabaric gender laws).

    The radical Islamists are motivated by far more than what we may or may not have done to offend them. And if they didn’t have our presence in the Middle East to complain about, they’d be complaining about (as they do) the “corrupting influence” of Western culture.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 14, 2008 @ 1:14 pm
  48. Well,yes, on that much you’re right.

    That’s all I was ever trying to say. Hopefully we can arrive at this point a little quicker in the future.

    At the same time, though, I think it’s incredibly naive and stupid to base American foreign policy on the idea that “we better not offend anybody.”

    You’re right, that would be pretty stupid. Luckily, that’s not the basis of non-interventionism. There are many people offended by our decision not to intervene in Darfur and Burma. So be it.

    Non-interventionism is simply a recognition of the dangers of unintended consequence. Interventionism is bad policy if the cost of the intervention plus the risk of unintended consequences is greater than the risk of non-intervention. Likewise, Non-interventionism is bad policy if the reverse is true.

    Unfortunately we don’t have simulators powerful enough to figure out which is true, so we just have to agree to follow our own intuition.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 14, 2008 @ 2:49 pm
  49. Jeff,

    Non-interventionism is simply a recognition of the dangers of unintended consequence. Interventionism is bad policy if the cost of the intervention plus the risk of unintended consequences is greater than the risk of non-intervention. Likewise, Non-interventionism is bad policy if the reverse is true.

    I think that sums up the subtlety of non-intervention beautifully…distinguishing between non-interventionism and isolationism by pointing out that non-interventionism is a pragmatic approach, not a ideological one. That’s why I did think Ron Paul was fairly sharp on his foreign policy, because most of the critics who try to label him an isolationist conveniently ignore the fact that he voted to intervene in Afghanistan. Of course, his vote ended up getting subverted because he completely misjudged Bush, but then just because he’s a crappy judge of character and competence doesn’t mean he’s not right on quite a few issues.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 15, 2008 @ 9:06 am

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