If we use 2008 as a barometer, Congressman Ron Paul will take his campaign for the presidency all the way to the end of the primary season without winning a single contest. However, including President Barack Obama, he’s the only antiwar candidate running for the oval office this year. And that should cause liberal-minded Alaskans to consider changing party affiliation so they can support him in the state’s GOP caucus in March.
This isn’t an endorsement of Paul’s political philosophies regarding civil rights, free market economics, or social safety nets. But I refuse to dismiss him without recognizing the value of his foreign policy views. Doing so would be inversely similar to pardoning President Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War because his Great Society legislation helped reduce poverty and racial injustice. And an undesired side effect of our powerful central government is that it can’t resist looking beyond the domestic front and aggrandizing into a global empire.
Starting with the removal of all our troops from foreign soil, Paul seeks to reign in this overgrown empire. He’s the only candidate willing to talk honestly about the unintended consequences of America’s meddling in the affairs of other nations. Especially regarding the Middle East, it’s a discussion we must have if we’re ever to understand the present security threats our country faces.
Those who opposed President George W. Bush’s military punishment of Afghanistan after 9/11 are well versed on one such shortsighted intervention. In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter secretly authorized nonmilitary aid for opponents of the Marxist-leaning regime in Afghanistan. By doing so he may have inadvertently induced the invasion by the Soviet Union the following December. Then, for the next 10 years, our government helped arm the Mujahedeen to fight a guerilla war against the Soviet occupation. In effect, our aid to this Islamic fundamentalist movement was the kindling that ignited the fires of what would become al Qaeda.
Another example of our foreign policy backfiring is the 1953 coup d’état in Iran orchestrated by U.S. and British intelligence agencies. We overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh after he nationalized Iran’s oil industry. For the next 25 years America supported the corrupt and oppressive Shah of Iran. His reign ended with the 1979 anti-American Islamic Revolution which markings the beginning of our decades-long adversarial relationship with Iran.
Now, Iran’s purported nuclear weapons ambitions have created a new crisis. Driven partly by our unwavering commitment to Israel, Obama has stated that all options are on the table. Along with the sanctions he’s imposed, he’s approved a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia to demonstrate “the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security.”
And he recently sent 9,000 U.S. troops to Israel.
Economic sanctions backed by the surrounding threat of military force isn’t diplomacy. That is another form of belligerence and, just as they did in Iraq under President Bill Clinton, they inevitably inflict suffering on the civilian population. Clinton’s sanctions failed to produce the regime change in Iraq that he and then Bush wanted, and we squandered American blood and treasure in the war that followed.
These are the kind of foreign policy interventions that Paul wants to end. It’s not isolationism. Rather he seeks to engage in genuine diplomatic relations. As it is now, State Department diplomats are overwhelmed to impotency by the contradictory projection of military force and covert dealings of our intelligence apparatus.
Paul isn’t blaming America for 9/11 or any other terrorist atrocity. But he’s says it’s “unreasonable, even utopian, not to expect people to grow resentful, and even desirous of revenge, when your government bombs them, supports police states in their countries, and imposes murderous sanctions on them.” In other words, the injustices our government levies on others “has put the American people in greater danger.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” wrote Martin Luther King Jr. from prison in 1963. Four years later that sentiment caused him to publicly oppose Johnson’s Vietnam War policies, thereby risking loss of the president’s support for the civil rights movement.
Liberals today face a similar dilemma when considering the libertarian ideologies held by Ron Paul.
• Moniak is a Juneau resident.