Ron Paul and the People

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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21 Responses

  1. Stillwater says:

    people who support Paul because of his foreign policy worldview, and a desire to see it injected further into the national debate, don’t believe — whether they know it or not — that American foreign policy represents the will of the people. I’m really skeptical that this is the case.

    As am I. I think the idea of a strong, aggressive, functioning, active (!) US military is baked into the American psyche. Part of that is politics and persuasion. Part of it tho is fact: our adventurism dating back to Manifest Destiny on thru WWII and the Marshall Plan has reaped huge rewards for the Average Joe.

    I think American sensibility – Palinesque commonsense – and liberals often hold this view as well! – is that the projection of US military power is good thing for everyone. In the US.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater says:

      Mr. Stillwater, if you know your Rape of Nanking, or the state of South Korea vs. North, the projection of US military power has been a very good thing for at least a billion people.  Maybe more.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Well, you caught me. I agree with that to a great degree. I was trying to bring it back to the US electorate as I thought that was the focus of Elias’ post. US military support isn’t as trivial as my comment implied.Report

      • Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        If you know your Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, southern Iraq (circa 1991), northern Iraq (circa 1991), and much of Iraq after 2003, you get a hundred million or so for whom it hasn’t been a very good thing. Your number is bigger than mine, but mine makes its point just as well (by the way, the historical events in China, to which you refer,  ultimately got them Mao too — my 40-60 million dead wins!). The projection of American military might did a couple good things more than 60 years ago (though China was an afterthought for the U.S. military, for the most part — hello, Mr. Mao). What has it done for me in the last half century, though?

        But you know, Tom, they love us in the Philippines. Also, Cuba. Those evil Spaniards were keepin’ Havana down, man! I’m sure our various… military vacations… into Mexico over the last couple centuries have made Mexicans better off, too. And the Native Americans (because, you know, that used to be foreign soil too)? Much better off in Oklahoma, I tell ya. Well, except for all those danged tornadoes.

        All of this is a bunch of oversimplifications, of course, but like begets like, and my oversimplifications weighs a lot more than yours. But I am glad that South Korea’s doing so well, particularly after they got rid of those American-backed dictators. And I’m definitely glad that the Soviets cleared China of the Japanese… I mean, we saved China from Japan after 8 years of brutal occupation that we did little to alleviate… I mean that we fought so hard to alleviate (and Korea after 35; did you know that when the U.S. army got off the beach in Normandy, they found Korean soldiers who had been forcibly conscripted by the Japanese, who’d been “fighting” with the Germans? You know, now that I think of it, we invaded Korea once before, in the 19th century, to save them from their own isolationist ways of course).Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Chris says:

          “I mean, we saved China from Japan after 8 years of brutal occupation that we did little to alleviate”

          Is pretty blatantly not true.

          From the Flying Tigers, to the very fact that it was US China policy which essentially triggered the conditions that made Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor inevitable (let us remember that the negotiations were essentially that Japan was to abandon all of its China holdings in exchange for the US Maaaaaaaaaaybe turning the oil spigot back on) the US did more than is generally recognized.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Recognizing the significance of the Flying Tigers in China confirms you as a conscientious student of history, Mr. Akimoto.  I shall regard you as one from now on, even when our mileage will inevitably vary.  Well done, sir.Report

          • Christopher Carr in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Agreed. Roosevelt knew what he was doing.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I’m still surprised by the amount of liberals who think FDR is some sort of paragon of progressiveness…

              I mean…did they pay attention to the New Deal? It essentially exempted most of the working population but the very worst off…

              Or his court packing schemes…

              Or his foreign policy which was about as belligerent as you could get when dealing with a country like the Empire of Japan and his blatant flouting of congress’s separation of powers…

              Then there’s the whole Internment thing…and Ex Parte Quirin….

              FDR? I’m sure he was a swell leader, but the fact that he made people feel better by giving them radio chats doesn’t make him to Obama’s left,Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Which isn’t to say he didn’t know what he was doing. He damn well knew exactly what he was doing and how far he was willing to take things in every direction.Report

          • Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Dude, the Flying Tigers? In China, we had an unofficial volunteer air force (which was later integrated) of some 3 squadrons. In 1945, at the end of the war, when Japan’s forces were seriously depleted throughout the Pacific region, Japan still had some 65 divisions (not 65 planes, which is more than the Flying Tigers had on average, but 65 divisions!) in Manchuria and China proper. We supported Chiang and his allies (including Mao), nominally, and to some extent materially, but for the most part, we saw China for what it was, for our purposes: a strategic sideshow that didn’t fit with our interests in the Pacific. Again, it was a giant Soviet force that uprooted the Japanese in China, not an American or British one.

            Next thing you’re going to tell me is that we sent Joseph Stilwell, so we must have been strategically committed to China!

            But hey, the king of oversimplification,TVD has endorsed your view, so it must be a good one.


        • Murali in reply to Chris says:

          Actually, vietnam was good for the region. It gave other countries in southeast asia time to shore up their borders and weed out the communists in their own territories. You have to remember that this was a time when the british were withdrawing and the communists were popular in some quarters due to their assistance in WW2 against the japanese. Sukarno played with the communists, but barely escaped with his skin intact. The establishment of coommunist strongholds in other countries in southeast asia would have been disastrous from a human development POV.Report

          • Chris in reply to Murali says:

            I don’t mean to be as flippant with you, Murali, as I was with Tom, whose gross oversimplification deserved it, but this is itself an oversimplification. Vietnam may have served as a delaying action for anti-communist forces elsewhere (though in places like Malaysia, they’d done just fine before we fought a war that resulted in millions of Vietnamese dead), but it also created havoc in Cambodia and Laos that resulted in regimes that did a great deal of harm. This was also disasterous from a human development POV.

            What’s more, the domino theory is hardly uncontroversial. As I said, the Malaysian Emergency was ended without U.S. intervention, and prior to us committing substantial military resources to Vietnam (unless 3 squadrons is substnatial… sorry Nob, I couldn’t resist), and post-war communist takeovers outside of the region destabalized by the war (that is, outside of Vietnam and its immediate neighbors) were failures without direct U.S. intervention. Might they have been successful if not delayed by the war? Well, for one, it’s not clear how delayed they were by the war (the Soviets were putting resources into all of Asia throughout the war, whereas we were heavily focused on Vietnam and its immediate neighbors), and two, it’s not clear why the delay resulted in the ultimate defeat of communist forces that no longer had substantial Western opposition anywhere in the region. I’m not saying your position isn’t a valid one, simply that it’s controversial, and still has to be balanced against the Khmer Rouge, the millions of dead Vietnamese, and Laos.Report

            • Murali in reply to Chris says:

              simply that it’s controversial, and still has to be balanced against the Khmer Rouge, the millions of dead Vietnamese, and Laos.

              Shoot, sorry, didnt think about that.

              As far as domino theory is concerned, the sense I get from the history here (e.g. Lee Kuan Yew’s Memoirs) is that there was some delaying involved and that the delaying gave us time to get our act in order so that we could protect ourselves against communists.

              But, perhaps more importantly, it also allowed the British to leave. The british might not have left without the projection of american presence. Also, from 1962-66 Indonesia’s Konfrantasi would have definitely made it harder for us to defend ourselves on a northern front as well.

              The understanding is that the american presence in vietnam forced the soviets to concentrate their assets in Indochina rather than the rest of southeast Asia.Report

              • Chris in reply to Murali says:

                I have to admit, I don’t know much about the British decision making in their territories in the region at that time, but that does sound reasonable.

                You know, it was our (the U.S.) support of European colonialism that got us into that mess anyway. The Vietnamese, and if I remember correctly, even Ho Chi Minh, repeatedly asked Truman for support against the French in seeking their independence, and we sided with the French. Oops.Report

              • Murali in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, I’m thinking that what should have been done was to broker a deal with HCM as long as he reined in the radical left wing of his party. (That is if you wanted to contain communism and maintain stability)Report

  2. TycheSD says:

    But I think the Paul economic argument against U.S. hegemony is effective.  Yes, people can get all patriotic thinking that the U.S. is saving the world from tyranny, but when they make the connection of defense spending affecting their Social Security, I think the bread and butter issues will hold sway. 

    Ron Paul seems to be taking the same line that Chalmers Johnson took in his books.  In fact, I wonder if Paul and his people have taken some of Paul’s “military bases around the world” talk directly from Chalmers Johnson’s books.Report

  3. Kolohe says:
    • that the American electorate is unaware of its nation’s hegemonic foreign policy
    this is false
    • that if they are aware, their opposition goes almost completely ignored by the powers that be, due to any number of reasons

    this is partly true.  Americans first registered their distaste for the Iraq war on November 7, 2006.*  They re-ratified it two years later.**  The requested course of action was finally completed about a week ago.  And if the Iraq Government had any sort of cohesion, or some other ability to strike a deal, we might have got a SOFA alteration that this Administration was lobbying for, and would still be there (more than the very large embassy that is)

    Polling now on the Afghanistan war is pretty negative, but nobody cares enough to make it a huge issue (except Paul but including Huntsman, who has indicated he’s in favor of a quick(er) withdrawal).  Moreover, and more importantly nobody’s offering an alternative to an indefinite campaign with at best, most everyone (but not all) being gone by 2014.

    So yes, the opposition to the current state of affairs by a significant chunk of the population is being completely ignored.

    Which is not to say that Paul’s vision is actively embraced by a significant segment of the population, but right now, the only alternatives being considered by the powers that be are All War All The Time, and Smarter, But Still, Quite A Bit Of War.  The ‘So what?’ option if (for example) Iran develops a nuclear weapon, or even acts like it wants to, is not being considered by anyone that makes these sort of decisions.

    *it was the most important issue facing Congress according to a poll taken Jan 07

    ** if one reviews Senator Obama’s stump speeches from throughout the campaign, his deadline for removing troops from Iraq is much earlier than President Obama’s ever wasReport

    • Katherine in reply to Kolohe says:

      the only alternatives being considered by the powers that be are All War All The Time, and Smarter, But Still, Quite A Bit Of War.

      That’s the best summation of the two parties’ foreign policy positions that I’ve heard yet.  Thanks.Report

  4. Erik Kain says:

    Perhaps even if most Americans are dine with US foreign policy, those of us who are opposed think we need to elect more people who can effectively argue our case so that we can change hearts and minds. In other words I’m not sure if your premises is false (if Paul wins it is) or not, but that is immaterial.Report