Ron Paul Would Be Worse For Civil Liberties And Peace Than Obama

Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

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150 Responses

  1. Christopher Carr says:

    Wait, isn’t the Moore Award for “divisive, bitter and intemperate left-wing rhetoric.”?

    When did supporting Ron Paul become left-wing?Report

  2. Defending a murderer because he’s not as much of one as the other murderers, and that he’s *trying so hard* to keep the number of dismembered children to a minimum, is sociopathic.

    If “taking action against al-Qaeda” requires the blood of innocents, then YES IT MUST END.

    (Please note that I am not saying anything about Ron Paul in this comment.)Report

  3. b-psycho says:

    About this:

    In other words, he wants the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world to reverse its 200+ year tradition of strengthening international law as a means to settle disputes between nations without resorting to war. I’ll be the first to admit that the system of international law is weak and imperfect. But it’s a damn sight better than the alternative.

    You mean the alternative where the U.S. doesn’t operate by ridiculously blatant double standards, ram its head into situations it doesn’t understand, and generally treat the world like we own it?

    There’s really no such thing as “international law”. States just pick when they want to use the supposed rules when it serves them, and throw them off when they don’t, with the most powerful ones boiling every response down to “WTF you gonna do about it?”.Report

    • Katherine in reply to b-psycho says:

      You mean the alternative where the U.S. doesn’t operate by ridiculously blatant double standards, ram its head into situations it doesn’t understand, and generally treat the world like we own it?

      No – that alternative would be consistent with, and facilitated by, continued membership in international insitutions.  Deliberate withdrawal from every major multilateral group amounts to cutting off channels of communication with most of the world.  Refraining from invading nations, placing economic sanctions upon them, or having US military bases in their territory, is not isolationism.  But destroying most paths for negotiation and understanding between nations?  That is isolationism.

      I don’t know if it would cause the global breakdown Knapp foresees.  I hope that it would help other nations to get some useful things done without being blocked by US obstructionism.  But when the nations of the world are discussing anything from the global economic crisis, to plans for managing any global pandemic, to coordinated responses to transnational terrorism and crime, to global climate change, and you refuse to show up at the table?  That’s not going to help your interests at all, and on the whole won’t be good for a lot of other nations either.Report

      • b-psycho in reply to Katherine says:

        Why would the U.S. remain in an international institution that it could neither dominate nor ignore?  I don’t see a reason to believe this government would ever happily accept being treated like everyone else globally, so I see no point to expecting it.Report

        • Katherine in reply to b-psycho says:

          It could still influence people.  It could still have its voice heard.  It could still gain an understanding of the interests and intents of other nations.

          Insularity breeds paranoia, which is hardly conducive to peaceful relations.Report

          • Kim in reply to Katherine says:

            Russia’s always been paranoid. Japan, not so much. Both rather insular nations, at least for large stretches of time.Report

            • Katherine in reply to Kim says:

              They’re both part of the UN.  Ron Paul’s foreign policy with regard to international institutions is basically that of a hermit state, more akin to North Korea than either of the two you mention.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kim says:

              You mean Japan the #2 funder of the United Nations, major participant in IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, steadily building an aid and development framework and infrastructure by investing in major aid organizations and graduate education domestically?

              Yes, culturally maybe insular, but still participating on the world stage.Report

              • Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                No, I actually meant Japan that didn’t let a foreigner set foot on its soil for hundreds of years… (sorry if I was unclear, I was referencing the USSR during the Cold War, and Japan much further back — I also may be exaggerating with Japan.)

                In terms of contemporary culture, Japan seems remarkably openminded. It’s music has bagpipes, accordions, gamelan, etc. It even has Engrish for goodness sakes!Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to b-psycho says:

      There’s ample evidence to suggest that things like international norms DO matter. The classical and neorealist view that the international system is a Hobbesian world where states act only in self-interested ways according to dictates of (presumed) human nature, or of calculated power-based risk-taking is bunk.

      Now we can agree to disagree about this. But I think (And I think Alex would agree) that international norms and institutions do matter in setting the tone. A system of spheres of influence and interest-aligned alliances DOES create a world with a greater tendency towards conflict. Having important players not participate in multilateral organizations likewise undermines their very foundation. The greatest failure of the League of Nations was not having the US and Germany as founding members.Report

  4. Kyle says:

    The President’s decision, with the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, to embrace the leftovers of the Bush Administration’s framework for fighting terror removed from the political/public sphere any position that supports civil liberties in the face of the expanding security state. As a result any qubbling over the degree of awesome restraint or terrifying power he exercises fails to address the point that such things are determined by the character of the man, not the limits of the office.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kyle says:

      Dude. You don’t show up enough.Report

    • Alex Knapp in reply to Kyle says:

      “The President’s decision, with the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, to embrace the leftovers of the Bush Administration’s framework for fighting terror removed from the political/public sphere any position that supports civil liberties in the face of the expanding security state.”

      This may have something to do with the fact that virtually every time the Administration tried to make a change in a positive direction, the public outcry was so great that Republicans in Congress, along with some Democrats, pretty much stopped any movement in that direction. See e.g. Gitmo; trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; etc.  “When it’s steamboat time, you steam. Not before.” – Mark Twain

      Absent a profound cultural change among the voting public, no President is going to make much headway in this area. And I’m WELL aware that my opinions on the subject are in the minority. As long as that’s the case, I embrace the least harm principle – that being, Obama will be less harmful in this area than anyone else running.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Alex Knapp says:

        Bingo. It’s almost as if people don’t remember Obama’s own party turning on him when it came to Gitmo and KSM. Now, I’m not sure how exactly Obama was supposed to close Gitmo with no funding to do anything with the prisoners, including some actual dangerous one, but hey, maybe some people here know magic.Report

        • Maybe the same magic that’s going to put Obama’s signature on the NDAA. But oh how he wants to close Gitmo if someone would *let* him! So helpless, so sad.Report

          • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Robert Hutchinson says:

            Yup. In one case, Congress passed a law he could do something. In another case, Congress passed a law saying he couldn’t do something. It’s sort of how the whole country works.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              He might at least have vetoed it, then allowed the veto to be overridden.  That’s also how the whole country works, you know.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Sure. But, Obama considered it more important to get the defense authorization passed than engage in the kabuki theater of vetoing a bill that is going to pass anyway and wasting another few days of political capital that could be spent on other things. I realize that makes him a horrible horrible human being and me a bad person for understanding it.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                What you call kabuki theater is what would normally be considered democratic politics and public deliberation.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                It’s only considered that when a Republican is in the Oval Office.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to E.C. Gach says:

                Vetoing a popular law that is going to get overturned anyway that will cost you political capital and make it harder to get other things done is the very definition of political theatre. If you can veto something unpopular or veto something that can’t be overturned, awesome. Otherwise, it’s political malpractice.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                It’s political malpractice to veto a bill you think is a danger to the country if you suspect it’s just going to get passed over your veto anyway? That’s an interest understanding of both leadership and separation of powers.Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Not it’s not.  Politics is about debate and discussion.  Part of that requires the President to air his views.  I’m not going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he would have prefered the bill be different.  It was what it was, and he happily accepted it. 

                The theatrical aspect comes from people trying to hypothesize what each party thinks and wants, and rationalize why those things don’t seem at all to be in line with what they actually say and do.

                The number one justification for Politican X doing something that supporter Y doesn’t agree with, is usually something along the lines of he/she had to politically manuever for a better prize down the road.

                It’s all BS.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Yes, if spending a week on Gitmo means your approval rating drops five points and as a result, you have a much weaker hand six weeks later when it’s time to up the debt ceiling, then yeah, it’s political malpractice.

                Things are passed and signed in bills all the time the President doesn’t like. I have no doubt, for example, Obama didn’t like the Stupak Amendment. But, he still signed the ACA.

                The debate and discussion about Gitmo happened. Obama lost, unfortunately. So, either die and fight for a hill already lost or regroup.Report

            • Wait, did you think I was merely making an argument about Obama’s power to sign bills? I’m talking about the inherent wrongness of detaining anyone indefinitely without trial. Signing the current NDAA will be sufficient evidence that Obama being blocked by Congress re: Gitmo was obviously not the only thing keeping him from doing the right thing.Report

      • Kyle in reply to Alex Knapp says:

        I mean the President was hardly helped by the Jane Harmans, Joe Liebermans, and Dianne Feinsteins of the Democratic Party; however, IIRC about KSM there was a Republican outcry that moved public opinion, similar for Gitmo. I see those as tests of leadership, not in a bold Admiral Farragut way but as opportunities to shape public opinion not be led astray by it. So in that regard, a defense of incompetence is hardly an encouraging one.

        My point is just that whether he’s actually doing less harm than some fictional non-President who would be doing more harm at any given point (see the futility of the comparison?) misses the long term harm of the President’s actions. By crafting a strong, bipartisan consensus that – among other things – the spice must flow, he’s removed from political discourse an incredibly important national concern.

        Others have written about how Ron Paul’s candidacy is important for this very reason to raise issues of concern about the scope of national security and you’re right to point out the ways in which Paul would apply forces elsewhere. However, now that discussing such issues is the province of the putative “non-serious” candidate with “fringe” supporters when four years ago it was much closer to mainstream is evidence of the depth of the harm caused by the President. Harm that systemically speaking makes greater harm in the future far more likely.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kyle says:

          Obama could’ve gone on a thirty-state, eighty-seven city speaking tour in favor of moving the Gitmo prisoners to Illinois and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman wouldn’t have given a damn.Report

          • Kyle in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            So if he’s that impotent what good is he?
            If the leader of the Democratic Party and our nation is held hostage by Joe Lieberman…that’s the defense to a charge that he’s been bad for civil liberties?
            Which conveniently overlooks all the areas of nearly exclusive executive branch control that have also mirrored the Bush apparatusReport

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kyle says:

              Again, if you want to nail Obama for warrentless wiretapping and various other things, fine. But, in the narrow case of Gitmo, yes, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson can completely fuck him over, no matter how popular his opinion is or isn’t. After all, 60-ish percent of the population wanted a public option in the ACA. Lieberman, Nelson, Landreiu, and various other conseraDem’s didn’t.Report

  5. E.C. Gach says:


    Great post Alex. My objections in the order that they occured:


    He respected Iraq’s sovereignty by pulling troops out of Iraq according to the terms of the SOFA.”

    There will remain a small private army of mercenary contractors in Iraq, and a not so small army of civilian state department officials. Yes, Obama could have done worse and ignored prior agreements with the Iraq government, but abiding by SOFA despite repeated attempts by the admin to extend the timetable, as well as not drawing down forces earlier make this point, at best, a neutral one.


    “Please do recall that the Congress of the United States (including Representative Ron Paul) authorized action against al-Qaeda…”


    Authorizing action is different than demanding it. And the manner in which this duty was and is discharged is at the discretion of the President, and thus he is responsible for it and its consequences.


    “Has it been perfect? Not at all. Do I have criticisms of some of the ways he’s chosen to fight this conflict? I absolutely do. Have their been civilian casualties in this war that could have been avoided? Almost certainly.


    But that’s a far cry from killing “brown people on the other side of planet because he feels like it.” And unless Ryan is advocating that we take no further action against al-Qaeda operations at all, there’s no way to avoid this. People who shouldn’t die will die. That’s awful. It should be assiduously avoided. But Obama’s actions have not been sociopathic, and saying otherwise is a lie.”


    This part is a bit shoddy. Clearly, Obama’s detractors, like Ryan, are not expecting he be perfect. But your point here appears to be that he did the best job possible, and that the only alternative to illegal and undocumented civilian killings is to give up fighting foreign terrorists all together. Would the same logic apply to the drug war? Is it impossible to both avoid a substantial number of dead “brown” people and also still attempt to shut down the black market for dangerous drugs like meth and heroine? I agree with you tha Obama’s actions are not sociopathic. But one need not make such a loaded and over the top claim to attack the President’s record on civilian casualties, which has been abysmal.


    “Without a single boot…”


    That is untrue unless we assume that only official military personel where boots.


    “There have been other good things, too. Dealing with Somali pirates. Rebuilding relationships with Europe. Strengthening our ties and support for international law and the United Nations. Improving trade agreements, etc.”


    Including undocumented drone strikes in Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere. And strengthening our ties and support for international law, except when it’s not being observed, in the case of not investigating past instances of potential torture, current indefinite detention practices, spying on foreign diplomats and nationals, extrajudicially executing the citizens of other sovereign countries as well as our own.


    I do not agree with the tone or degree of Ryan’s remarks, which appear lazy and exaggerated. But that hyperbole shouldn’t become cover for others to pave over the Obama admin’s repeated and untransparent abuse of executive power and human rights.Report

    • Katherine in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      Nicely said.

      In modern war, it may be true that whenever we go to war, we will kill innocent people.  To me, this is a strong argument for pacifism, or at least extreme reluctance to go to war.  The US Civil War and the Second World War are the two where I really can’t imagine any option that was a better alternative to war (WWII is the one everyone brings up as a rebuttal to pacifism; my views on the Civil War have been shaped a great deal by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writings).

      In the present case, Al-Qaeda’s nigh-powerless and basically dead.  I cheered the results of the bin Laden raid.  But Obama should have used that success as his cover and rationale for withdrawing the remaining troops from Afghanistan and declaring an end to the War on Terror.  There’s no remaining threat to us that warrants the kind of harm we’re continuing to cause, and I don’t think remaining in Afghanistan for years more will make the Taliban less likely to attain power when we finally do leave, however unpleasant their rule may be after our departure.  (I also think that, given how long Afghans have been fighting internally as well as externally, that they can fight the Taliban as well as they could anyone else if they’re powerfully opposed to the Taliban’s return; a lot of what gives the Taliban its domestic support is the fact that they’re fighting foreign invaders [us].)Report

      • Kim in reply to Katherine says:

        The military doesn’t want to see another Vietnam, in a lot of ways. So far as I understand it, they’re negotiating with the Taliban (or some parts of it) right now.

        I find it reasonably likely that they’re within a year or two of being able to peaceably withdraw, without the entire country turning into Argentina.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Kim says:

          So far as I understand it, they’re negotiating with the Taliban (or some parts of it) right now.

          True.  That’s a policy change Obama’s made (one the left advocated for several years earlier, and was derided by “serious people” over) that a Republican president almost certain wouldn’t have.  He gets some credit for that.

          But at this point, America’s more or less achieved its objectives with regards to US security, and should be getting out.  AQ’s no longer a threat.  I don’t see the prospects for Afghanistan improving over the next few years whether we stay or leave; for all I can see, NATO is just treading water there.  I’d like to know what reasons you have for thinking differently.Report

    • Katherine in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      However – I’m not Obama and I’m not in his position.  He, not I, has to deal with the aftermath, and the responsibility for failing to protect his people, if there’s another terrorist attack.  He, not I, gets to get blamed for any instability or rise in oppression that accompanies our departure from Afghanistan.  He’s the one who had to grapple with the possibility of another Rwanda in Benghazi if he didn’t act in Libya.  He’s not a sociopath.  I believe he’s a lot more thoughtful and circumspect in his foreign policy decisions than Bush was.

      He’s making genuinely hard decisions.  They’re ones that I powerfully disagree with, but if anyone has evidence that he’s being cavalier about them, I’d like to see it.Report

      • James Vonder Haar in reply to Katherine says:

        I don’t particularly care whether the person claiming a sovereign right to execute myself and my loved ones with absolutely no judicial oversight is rending his garments and gnashing his teeth over the difficulty of the decision.Report

        • Mike in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

          You can “not particularly care” all you want. The process in place, which requires a long layer of analysis and an EXTRA layer of vetting in the case of a US citizen, is about as judicial as you’re going to get.

          And as the old saying goes, it beats the hell out of the complete lack of “judicial oversight” given to those killed by the other side.


  6. Kolohe says:

    So after immigrants avoid the national guard, climb the fence, cross the moat with alligators with fishin’ laser beams on their heads, and evade deportation posses, those few remain will be exploited by businesses?  Because that’s what businesses do, I guess.

    I’m not in favor of Ron Paul’s immigration policy either, but don’t confuse inhumane with ineffective.  The DPRK demonstrates you can be terribly effective if you put your mind to it.

    I frankly didn’t see where the political pressure was coming from to stay in Iraq.  Certainly not from the American people; they wanted to get the fish out in 2006. Staying in Iraq would have been Obama’s own read my lips.  And the Administration *did* try to negotiate a change to the SOFA for most of its last year of existence.  It’s also curious that it’s dangerous for us to pull out of international institutions, except for if that institution is “The Security Forces of Iraq” then it’s all ‘So long, suckas!’

    Paul approved the original 9/11 AUMF it is true.  Here is the full text minus the whereas’s and cross references

    (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    And from that, a thousand flowers have bloomed.  Going after bin Laden was great, nobody other than another Moore award nominee would think of criticizing it.   But a lot of the other stuff?  Particularly the stuff Candidate Obama didn’t think was a terribly good idea for a lot of the reasons stated?

    Last, again it seems like in most cases, Real Life President Obama is always tempered and constrained by external political and other forces, but Hypothetical President Paul (which to be clear, will not happen) never is.


  7. Really valuable post that raises multiple good and often forgotten points, Alex.Report

  8. Jason Kuznicki says:

    My objections are as follows:

    1.  Anwar al-Awlaki appears to have been assassinated on the strength of some videos that took al-Qaeda’s side.  That’s possibly within the definition of treason, but if so, he should get a trial, not an executive death sentence.  And what about his underage son, the victim of a separate drone strike?

    2.  Obama may have accomplished something good in Libya — it’s way too soon to tell — but he did so through blatantly illegal means, ignoring the War Powers Act and using force in a conflict where the AUMF clearly doesn’t apply.

    3.  “Is [Obama’s foreign policy] the best I could expect from Obama’s campaigning?”

    If you’d told me in 2008 that we’d get into a third war, that we’d be assassinating U.S. citizens abroad, and that Gitmo would still be open for business, I’d have guessed that McCain got elected president, and that he’d died in office.  What we have here is a Sarah Palin foreign policy, not the one promised by candidate Barack Obama.




    • E.C. Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      What we have here is a Sarah Palin foreign policy, not the one promised by candidate Barack Obama.

      Maybe if I’d put it that way and said something about the contents of Obama’s uterus, Sullivan would have thought that was kosher.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      No, we don’t have a Sarah Palin foreign policy. It’s a nice, pithy line to make yourself feel better, but it’s not true in any actual reality if you look at the public statements of Republican officials since Obama took office.Report

      • E.C. Gach in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        So I’m looking at statements of Republican officials.  Which ones are suppose to be convincing me we don’t have a Palin foreign policy?

        Extra points if it doesn’t have to do with Israel.Report

    • Mike in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Anwar al-Awlaki appears to have been assassinated on the strength of some videos that took al-Qaeda’s side.

      Bullshit, and this is not the first time you’ve trotted out this bald-faced lie.

      Al-Awlaki was targeted because he was planning and greenlighting actual attacks.

      2nd, the legality of action in Libya is something that can be debated for all time, and I can full well guarantee that a dishonest SOB like you would be on the other sideif the POTUS had a little (R) next to his name instead. So that doesn’t hold any water.

      If you’d told me in 2008 that we’d get into a third war – which as it turns out was part and parcel of the whole “Arab Spring” stuff going on, something nobody could have predicted and which is not in any way Obama’s fault.

      that we’d be assassinating U.S. citizens abroad – see above.

      and that Gitmo would still be open for business – And why is it again? Oh yeah, because when Obama gave the order to close it down, the retards of Team Red began screaming bloody murder, getting scared of putting terrorists into SUPERMAX prisons, and went so far as to make official Congressional acts to “refuse to provide funding” for the movement of any terrorists from Gitmo to the Supermax facilities on US soil.

      What we have here is a Sarah Palin foreign policy – no, what we have here is simple and clear dishonesty from your end.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      He didn’t ignore the WPA; the State Department gave an explanation of how he thought it applied to the Libya action that most analysts derided as unserious.  And, as Mike says, Awlaki was killed based on intelligence about his operational role in planning attacks and directing AQ operatives’ actions in the Arabian Peninsula, which emanated internationally.  The issue is the lack of public evidence to that effect, which does amount to little more than a few videotapes.  But it’s a claim that requires much more evidence than you can present that the decision was made within the government only on the basis of those few videotapes’ existence.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        In other words, while I fully support a contention that AaA should not have been killed because not enough evidence was presented to satisfy the public either that he was legitimately a part of a military that was functionally at war with us, the question of what the concerns really were that led the government to make the decision to act is really an empirical one that either of us would have to make a showing for in order for our claims about it to stand.  So you can certainly reject my claim that there was more evidence (I just find it unlikely that they would choose to take on an action this inflammatory based on nothing but some videos, especially when so many people make videos all the time and similar responses aren’t universal), but you can’t insist I accept that there wasn’t.  But to hold that there wasn’t more evidence requires maintaining that they actively lied to us in claiming that there was.  Also, again, this is as to the claim about what actually led to the decision: it’s not to say that if there was additional evidence not released publicly that I’m saying it would be enough to convince me to support the  action.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Evidence, please.

          Also, it might be nice if we had a trial.  You would hope — in your own case — that if the government decided to bump you off, they’d at least go through the motions.


  9. Petar Subotic says:

    I was taught that when assigning a title to something I make it relevant to the content, so readers would know what to expect.  Civil liberties ( . . . ) I expected you would mention the PATRIOT and NDAA acts and compare Paul and Obama stances. No? OK, It doesn’t fit the rhetoric so you skipped it, I can see that. So what did you focus on? Civil liberties of … immigration? OK, and you say it would be bad to strengthen our borders? It’s not like we have issues with illegal immigrants or anything. Better keep them in the middle east to revenue on opium, yeah, that’s a more important issue. And for the record, would deporting all the people who are here illegally, really be immoral?

    One one hand you attack Pauk for taking stronger positions than Obama, on one for taking a softer approach on illegal wars. He wants to have a declaration of war and approval of congress before invading a country? What a nutter! He should just have it green lighted by the U.N. and say that’s enough. That’s what the good ol’ Obama would does.

    Make up your mind and stop using doublespeak propaganda tactics from the 90s you dirty hippie.Report

  10. BradP says:

    No “amnesty” will mean more deportations. A lot more.

    What has Obama done to provide relief to immigrants?  Record numbers of deportations and let public outcry and civil suits bring down monstrous sheriffs?

    And while I think the idea of Ron Paul launching drone strikes on the Mexican border to battle illegal immigration is ludicrous (what targets?), it is not unreasonable to be concerned about drone use in the growing violence between Mexican cartels and our drug warriors. 

    In other words, he wants the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world to reverse its 200+ year tradition of strengthening international law as a means to settle disputes between nations without resorting to war.

    Without getting into your prediction that Paul style isolationism will result in WW3, this seems like an incredibly rosey view of the role and intent the US has taken in international law.Report

  11. Mike says:

    Of all the things in the list that you assume RP would get, the elimination of birthright citizenship is one I can get behind.

    In the modern day and age, citizenship by inheritance (e.g. because of the citizenship of parent) is the way to go; transportation options have simply made it feasible for scams like birth-tourism to go on.

    Europe learned this years ago. The last holdout country to have birthright citizenship in Europe was Ireland, and they haven’t had it in well over a decade.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Mike says:

      Um, no. Have you noticed that things like a lack of birthright citizenship has made it insanely harder for immigrants to assimilate into Europe and as a result, they have much larger problems per capita with immigration than we do?

      There’s no “large-scale” birth scam going on. To be blunt, I’m not going to give up a core principle of American citizenship because twenty-three Chinese citizens might sneak in to make their kid American’s. Just like I won’t push for insane voter ID restrictions because somebody wrote down Mickey Mouse on an ACORN registration form.Report

      • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        I’m with Jesse. My preferred policy direction would be to expand birthright citizenship to include not just children born on US soil but all children born anywhere to parents who hold US citizenship.

        (This will be my Cult of Obama comment for the week.)Report

        • Mike in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

          My preferred policy direction would be to expand birthright citizenship to include not just children born on US soil but all children born anywhere to parents who hold US citizenship.

          Current law already makes that a reality. If you were born in another country, but one of your parents is American, you’re American.

          In most countries in the world, this is the reality today. Citizenship is passed from parentage, not passed by accident of geographical birth location.

          Europe did it for very concrete reasons, reasons the US should be taking under advisement as we face a not-untroubling problem of people routinely violating our borders.Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

          Pretty sure that’s actually how it goes right now.

          There’s a couple weird stipulations if only one of the parents is a US citizen but it’s pretty much the case that if your parent’s a US citizen, even if they live abroad you’re more or less eligible for US citizenship.Report

  12. Rufus F. says:

    I realize there’s a line of quoting going on here that probably extends back to someone I’ve not read, but this formulation about “killing brown people” bothers me for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I don’t get the significance of skin colour here. Is the idea that somehow killing “brown people” is a greater moral offense than killing white people? Or it supposed to be that those people are killed because they’re brown? If drones were used to kill whites sneaking over the border from Canada, would that be less of a problem?Report

    • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Rufus F. says:

      The implication, as I intend it, is that they are Other. It doesn’t really matter what the color of their skin is, only that they aren’t really counted in policy (or public opinion) as real, true people. If we were using drones to kill Canadians for some largely made-up reason, I suspect public opinion would probably still support it, but there would potentially be slightly more outcry.

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but note the way the calculus is done even by commenters on this site, where someone’s ability to get a third trimester abortion without restriction is counted as equal to – if not more important than – preventing the literal killing of people in other countries that are far away.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

        Of course brown people getting killed by other brown people when the US doesn’t do anything is perfectly A-OK. Black people in Darfur or Congo? Great. Rwanda? What a perfect example of US non-intervention! Nigeria? Fine! So long as they keep giving us oil, what they do to their own citizens is their own business….

        Your intention may be noble but the implication you continually push is that it’s okay for there to be human suffering so long as the US is only morally culpable by inaction, rather than action. The only lives that matter, in other words are the ones that are lost when the US acts, not when it fails to act.Report

        • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I don’t think this kind of oversimplification of a position I’ve been pretty honest about is all that helpful.

          To use your own terms, I think calculations of US culpability due to inaction are complicated and require a full valuation of a lot of variables and counterfactuals that we don’t have a good grasp of, where calculation of US culpability due to action is usually much more straightforward.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

            Given that your original position requires a gross oversimplification of facts on the ground, I don’t know how offering the counter-argument to it in similarly stark terms is unhelpful. You frame your arguments in a way to make any right to protect focused policy appear to be somehow blithely based around an indictment of the value placed on the Other and take upon yourself the mantle of speaking for the lives of the disregarded Other.

            Based on what we know of say the Rwandan genocide, the commitment of a handful of US troops and air assets could have made a substantial difference in the outcome of what was an unspeakable human rights atrocity. Given the relative ease of Libya (as opposed to Iraq or Afghanistan) and the Balkans, the counterfactuals while present don’t really give me much reason to suppose an intervention in Rwanda during the genocide would have made things materially worse on the ground.

            Now whether or not it’s moral to do so is another argument. Maybe it wouldn’t be, maybe there’s an obligation for countries to sort out their internal divisions on their own and let them massacre eachother.

            I would argue that the Other framing is just as often used as a reason for the US NOT to intervene in countries. Why Sudan or Congo or Rwanda or Uganda or Nigeria are left to their own devices while there was public outcry strong enough to get Clinton to intervene in the Balkans. The lives of black Africans are not as important to the US media consumer’s opinion of the world than the lives of white Europeans. Would apartheid have been a huge deal if it weren’t for the fact that there was a sense of culpability for white americans in having white south africans systematically oppressing black south africans but rather it was one black ethnic group another? Probably not, in fact one can bring up empirical examples on the same continent.

            The Other argument is powerful. But it has many edges, and you can cut yourself on them just as often as you can cut your opponents.Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              You’ll have to remind me of the post I wrote opposing intervention in Rwanda in the 90s. Do you have a link?Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                Then as a hypothetical, if Obama were to commit to the use of drone strikes to try to bring an end to violence in Darfur or Nigeria, would you support it? You already made a point about committing US armed forces as advisers in Uganda and Nigeria as if they’re Completely Unacceptable Actions.

                Your support for Ron Paul rests on the pillar of non-intervention does it not? That it’d be worthwhile not to have military interventions period, whatever the intention, unless war was declared. The costs of having the US withdraw from multilateral institutions and the like was, if I’m not mistaken considered to be well worth if it would change the conversation on US military deployments.

                Would you have supported actions to prevent genocide in Rwanda knowing the facts we knew then? Or if in the hypothetical Clinton had intervened would you be going on about the evils of killing Hutu children in air strikes because he’s so willing to massacre black people on a casual whim.

                If I’ve misread your stance, I apologize.Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                See below, although on some of your specific points, I don’t think it is really ever (not totally ever, there might be some exception I’m not thinking of) legitimate for the US to unilaterally attempt to solve these problems, using drones or anything else.

                I realize that Ron Paul’s intent would be to withdraw from exactly the kinds of institutions I say are necessary. Again, in my mind, the calculus still comes out in his favor because drawing down US hegemony in the world is worth a few years of cranky weirdness. (I also don’t really think he could get us out of the UN, since the president doesn’t have that kind of authority. Right?)Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                I think there’s two issues that people generally conflate. The idea of US hegemonic power in the world, and the idea of the “global police force”. If I may be so bold, one doesn’t necessarily mean the other, and I’m inclined to say that the latter role is one that the US doesn’t actually do as much to enforce as some people want to claim it does.

                In fact if the US were actually just interested in policing international norms it could probably do so much more cheaply than it does now, with a force posture vastly different than the network of bases and power projection facilities abroad. A lot of US force posture is about intimidating and limiting the influence of strategic rivals, whether for good or ill. If all you wanted to do was stop someone from attacking their own people through the use of air power and maybe a couple battalions you could do so with combinations of aircraft carriers, cruise missile destroyers, drones and marine expeditionary units. You don’t need air force bases in central asia or army bases in Germany or missile defense outposts in Poland to do these things.

                On the question of the UN. The Constitution is quite vague on the abrogation of treaties despite being very clear on the ratification of them. I’d imagine it depends on the Congressional make-up on how Paul wants to get out of the UN. There’s probably a sufficient number of representatives in the House in the current GOP iteration to get a resolution of abrogation through that chamber. Even without pulling out officially, the president can do a lot of harm to the US’s position in the UN by refusing to fill executive appointments, making sure the budget doesn’t have money for the US, etc. etc.Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              If you want my actual opinion of Rwanda, it’s this:

              I believe you are right that US intervention (through the UN, which is the only body that I think has any authority to authorize an intervention – this is not an unimportant point; unilateral intervention is almost universally something I oppose) could have changed things dramatically, especially in the short term.

              “Short term”, however, is fairly key. These long-simmering racial/ethnic/religious animosities are enormously difficult to sort out through the use of foreign policy, especially armed foreign policy. And especially because they so often appear totally impenetrable to people outside of the country (Tutsi vs. Hutu appears even more arbitrary and absurd to me than the average racial or ethnic dispute). In the long run, is it possible to prevent something like this from boiling over using foreign policy?

              I suspect the answer is no, although (in the case of Rwanda as well as some others) there is plenty of reason to believe that after a certain point, it is the responsibility of the international community to say “enough is enough” and settle for a short-term solution that may or may not be of much help when all of history is said and done.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                Thanks for clarifying.

                I think on the subject of keeping things from boiling over, there’s some empirical cases of UN peacekeepers being able to at least create breathing room between ethnic groups so that things can go without continuing the conflict and create more stable societies on both sides. They’re sustained efforts and they’re usually a long-term project, but they’re also relatively inexpensive (compared to say, a full fledged occupation of a country like Iraq). Can you remember the last time Cyprus or the Balkans actually boiled over? UNMIK and UNFICYP have been pretty successful on the whole. Even if they themselves aren’t making the progress needed to settle the long-term issues, they’re making the political breathing room to do so.Report

              • Ryan, I basically agree with this, but I’d add a few things. First would be that the Hutu/ Tutsi distinction is not even clear to historians of the region (I’d note that I had a friendly acquaintance with the truly wonderful Alison Des Forges before her untimely passing and her book Leave None to Tell the Story is required reading here), although it likely dates back to disputes over their two kingdoms in the 1600s. It’s also clear that the German and Belgian colonists did much to exacerbate the distinction, and might have largely invented it for reasons of dividing and conquering. Next, I would argue that it’s not just a matter of the US failing to act, but of actively obstructing actions by refusing to call what was going on a genocide. If there was anything Clinton did as president that we could call truly unconscionable, that would be it, in my opinion.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I think there’s a good argument for the Hippocratic principle in foreign policy: First, do no harm.

          Saving lives only seems to be considered urgent when they’re threatened by violence.  The WHO stat for the number of people killed by violence each year is 1.6 million.  Meanwhile, nearly 2.5 million die of diarrheal diseases, and 1.78 million of HIV/AIDS.  If the primary goal of launching foreign invasions is to help people, why not refrain from using that money to kill people, and use it instead to save lives in ways that don’t involve massive collateral damage?

          When every person in the world has enough food to eat and access to clean water, when all major infectious diseases have been eradicated or substantially reduced, when every child in the world faces no material/financial constraints on being able to attend school, when nobody in the world is malnourished except in cases where their government is actively depriving them of food (e.g., North Korea) – then I may entertain the idea that “humanitarian intervention”, the concept of killing innocents (because innocents are always killed in modern wars) to save other innocents, is the best use of our resources.

          Until such a point, which is unlikely to be reached in my lifetime, I will oppose that rationale for war.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

      The opposite, I think.

      I believe the purpose/strategy is to insinuate that because the people dying are not white, those that are ordering their death do not consider it that big of a deal.  Or that citizens of the country that is doing the killing can;t bring themselves to care because the people dying are not white.

      I suspect those using this line would argue that we would be much more up in arms about drones if they were killing Canadians… or the British, the Norwegians, or the Germans.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Rufus F. says:

      The basic point is, as a rule, America only kills brown people/foreigners. The only time we’ve really gone gung-ho for killing other white people in large numbers was when we were killing each other or when Germany was trying to rule the world and as we all know, ruling the world is America’s job. 🙂

      Aside from that? The Phillipines, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, etcetera.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

      What it has always implied to me (and I don’t know its specific origin in this context either) is that because they are “brown people” we don’t care that they are killed.

      I take “brown people” to be short hand for different looking and strange acting foreign people from presumably backwards places who, when it comes to atrocities, often overlooked either out of indifference, numbness, or lack of awareness.

      The domestic analogue would be “brown people” getting killed, raped, or kidnapped, and it not being a big deal until it happens to a white person.  It’s not necessarily motivated by racism, but it certainly has the consequence of leading to that result.

      A personl example:  In Philadelphia where I live, there were a lot of flash mobs over the summer, with kids, mostly African American, either jumping people on the sidewalk or bombarding stores and stealing/destroying inventory.

      The issue did not blow up news-wise, or in terms of police action, until it started happening closer and closer to downtown and the richer and whiter areas.

      But this instance, I think the phrase “brown people” is meant to signify less a racial component, than a nationalist hierarchy where people within a certain culture and geography are valued less.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Excellent.  What I was trying to say, but so much better.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Okay, well, in that sense, I can understand the usage. It’s always bugged me that it becomes national news when the teenage girl who got murdered was white and stays local news when she was black. So, if it’s highlighting an empathy gap, fine. I would say that it’s still a bit strange since it’s not as if the European nations are doing anything to provoke war with the United States in the last 60 years or so.

        What I don’t like about the phrase is that it suggests that US foreign policy is guided and determined by racial animus. As if the US went into Korea not because of a cold war policy of containment, but because they just wanted to kill Asians. Or they’ve remained on good terms with France not because the country does, for the most part, what the US wants, but because they’re white.  I mean, I didn’t think going into Iraq was a good idea at all, but I seriously doubt the motivation was simply that George Bush doesn’t like brown people. I feel like framing foreign policy this way really does cheapen the arguments of those people you disagree with by implying that their underlying motivations are racist. It really does shut down the conversation.Report

        • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

          It’s not meant to. what it is meant to is imply a value judgement — that the reason we had OIL was that we thought that the resources we could gain were more important than the “brown people”‘s lives lost.

          Another instance: look at Nigeria — it’s worse than setting rivers ablaze there.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

          I think part of the problem stems from the fact that most countries we think of when we think “countries where white people live” are industrial, and to some extent wealthy.  They are not likely to be third world countries, and this is where we sometimes get into trouble.  Partially because they often have resources we really, really wish were ours, and partially because there is a lot less risk (in every definition of that word) in attacking a country that has no real army, or at least not one that can attack yours back.  (Or at least in any formal way, as we have come to learn post 9/11.)


        • If you (like me) are a person who believes that there is a lot of unexamined, unconscious racism to be found throughout the country and the world, then framing foreign policy discussions in a way that attempts to make it visible and to make people at least think about it is elevating the conversation.

          It doesn’t have to be an on/off, white/non-white switch to be racism. It doesn’t have to be the only motivating force, or even the biggest one, to still matter. And I’ve seen too much of humanity to believe that there are no pro-war percentage points to be had in white people not giving much of a damn about brown people.Report

          • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Robert Hutchinson says:

            I like this point. What I try (sometimes) to stress is all the ways in which our conversations “otherize” people or groups of people. As you say, it doesn’t have to be a white/non-white switch. It also doesn’t have to be a man/woman, gay/straight, whatever switch. A large dose of empathy would be a good prescription for a lot of our illnesses.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Robert Hutchinson says:

            I agree with this. Going back to Rufus initial questions about the usage of ‘brown people’, I think the phrased is used – in the types of contexts we’re considering here – to a) reflectively refer back to our dominant culture, which is white, and b) that one of the cultural presuppositions exhibited by that dominant culture is the view that brown skinned peoples are somehow ‘less than’ us, eg., the Native Americans didn’t know how to use and develop land so they didn’t deserve it; that latin-Americans are incapable of self-governance, so US (and Western) intrusion to extract or utilize important resources is justified; that Cubans, Filipinos, Indians, Javanese, non-Christians generally, etc are all incapable of understanding proper government, property rights, the value of human life, etc etc according to Western standards, so moral prohibitions on killing/subjugating them are either loosened or don’t apply. So we often kill/subjugate them.

            So the term ‘brown people’ is often used by liberal people in an ironic way to reveal the inherent biases or racism expressed by people supporting conventional views accepted by the dominant culture.Report

  13. Stephen P says:

    So Ron Paul would be worse than Obama for civil liberties because he would enforce US immigration law and stop launching wars without Congressional approval? It’s a problem that he would post more guards along the border? Last time I checked, drug gangs were killing a whole lot more Americans than Qadaffi was.Report

  14. Liberty60 says:

    Regarding civil liberties, Paul’s positions don’t impress me one bit, mostly because of his reasoning.

    Its one thing to support individual liberty on the grounds that it strengthens the dignity and welfare of all of us; its another thing to support them on the grounds of indifference. Paul’s attitude towards drug offenders isn’t compassion or concern, its a shrug of the shoulders.

    Scaled up to national affairs and international relations, that is, as Alex mentions, a recipe for disaster.Report

  15. Herb says:

    I have no objections to this at all.  In fact, I endorse all of it.  One can be critical of the current approach without indulging in the absurd.Report

  16. Scott Fields (formerly 62across) says:

    Alex –

    In all that time, four have gone to a vote. Only one has passed.

    Can you provide a link to details on these four bills?Report

  17. dj RHL says:

    When one sees perfectly reasonable Americans such as Alex Knapp take to heart the belief that America has not largely abused its global military powers, one wonders how Ron Paul commands the support of more than 10% Americans.  Surely, the extremist fringe cannot be that wide, can it?Report

    • David in reply to dj RHL says:

      Famously, there is approximately a 15% polling difference between people who will agree with the statement “government is too big” and people who believe that action should be taken to reduce the size of government.

      The explanation for this discrepancy? A certain percentage of the population are just plain idiots.

      Ron Paul can poll very high amongst the small rabid follower percentage of the population likely to vote in a Republican caucus and who excel in skewing polls (especially online polls and polls with a volunteer participation component), but I do not believe that he even commands “10% of Americans”, and I am certainly willing to concede that up to 25% of Americans are just plain idiots.Report

  18. 4jkb4ia says: