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The difference between isolationism and non-interventionism

Ed Haas

The difference between isolationism and non-interventionism


October 10, 2007 – On Friday, October 5th New Hampshire newspaper, The Union Leader, ran an editorial titled Paul’s isolationism: Unrealistic and dangerous.  Obviously the writer of the editorial is not supportive of presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul.  What follows is the text of the editorial as it appeared in The Union Leader. 

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the libertarian darling running for the Republican nomination for President, seems to think that the only national security threat America faces is from a direct military assault on our soil. Nothing else -- Chinese expansion, Iranian nuclear development, Russian imperial ambitions -- is any concern of ours.

In a Wednesday interview, Rep. Paul suggested closing most of our overseas military bases. The military exists to protect our national security, not our economic interests, he said. Asked if the United States did not have national security interests in containing Chinese or Russian or Iranian or North Korean ambitions, he said no. "Nobody would attack us militarily," he said.

Paul offers our victory in the Cold War as an example of how we can win wars by "diplomacy." But our victory in the Cold War was not diplomatic. Ronald Reagan's military buildup topping decades of military interventionism around the globe were critically important components of our defeat of the Soviet Union.

Asked if we should let Iran obtain nuclear weapons, he shrugged and said, "Well, that's not the end of the world." Iran is no threat to us, he said, because it can't invade us. He never acknowledged that Iran is a state sponsor of terror, and a nuclear Iran could one day supply terrorists with nuclear technology or weaponry.

Paul's repeated insistence that "There would be no risk of somebody invading us" is just what the isolationist Republicans of the 1930s believed -- right up until Pearl Harbor. Paul's idea that we can maintain peace by halting our projection of military strength has been proven wrong by history. But Rep. Paul is not about to let historical reality get in the way of his ideologically pure position.

I’d expect to find this type of commentary on Fox News, but not in a New Hampshire newspaper.  It’s filled with so many distortions and so much misinformation.  Let’s break it down. 

The editorial starts by referring to Ron Paul as the libertarian darling.  No doubt, Ron Paul has wide support from the only logical thinking people remaining in the United States.  However, the editorial meant that terminology to be derogatory rather than endearing. 

The first distortion suggested in the editorial is that Rep. Paul thinks that the only national security threat America faces is from a direct military assault on our soil.  Nothing else – Chinese expansion, Iranian nuclear development, and Russian imperial ambitions – is any concern of ours. 

Russian imperial ambitions; you must be joking!  Maybe in the history books, but currently it is the government of the United States that seems consumed with imperial ambitions.  As far as I can tell – Russia is not occupying Afghanistan and Iraq right now.  We are.  And here’s a news flash – Rudy “9/11” Giuliani pay close attention – Afghanistan did not, I repeat, did not invade the United States on September 11, 2001.  This just in - Neither did Iraq or Iran. 

In context, a foreign concept for the corporate media, Ron Paul speaks of a non-interventionist policy in relationship to use of military force to enforce imperialistic and therefore unconstitutional foreign policy.  For those afflicted with the dreaded and deadly Neocon virus, military force is the only tool to use when faced with a threat.  If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.  However, most perceived threats, once the risk is honestly quantified, are found to be the strange imagining of chicken littles or the sinister plots of chicken hawks. 

The military exists to protect our national security, not our economic interests, Paul said. But doesn’t the United States have national security interests in containing Chinese or Russian or Iranian or North Korean ambitions, the editorial queries. 

Let’s try some objectivism here.  If the United States has national security interests in containing perceived Chinese or Russian or Iranian or North Korean or Israeli ambitions, than China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Israel have national security interests in containing United States ambitions.  Now of the aforementioned nations, which has demonstrated imperialistic ambitions the most in the last two decades?  Israel and the United States.  How should China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea respond?  Should they unify and attack?  If they did, Ron Paul would be the only President that would understand why, which means he’d be the only President that would take the necessary steps to right some wrongs around the world by removing U.S. military troops from where they do not belong. 

This should not be interpreted as weakness but as strength.  Rest assured, if after righting the wrongs and bringing the United States back within its internationally recognized borders, any nation attacking this nation be advised, a Ron Paul military response would be swift, fierce, and efficient – I doubt he’ll bomb and re-build.  He’ll just bomb.  If it’s worth bombing – it’s not worth re-building.  Somehow we lost sight of this fact after World War II.

Paul might be wrong on one point when he said that nobody would attack us militarily.  That might be true in the short term – but if the United States does not begin to tend to its own affairs within its own borders and mind its own business – there will be a point when nations form alliances for the purpose of militarily challenging our global supremacy. 

And how was the Cold War really won?  Ron Reagan’s peace through superior firepower plan played a small role in keeping the Cold War cold – but why did the Soviet Union actually collapse?  The editorial staff of The Union Leader must know that the primary reason the Soviet Union collapsed was because of its economic collapse.  The ruble, the currency collapsed.  It became worthless – where the U.S. dollar is heading.  The U.S.S.R. produced little – other than military equipment.  The people could find few items made in the U.S.S.R.  Clothing, shoes, appliances, electronics, and household goods – all where imported.  Sound familiar? 

Since there was nothing to export – the economy collapsed.  Fear of military aggression didn’t end the Cold War – fear of the Soviet people revolting because they had little or no money, food, shelter, clothes, shoes, etc. is the primary reason the Soviet Union collapsed.  Ron Paul knows this, however he must remember that the delusional nutcases in the Republican Party – the ones that listen to Sean “I write the propaganda” Hannity like to believe fairytales – that the Soviet Union collapsed because President Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  Gorbachev allowed the Berlin Wall to be torn down because he could not afford to maintain it any longer.  I know it’s difficult, but when delusion crashes head on with reality something has got to give. 

To give the Union Ledger credit, on Monday, October 8, 2007, they published a response by Congressman Paul titled Rep. Ron Paul: I advocate the same foreign policy the Founding Fathers would.  When reading the Paul response, consider whether his approach, the constitutional approach, the founding father approach would change the way nations that now predominately despise us might change the way they respond to us.  Leadership requires taking responsibility.  The United States must take back some of the blow back of a failed foreign policy.  The answer is not a bigger hammer – unless of course you’re so shallow that you only see the Middle East as a bed of nails. 

Any response to this paper's Friday editorial on my foreign policy position must rest on two fundamental assertions: first, that the Founding Fathers were not isolationists; and second, that their political philosophy -- the wisdom of the Constitution, the Declaration, and our Revolution itself -- is not just a primitive cultural relic.

If I understand the editors' concerns, I have not been accused of deviating from the Founders' logic; if anything I have been accused of adhering to it too strictly. The question, therefore, before readers -- and soon voters -- is the same question I have asked for almost 20 years in Congress: by what superior wisdom have we now declared Jefferson, Washington, and Madison to be "unrealistic and dangerous"? Why do we insist on throwing away their most considered warnings?

A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them.

American citizens would be allowed to spend their hard-earned money wherever they wish across the globe, not told that certain countries are under embargo and thus off limits. An American trade policy would encourage private American businesses to seek partners overseas and engage them in trade. The hostility toward American citizens overseas in the wake of our current foreign policy has actually made it difficult if not dangerous for Americans to travel abroad. Is this not an isolationist consequence from a policy of aggressive foreign interventionism?

It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.

I do not believe that ideas have an expiration date, or that their value can be gauged by their novelty. The test for new and old is that of wisdom and experience, or as the editors wrote "historical reality," which argues passionately now against the course of anti-Constitutional interventionism.

A Paul administration would see Americans engaged overseas like never before, in business and cultural activities. But a Paul administration would never attempt to export democracy or other values at the barrel of a gun, as we have seen over and over again that this is a counterproductive approach that actually leads the United States to be resented and more isolated in the world.

To learn more about Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas visit his campaign web site. 

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