For the past few years, we in the liberty movement have had the luxury of being able to stand on the outside and lob in grenades at America’s corrupt foreign policy. But now, with one of our own, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky as a potential president, we have to face the reality of how to govern. What would a Rand Paul presidency look like? We got the answer this morning when he delivered a speech before the Heritage Foundation.
Keep in mind, Rand Paul spent seventeen years as an Ophthalmologist. Nevertheless he preformed what can only be described as Rhinoplasty – or a nose job – at the Heritage Foundation, outlining before the stuffy G.K. Chesterton conservatives in the audience a new foreign policy for the Republican Party, one that offers a better fit for new realities. Some Rinos will like it, some, who are growing fat as lobbyists for government subsidies, won’t.
Rinos (Republicans in name only) is the acronym applied to liberal Democrats who became Republican during the Reagan years, at the height of the Cold War. They agreed with Reagan that communism was dangerous and America should not accept its inevitable ascendancy and should contest it. Although less enamored by Reagan’s supply side economics and totally rejecting of Reagan’s social agenda they became an important part of Reagan’s winning political coalition.
But when the Cold War ended the Rino wars kept going. They lobbied for a bigger budget for the CIA, a bigger budget for defense, with newer and better weapons and more interference around the world. And all of this was before 9-11. What had been a moral imperative, to stand down an aggressive, criminal communist gerontocracy, morphed into a role of America as moral guarantor for the world.
“We have the power,” the Rinos pointed out, “it is unconscionable for us not to use it against injustice.” Of course, Rinos and their corporate friends made money off of this new arrangement.
Today, with the added impetus of the war on terror, American accounts for 42% of the world’s military expenditures. We have 50,000 jets, while our nearest rival, China, has 5,000 jets. We borrow money from China to put boots on the ground in Australia to defend Australia from China. Feeling safe? And, ironically, the strategy we used to bring down communism is destroying us as well. Our arms race bankrupted the Soviet Union and now we are close to bankruptcy ourselves.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are locked into a fiscal death embrace, Democrats spending programs to reward their political constituencies and Republican spending money to reward their pals in the military industrial complex. Both sides are eating at the pig trough of public money while the rest of us are taxed to death, handing over our hard earned money to government favorites.
The deadly solution? The insidious hidden tax? “Quantitative easing.” It has wiped out the wealth of a whole generation and made a tiny oligarchy of rich and powerful.
Most of us in the liberty movement have really offered no solutions to foreign threats. Our foreign policy has been to close down all of our military bases, end all of our wars, mind out own business, and curb the power of the presidency. This we hoped would help restore the economy and turn our enemies into friends. Eventually.
In the meantime, what would our policy be if one of us were president? Are these ideals only fodder for our blogs and books and newsletters? Would we really ignore a nuclear Iran and pretend it will go away? Would we ignore terrorist attacks on our allies and say it is none of our business? While we all abhor the loss of civil liberties, how far would we go to use government intelligence to pre-empt a terrorist strike against us? Where do we draw the line? And is there a safe path back to that liberty movement ideal, without us getting ambushed along the way?
The Senator began by defining the current foreign policy crisis. The enemy, he said, was not terrorism, which is after all a tactic, but rather radical Islam, something that many politicians have been reluctant to acknowledge. Rand pointed out that it is not the tiny percentage it is often alleged to be by politically correct, wishful thinking, American politicians. Rather it is a “robust minority.”
Part of Rand Paul’s new foreign policy was a list of liberty movement basics, although couched in language that Rinos, who now dominate the Heritage Foundation, can swallow. And more often than not they were posed as questions. He called for an end to war by executive order. He quoted Madison who warned that war is always more favored by the chief executive.
He complained about the irrelevancy of congress pointing out that the president sought permission to use force in Libya from NATO, the United Nations, from anyone but the US Congress where the power belonged.
“The debate over war is the single most important debate in this country and it should not be glossed over.”
Invoking his recent trip to Israel he pointed out that the debate about a nuclear Iran is underway in Jerusalem but not in Washington.
“Where are the calls for moderation, restraint?”
He alluded to the “unintended consequences” of war, a favorite subject of his father, Dr. Ron Paul. “Why are we so quick to supply weapons for Syrian rebels? Will they respect the rights of Christians in their new government?“
Rand Paul asked the room full of Rinos, many of them lobbyists for corporate arms manufacturers, “Should we keep sending weapons to countries that are hostile to Israel and the United States?”
But if the Senator called for fewer military bases, less soldiers overseas, a less trigger happy foreign policy with less power residing with the presidency, he also called for a more coordinated and ambitious strategy in the war against radical Islam. This will be a tough pill to swallow for some diehard Libertarians.
He compared this crisis to the challenge of the Cold War. And called for a modern version of Cold War containment, a policy that is not entirely military but not all diplomatic either. Countering radical Islam, the Senator declared, demands a worldwide strategy. When there is war, we should go into win it and we should not go in alone.
Rand Paul said, “What the United States needs is a policy that finds that middle path.” He called for a “foreign policy that recognizes the danger of bombing countries because of the fear of what they might do.” But also one that legitimately acts decisively when danger is known.
He pointed out that “A foreign policy that is everywhere all of the time is an extreme [policy] on the other hand a foreign policy that is nowhere, any of the time, is also an extreme [policy].”
How will liberty movement leaders accept this call for a foreign policy more engaged than our ideal? How will neo-conservatives and Rinos accept a future where American doesn’t bomb first and ask questions later?
Rand Paul ended his speech with these words, “I will be a voice to those who want a saner and sounder foreign policy.”
Nietzsche once said that “In individuals insanity is rare. But in nations it is the rule.” We can only hope that our nation will come out of its stupor and find the wisdom in Rand Paul’s clarion call.