Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ron Paul v. Rudy

I didn't watch last night's GOP Presidential debate. I might try to read the transcript later. I did read Sister Toldjah's coverage, as well as Andrew Sullivan's summary (more on this in a moment) and the drunk-blogging of Vodkapundit. I much prefer the last one.

With that being said, here's what appears to have been one of the big moments of the night...

I watched Paul in his response to the original question. I didn't really have a problem with it, save for the ending statement about having people over here from China or whatever and what we would think of it. However, I want to thank the Fox questioner for asking the same question that I had -- doesn't this viewpoint effectively change on 9/11? After all, I'd view Paul's statements as being a reflection of what America Firsters backed in WWII... until Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor, it became absurdly difficult to claim that we can afford to sit out the war.

There are those who would say that Paul's position is an old-school Republican answer. Paul himself tried to draw upon Ronald Reagan's decision to withdraw the Marines from Beirut in 1983 (Paul basically made the case that this was a courageous thing to do). I can see what he's trying to say -- I just don't think it squares with reality.

Paul's response to the followup questions weren't as bad as what I'd expect to hear from the left, but it was pretty close.. and Rudy did the right thing in engaging him. I think a better question would have been whether Paul would have opted not to respond to Saddam's 1991 invasion of Kuwait, and what that would mean for the world today. But Rudy hit him like an attack dog, and did so brilliantly. And here's the part of Paul's response to Rudy that just killed me...
They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free. They come and they attack us because we're over there.
Are we back on this schtick? Is it possible for him (and the isolationist wing of the GOP) to understand that it's both? They don't need a reason to attack us -- they use whatever reason is convenient. In the end, they attack us because they want a world fundamentally different from the world in which we live.

Ignoring them and hoping they kill each other is an option, but not if they're reaching out into our world and impacting us. Hell, I'd say we had a better argument for non-intervention in WWII (particularly in Europe) than we do in the Middle East now. Failing to be engaged in the Middle East isn't an option that is available to us in any case -- economically, politically, morally, or in the interest of our national security. In the end, even if every American was out of Iraq -- indeed, if we'd never held Saddam back in 1991 and let him invade Saudi -- we'd eventually be forced to walk away from Isreal in order to satisfy the desires of the Muslim world -- and that still wouldn't end up being enough (never mind that the Isrealis probably would refuse to go quietly into the good night, which is their right and the right thing to do, even if it meant turning most of the Middle East into a smoking radioactive parking lot).

The post-Gulf War examination of Saddam's arsenels essentially showed that he was less than one year from having a nuke. Having nukes and possession of a large chunk of the world's oil would have been one hell of a blackmail device, if not making the decision for war easier.

Maybe the Gulf War was an attempt to straddle the middle road that Bush Sr. and his advisors chose -- we intervene, but we try to limit the intervention to something less than a full-fledged invasion. The problem is the same one identified earlier -- the mad murdering bastards in the Middle East aren't likely to sit back and appreciate a limited engagement any more than a full one like Iraq today. Basically, Bush 41 punted in the hopes that the Middle East could be pacified for awhile until the controlling groups there grew up and stopped acting like mudering bastards. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet, and before it did, they spent the 1990's attempting to attack us and eventually getting large-scale success on 9/11.

In a way, Paul represents the more honorable version of the left's anti-war position. The left is anti-war because they're anti-war (and in some cases, anti-American). There's no rationality or deep thought to their position -- they might throw out the rationale that we're creating our own problems, but in reality they're not interested in that so much as they are in just being against military intervention and against the U.S. Others would rather spend the money at home to fight whatever issue offends them the most (and Paul disagrees with them there).

Paul is different. He honestly believes that we should sit it out, talk it out and let the other side exhaust themsleves while blowing up their part of the world. He seems to honestly think that staying away from their sandbox is a solution to our conflict with them.

The problem is that reality doesn't square with this solution. I realize that many of the folks who agree with Paul think Bush's rhetoric about bringing democracy to the Middle East is a pipe dream. But take a look at Paul's position and you realize that he eternally wants us playing defense and doesn't solve anything. You can trade all you want with Vietnam, but that's not an example that fits here (nor is it it morally correct -- the trade hasn't done much to help solve the problems that the people there continue to suffer through a humanitarian crisis brought on by years of Communist misrule). As McCain succinctly puts it, the Vietnamese didn't follow us back to America. The Jihadis will (and have, as Guiliani noted when he mentioned Fort Dix). in the end, Bush's position better be something we can pull off, because otherwise we fight to a protracted stalemate or lose -- and it has the advantage of being a far more morally defensible position.

Bottom line, I can see that some people think Paul is being short-changed by conservative punditry. I see Sullivan touting the Worldnet Daily internet poll that has Paul the winner of the debate as proof that Paul is making inroads among GOP voters. Excuse me, Andrew, but Tom friggin' Tancredo is second in that poll. And Mitt Romney, whom most people consider the loser, is third. Do you really think this sample shows us a good idea of who's in the GOP base? Saying that the conservatives who find Paul's position appalling and divorced from reality are guilty of "thuggery" is a new low in the rather pathetic desire to sell his book.

If you need a far more nuanced view of the world of Paul, check Jonah Goldberg's response. Well-stated, and far better than anything anyone else has written, while also taking on Paul's neo-isolationist longing for Taft. In the end, he makes the same point...

Moreover, whether Taft was right or wrong, it’s quite clear he was responding to the reality of his time. Paul, on the other hand, has his head in the historical sand.

After the first debate, when so many GOP candidates tried to claim the Reagan mantle, David Frum pined for a candidate to say “Ronald Reagan was a great leader and a great president because he addressed the problems of his time. But we have very different problems — and we need very different answers. Here are mine.” I think Reagan’s still a bit more relevant today than that. But surely reasonable people can agree that the problems we face today are very different problems than the ones faced by Taft — and we need very different answers.

I like having Ron Paul in this race and participating in these debates. But not only is he no Robert Taft, but, when it comes to foreign policy, we couldn’t use him if he were.

I don't know that I'm going to vote for any of the guys on that stage. But I know I'm not voting for Ron Paul.


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