"Non-Interventionism" vs Self-Defense

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ron Paul, demonstrating ignorance of American history, indifference about the proper role of government, and utter unfitness for holding the highest office of the land, attempts to defend his "non-interventionist" foreign policy from the charge that it is "isolationist":

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. [bold added]
So if your neighbor's hippie son converts to Islam and becomes interested in waging jihad against America, he would be "encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples ", even if the "other countries" harbor terrorist training camps for useful idiots who would blend in well with American society, and their "other peoples" are in fact waging war against the United States.

Paul would (and in effect does) protest that our military presence in other nations arouses their hostility towards us and that therefore if our military would leave, the realistic scenario I portray above (among others) would not occur.

But is this assertion correct? And, for that matter, is Paul correct that his "non-interventionism" is true to the principles of the Founding Fathers?

On that score, one would do well to consider our war with the Barbary States, in which the Founders themselves undertook military action against Moslem states -- which were attacking American interests despite the fact that our military was nowhere to be found in northern Africa! The Musselmen were (as they are now) motivated to wage war by their own beliefs -- not determined to do so by America's actions.

So much for foreign aggression being all our fault and for the notion that our Founding Fathers saw no need to "intervene" in foreign affairs or, indeed, to project American military power halfway around the globe.

But to fully understand what is wrong with Paul's position and, incidentally, the American policies that give him an undeserved credibility, one must do what libertarians never do: consider what the purpose of government is. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of individuals from being violated by the initiation of force (or the threat thereof) from other individuals.

This is why -- to use Paul's language in a situation that (perhaps) even he can understand, we are "told by our own government that certain actions are off-limits to us". The government "tells us", for example, that we can't rob, defraud, injure or kill each other -- because such actions endanger the individual rights of other citizens. The government enjoys a legal monopoly (constrained by objective law) of the right of each citizen to use force in self-defense. It can, does, and should "intervene" -- when necessary and only when necessary to protect individual rights.

This goes equally well for when it protects us from foreign threats as it does when it protects us from domestic ones -- or from both at once, as in the case of traitors who would provide aid and comfort to foreign aggressors.

This is why our government engages in war against aggressive foreign powers, as it did with the Barbary States, and why it sometimes forbids citizens from trafficking with hostile regimes (as it does rather inconsistently now). To provide aid and comfort to an enemy state is to threaten the lives and rights of other citizens. For our government -- as Paul constantly advocates -- to not "intervene" in such cases would be for it to fail to protect freedom.

Having said that, Bush's failed attempt to "export democracy at the barrel of a gun" is no indictment of the proper "intervention" known as war because, as Dr. John Lewis has so ably argued, it is precisely the opposite of the type of policy our nation should be pursuing now -- which is the total defeat of all nations that support Islamic totalitarianism with their unconditional surrender as the goal.

George Bush and Ron Paul are both wrong: On the one hand, one cannot, as Bush would, grant a people whose culture is anti-freedom a republic through a ballot box forcibly presented. On the other, one cannot expect freedom and peace to reign for long if those who have it fail to protect it from those who do not.

Ron Paul is right on one score: Ideas don't have expiration dates. But With George Bush or Ron Paul in charge, the life-promoting ideas of our Founders, while not expired, will nevertheless remain unused and gathering dust on the shelf.

-- CAV

10-9-07: Added a clarification.

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