Ron Paul has been an isolationist for most of his career. It will cost him his last campaign, despite his good ideas about the economy.
What is an isolationist?
Ron Paul showed, during the Iowa debate, that he disputes what an isolationist is. Isolationism does not mean not even trading with other countries. That is not isolationism; it is protectionism. Caroline B. Glick tells her readers what isolationism is in Jewish World Review. It means
withdrawing to [one’s own, presumably fortified, borders] and leaving the rest of the world’s nations to fight it out among themselves.
Perhaps only a potential superpower can turn isolationist. A country of lesser military power, like Switzerland, that keeps its troops strictly at home, is not isolationist; it is simply neutral.
The problem with isolationism, as Glick shows, is that cruel empire builders, like Napoleon and Hitler, can spring up at any time. They inevitably will attack even the most fortified of countries, to seize their resources (human and mineral) or even their land. No country can stand forever when someone keeps attacking it, unless it makes a counterattack. Trying to stand behind fortified borders is like trying to withstand an old-fashioned siege. Any general knows that the only way to break a siege is to attack the besiegers from behind. The Romans knew this. They laid siege to the Samnite city of Nola during the Social Wars, and patiently waited for ten years until the city gave up. No one should doubt that other empire builders can be just as patient when they need to be.
How is Ron Paul an isolationist?
Ron Paul speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, February, 2010. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License
Ron Paul said during the Iowa debate, as he always says, that America has nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by fighting in any war off our borders. Again and again during the Iowa debate he returned to this theme. Even when moderators were asking him about the economy, Paul spoke about “militarism” and “bring[ing] the troops home.”
He also argued with former Senator Rick Santorum about whether the United States, or any of its allies, is under any threat at all. The key subject: Iran, and whether it has nuclear weapons or wants to build them. Paul flatly said no.
The war drums keep beating! Iran has no air force! They can’t make enough gasoline! And you talk about their acquiring nuclear weapons?
Ron Paul ignores the Iranian navy, which has deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and through the Suez Canal to the eastern Mediterranean.
Separately, Paul wants to lift all trade sanctions against Cuba. That prompted FrontPageMag.com to offer a “history lesson” that all is not as Paul says it is in Cuba.
Does Ron Paul have any good ideas?
Yes. He has sparred often with the Federal Reserve. He witheringly criticized Ben Bernanke, the head of the Fed, for saying that gold is not money. (In fact, the Constitution mentions gold and silver coin as legal tender; see Article I, Section 10.) He wants an audit of the Federal Reserve, which has never submitted to one.
But he seems to assume, without warrant, that military spending, chiefly or even alone, drives up the public debt. This is not correct. Entitlement spending drives the debt. But curiously, Ron Paul did not want to talk about this in the debate, nor is he talking about it today in Ames.
Whither Ron Paul?
Seema Mehta of The Los Angeles Timesis typical of many reporters who think that Ron Paul can win at Ames. She correctly notes that many people who dismissed Paul as “a nut” do not dismiss him so easily today. When he called at the Iowa debate for auditing the Federal Reserve, not a single opponent argued with him.
But can he win at Ames on that argument alone? No. Whether he wins or loses depends on whether his isolationist message will appeal to the war-weary. Even that is no guarantee. The American people might now wish that the government “picked its spots” better than it has for the last several years. But that does not make them willing to fight no battles at all.
Featured image: Ron Paul’s official portrait. Photo: United States House of Representatives.