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Ron Paul’s Antiwar Position Is Simpleminded – OpEd

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By Jerome Slater

Katha Pollitt of The Nation has the best anti-Ron Paul commentary I’ve yet seen: “Ron Paul’s strange bedfellows.”  Here are a couple of other points that Pollitt didn’t address:

There’s a fundamental problem with Paul’s foreign policy positions.  Yes, he opposed the war in Iraq, Israel’s wars against the Palestinians, and any attack on Iran–excellent.  Most liberals also did so. You didn’t have to be a rightwing nut to do so. But it is not the case that an indiscriminate “antiwar” position is always the wisest and most moral posture.  Other than fascists, everyone is “antiwar”–until, that is, they get down to cases.  Here’s a few:

WWII.  Everyone thinks WWII was a just war.  But since Paul, as Pollitt puts it, is against everything the U.S. government does, domestically or internationally, there is every reason to think he would have opposed FDR’s decision that we had to join in the fight both for moral and strategic reasons.

Afghanistan after 9/11.  Not quite as unanimous as in the case of WWII, an overwhelming majority of Americans (including me) thought that 9/11 made it was necessary to go after both the Taliban and, in particular, Osama bin Laden.  Indeed, when you remember what the Taliban did to Afghanistan, there was also a moral case for doing so–though obviously we would not have gone to war in the absence of 9/11.  Here I distinguish between the initial intervention and the endless war we are still mired in, the latter being both morally and strategically unwise and unnecessary.  We should have gotten out within months of the initial attack.

Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s: a closer case, and strategically irrelevant.  Still, I’m hardly alone in believing that it was a moral imperative–not to mention a general success–in saving the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo–yes, the Muslims, often overlooked–and getting rid of another monster, Milosevic.

The Gulf War against Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, after he attacked Kuwait and there was every reason to believe Saudi Arabia, at the least, was next.  The first George Bush did exactly the right thing: stopped the aggression, and ended the war when that had been accomplished.  As a matter of fact, he stopped too soon,  not because he didn’t send troops into Baghdad and overthrow Saddam–that was the right decision–but by allowing Saddam to use his helicopters and his thugs to brutally crush the Iraqi resistance in the south that we had actively encouraged.

Libya: Still more controversial, but looking reasonably good.  This one split both liberals and conservatives, I leaned towards thinking that Obama did the right thing for the right reasons.

Final comment: all wars cause civilian casualties, which by themselves is not enough to condemn them; it is ridiculous to argue that they must invariably be unjustified if you “ask the family of the victims what they think.”  No doubt the families of the Nazis or even just ordinary German soldiers killed in the war were despondent; where does that take you?  Or, how about France in WWII?  The noncombatant French casualties that were a consequence of the war to liberate them were orders of magnitude greater than all recent wars. Does anyone believe that the overwhelming majority of the people of France would have preferred a thousand year Reich?

There are two thousand years of serious religious and philosophical thought on the problem of war, when it is just and when it is unjust.  Other than true pacifists– of whom there are hardly any, and most of whom changed their minds when faced with Hitler–no one really believes that all wars are unjust.  I can’t go into all these issues here, but to examine this question fuly you need to ask if the overall war is justified, if every effort is made to minimize civilian casualties, if the people in the country suffering the casualties are nonetheless willing to accept them, and if there is every reason to believe the war saves far many more people than it kills.  And there are many more criteria for thinking about this terribly serious issue than I’ve mentioned here.

Libya is an interesting case in point.  Obama–together with France, Italy, Britain, and some others–calculated that far many more Libyans would have been killed by Quaddafi than were lost in the war to free them–and not only free them from death, but also from continued tyranny, no small matter.  I’ve seen no evidence at all that this calculation of where the moral balance lay has been proven wrong. The overwhelming bulk of the evidence is that a vast majority of the Libyan people enthusiastically welcomed the military intervention–even as they, probably unavoidably or nearly so, suffered civilian casualties.

In short, Ron Paul is a simpleminded fool on 90% (at least) of the issues, domestic and foreign.  There have been no good consequences or byproducts of his candidacy, he has worsened the already abysmal US political discourse, he has not forced any candidate of any party to move to the left, even on the handful of issues on which he is correct. Re Phil Weiss’s argument that Paul could force the other Republican candidates, and maybe even Obama, to the left and adopt his anti-war agenda, this overlooks a much more likely consequence of Paul’s views: they will force the other Republican candidates to move further to the RIGHT, adopting his domestic agenda while ignoring his foreign “policies,” if they can be so described.  In fact, this is precisely what is happening now: cf. Romney and even Huntsman.

If his appeal continues among Republican voters, it is more likely that Romney, by far the most likely Republican nominee, will move even further to the right.  And that could even force Obama to move to the “center,” which has already moved way to the right.  Of course, that won’t bother those who think that Obama is already a rightwinger, but it sure as hell bothers me and other liberals, who recognize Obama’s disappointing first term but also understand that he has to deal with an increasingly rightwing Congress and, more broadly, rightwing country.

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

This article was published at Mondoweiss.net here: http://mondoweiss.net/2012/01/ron-pauls-antiwar-position-is-simpleminded.html

Mondoweiss

Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. Mondoweiss is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in New York City.

21 thoughts on “Ron Paul’s Antiwar Position Is Simpleminded – OpEd

  • January 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm
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    Your analysis is completely flawed. If you look at the positions of Ron Paul, he advocates going to war only by declaration, which means the congress and thus the people of the country to give permission. If the congress decides that some form of intervention is required he will go ahead because it is the peoples will. What has now happened is that Bush and Obama are now trying to undo the mistakes of past policies, propping up dictators. I think it is completely ridiculous to assume that the people of USA are stupid or are not compassionate enough that you should have a president who can do that job.

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    • January 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm
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      Slater also needs to take a course in basic macro economics. I understand SUNY has a decent econ department that might help him discern the viability of some of his imperialistic and ethnocentric positions. And to call anybody a “simpleminded fool on 90% of issues”, is hardly worthy of somebody professor (emeritus). Slater’s problem is that he starts in the middle, rather than starting at the beginning and from first principles. He never once tries to ask himself, “does any of the interventioinist policies make any sense from first principles?” Finally, on domestic issues, Ron Paul is spot on. By any, and i mean ANY measure, the Federal government has failed miserably in providing environmental protection, welfare, healthcare, infrastructure without absolutely bankrupting the country. My thought is that without any difficulty we can do better. We must do better. And relying on Slater in no way helps us get there.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm
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    Ron Paul voted in favor of going to Afganistan. Maybe you should research you target before misrepresenting him.

    To think we are in the middle east for humanitarian purposes is simple minded. When do the Saudi elections start, Jerome?

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    • January 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm
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      Actually, he voted in favor of going after Bin Laden, not going into Afganistan. He wanted us to send in some special forces to kill or capture him and get out immediately after. He never voted for the wars. Do YOUR research a little better buddy. ;)

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm
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    How is refraining from inflicting your will upon the world, and then using your military force judiciously and sparingly, simple-minded. If so, then by definitions, most nations in the world are simple-minded.

    This is another feeble attempt to preserve the American military-industrial stranglehold on American policy.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm
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    What a delightful way represent the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm
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    Your statement is simple minded. Would a Paul gotten us into World War 2, Yes.. But did our foreign policy and that of western Europe cause World War 2? Yes. Germany was despite and no one seemed to give a damn. They had been under economic sanction since the end of World War 1. So they elected a guy who’d get them out. We also had sanctions against Japan. SO lets NOT oversimplify it. Ron Paul is in favor of a strong national defense, so why is it we have to pay for the defense of Germany, Japan, and South Korea? those are rich countries. And the Geography supports me on this. Iran has no military capability of hitting the United States, but it can hit Europe, so why isn’t Europe gung ho about heading off to war? We have a stupid and senseless foreign policy, and Ron Paul is right on this.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm
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    “Afghanistan after 9/11. Not quite as unanimous as in the case of WWII, an overwhelming majority of Americans (including me) thought that 9/11 made it was necessary to go after both the Taliban and, in particular, Osama bin Laden. Indeed, when you remember what the Taliban did to Afghanistan, there was also a moral case for doing so–though obviously we would not have gone to war in the absence of 9/11. Here I distinguish between the initial intervention and the endless war we are still mired in, the latter being both morally and strategically unwise and unnecessary. We should have gotten out within months of the initial attack.”

    That pretty well sums up Paul’s position.

    As to most of the others, while they may have been just causes, they weren’t our causes, and they didn’t demand American blood to be spilled.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm
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    “WWII. Everyone thinks WWII was a just war. But since Paul, as Pollitt puts it, is against everything the U.S. government does, domestically or internationally, there is every reason to think he would have opposed FDR’s decision that we had to join in the fight both for moral and strategic reasons.”

    Seriously? Are you aware of what happened on December 7, 1941? Do you actually teach students???? LOL

    Reply
  • January 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm
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    Nice straw man argument. Ron Paul’s position on war is clear. He believes that when it comes to war, the U.S. Constitution should be followed. The Constitution says Congress, not the President, declares war. The President only takes charge of the armed forces after it has been activated by the Congress. Ron Paul has said repeatedly that he would go to war only after such was declared by Congress. Then he would bring the war to an end as quickly as possible and then withdraw from foreign territory. You seem to forget that Congress declared war to start U.S. participation in WWII. It was not a unilateral action by FDR.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm
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    You repeat the lie that Paul “is against everything the government does”. Then you discuss imaginary positions he would have on previous wars, if he adopted the stance you incorrectly claim he has. Although this rant is an utter failure as an attack on Ron Paul’s ideas, it does reveal who the simple minded fool is, and his name is Jerome, not Ron…

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  • January 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm
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    Jerome Slater, I respectfully disagree.

    Let’s start with your quintessential example that Ron Paul most likely would have voted against going to war against the Axis powers during WWII:

    History didn’t begin on Sep 8th, 1939, nor did the beginnings of WWII. Had the U.S. never entered WWI (One) on the side of the Allies in 1917 and tipped the scales of power so heavily in the Allies favor, Germany and France most likely would have signed the peace treaty that was already in the works because they were, for years, already sick of horrors of trench warfare. However, in his infinite wisdom, President Woodrow Wilson wanted to sacrifice thousands of Americans to die in the muddy trenches of France so that……………so that………ummmmmm………..wait I know why, so that India could remain British. Does anyone else have a better reason to suggest?

    To continue…………

    The Allies imposed oppressive terms on the Germans — who, by a complicated argument, were blamed for the entire war. Important parts of Germany were confiscated and given to Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France. Germany was stripped of its colonies. And the Allies forced the Germans to assume the cost of the entire war — a price they could never hope to pay.

    Enter the only person that would save the German people from their horribly wrecked economy and starving conditions. Hitler.
    YES, I’m saying it. The United States is the direct reason why Hitler came to power; We (inadvertently) created the conditions necessary for 90% of the German people to vote for someone like Hitler.

    But I digress. No, we never should have become involved in the war in Europe. Hitler DID conquer Europe, but after his failure to capture Moscow in the winter of 1941, not to mention his prior failing to force England to concede, let alone cross the English channel and actually invade them, he was doomed. Hitler’s Germany simply didn’t have the manpower to subdue the British Empire AND the Soviet Union. He came close, but the cards were already played BEFORE we entered the war. So why the staunch defense of our interventionism in this war? Or do you simply think that hundreds of thousands of American lives aren’t important? These are lives that MANY of which had NO choice because they were drafted.

    You could argue that Hitler (even if foolishly) declared war on the U.S. first. This is true. However, had we not goaded the Japanese into attacking us at Pearl Harbor (thanks to President Roosevelt and the economic embargo he placed on them), Hitler would have had no strategic reason to attack us. He wanted desperately to avoid war with the United States. This is indisputable. I can give details if you so wish. By setting up a trade and oil and steel embargo on Japan, we FORCED them (Japan) into attacking us. What other choice did they have? What do you think the British, also an island nation, would have done to us if we cut them off from oil, steel, and rubber? I can guarantee you that they would have attacked us.

    There is a world of unintended consequences that preceded WWII, and yet “professors” like you who presume to be “educated” and learned only spout out the mantras that were pounded into us as schoolchildren; That America is great, America is noble, America’s wars are always just and noble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I won’t get into your other moral arguments about our need to be involved in the wars WE started after WWII, because you’re not worth the effort.

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    • January 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm
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      By the way, I’m voting for Ron Paul, because I’m a “simple-minded” voter.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm
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    Morally yes, Quaddaffi was a tyrant and a terrible excuse of a leader for Libya. So should he have been taken out from a moral stand point, yes. However, youre entire argument against Ron Paul, is implying that he was against intervention in Libya because he thought it was morally wrong for civillians to die. Civillian deaths are a part of war and it is a sad fact but Ron Pauls biggest issue with what happen in Libya isnt so much the civillian casualities and whether or not lives are being saved in the long run, as youve made it out to seem, its the unconstitutionality of the intervention in Libya. Troops on the ground or not, blowing up government buildings and launching billions of dollars in missles into another soverign nation is an act of war and war should only be declared by congress. The executive branch does not have that authority. Thats Ron Pauls main problem with the Libya intervention.

    Id also like to point out what others have said, you can look up Ron Pauls voting record and see he did vote to use force in Afghanistan.

    Ive provided a link below so you can further educate yourself on his actual views of the war in Afghanistan. It actually contains his speech to the congress the day after 9/11, if you read that youll see that youre views, as presented in your paragraph about afghanistan, actually correspond with what Ron Paul said.

    http://www.thepoliticalguide.com/Profiles/House/Texas/Ron_Paul/Views/The_War_in_Afghanistan/

    Reply
  • January 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm
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    “Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo.”

    You have got to be kidding me.

    The Constitution gives the power to declare war solely to the Congress. Ron Paul would not go to war without a Congressional declaration if for no other reason than HE WOULD NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY.

    In addition, you argue that we should go to war for moral reasons such as the injustices and human rights violations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Would you advocate a war with Saudi Arabia for the same reasons? China? North Korea? Sudan?

    You probably think the Civil War was all about slaves, too.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm
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    Nearly all the oil going through the Straits of Hormuz goes to Europe. Iran cannot reach the U.S. with any of it’s weapons, none of which are nuclear. So it seems like the Eurasians better get busy if they’re so concerned because it’s not the U.S.’s immediate concern. IOW’s fight your own battles.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm
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    A simple-minded view on simple-mindedness.

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  • January 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm
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    Jesus and ghandi were also simple minded!

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  • January 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm
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    This OpEd is inaccurate in its depiction of Ron Paul as “anti-war all-the-time.” His first two examples betray his OWN simple-mindedness. Besides the fact that it is flat out untrue that Ron Paul opposes everything done by the government, Ron Paul not only specifically has praised the U.S. involvement in World War II, but he also voted in favor of invading Afghanistan after 9/11. To say that Ron Paul is probably against those two military engagements… well, your either intentionally lying or you’re so simple minded that you yourself have no idea what you’re talking about.

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  • January 7, 2012 at 12:15 am
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    Remind me never to send anyone to the University of Buffalo. It’s ironic how simpleminded the “professor’s” view of RP’s foreign policy is. Umm let’s start with he VOTED FOR the war in Afghanistan…and end with he is ok with war as long as it is congressionally approved per the constitution (meaning the people approve), which ofcourse hasn’t been done since WWII. Professor? omg we’re screwed.

    Reply

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