Is Ron Paul Isolationist?

I have listened to many of Ron Paul's ideas and campaign rhetoric, and while there's a lot to like about some of his beliefs, there is one that fills me with dread.

It appears that Mr. Paul is espousing isolationism, a withdrawal from the international scene, specifically the Middle East. It may sound great to him, but it would be damn near impossible to achieve, and dangerous to boot.

Of Israel's relationship with its neighbors, he argued that if only America got out of the way by cutting off the aid spigot (which, he claimed, favored the Arabs by a 3-to-1 ratio), there would "be a greater incentive for Israel and the Palestinians and all the Arab nations to come together and talk." And of America's relationship with the Arab world, the congressman said in a previous debate that "they attack us because we've been over there."

Dr. Paul's own remedy is that if "we trade with everybody and talk with them . . . there's a greater incentive to work these problems out." But here's a rub.

As historian Michael Oren observes in "Power, Faith and Fantasy," his history of America's 230-year involvement in the Middle East, as early as the 1790s "many Americans had grown dismayed with the country's Middle East policy of admonishing the [Barbary] pirates while simultaneously coddling them with bribes." It was precisely out of a desire to "trade with everybody" that the early American republic was forced to build a navy, and then to go to war, to defend its commercial interests, a pattern that held true in World War I and the Persian Gulf "Tanker War" of the 1980s.

These details of history pose a problem not just to Dr. Paul's views of the Middle East, but to the intellectual architecture of libertarianism itself. Liberal societies are built on the belief in (and defense of) individual rights, but also on the overawing power of government to transform natural rights into civil ones. In the same way, trade between nations is only possible in the absence of robbers, pirates and other rogues. Whose job is it to get rid of them?

As I constantly remind folks promoting ideas that have been tried before (and failed), “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” And so it seems with Ron Paul. All American isolationism would do is promote more attacks upon us, not less. As I have said before, Dr. Paul assumes that our enemies think the same way he does. That belief is delusional and ultimately dangerous.

This is not someone I would want leading the United States.

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