Friday, December 7, 2012

Ron Paul’s Middle East Delusion

In an op-ed at last week, former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul addressed what he calls “the tragic-comedy of US foreign policy” and explained “How to End the Gaza Tragedy.” The real tragicomedy is that Paul continues to cling to his dangerously naïve foreign policy perspective.

In his article, Paul asserts his usual stance that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will never end as long as the United States continues to support Israel. He quotes journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote that “For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict.” Like Greenwald, Paul doesn’t hold Palestinian terrorists accountable for initiating and perpetuating the violence; he only paints a picture of American and Israeli collusion to oppress Palestinians in what Paul calls the “Gaza tragedy.”

Of the most recent Middle East conflagration, Paul writes in his op-ed that “it feels like 2009 all over again, which is the last time this kind of violence broke out in Gaza.” Note the convenient passivity of that phrasing, “violence broke out,” which enables Paul to avoid placing responsibility where it belongs. That violence wasn’t a nonhuman natural phenomenon like a thunderstorm; it didn’t just spontaneously “break out.” That violence, like the more recent one, was the result of relentless rocket attacks and terrorist activity by Palestinians, which necessitated a too-patient Israel to move in and put a stop to it. But that doesn’t fit Paul’s anti-Israel narrative.

“At that time,” he continues, meaning 2009, “over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, of which just 235 were combatants.” That latter number is grossly off-base. The Israel Defense Force’s scrupulous official accounting identifies 709 combatants out of 1004 fatalities whose status is known (another 295 were civilians and 162 were unclassified). Paul is also being disingenuous about those figures; he neglected to explain not only that Israel went to the most extraordinary lengths imaginable to avoid civilian casualties, but also that Hamas intentionally puts their civilians in harm’s way, to give ammunition for people like Paul to smear Israel.

When Obama defended Israel’s actions this time around by saying “No country on Earth… would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Paul found it ironic: “Considering that this president rains down missiles on Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and numerous other countries on a daily basis, the statement was so hypocritical that it didn’t pass the laugh test.” Paul feels that our “one-sided,” foreign policy hypocrisy “actually results in more loss of life and of security on both sides”:

Continuing to rain down missiles on so many increasingly resentful nations, the US is undermining rather than furthering its security. We are on a collision course with much of the rest of the world if we do not right our foreign policy.

Actually, the reasons we are on a collision course with “much of the rest of the world” are that, under the Obama administration, the United States has spent itself into economic ruin (a domestic topic on which Paul has more sensible opinions), abrogated its role as the world’s sole remaining superpower, facilitated the surge of our Islamic fundamentalist enemies, and alienated our allies like Israel.

Ron Paul’s foreign policy solutions appeal to those Blame America First (and Last) Chomsky devotees who believe that if only America would end its jackbooted imperialist militarism, peace on earth and good will toward men would sweep the globe faster than Santa’s reindeer. That’s not only a perverse take on America’s international role historically, it’s also wildly unrealistic.

It takes a stunning degree of self-delusion to believe that the Middle East conflict would begin to be resolved if only we would stop provoking the Muslim world and supporting our closest ally. That shows a profound lack of understanding of the enemy we face in Islamic fundamentalism. In the world of Ron Paul’s head, the way to get an enemy like, say, the megalomaniacal Iranian regime to drop its dream of world domination and its oft-stated aim of destroying the Great Satan America and the Little Satan Israel is to simply offer them friendship. Let’s end our Middle East interventionism, Paul urges, “replacing it with friendship and even-handedness.”

In the real world, however, treating everyone the same doesn’t mean you lose enemies – it means you lose allies. Simply put, foreign policy cannot be based on treating everyone the same because, contrary to Paulian fantasy, not all countries are willing to join hands and “sing in perfect harmony” together like a Coke commercial. Some countries are hell-bent on erasing others from the map, and treating both sides the same means you tacitly support the former’s genocidal aim against the latter.

Paul apparently feels that America should keep its nose out of other countries' business. But if American power is not wielded where it is needed – and that includes our own military power and military support to our allies – then you leave a vacuum that will be filled by evil and ruthless forces who have no qualms about wielding their own power. And one day you will have to face the consequences of having abandoned your allies and empowered your enemies by what Mark Steyn calls “sheer stupid half-witted parochialism.” This is the reality of Paul’s foreign policy naiveté.

Paul’s supporters claim he’s not anti-Israel; he wants to end foreign aid to everyone, including our enemies. Defunding our enemies is a great idea which I fully support. Let’s stop sending billions to the anti-American Islamic supremacists in Pakistan and Egypt. Let’s stop funding the ideological extremism of Saudi Arabia. Let’s stop sending aid to the Palestinians since that money goes, and has always gone, into the greedy hands of their rabid leadership, who have a vested interest in refusing to improve the lot of their people. In fact, let’s demand full refunds.

But cutting off our allies is another matter, especially the vulnerable Israel. That’s not a solution to violence – it’s an invitation for more of it.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 12/3/12)