Why I voted for Ron Paul
Did we learn nothing from the Soviet Union’s adventure there in the 1980s? Did we learn nothing from our own adventure in Vietnam?
Why the hell are we still in Afghanistan after ten years? We took a shot at bin Laden, and missed. As long as we were deployed, we kicked the Taliban out of the country. Okay. We did a good thing. Why must we follow it up with nine years of needless deaths, horrendous expenses, and a national moral stance that reeks of the American imperialism of the 1950s and ‘60s?
I’m reminded of a line from “Full Metal Jacket” wherein a pogue colonel confronts Private Joker about the peace sign on his helmet, and ends by assuring him that “inside every Vietnamese there’s an American trying to get out.” It’s a brilliant bit of screenwriting, but do we really believe that? Do the hacks who run our government truly believe that other people, from societies that are totally alien to our own, want to be just like us; just because we were once the good guys and a moral force in the world?
We sold “Americanism” door-to-door in Vietnam, like encyclopedias or Bibles. We knocked on the door of the hooch, explained that we were there to help them, and if the hapless peasants didn’t buy it, we either shot them or relocated them to re-education camps, and moved on to the next village.
In the ‘80s, I wrote a song about “all the Red Chinese with their little red TVs”. Maybe, like the Russians, all they really wanted in life was a washer-dryer combo, a microwave oven, something better to drive than a state-manufactured car that caught fire faster than a Chevy Volt, and a generally decent life that made some allowances for their personal preferences over state mandates. The Soviet Union ultimately collapsed, and it’ll be interesting to see if the odd police-state capitalism of communist China—and the United States—will survive longer than I do. Maybe people really do want washer-dryers, microwaves, and a say-so in how they live their lives.
When Ron Paul first espoused his isolationist philosophy in one of the endless debates last year, I was horrified. Leave Iran alone, and let them obtain a nuclear weapon they’ll surely use against Israel, or us? Let the Taliban return to rule Afghanistan? Let Iraq dissolve into sectarian civil war after we sacrificed so many lives to liberate them? Let the Muslim Brotherhood become the ruling power in Libya, Egypt, and Syria? Close some of the 900+ military garrisons we maintain outside the continental US?
Then—unlike the poor state-schooled student I was back in the day—I did my homework. I reached my own conclusions. I arrived at my own answer to the questions posed above:
Yes. If that’s what they want, let them do it. We, as a nation, can lead by example. We cannot lead by force, compulsion, or an endless series of undeclared, unconstitutional wars of opportunity. Our own domestic situation is critical, and if we can rectify the decline of the misguided national policies of the last 50 years, we will prove the case for individual liberty and freedom from state mandates and theological coercion. The Founding Fathers knew this was the way to go, and set us on the path.
Somewhere along the road, we became intoxicated with our own moral certainty, and decided that if we were prospering as a people, then the rest of the world would be well-advised to follow suit. By the start of the 20th century, we were knocking on other nations’ doors, giving them our sales pitch, and if they didn’t buy it, we shot them in the head and moved on to their neighbors.
When the Germans and the Japanese came into ascendancy in the 1930s, we were pretty much minding our own national business, and coping with the Great Depression and the quasi-socialist policies of Franklin Roosevelt. As late as 1940, a majority of Americans wanted no part of a war in Europe. Japanese imperialism was regarded as a local problem for Asians to deal with.
That all changed, of course.
When Hitler rode his personal train in triumph from Paris to Berlin in June 1940, the train was named “America”, as a benign gesture toward the US. Hitler didn’t want any American intervention in his wars of opportunity in Europe. Famed for his temper tantrums, one has to wonder what kind of hissy-fit he pitched when he learned that his Nipponese allies had declared war on America, and botched it horribly at Pearl Harbor in the process.
When Admiral Yamamoto was receiving congratulations for his strategic strike on 7 December 1941, he demurred with the comment “I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant.” The Japanese didn’t want a war with us, either. Their tactic was to cripple our Pacific fleet under color of a legally declared war, then immediately sue for peace when our ability to intervene in their expansionism was destroyed. Both Germany and Japan were ultimately embarked on wars of territorial conquest, not some insane quest for ideological or theological supremacy.
True, the Germans were driven by some bizarre Aryan occultism, and the Japanese were motivated by obscure racism, but at their core, both were rational societies. When they realized the error of their ways, they surrendered and threw themselves at the mercy of the world, specifically the United States. We hanged some war criminals, garrisoned both countries, and rewarded their initiative to change with things like the Marshall Plan for Europe. Like my daddy told me the first time I came home from school with a bloody nose: “Sometimes when you have a fight with someone, you’ll end up being their best friend.”
Today, the “War on Terror” is not a declared war, by the tenets of our Constitution. Terror is not a city-state, or a country. It’s a state of mind held by irrational people possessed only of animal cunning to survive, and fanatical distortions of theology and political ideology. There is no specific geographical region or society to declare war on. It’s like playing whack-a-mole; we have to deal with things as they pop up. As evidenced by Osama bin Laden’s purported demise, this can be an effective policy if pursued with adequate ruthlessness and efficiency.
Ever since the end of War II, tacticians and pundits have pointed out that we prepare to fight the next war on how we fought the last war. Last time out, we kicked ass with everything from nuclear weapons to overwhelming numbers of inferior tanks, and The Greatest Generation prevailed. We threw some money at the defeated nations, so as to not repeat the mistakes of War I, and then we called it a day. However, intoxicated with the triumph of our victory and moral supremacy, we started fiddling in earnest with the destinies of other countries and cultures, starting in Korea. One undeclared war of opportunity led to another, and has not ceased. Like a heroin addict seeking to recapture that first orgasmic high, we are fighting the “war on terror” like War II, replete with nation-building and “my-way-or-the-highway” proclamations.
In light of all this, Ron Paul’s disturbing assertions made sense. I initially said that his isolationist policies were a threat to our national security, but if he can enforce them with the ruthlessness and resolve of our strength as a nation, they can work. Belligerent nations don’t have to like us; they merely have to fear us. Germany and Japan didn’t want us taking issue with them over their malevolent ambitions in the last century. The radical Islamists of today would rather not deal with the Great Satan. By the lights of what they believe in, they would like to destroy any culture that doesn’t conform to their world view, but they lack the practical means to accomplish this end. Yes, Iranians are sophisticated enough to build a nuclear weapon, but Israel already has 30+ nukes, and I wouldn’t want to be a resident of Tehran if you mess with the Jews.
In the end, I voted my conscience. Americans are being assassinated in Afghanistan as religious zealots riot in the streets. We are no more welcome there than the Soviets. Why are we trying to “democratize” the most untamed nation on earth; a society that has resisted conquest by the Mongols, the British, and the Soviets, among others? Ron Paul supports basic Libertarian tenets, and those include Ayn Rand’s assertion that people who want to follow irrational ideas should be left to perish or flourish by their own devices.
In the end, it came to a toss-up between Newt Gingrich—the heart—and Ron Paul—the soul. The good doctor has no chance of being elected, but he is the only voice of radical change, and his moral compass is properly oriented. Perhaps that’s why he has been so ineffectual in Congress during his career.
When I finished brushing up on my history of the world, I looked at the records of the other three candidates:
Rick Santorum was never a serious consideration, but after viewing his two public assertions that he has “tried for most of my political career to keep Libertarian influences out of the GOP”, he was off the table for good. The icing on the cake was when he spouted that religious ideology should play a part in the formation of governmental policies. Wrong! I’m a person of faith, as were the Founding Fathers. What Santorum fails to grasp is the essential concept that freedom of religion can also be freedom from religion. As Brother Dave Gardner—a true man of the people, as opposed to Santorum’s opportunistic populism—said: “Let them that don’t want none have the pleasure of not getting any.” I spoke in the last post here about Santorum’s disturbing predilection to want to legislate morality; apparently it’s in his DNA, and he couldn’t control his compulsions. That he’s even a serious contender scares hell out of me. He’s a big-government, endless-wars Republocrat.
Mitten Romney is still the used car salesman who’d make me walk off the lot rather than do business with him. He might be pulling a trainload of business acumen to reverse Barry O’s socialism, but he’s still a big-government, endless-wars Republocrat, and extremely dubious in his demeanor, in the process.
Newt Gingrich is a man after my own heart: a corrupt, cynical political careerist who embraces unproven ideas on a whim, and becomes “Network”’s Howard Beale when he doesn’t get his way. “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any longer!” I saw him as an avenger; someone who’d take it to Barry O. and tear him a new one on the issues. I think he’d make an excellent chief-of-staff or Vice President, but in the end, he’s yet another big-government, endless-wars Republocrat.
So, I mailed in my absentee ballot the other day, and voted for the candidate who most truly represents my core belief system, and promises radical changes, dumping salt on the slippery slope the nation’s coasting down. The presidential preference primary is mostly a beauty contest or an episode of “American Idol”, and the only opportunity I’ll get this time out to vote for what I believe in, as opposed to the leadership ideals of the ultimate nominee. I was profoundly depressed by the thought processes that led me to my last-minute vote. The depression set in shortly after I mailed my ballot, when the realization set in that although I had voted according to my principles, it didn’t matter once the envelope left the house. The nominee to oppose Barry O. will be chosen on the basis of good hair, unrealistic promises, or what my grandmother called “slick preacher-talk” on social issues that are irrelevant to the crises that confront America today.
Although I cherish my right to vote like a refugee from an Eastern European dictatorship, the exercise of that right brought me no joy or sense of personal empowerment this time. Instead, I felt like a tool; a stooge being manipulated into voting for the lesser of two evils, which in the end is still evil. That disconcerting feeling will come to full fruition this November, when I mark my ballot and scrawl my “X” for whatever mangy yellow dog opposes the knucklehead currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Sure, I voted according to my principles, for a candidate who has no chance of winning, but come this fall, it would be a blessing to vote for someone who is truly representative of what I believe, instead of voting against an arrogant, effete, ineffectual ideologue who brings this nation closer to ruin with each passing day.