James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Campaign 2012 Roundup: Is Foreign Policy a Problem for Ron Paul?

by James M. Lindsay
November 28, 2011

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas speaks during the Western Republican Leadership Conference at The Venetian hotel-casino in Nevada October 19, 2011. Picture taken October 19, 2011. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Ron Paul speaks during the Western Republican Leadership Conference on October 19, 2011. (Steve Marcus/courtesy Reuters)

A common trope so far in campaign 2012 is the argument that Republicans have turned isolationist. Someone apparently forgot to tell voters in Iowa. Polls currently have Ron Paul running fourth there. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that what’s hurting him with many Iowa Republicans is his non-interventionist foreign policies.

Dusty Juhl, a supporter of Mr. Paul in Iowa working for a libertarian-leaning group, estimated that 90% of the people he contacts raise concerns about the congressman’s foreign-policy views.

Mr. Paul illustrated the possibilities and limits of his campaign during a visit to a Warren County Republican breakfast here recently. He sent the room into broad applause when he reminded the audience that he has long called for closing the U.S. Department of Education—a pet cause of politically active home-schoolers. But the reaction was more muted when Mr. Paul switched to troop deployments.

“We spend way too much money overseas, so I’d start by bringing the troops home from around the world,” Mr. Paul said. About half the audience clapped. The other showed no visible reaction.

The reservations that Iowans have about Paul’s foreign policy views are striking. Why? Because the Midwest has historically been a stronghold of isolationist sentiment in America, and Iowa is the most Midwestern of states. (Indeed, Hollywood delights in movies in which Iowans are reluctant to go to war.) So perhaps “isolationism” doesn’t quite capture the complexity of the debate within the Republican Party on foreign policy.

Not everyone is alarmed by Paul’s foreign policy views. Conor Friedersdorf believes they are more mainstream than those his opponents espouse. Charles Krauthammer is not buying that argument. He blasts Paul for “living in the 20s [and thinking] we can have a moat around the United States and if we ignore the world, the world will ignore us.”

Paul isn’t the only GOP candidate in the news for his foreign policy views. Herman Cain used his appearance yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” to reiterate his opposition to President Obama’s plans to draw down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not surprisingly, he added that “I feel strongly that we should stand with Israel.” The Washington Times thinks that Cain’s approach to foreign policy is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Les Gelb, CFR’s president emeritus, worries that Republican presidential candidates are looking backward to a “bygone world of dire military threats” rather than forward toward the new truth of world politics—economics matters. Looking back at the CNN presidential debate last week, Gelb observes:

The real shocker was how all those candidates, save for [Ron] Paul and [Jon] Huntsman, almost totally neglected the now-central economic dimension of international affairs. Only those two noted the new reality of world politics—that economic strength now matters more than military might.

The gathering eurozone crisis may force the GOP presidential hopefuls to address the topic of international economics, regardless of whether they are ready to or not.

Post a Comment 11 Comments

  • Posted by José Mora

    Since you used both terms, “isolationist” and “non-interventionist” you left me thoroughly confused, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Just to be clear:
    Isolationist: No trade, high tariffs,no immigration, no involvement with other countries. NOT RON PAUL

    Non-Interventionist: Free trade, no tariffs, non-quota legal immigration, MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS AND NOT MEDDLING IN OTHERS’ BUSINESS. VERY RON PAUL

    USA 1920s: High tariffs, immigration brought to a standstill YET, meddling BIG TIME in North Atlantic, Europe, Pacific and Asia. JUST THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF RON PAUL

    USA 2010s: High tariffs, immigration BLACK MARKET, meddling all over the world. JUST THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF RON PAUL

  • Posted by LeneD

    I think Ron Paul makes perfect sense. He is the only one out there telling the people the truth but the people don’t want to hear the truth. They have forgotten what America is all about and have bought into the fear mongering which has clouded their common sense. Go to You Tube and watch..”Ron Paul What if the people wake up 2-12-09″.

  • Posted by AJ187

    Ron Paul isn’t adverse to attacking countries if there is sound evidence of an immanent attack. He just wants a declaration from the congress or the issuance of letter of marque and reprisal if the situation warrants.

    When we go to war carelessly they don’t end quickly, and they often drain us of money, troop moral and resources.

  • Posted by TommyO

    The media’s ignoring, ridicule and outright smearing of Ron Paul while bolstering other candidates illustrates nicely the two great modern schemes operating in American politics facilitated by the mainstream media – those being: the phony “two party paradigm” and the creation of the phony GOP “tea party”. First, the concept of a modern “tea party” came on board with the Ron Paul supporters back in 2007 during the campaign. Actual pounds of tea were to be dropped by a hovering blimp into Boston Harbor on the historic day of the original Boston tea party against British tyranny as a gesture of defiance to the status quo (lost of civil liberties; unending illegal wars; nation building; destruction of our currency; torture and extraordinary rendition; abuse of civil liberties under the bogus Patriot Act etc.). Party affiliation, national origin, race etc. wasn’t important – all were welcomed – only a love of liberty and a willingness to fight for it and hence among those veterans the movement is rarely regarded as “tea party” but instead the “liberty” or “freedom” movement and it is definitely not GOP or Cain, Perry or Bachmann!!

    In 2008 when the “dynamic duo” – McCain and his side kick – Palin got their bloodied grinded behinds handed back to them by Obama. This is exactly what the mainstream media had orchestrated for the previous year – and the rank and file GOP voters predictably bought it – they bought media served “stooge of the day” McCain and side kick hook line and sinker! I invite you to research progressive AP reporter Liz Soldoti’s coverage of McCain 2008 and see how she systematically built him up “straight talk express” to become the GOP front runner – the MSM knowing he was hopeless and would get creamed by Obama!
    Immediately after the election in an attempt to do damage control the RNC/GOP and right leaning media embraced “tea party” to co-opt the movement for the progressive neo-cons – enter the right media ala FOX and the likes of social controlling neo-con personalities such as Rush Limbaugh; Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. The left media, MSNBC etc. and their social controlling components: Keith Obermann; Chris Mathews and Rachel Maddow in an effort to maintain and reinforce the phony two party paradigm immediately hyped them “racists” and “secessionists” nut jobs stressing the “tea party” as against newly elected President Obama primarily because he was black!

    Hence: the term “tea party” as currently hyped in the media is a creation of the mainstream media and simply equates to good old American progressive “neo-con”! The concept of “tea party” they propagate is a primary tool currently used to continue the “two party paradigm”. Anyone uninformed enough to buy in is being seriously played and hasn’t taken the effort to analyze the actual facts – just taking the media’s word for it like a good little boy or girl and maintain the “status quo”.

    Allow me to go a little Taoist on you – the “real” tea party you hear about is not the “REAL” tea party!

    Strange as it may seem, there is actually little socio-economic and political ideological difference between – lets say, MSNBC and FOX – only the illusion of one! Both the (so – called) right and left factions of American mainstream media are all globalists – wanting to maintain and expand American empire with all their corporate owners having direct BOD relationships with the giants in the military industrial complex such as: GE; Texaco; Chevron; Boeing; Lockheed Martin; Citigroup; Rockwell Automation; Chase, WorldCom, and JP Morgan; Halliburton, etc. and thereby financially benefit directly from the ongoing nation building and entrenched foreign occupations.

    So the mainstream media as a whole created the current “GOP tea party” as is hyped today, to attempt to contain and control the actual legitimate non-partisan “liberty movement” (being the actual REAL “tea party” started by Ron Paul supporters in 2007) – it being a threat to the status quo and use the phony “two party paradigm” to help them do it. This is the illusion of two different parties counter balancing one another – please don’t say you can’t remember recently this spring when republican Senator McCain and democrat Senator Kerry went arm in arm bellowing for illegal war with Libya? Do you not find it is strange that Obama never changed Bush/Cheney policies regarding: torture; bailouts; WARS; Patriot Act and lost of civil liberties and abuse of American citizenry. Exactly – both parties want huge intrusive central authority – its just one side prefers to balloon the size of government with aggressive warfare and less social welfare and vice-versa. Americans are spoon fed the “two party paradigm” as a controlling device through the lame-stream media – that’s why globalist neo-cons like Bachmann and Perry are being hyped as “tea party” and that is why they are desperately trying to co-opt many of Ron Paul’s life-long political positions on things, such as: auditing the Federal Reserve.

    For years have you scratched your head wondering – why are our representatives in DC doing this? Are they trying to destroy America? Unfortunately in a twisted sense – they are. For the globalist in both parties it’s not about gaining a secure and prosperous American Republic; upholding liberty maintaining the supreme law of the land – the U.S. Constitution. It is totally about maintaining an economic empire for a select group of oligarchs using the American military – our blood and treasure! It’s about redistributing American wealth and technology and building “emerging” economies in China and India etc while de-industrializing America! It’s about destroying our education system with federal control so that our young people test dismally against students in the rest of the world in science and math! It’s about defending borders overseas while leaving our southern border in the USA open allowing for abuses of American citizens. We could go on and on about the mistreatment Americans suffer at the hands of a rogue government! However, you and I both know that throughout the process of the dismantling of America, the mainstream media tells you “its okay – remember back in 2008 when they spoon-fed us “don’t worry either top tier candidate, Obama or McCain will get us on track”! Now the media is trying to force-feed us their choice AGAIN!

    Yeah right! We know how that worked out!

    The media is currently working overtime to convince voters that the candidates like: Romney; Gingrich; Cain; Perry and Bachmann are significantly different than President Obama – this is definitely pure BS! All of the 2012 candidates (in both parties) polling significant numbers nationally are deep in the pocket of international banking and the military industrial complex EXCEPT RON PAUL! This corrupt system needs an on-going puppet in the White House to keep bailing out criminals and keep this bogus war on terror going and ramped up bombing and saber rattling all awhile the media keeping the American people placated with the “two party paradigm” allowing for global elites to steal American national wealth and sovereignty! Ron Paul is the only candidate significantly different than Obama and therefore the ONLY ONE capable of beating him on issues that the majority of Americans heavily support (like ending: illegal wars; torture and illegal detention; abolishing the Patriot Act and ending the Federal Reserve; stopping the failing “war on drugs and the abuses of IRS and TSA as well as getting us out of treaty organizations that rob us of our sovereignty such as: NATO and NAFTA etc.)

    The “establishment” is in a real bind – the media’s “ignore” phase for the “Ron Paul problem” hasn’t worked and the “discredit” phase is now underway. These types of tactics are standard procedure in any third world banana republic to marginalize legitimate opposition to the regime and status quo. They have NO place in a free representative Republic!

    So, fellow Americans if by now you haven’t acknowledged that Obama is a corporate puppet you are in serious denial or part of the subversion! If you want things to continue under the rule of the global “banksters’ and “tanksters” – maintain the status quo and allowing tyranny to grow under the phony “two party paradigm” – vote for the spoon- fed media’s “top tier”: Obama; Romney; Cain; Perry; Bachmann etc., but if you want things to truly change and have the assurance that you will have the right to be heard and not silenced then begin to restore America liberty now and support Ron Paul! He can’t be bought – and the establishment knows it! They must use every means available to attempt to marginalize him – hence the blackout, ridicule and smear! Check your states regulations for rules of primary voting and do whatever it takes (you may have to join the Republican Party) so that you can cast your primary vote for Ron Paul.

    WE WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN! Ron Paul 2012!!!

  • Posted by anonoped

    Nice hit piece.

    You claim: polls in Iowa have Ron Paul in fourth.
    The reality: People who matter in Iowa have Ron Paul 2nd or winning the Caucus outright.

    So which is it? You expect people to take you seriously yet cite puff polls as a basis.

    You claim: Ron Paul showed a limit during a speech in Iowa where half the audience did not clap when talking about bringing troops home.
    The reality: Ron Paul was stating that America has overspent and the troops will be coming home anyway if something is not changed. Troops don’t work for free.

    Audience applause is not a limit of a politician. To suggest so is fantasy

    You claim: Charles Krauthammer thinks Ron Paul is living in the 20′s.
    The reality: You’re citing a pundit as a leader of the conservative base. You are cloaking an opinion as a fault.

    Kraughthammer is in it for the paycheck only and would wave a Ron Paul banner if his boss told him to.

    How did you get this past an editor. An article citing Ron Paul stops halfway through and out of nowhere checks in on Cain. Why?

    You can’t find anything else to write about on Ron Paul?
    Here’s your homework assignment. Go watch the hour long Des Moines Register Editorial Panel interview of Ron Paul from last week.

    Then you can try to write something worthwhile.

  • Posted by BettyLiberty

    Your brand of foreign relations is a problem for Ron Paul.

  • Posted by Tony

    Ron Paul has few great points which will attract the young generation, especially the ones that are graduated and have no real jobs,
    1.Focus on education as a national security
    2.Restructure the tax system
    3.Incentives for reinvestment and production domestically versus shipping our factories overseas
    4.Cutback on DOD expenses; such as reduction in cost for afghan and iraq’s wars

  • Posted by Ambrose

    I think it is an accepted fact that many, if not the majority of republican voters share Ron Paul’s branch of social & fiscal conservativism, but disagree with the foreign policy which is fundamental to his freedom philosophy.

    Perhaps a more pertitant discussion would be the implications of a (likely) Paul victory in the Iowa caucuses.

    A winning show of support for a foreign policy based on “The Golden Rule” would surely indicate the Paul’s position has an established presence within the Republican party.

    This is Ron Paul’s foreign policy:-

    1. Treat other nations as you would like the USA to be treated.

    2. Respond legally and decisively to real and present dangers. Going to war when decalred by congress.

    3. Remove barriers that would let individual US citizens VOLUNTARILY support those in foreign nations – If there is an uprising in Gabon, the US government should not get involved, but that does not mean naturalised Gabonese now living in the USA cannot support (or oppose) the uprising with the money or time.

    4. Use diplomacy to promote trade with other nations. Setup diplomatic missions in all countries and military bases in none.

    I am at a loss to understand why people don’t support this.

  • Posted by David

    “Isolationist”? You mean if a country doesn’t want to go to war with another country that country is “isolationist”? Ron Paul believes in free trade. He believes that trading consumer goods among nations is a better way to interact with each other than bombing each other. That doesn’t sound “isolationist” to me.

    “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

  • Posted by Bill Jones

    One of the great cognitive dissonances in life is how many self-styled Conservatives are rightly distrustful of government except when it’s torturing, murdering or throwing people in cages when they suddenly become abject worshipers of the State.
    Pitiful, really.

  • Posted by Corey

    Ron Paul’s foreign policy might be a problem against mainline, brainwahsed neo conservatives, but that is a failed movement with a faulty philosophy. Barack Obama’s less-interventionist rhetoric is what helped him win the whitehouse and I suspect by the time elections roll around next year Ron Paul’s years of predicting BLOWBACK will be a major asset to his campaign rather than a liability.

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