Rand Paul, Libertarian Extremist
He made John McCain look foolish, but did not make compelling arguments.


Andrew C. McCarthy

The Tea Party’s limited-government, constitutional heart is in the right place. But it needs much better guidance about how the Constitution works in wartime.

The defense-authorization bill currently under congressional consideration contains some unremarkable, largely redundant provisions about the treatment of enemy combatants. Naturally, the now-familiar alliance of leftists and libertarian extremists — self-proclaimed “constitutionalists” all — attacked with their signature “sky is falling” equanimity. On Wednesday, my column addressed some of the more hysterical arguments posited by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano. The real action, however, was taking place on the Senate floor, where Tea Party favorite Rand Paul (R., Ky.) squared off against John McCain (R., Ariz.), leader of the Republican party’s transnational-progressive wing. Sen. McCain, along with another tranzy, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), sponsored the detention provisions — which are thus collectively known as the McCain-Levin amendment.

Now, the fact that two progressives propose a bill does not necessarily make it wrong, but it can make their defense of it inscrutable. Video footage hyped by Reason magazine shows the folly of giving Senator McCain the laboring oar. He is a populist, out of his depth arguing constitutional issues. Perhaps more important, he is an enthusiastic believer in the alchemic power of “democracy” (or, at least, democratic processes such as elections and constitution-writing) to tame the most virulently anti-Western Islamic backwaters — no doubt owing to the fact that he seems less versed in Islamist ideology than he is in constitutional law.

In my humble opinion (okay, okay, not so humble — but one I’ve spent years developing), historians will look back on the democracy project as the most damaging national-security development in the post-9/11 era. For one thing, it will be seen as the policy that vested such dangerously misplaced Tea Party credibility in libertarian extremists such as Senator Paul and Judge Napolitano, who, under the Orwellian guise of “constitutionalism,” seek to vest our wartime enemies with the rights and privileges of American citizens (to the full peacetime extent of those rights and privileges).

The quest to quell Islamists by democratic processes has only empowered them. It has done nothing to enhance our security against terrorism. It has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars during a time of economic strife. It has actually provoked our enemies, whose ideology — which partisans such as McCain urge us to ignore — calls for waging violent jihad against Western forces that try to implant Western principles in Islamic lands. It has enabled rabidly anti-American Islamists throughout the Middle East to market themselves as “moderate political parties” and bask in the legitimacy the “international community” confers on electoral success — no matter how fraudulently achieved. It has cheapened true Western democracy by accommodating it to authoritarian sharia.

Worst of all, the Islamic-democracy project has sapped the political will of the American people to take actions that are actually necessary to our defense. Democracy fetishists have worn threadbare the public’s patience. Why confront Iranian aggression or Pakistani duplicity, they wonder, if the price-tag is endless years of nation-building masquerading as warfare? Why bother if our troops are hamstrung in combat, put at risk by rules of engagement that prioritize the safety of ungrateful populations? Why mortgage our children’s future if the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a sharia state that despises America?