Appalled by Paul?

by John Derbyshire

I count myself a Ron Paul admirer, though not as much of a one as I was before he turned his coat on the National Question. I can’t really say “supporter” since, the National Question aside, I agree with the common consensus that Dr. Paul is unelectable. We are sunk too deep in bureaucratic managerialism: too many iron rice bowls are at stake. Dr. Paul is none the less right about more things than the average candidate is right about, and that’s not nothing. Hence my admiration.

From that standpoint, I’d like to ask a question of the anti-Paulists. Here’s the question: Why are you so outraged by his assertion, in last Thursday night’s debate, that if the Iranians want to develop nuclear weapons, we should go ahead and let them?

It seems clear to me that given Iran’s resources (and Chinese and Russian duplicity), any system of sanctions would leak like a sieve — as, in fact, pretty much all systems of sanctions against unpopular nations always have. The only way to prevent Iran from going nuclear if she wants to is therefore by military action. In fact, since one-off strikes would have uncertain effect, the only true way would be full-scale military invasion and long-term occupation.

Which Republican candidate advocates such a course of action?

If the answer is “None” (which of course it is), then what, in effect, is the difference between Dr. Paul’s Iran policy and that of Romney, Bachmann, Perry, and the rest?

If no U.S. leader or potential leader is willing to do the one thing sure to kill Iran’s nuclear ambitions, then how is it eccentric, much less worthy of mockery, for Dr. Paul to say we should leave them to it and rely on deterrence?

I actually agree that nuclear proliferation is a nontrivial issue. That there are currently two unstable nations with large irrational components in their policy-making — I mean of course Pakistan and North Korea — and nuclear weapons in their arsenals, scares me considerably. More would be worse; and the common argument that if Iran goes nuclear, then the other “big boy” nations of the region — Turkey, Egypt, S.A. — would feel obliged to follow, seems reasonable.

I just want to hear some explanation for the extravagant scorn being heaped on Dr. Paul for his Iran position when it is, in its actual effect, identical with the position of the other candidates, only more honestly presented.

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