Ramesh, as usual, hit the nail on the head with his brief response to today’s misleading NRO column by Senator Rand Paul. To quote Ramesh, “None of Paul’s critics at NRO have said anything like what Paul claims about nuance or realism, or called for unlimited involvement in foreign wars.” Indeed, Paul seems to have the Obama Disease: accusing his critics of having “no place for nuance or realism . . . no middle ground,” when it is in fact he who is the only one actually positing the polarizing options.
How many times has Obama accused his critics of wanting to force “false choices” between two absurd, all-or-nothing extremes, when virtually nobody has seriously suggested that those are the only choices? This is exactly what Paul is doing. So when Rich Lowry asserts that “Paul’s belief that the Iraq War may have been about padding a corporate bottom line echoes charges of ‘war profiteering’ that have been a staple of the Left,” Paul rather nastily (and wrongly) writes that “today’s young aspiring Buckleyites sharpen their knives to carve up conservatives who propose a more realist and nuanced approach to foreign policy.” But is it more “nuanced” and “realist” to accuse Dick Cheney of choosing to send thousands to their deaths because of his search for lucre, or is it instead more realist to question such a vicious conspiracy theory?
When I write that Paul is factually incorrect to blame Ronald Reagan and a “war caucus” for arming Osama bin Laden, is that, as Paul says, evidence that I want “democracy worldwide now and damn all obstacles to that utopia”? Of course not. And when Ramesh writes that Paul was, well, a bit off in Paul’s early reactions to Syrian atrocities and Vladimir Putin’s bellicosity, in the exact same column where Ramesh also took hawks to task for taking libertarians’ concerns too lightly, Ramesh is hardly taking a “for me or against me” stance. Yet for Rand Paul, anyone who is even a smidgen more hawkish than Paul himself must therefore, it seems, be nothing but a Wilsonian utopian.
Rand Paul is more intelligent than this. He must know he is vastly misrepresenting his critics and vastly oversimplifying complex foreign-policy questions. If he continues to do so, his statements will no longer be able to be considered rhetorical sloppiness, but instead will justly be labeled demagoguery.