The Corner

Doc Bainbridge on Ron Paul

As Adler noted below Proessor Bainbridge comes out against Ron Paul with gusto. Two quick responses.

1. He writes:

To be sure, I agree with Jonah Goldberg that there’s “something weird going on when Paul, the small-government constitutionalist, is considered the extremist in the Republican Party while Huckabee, the statist, is the lovable underdog.” I agree that Huckabee would be a lousy choice. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and Paul’s the wrong choice too.

Me: I absolutely agree. My only point there was that I wish radical libertarianism seemed a bit less radical in the GOP and populist communitarianism seemed a bit more so.

2.  I think it’s interesting that Bainbridge largely left foreign policy out of his lengthy indictment save for some quick thoughts on Iraq and the Vietnam syndrome. But if you’re going to chalk-up an omnibus indictment of Paul and his conservative bonda fides, I think you should also mention that he’s no Reaganite on foreign policy (as he sometimes suggests) and he’s really no Taft disciple either. Here, below the fold, is a longish snippet from my magazine piece on the subject:

….The Buckleyite position came to define mainstream American conservatism (and much of libertarianism) until the fall of the Berlin Wall. But a few rightist intellectuals dissented. The most famous was Murray Rothbard, a brilliant anarchist libertarian who saw in the Cold War a sweeping con job. The “blight of anti-Communism,” Rothbard tellingly wrote in the left-wing journal Ramparts, paved the way for a takeover of American conservatism by defenders of Truman’s “imperialist aggression.” The Cold War was merely a convenient justification for statism, the crushing of dissent, and war lust. Churchill, de Gaulle, and Khrushchev were equally “butchers.” Truman was the “butcher of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” National Review had a “clerical fascist” tinge, while various hard-Left organs — such as the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy — earned Rothbard’s support and membership.

Ron Paul is perhaps the most famous heir to the Rothbard tradition. He even has a portrait of Rothbard on his wall (that is, according to Wikipedia; Paul’s office declined to grant an interview for this piece). Paul claims to be the standard-bearer of a truer, more authentic conservatism. In debates he spins an odd historical interpretation in which the GOP has always succeeded when championing either withdrawal from foreign conflicts (Korea, Vietnam) or non-interventionism. Most analysts, on the other hand, will tell you the GOP’s advocacy of a strong defense has been a strength. Still, Paul claims that withdrawal not only from the U.N. (yippee!) but also from NATO, the WTO, NAFTA, and every “entangling alliance” (read: support for Israel, mutual-defense agreements, etc.) is the truly conservative position. When the Republican presidential candidates debated in South Carolina, he invoked Robert Taft’s opposition to NATO. Left out of Paul’s tale: Taft supported the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, promised “100 percent support for the Chinese National government on Formosa,” advocated “occasional extensions . . . into Europe, Asia, and Africa,” and favored keeping six divisions in Europe, at least until the Europeans could defend themselves.

In the 1980s, as Reagan supported rollback, Paul favored roll-up. He wanted the U.S. to leave NATO and abandon Japan. On Grenada he was more nuanced, but he aimed his fire at Reagan’s decision not to seek a declaration of war from Congress (a frequent safe harbor from which Paul criticizes nearly every military engagement). In the foreword to A Foreign Policy of Freedom, a collection of Paul’s foreign-policy floor speeches, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. calls the Cold War and the War on Terror all part of the same “farce”; both were ruses to justify large government.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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