Magazine | February 6, 2012, Issue

Paul the Parochial

Uncle Sam has now spent a decade running around the Hindu Kush building grade schools and shoveling taxpayer-funded Viagra to every elderly village headman with one too many child brides. According to the World Bank, the Western military/aid presence accounts for 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP. And, within a week of the West’s departure, it will be as if that 97 percent had never been there, and all that remains will be the same old 3 percent tribal dump of mullahs, warlords, poppy barons, and pederasts, all as charmingly unspoiled as if the U.S. and its allies had quit 48 hours after toppling the Taliban in 2001.

It is two-thirds of a century since the alleged hyperpower last unambiguously won a war, and that ought to prompt a little serious consideration of the matter. Instead, we have Ron Paul, who says all would be well if we stopped “endlessly bombing” “these countries.” To which penetrating insight his fans respond with: “Bring them home! Bring them home!” For some reason, I attract a lot of correspondence from Paulites arguing that, if I truly mean what I wrote in the paragraph above, then Ron’s my man. A retired U.S. Army officer writes from South Carolina:

The US Military is a Peace-Making force, not a Peace-keeping Nation Building one. I am sure Dr. Paul would cut out the district military pork of Congress (whom 80% have NEVER served unlike him!), the $600 toilet seats, and $80 hammers, etc ad infinitum, ad nauseam. . . . Quit playing whack a mole and other stupid social games, either utterly vanquish like against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan or DO NOT GO IN! They are for MacArthur: nuke the Chicoms if needed. . . . Send in Seal Team 6 to take out Bin Ladens, etc. None of this PC stuff, otherwise we would not have won WW1 and WW2!

A Ron Paul man in Indianapolis agrees: “Playing Global Cop for the UN has done nothing for the US or creating allies. . . . We attack when attacked and we attack with vengence [sic], I mean nuclear vengence.”

Ron Paul supporters may support such appealingly muscular policies, but Ron Paul doesn’t. “Nuclear vengeance”? Include Ron out. He opposed Seal Team Six taking out bin Laden. Or as he put it in the Myrtle Beach debate: “I’m just trying to suggest that respect for other nations’ sovereignty — and look at the chaos in Pakistan now. We are at war in Pakistan, but to say that I didn’t want him killed. . . . I’m just suggesting that there are processes that if you could follow and that you should do it. There is [sic] proper procedures rather than digging bigger holes for ourselves.”

#page#Does that sound like a president who’d drop the big one on Kandahar, never mind Beijing? Surely nuking the ChiComs would fall afoul of those “proper procedures”? As for all the savings from those $600 toilet seats, some 80 percent of the military budget goes to the training and salaries of the soldiery, and, as Doctor Paul was at pains to assure his audience, he has no plans to demob any of our boys in uniform. All he wants to do is eliminate their travel budget. If you want a massive military that stays in its barracks, you’re surely going to need more Osama-like missions — small, focused raids of elite commandos rappelling into compounds hither and yon. So, if the rubble-doesn’t-cause-trouble crowd are betting on Ron, they’ve got the wrong guy.

I was surprised in New Hampshire and South Carolina that the alleged “non-interventionist” didn’t have a more coherent answer to hand. But saying endlessly that we “endlessly bomb” “these countries” is about as specific as he wants to get, and all his fans need. Paul is offering Americans a libertarian version of the same pitch as Obama four years ago: End Bush’s wars, and we can get the good times back, with no pain. Once we slough off that pesky part of the map marked “Rest of the World,” we can live the socialist/libertarian dream (delete according to taste).

His fans dislike the designation “isolationist,” so how about parochial? Greta Garbo can say “I vont to be alone”; great powers don’t get the option. Even in steep, irreversible global retreat, America would remain for the rest of our lives the biggest, fattest, most inviting target on the planet. Ask the British: Speaking at Friday prayers during the 2009 uprising in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei blamed it on foreign interference fomented by “bad British radio”: “The most evil of them all is the British government.” Her Majesty’s Government hasn’t meddled in Iran for half a century, but it’s still their fault. Likewise, Osama blamed Britain for the deaths of “two million Muslims” in Bosnia, from which cheerless hellhole London had kept its distance and been impeccable Ron Paul non-interventionists. Luxembourg can vote for a quiet life, but not a nation of 300 million people whose cultural influence, for good or ill, is everywhere. To modify Trotsky, you may not be interested in the world, but the world is interested in you. And “America: Love us or leave us be” is especially unpersuasive when your future’s mortgaged to foreigners, and everything in your house is made overseas.

I wish I could like Ron Paul more, really I do. But libertarian narcissism is as banal as any other strain. Ten years of desultory, inconclusive, transnationally constrained warmongering is certainly a problem. But know-nothing parochial delusion is not the solution.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Ha. Ha. Ha.

If everyone who used the acronym “LOL” were actually engaged in the act of Laughing Out Loud, the world would be ringing with the happy sound of laughter pretty much ...
Politics & Policy

The Youth Candidate

It seems like establishment Republicans will do just about anything to win elections. In 2007, Florida governor Charlie Crist, channeling Al Gore, signed executive orders unilaterally regulating greenhouse-gas emissions in ...


Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Mute Point

This promises to be a challenging year for Oscar voters. The old reliables — Steven Spielberg with War Horse, Martin Scorsese with Hugo, Clint Eastwood with J. Edgar — haven’t ...
Politics & Policy

The Virtue Deficit

Charles Murray writes important and provocative books. His latest book, Coming Apart, joins Losing Ground (1984) and The Bell Curve (1994) as, in my view, among his most important and ...
Politics & Policy

The Vice of Moderation

National Review’s founding in 1955 is widely considered the spark that lit the modern conservative movement. According to Geoffrey Kabaservice’s new book, that moment was also the beginning of the ...
Politics & Policy

Acid Test

Everything changed for Ambrose Bierce the day he was shot in the head. At least that’s one theory about how a bright young man from Horse Cave Creek in Ohio ...


Politics & Policy


Lincoln’s Constitution and Ours Fred Schwarz made my blood boil in his review of Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation (“Lincoln’s Constitution,” January 23). Does the expression “The ends justify ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Mismanaged and lacking strategic direction, the Gingrich campaign may be in need of a leveraged buyout. ‐ After the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney is much ...
The Bent Pin

Mr. Hitchens and I

Christopher Hitchens and I were not friends or even acquaintances. We never met or spoke on the phone, just exchanged occasional brief letters — notes really — hand-written and snail-mailed ...

The Gilded Choo-choo

Aside from the used diaper in the sleeping-car compartment, it wasn’t a bad train trip. Arrived the day it was supposed to, didn’t derail. If you’re wondering how a used ...
The Long View

NSA Surveillance

Document Extract Mobile Communication Project Begin extract 01.15.12 GMT 13:47 Static. Unidentified Male Voice: Hello? Unidentified Male Voice 2: Yessir? Over. Unidentified Male Voice: Is this Rick Perry? Unidentified Male Voice 2: Yes it is, sir. To whom ...
Politics & Policy


CENTURION (Matthew 2:16) I’ve slaughtered babies all day long, near Bethlehem. But why? If the wizards are right, nothing can alter the Fates, and, if they’re wrong, we’re killing without a reason. So now, at night, I ...
Happy Warrior

Paul the Parochial

Uncle Sam has now spent a decade running around the Hindu Kush building grade schools and shoveling taxpayer-funded Viagra to every elderly village headman with one too many child brides. ...

Most Popular


The Scholarship/Activism Balance — A Rejoinder

The Martin Center recently published an article by sociology professor Fabio Rojas, in which he argued that professors should maintain the right balance between their teaching and scholarship on the one hand, and activism on the other. In today's article, the Center's Jay Schalin pushes back somewhat. Schalin ... Read More

The Book Comey Wanted to Write

Making the click-through worthwhile: the book James Comey had wanted to write, Facebook starts to feel useless to some writers, an infamous D.C. city councilman manages to make everything worse, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign finds its wish granted. What Did James Comey’s First Draft of A Higher ... Read More
Film & TV

Pro-Life Feminist

My paisana at the Human Life Review are hosting an event in NYC on Thursday, May 3, at the Sheen Center (18 Bleeker Street) for the airing of director Jim Hanon’s half-hour documentary, Pro-Life Feminist. After the viewing, he’ll join the trio of castmates -- Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, Aimee Murphy, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Good News for Pompeo

Looks like he's in, as he should be. But this fight has been a hint of what life will be like for Trump if the Democrats somehow take the Senate -- they'd refuse to confirm anyone for anything. Read More

What Self-Help Guru Tony Robbins Was Trying to Say

Tony Robbins must have known immediately that he'd made a huge mistake in how he responded to a question about #MeToo. Last month, at one of Robbins's popular, sold-out seminars, audience member Nanine McCool told the self-help guru that she thought he misunderstood the #MeToo movement. You can see the entire ... Read More

Suicide of the West

Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again. -- Ronald Reagan, ... Read More