Rand Paul at Heritage

I agree with Rand that we need more reason and less action without thought in our foreign policy.  I would agree with him that there is not long-term policy or nuance in our dealings with allies and enemies. I would agree we need to restore more power to the legislature and have less in the executive.

But I take a couple of points with him.  Yes, Reagan was far more clever than the last 2 decades of presidents, but Rand is a little off in his vision of Reagan.  Reagan’s tactics may have been far more intelligent, and Rand correctly points this out, but it is not accurate to describe Reagan’s strategy as one of containment.  Reagan’s intention wasn’t  “containing” the Soviet Union, his goal was the total destruction of the Soviet Union.  And he won.  “He won the Cold War without firing a shot,” as Thatcher pointed out. (Although we did bomb a lot of allies of the Soviet Union, even if we didn’t attack them directly). He drew a line in the sand and did not back down and this caused the Soviet system to panic, to overspend, to collapse much faster than it would have if the policies of Reagan’s predecessors had continued.  Senator Paul points to the fact that “The cold war ended because the engine of capitalism defeated the engine of socialism” but ignores that while socialism’s defeat by the laws of economics are guaranteed, capitalism’s defeat can easily come at the hand of military and political force (and 4 more years of Carter may actually have seen such a collapse).

He also conveniently forgets that sometimes in Reagan’s policy we had to deal with some terrible people to hold back even worse people.  Now I don’t really fault him for this, the ideals of policy speech should be above the need to sometimes get your hands dirty that actual policy requires, but it annoys me during the speech that he ignores how many freedom fighters we did arm, and how many deals with the devil we had to make to keep the worst evil at the time at bay.

Further he condemns nation building as not being our responsibility.  I will point to two situations.  We did not rebuild Germany after World War I.  We had to come back a little over 2 decades later.  We did not help rebuild Afghanistan after we helped them push the Soviets out.  We had to come back a little over a decade later.  There is a great scene at the end of the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, a quote from Wilson on our helping the nation fight for itself, and how we didn’t help them rebuild.  “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world…and then we fucked up the end game.”   If Rand Paul wants pragmatism then it is the fact that capitalism, rule of law, and classical liberal ideals must be supported, sometime monetarily.  The fact is that if we had supported these nation after they were destroyed it is far less likely they would have fallen to tyranny again as quickly (Hitler only won about 40% of the vote, if the nation had been more stable would he have even won that?…Afghanistan was Westernizing before the Soviet invasion and was not a fruitful ground for extremism, would it have bred the Taliban if we had helped it recover after the Soviets left?).  When you don’t deal with problems before they become problem you have expensive problems that are almost impossible to solve.

Yes the last 20 years of foreign policy have been conducted haphazardly with no end game in mind at best, and simply idiotically at worst.  There has been no ability to adapt, no oversight of the stupidity, and little rational debate.  And I agree with Rand that we need more of that.  And yes we shouldn’t be doing anything if we don’t have the money or time to do it (like now).

But the word containment is wrong.  If you go in just wanting to stop the spread of something you will always lose.  The goal needs to be the spread of democratic-Republics, the spread of capitalism, the spread of liberty.  Certainly not in such a slipshod helter-skelter way that non-interventionist Bush (who only turned to Neoconservatism on 9-11 because it was the only thing that made sense, but without understanding it to be long-term, possibly generational idea, not a quick two term fix) and drone happy Obama have done it.

The long-term goal cannot be containment.  It has to be to win, or it will always result in loss.  Reagan understood this, I wish I could say that Rand Paul understood this, but while I’ll certainly take Rand over Obama, Bush, or anyone currently in control of foreign policy, I’m not sure he has Reagan’s understanding yet.

“We win.  They lose.”–Ronald Reagan


Filed under Evils of Liberalism, Foreign Policy, Government is useless, NeoConservative, Patriotism, politics, Ronald Reagan

2 responses to “Rand Paul at Heritage

  1. Jake

    Not sure, but I think you may be forgetting the role of trade in helping to maintain peace and spread liberal democratic ideals.

    • I’m not forgetting that. I believe in globalization as can be seen clearly in Republicans and Reincarnation and numerous blogs (here and here for instance). I believe trade can and will bring more liberty and prosperity to numerous nations around the world. However, experience shows that there is never a single cure every problem panacea to every problem–Sometimes it may seem like because every problem example you’re looking at has the same answer (more liberty and less government is the answer for just about every problem in the US right now) but seldom does a single answer work for every case in every situation at every time in every place when dealing with human beings (there does come a time when more liberty/less government isn’t the answer, Somalia for instance, where it stops creating good government and starts creating anarchy).

      For instance Iran and Afghanistan Westernizing in the 1970’s and had strong trade relationships with liberal democracies. Now both fell to tyrannies for different reasons–Afghanistan was invaded by a tyranny and Iran was taken over by a coup–but in both cases just more trade wouldn’t have solved the problem. Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1930’s were heavy trade partners with liberal democracies–it was guns and bombs and tanks that made them liberalize, not trade, trade would never have worked. China has been a heavy trade partner for decades, that has not stopped the forced labor camps, the bloody persecution of religion, the oppression of dissent, or even raised the quality of life for the average person.

      I would love to in a world where every foreign policy problem could be solved by taking down economic barriers. But I don’t live in that world.

      Now there are numerous impediments that may stop trade from working to creating more liberty, but this particular post dealt with the the biggest. Tyranny. Tyrannies operate on an idea so antithetical to reason and ethic and natural law, that reason and trade don’t work to stop them in all cases (yes there are exceptions, but most exceptions deal with the death of a central leader who had ruled by cult of personality…and I’m not willing to say that letting people suffer until the tyrant dies of natural causes to see what happens is an ethical option), and in those cases, the only way to bring about liberty is for through military force.

      Yes use diplomacy and trade. But black ops, and supporting rebels, and all out military force are the answer in certain cases. Not all cases. And you need to make sure you can pay for it, the you aren’t over extending yourself, that you have a plan on how to rebuild the nation you invade (unlike Iraq and Afghanistan) and that you are backing rebels that are not worse than the tyrant (Libya, Egypt, Syria)…

      …but trade is not a cure all that will work in every situation. It should always be tried first, but most of the situations Rand is talking about in the speech above will not be solved simply by trade.

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