[photopress:160px_Ron_paul1.jpg,full,alignleft]In a recent Dennis Miller interview, House Representative Ron Paul further illustrated for me exactly what it is that I find so bothersome about the Libertarian Party. Paul ran as the Libertarian candidate in the ’88 Presidential election, and is now a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC), a group within the Republican party that seeks to elect Libertarians to office.
In the interview, explaining why he believes in limited government, Paul says, “I think you follow the Constitution; that is virtually what we were instructed to do.”
The problem with Libertarianism is that it treats liberty as an axiom. The movement has no philosophic grounding with which to present a case for government’s primary function, to protect individual liberties. Instead, it accepts liberty without definition, and for that reason cannot offer a true defense of this principle. Rather than explain why government should be restricted to protecting our freedoms, what those freedoms consist of, Ron Paul takes this duty as a commandment passed down by the Founders. That is an example of the failure to think in principle.
When asked about his opposition to the Iraq War, Paul gives two reasons. First he explains that Iraq is the wrong target, which I agree with. However he goes on to say that Islamic terrorism is misunderstood. Radical Islam is not the cause, but US aggression in the Middle East:
If you understand what motivates suicide terrorism, you’ll realize it’s not radical Islam. The most motivating factor is that fact they are being occupied by a foreign force. They cannot mobilize, they cannot recruit. So we are serving the interests of Osama Bin Laden by him getting more recruits than ever before. Yes, there would be problems in the Middle East when we leave. Everybody knows we’re gonna leave because we’re gonna go broke; we won’t be able to afford it! All empires end because they eventually go broke. But who knows, there may be a tremendous incentive for them to settle their disputes. Already there’s a large number, it’s not the majority of them, of the members serving in the Parliament, Sunni’s and Shiites, that are talking to each other! And they’re getting ready to vote to ask us to leave. The Arab League could fill the vacuum; and they offered some peace treaties with Israel that are very attractive; by recognizing Israel. All kinds of good things can happen.
This is exactly the kind of evasion that is possible when you do not define your terms. Radical Islam is not behind the terrorism? Why, then, are there no atheists or Christians or Hindus in al Qaeda? Why is it Muslims who are bombing our embassies, kidnapping and killing our citizens and who ran two commercial airliners into our World Trade Center and Pentagon? The attacks are a response to US occupation? Then why have Germany and Japan not gone to war with us, since we have retained bases in their countries since WW2? It is Islamic fundamentalism that is telling Muslims to die for Allah, to kill the American infidels, and to reap the rewards in the afterlife.
The Islamic world in the Middle East has adopted a culture of death. There is no such thing as freedom of religion under an Islamic state, or even in so-called “secular” states such as Syria. To be Muslim in that region of the world means to live under an Islamic law, to practice the madates of the holy book or be punished. Libertarians like Ron Paul would have us believe that United States occupation has violated the rights of those living insuch aculture, and that what we are experiencing now is a righteous backlash that only a general retreat can cure. However to say that a country whose code is “live our way or die” is being violated somehow by the presence of the US – whose founding principle is respect and protection of Individual Rights – is absurd. Only someone who does not understand what rights consist of would make such an irrational claim. One could argue (and should, when appropriate) that troops and funds are being wasted in conflicts where US interests are not at stake, but a dictatorship – whether run by a monarchy or the mob – has no right to exist and any free country has the moral authority to reduce it to ashes if they find doing so is in their best interests.
One might wonder if I’mexaggeratingor distortingRon Paul’s argument.
In one interview, he explains that aggressive military deployment in the Middle East caused 9/11, including the bombing of Iraq. In another public appearance, he likens Islamists to Americans under attack, asking what you would do if your homeland was invaded. Because he believes terrorism is the result of attacks from the US, what is his solution? – Withdrawal of our troops and negotiation with the militant groups that seek to destroy us.
Ron Paul told Dennis Miller that his duty as a politician was to follow the instructions of the Constitution (even, as he jokes, when he would rather not). However obedience is not a substitute for understanding. If you fail to understand what freedoms mean and identify the threats against them, you cannot possibly defend them or live up to the Founder’s vision.