[As I post, I see that fellow contributors have also been writing about the presidential nomination. This is in no way meant to be an attempt at rebuttal to either or any post.]
While every other candidate for the Republican nomination is trying to answer the question, “Why vote for me?” Ron Paul has been burdened with a much more daunting question: “Why not vote for me?”
I don’t believe this was his choice, or his campaign strategy. It is the result of his opinions on policy that seem to stray from the Republican Party line, and the exuberant enthusiasm of his eclectic supporters that make him, upon first glance, appear unviable, unelectable, and selectively unconservative. Shall we disregard the candidate based on his supporters? There is an argument to be made for that, but voters turned a blind eye to this question in the presidential election of 2008 when the Communist Party USA backed then-candidate Obama (not to mention his sundry sullied supporters, such as Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Louis Farrakhan, et al.). I don’t believe we should any more judge the ability of a president by his supporters than we should judge him by his detractors. Our support is much better considered on the basis of a candidate’s philosophy, his policy, and his own words.
The biggest gripe conservatives give against Ron Paul in this regard is his approach to foreign policy. Modern conservatives have grown accustomed to a non-non-interventionist foreign policy, believing that it is our duty as a country to spread freedom and liberty throughout the world—even at the threat of gunpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all of our foreign policy over the last century has been abhorrent, but it has become de rigueur for conservatives to advocate a strong national defense, when they really mean a strong national offense.
I will also grant that supporting Dr. Paul would be easier if he were to express something like, “Look, as a general principle, I don’t believe the United States should be the police force of the world, but perhaps there are circumstances that merit intervention when it is truly in the best interest of our country, to which I, as a representative, have not been made privy.” As a representative, Paul does not have the intelligence that the executive branch has or had. But I do believe that given that intelligence he is capable of a wise decision regarding the potential involvement of American citizens on foreign soil. Remember, Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson campaigned as non-interventionists, too.
So, in this regard, the question must be asked and answered: “What is—at any given time—truly in the best interest of our country?” The fundamental purpose of any government is to sustain its own existence. Before the reader will kindly point out that the frontispiece of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government copied Cicero in stating “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto,” remember that this is not a purpose—an Aristotelian “final cause,” if you will. It is a (natural) law—an efficient cause—that Cicero, Locke, and many others felt was the best method of achieving the ultimate right of self preservation. Laws are not purposes; they are agents to achieve a purpose. Nations who have not followed this law have been quickly defeated from within throughout history, thus establishing a newly constituted state, and disestablishing the old.
Ron Paul is alarmingly opposed to refusing Iran the capability of producing a nuclear weapon. But what are we saying when we dictate to any country—whom we ostensibly recognize as sovereign—what they should be or shouldn’t be, are or are not, capable of producing. This elevates us superior to their supposed sovereignty, and makes us a similar object of disdain that our political forefathers (both in America and England) fought against. England refused to accept that they could both be a sovereign state and at the same time recognize the ultimate authority of the Pope. Revolutionary America refused to accept that a distant body of legislators, where they were not represented, had any authority in dictating America’s internal affairs of state.
Ron Paul is also opposed to continuing foreign aid to Israel, another “unelectable” position for a conservative to have. But before a voter immediately discounts him because of this position, would it not be wiser to understand why? Again, don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Israel, and supporting Dr. Paul would be more attractive if he were to acknowledge there might be intelligence that showed foreign aid in the best interest of the United States. But absent this intelligence, is it in our best interest to at once give aid to Israel while simultaneously giving its inimical neighbors 300% as much? Is it our right—by virtue of being a “superpower”—to negotiate the sovereign rights of others? Is it our right—simply because of the velocity, magnitude, and enlargement of our instruments of defense—to subject another’s sovereignty to our ideals? Some may say it is our duty, our responsibility as leaders, to negotiate freedom and democracy throughout the world. But freedom and democracy in a foreign nation is no more peaceful or self-preserving for our own country than absolutism and tyranny, if that negotiated and arbitrated liberty is under the constant supervision of a more powerful sovereign state, whose own political priorities are subject to generational mutabilty.
For the evangelical Christian (especially the dispensationalists), are we so vain as to assume that we are the only capable agents of fulfilling God’s supremely sovereign plan, and without us God would fail? For the Jew, would it not be better to carve out organically your own sovereignty than to have it carved for you by another earthly power? Would Joshua’s conquest of Canaan have demonstrated the power of God if it were under the constant supervision of the Hittites?
In reading Ron Paul’s response to his refusal to give Israel foreign aid, I am reminded of a fable given by the Greek poet Theocritus. In this story, a horse was perturbed at a stag’s intrusion upon sovereign rights. The stag would constantly pasture on the horse’s property without his consent, leading the horse to ask a man for assistance against this poacher. The man agreed, on condition that they be mutually engaged in the retaliation, by the horse allowing the man astride him with a spear. Gladly, the horse agreed, and the stag was eventually vanquished. But the horse soon realized, even after the agreement was completed, he was now servant to the man.
These are questions. They are not endorsements. At most, they are exhortations to look seriously at Dr. Paul’s objectionable positions. At a time when the desire for liberty is rising against the intrusions of citizens’ lives, liberties, and properties in our own country, we should not discount Ron Paul right away because of potentialities abroad.