Ron Paul is Not Isolationist

By Ivan Eland

As the nation’s major media outlets crown John McCain (George W. Bush on steroids) as the Republican nominee for president, their nearly criminal neglect of Ron Paul’s candidacy in the 2008 presidential campaign is nearly complete. “Big media” have never deemed Paul a “major candidate,” as their paltry coverage of him shows.

In fact, the media often brand the ardent groundswell of popular support for Ron Paul as an odd curiosity. The problem is that if Ron Paul is a kook—as they imply—then so are the nation’s founders. His policy prescriptions of more limited government at home and military restraint abroad put him far closer to the spectrum of opinion at the founding than any other candidate in the 2008 race.

The media barons would never dream of implying that the founders were loony tunes. But the country’s current massive government, with its intrusive activism at home and abroad, is so far removed from the founding vision that the modern-day manifestation of such values appears downright weird to today’s press corps.

Most appalling is the media’s emphasis on criticizing Paul’s foreign policy views. The Washington Post, in an op-ed dedicated entirely to undermining Paul’s candidacy, argued that Paul is an “isolationist” who would withdraw from Iraq immediately, wouldn’t defend South Korea if it were attacked by the North, and has attempted to understand why Osama bin Laden attacks the United States.

Yet the nation’s founders were not isolationists, and neither is Paul. Like the founders, he wants to avoid unneeded and unconscionable military attacks on other countries that pervert the republic at home. In his usual frank manner, Paul bluntly admits that the United States has failed in Iraq. Alone among all of the Democratic and Republican candidates who ran or are still running in 2008, Paul understands the oft-neglected domestic ill effects of a quixotic and overly broad “war on terror,” including the war in Iraq. He grasps that the erosion of the Constitution and civil liberties, which make the United States unique among nations, may be the war’s most important negative consequence.

Paul is also unique among the candidates in pointing out that now, rich U.S. allies, such as South Korea, are capable of defending themselves against far poorer foes. South Korea’s economy is about 30 times that of the North and no longer needs a U.S. security guarantee. With the Soviet Union long relegated to the trash bin of history, no longer must the United States subsidize European defense through retaining the outdated NATO alliance and stationing of U.S. forces in Europe.

Paul is a rare politician who actually acknowledges expert opinion on al Qaeda. That opinion has concluded that bin Laden attacks the United States because of its foreign policy toward the Middle East—that is, the invasion and occupation of Muslim lands, and support for Israel and corrupt, autocratic Arab dictatorships. Yet contrary to empirical evidence and polls in the Arab/Islamic world, other politicians in both major parties—to buttress their interventionist foreign policy prescriptions—either conveniently ignore al Qaeda’s motives or disingenuously attribute bin Laden’s hostility to his distaste for American culture or political and economic freedom.

In sum, Paul has astutely realized that the republic’s founding principles have never been more relevant to today’s world. No matter what the outcome of the 2008 election, Paul’s participation in the campaign and its debates has been a huge plus in highlighting the long-forgotten founders’ policies of limited government and military restraint and in advocating their relevancy and renewal in today’s world. That is why I was proud to accept an invitation to serve as a foreign policy advisor to Paul’s campaign. Like being a Maytag repairman, however, it is a lonely job, because the already savvy Paul doesn’t need much advice.

-Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues. He is author of the books, The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy. He contributed this article to

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