Ron Paul, Rebel Without a Solution
In a previous post, I wrote that Ron Paul’s performance last week on “Meet the Press” made me think he’s been spending too much time locked in the bathroom reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” a sort of unofficial libertarian manifesto. After receiving some angry comments, I wrote another post in which I explained in a bit more detail why I find it difficult to take the man seriously.
In that second post, I noted that Paul’s reference to former President George H.W. Bush as a “bum” strikes me as particularly silly because, like or hate him and his policies, how that industrious patrician gent resembles a “bum” is beyond me. In response, I received a comment (thanks!): “If you hate that industrious patrician gent, wouldn’t you be inclined to call him a bum?” Well, it’s hard to argue with that, I suppose. Another of the comments I received postulated that George H.W. Bush was indeed a “bum” for, among other reasons, abandoning Iraqis after Gulf War I. These remarks got me thinking.
In particular, the comment about the abandonment after Gulf War I of Iraqis who had risen up to fight Saddam Hussein was sobering (and forgive my not linking to it here – as my technical abilities are, although evolving, still a bit primitive). It is true that abandoning Iraqis who had risen up to oppose Saddam was deeply dishonorable. But I doubt that’s what Ron Paul had in mind when he called George H.W. Bush a “bum” since Ron Paul is an isolationist. Also, Ron Paul is a vociferous opponent of the Iraq War, so he obviously does not support George W. Bush’s finishing the job. In other words, he can’t legitimately at once condemn George H.W. Bush for abandoning Iraqis and George W. Bush for standing by them.
To be fair, I don’t know whether Ron Paul ever condemned George H.W. Bush for abandoning Iraqis. But in general, Paul reminds me of foreign policy liberals, who are long on condemnation, short on balanced analysis. Long before 9/11, for instance, many liberals actively protested the Taliban’s abuse of women, but do you think they would ever deign to credit George W. Bush for doing something about the Taliban? It’s not that you can’t oppose both tyranny and war, but a mature perspective requires that you acknowledge the good along with the bad in analyzing the outcome of any decision.
To foreign policy liberals and to conservatives like Paul, the actions of those with whom they disagree are universally evil, bad, suspect, and without any redeeming feature. They do not acknowledge the good – for instance, the liberation of Afghans and Iraqis – that has come out of something they oppose, and may (or may not) have been correct to oppose.
That refusal to weigh the issues is why I joked Ron Paul seems to have been locked in the bathroom for too long. There is something Rebel-Without-a-Cause-Like, something adolescent, about seeking to tear down the establishment but offering very little that’s serious in the way of alternatives.