Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Go, Ron, Go!

From last night's GOP "debate." Kudos to Ron Paul! But will this be the excuse for ignoring him and excluding him from future debates? Let's hope not. A good account is here.

MR. GOLER: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as -- almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Senator Robert Taft didn't even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy -- no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There's a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.

Just think of the tremendous improvement -- relationships with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men. We came home in defeat. Now we go over there and invest in Vietnam. So there's a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution.

And my argument is that we shouldn't go to war so carelessly. (Bell rings.) When we do, the wars don't end.

MR. GOLER: Congressman, you don't think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

REP. PAUL: What changed?

MR. GOLER: The non-interventionist policies.

REP. PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East -- I think Reagan was right.

We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)

MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

REP. PAUL: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, "I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They have already now since that time -- (bell rings) -- have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.

MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That's really an extraordinary statement. That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)

And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that. (Applause.)

MR. GOLER: Congressman?

REP. PAUL: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.

They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free. They come and they attack us because we're over there. I mean, what would we think if we were -- if other foreign countries were doing that to us?


Matt said...

I am glad that you put this up. I have been reading about the debate since I missed it last night. All the reports say that the exchange ended with Giuliani's statement. I haven't read any where what Paul said back to him.

I am glad that they even are reporting what Paul is saying, much more so than what they reported in the previous debate.

Thank you again.

Sheldon Richman said...

Paul's getting short shrift in the morning TV news accounts. Chris Matthews of MSNBC dismissed his history as "dead wrong." (What, the CIA didn't intervene in Iran in 1953?) John Roberts of CNN said Paul "put his foot in it" when he made the remarks. But that assumes the remarks were wrong, or that he should play the usual political game and lie to people. Even the 9/11 Commission report backs up Paul. (See the link in my post.) So Giuliani is just a demagogue, an ignoramus, or both. Will the media let people know?

Gene Callahan said...

Sheldon, I think Paul is getting too much attention now to exclude him. Look at his numbers in the MSNBC poll! Of course, these are libertarians dashing over to vote for him, but it shows he has a hard-core of supporters willing to do that.

Sheldon Richman said...

I hope you're right.

Russell Hanneken said...

Ron Paul was right, but his rhetoric was poorly attuned to the psyche of the average voter.

The average voter is a nationalist. He doesn't want to hear that foreigners have legitimate grievances against "us" (really the government).

But that's just the message Paul sent when he

a) failed to immediately and forcefully deny the "9/11 happened because we deserved it" interpretation of his remarks.

b) asked how we would react if they did to us what "we" did to them. I suppose his point was to draw people's attention to the problem of blowback. But the average voter hears the "how would we feel" argument as a declaration of moral equivalence. "We're the good guys," he thinks, "and our cause is just. Anyone who opposes us deserves what he gets. If they did to us what we did to them, they would be wrong. If evil people like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein get angry at us, we must be doing something right."

I wish the average voter were less xenophobic and more sensitive to the harm US interventionism is causing to innocent foreigners. Perhaps in time he will be, but for purposes of a candidates' debate, voters' bias against foreigners needs to be treated as an unalterable fact.

If the average voter wants the US government to withdraw from Iraq, it's not because he feels terrible about the suffering of innocent Iraqis. It's because the Iraq War seems to be costing Americans a lot without providing any visible benefits.

Moreover, the average voter doesn't care about the distinguished historical pedigree of the non-interventionist philosophy. He wants to know why, non-interventionism is a solution to our problems today.

Ron Paul should have said something like this:

"MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?"

"REP. PAUL: No, absolutely not, not in the sense you mean. The 9/11 attack was an atrocity, and nothing our government has done or could do would justify it.

"I'm saying that when our government goes around the world taking sides in other people's conflicts, it's going to make other people's enemies our enemies. And those enemies are going to impose a cost on us in both wealth and human lives. We need to ask ourselves whether the rewards of an interventionist foreign policy are worth bearing those costs.

"I suggest that Americans would be safer and more prosperous if our government confined itself to the modest but attainable goal of guarding Americans from foreign aggression, instead of going off on a high-minded crusade to right all that is wrong with the world."

Whatever the online polls say, I think Ron Paul is finished. I'm afraid he also may have set back the cause of non-interventionism for some time.

Sheldon Richman said...

Well, Russell, I can't disagree because I fear you may be right about the average viewer. It gets back to my earlier criticism of the "debates." It is not a suitable forum for laying out our case. Sound bites cannot do it justice.

James Greenberg said...

Sheldon, I continue to be amazed at the dichotomy in your political thought. Please explain how an anarchist like yourself (you are an anarchist, right?) can have such enthusiasm for anyone's candidacy, albeit a quasi-minarchist like Dr. Paul.

Correct me if I'm wrong, and I'm prone to the temptation myself at times, but I notice some doublethink at work here.

BTW, if you want a good, hard look at the "average voter," (who doesn't exist -- there are only individual voters) just surf the comments at the LGF blog until you puke, which should take all of 5 seconds if you have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Good luck persuading your "average voter!"

Russell Hanneken said...

James, I'm puzzled by the question you pose to Sheldon.

I understand that there are anarchists who believe politics is counterproductive in today's context (or even in any context).

I don't understand why some people think being an anarchist logically commits one to believing politics is counterproductive in today's context.

That is what you're saying, isn't it?

James Greenberg said...


That's a fair question. It would be easy for me to duck and turn the question back at you, but I put my neck out first, so fair is fair.

As with all words, "anarchist" means different things to different people. I am not satisfied calling myself an anarchist because I do not live that way (apart from not voting). I pay taxes because I don't want to rot in jail.

But I do believe that the initiation of force is wrong. And force is the essence of politics. Therefore, I am logically committed to believing politics is counterproductive in today's context. It is just that simple. Ron Paul, as anti-statist as he presents himself, is nonetheless a legislator!

How did it turn out in Spain when the Anarchists accepted cabinet posts?

I am a hopeless cynic. Government, once created, can never be restrained. I fail to see how one can eliminate the problem of government by participating in it.

Steven said...

But, James, I submit that if you pay taxes then you are participating in government. By force, yes, but you are still participating (it's kind of like paying protection money to stay out of prison).

Sheldon Richman said...

"Sheldon, I continue to be amazed at the dichotomy in your political thought. Please explain how an anarchist like yourself (you are an anarchist, right?) can have such enthusiasm for anyone's candidacy, albeit a quasi-minarchist like Dr. Paul."

I don't recall endorsing Ron Paul or saying I would vote for him. All I did was applaud his calling U.S. foreign policy into question by linking it to 9/11. (Look at the few posts.) Is there something un-anarchist about that? If so, what?

That said, I tend to agree with Roderick Long that there may be times when some kind of participation may advance liberty. I'm simply leaving the possibility open. But my default position is no participation. I would have to see a very strong case for the contrary. I hope that answers the question.

James Greenberg said...

"I don't recall endorsing Ron Paul or saying I would vote for him. All I did was applaud his calling U.S. foreign policy into question by linking it to 9/11. (Look at the few posts.) Is there something un-anarchist about that? If so, what?"

You have answered the question well, Sheldon. I mistakenly conflated your defense of Ron Paul with an endorsement of his candidacy.

Please forgive the leap of logic.