In response to the “Just Imagine” Ron Paul ad

There’s a video going round the internets that kind of sums up Ron Paul’s foreign policy argument well. Basically, it boils down to “how would you like it if there were foreign troops in our country? Wouldn’t that inspire people to take arms against their perceived occupiers?”

For the record, I used to support Ron Paul fully, and I used to completely agree with his foreign policy (until I started learning all the aspects of the War on Terror). As hawkish as I would now appear to some doves, there is merit to this argument. I could imagine that if this were the situation in America, people would attempt to resist. However, conflating it directly to the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is totally inaccurate, and makes the mistake many liberals make: that everyone thinks like and is motivated by the same impulses as us, a secular post-Enlightenment society.

The ad says that Americans would resist to protect our “soil and sovereignty.” Most Americans have a very different view of why they would protect their sovereignty than the insurgent leadership in the Middle East. In the West, we live in a post-Enlightenment, relatively secular society. We see a displacement of our government a violation of a Lockean social contract, one that was forged by the American Revolution and bonded by the Constitution.

Such political discourse and motivations are foreign to the Islamist terrorists–in fact, their goals, motivations, and means should be repulsive to any honest libertarian. When speaking to the Muslim world, Al-Qaeda reveals its true motivations: they fundamentally reject the notion of democracy, man-made law, individual liberty, and anything else that deviates from the Quran. I mean, the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen is renaming itself the Army of Islamic Law. They quote the Quran as they decapitate hostages, as per Islamic tradition.

The religious examples are endless. The Islamists are fighting to restore a seventh-century theocratic Islamic caliphate. How much more obvious that religion is their aim, and the Islamist terrorists will only be satisfied when the world is obeying Islamic law, could it be? They hate us because we support secular rulers in the Middle East (e.g., Mubarak’s Egyptian regime), or we violate Muslim religious rules (like placing non-Muslim soldiers in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War).

You could make the argument that the core terrorist leadership is motivated by irrational religious extremism but many of their footsoldiers are average people, disillusioned by the results of intervention, who were recruited into the fold. Islamism is the core, our actions just tend to bolster their strength at the margin. Even if I agree for the sake of argument, this is NOT what Ron Paul has ever claimed. From all the interviews/debates I’ve seen of him, never once has he mentioned Islamism as the enemy of all free, secular societies–thus our enemies. Never once has he mentioned any motivation for attacks on Americans besides “blowback” and the fact that we are present in the Middle East.

Additionally, if killing innocents causes people to join the other side, wouldn’t hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan be driven into the arms of the Americans by the brutal slaughter done by the insurgents? When terrorist bombings kill dozens and wound hundreds at a time–and these attacks are INTENDED for maximum killing of civilians? Wouldn’t there be pro-American “blowback” as well?

Honestly, this ad smacks of an ideology that was born of an armchair speculation that makes the “Just Imagine” ad make sense to an American who was brought up on the history of the American Revolution and post-Enlightenment understanding of the social contract. This is NOT what motivates Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their numerous affiliates across the globe. Islamist terrorists will not be pacified the same way that the American colonists were by British peace.

Christopher Hitchens frames it perfectly. This was a view I was insulated from talking with other libertarians when I was younger:

“If you want to avoid upsetting these people, you have to let Indonesia commit genocide in East Timor.  If you tell them they can’t throw acid in the faces of unveiled women in Korachi, they will be annoyed with you. If you say we insist that cartoonists in Copenhagan can print satire on the Prophet Mohammed, you’ve just made an enemy. You’ve brought it on. you’re encouraging it to happen.

So unless you’re willing to commit suicide for yourself and this culture, get used to the compromises you’ll have to make and the eventual capitulation that will come to you.

But bloody well don’t do it in my name because I’m not doing it. You surrender in your own name. I’m going to fight these people and every other theocrat, all the way. All the way, for free expression, for women’s rights, for self-determination… I thank the 82nd Airborne for fighting for it too, and you should be ashamed for sneering at the people who guard you while you sleep.”

Again, why are libertarians–people who care about separating church and state, not using nihilistic violence to get our way, and individual freedom–want to support people who:

  • Seek to impose 7th Century theocracy on the world
  • Will indiscriminately kill civilians if and when it helps their cause
  • Oppose free speech, freedom of religion, and most other fundamental freedoms?

One response to “In response to the “Just Imagine” Ron Paul ad

  1. Pingback: The Neolibertarian case for Ron Paul « neo·libertarian·

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