Ron Paul & the Acolytes of Strategic Ineptitude

by on June 9th, 2007

As Oscar Wilde quipped, “The only thing worse than being talked about is being ignored.” Based on the plethora of comments concerning our column below on Rep. Ron Paul, that is not a fate we’ll have to endure.

It would be largely unproductive to parry the various arguments readers presented because even those that were constructive inadvertently confirmed the premise of our original piece, which is that liberals instinctively disdain American exceptionalism. From there, it’s a short polemical leap to the conclusion that America’s every decision on the world stage is fraught with imperialist designs, economic exploitation, or ideological hegemony.

In the mix of the hyperbole and vitriol which was inartfully masked as substantive argumentation, one writer made the cogent point that there is a difference between “isolationists” and “anti-interventionists.” The former was rampant in the 1930s and was a natural, if misguided, outgrowth of the first World War and, although some are advocating it today, the argument is as unsound now as it was then. However, an argument can credibly be made for an anti-interventionist policy, although in our age of radical Islam and asymmetrical warfare, it’s not one we find compelling.

For those unconvinced that the Islamic extremists have sworn the decimation of the West in general and the United States specifically, we might recommend Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower,” Mark Steyn’s “America Alone,” and then, Thomas P.M. Barnett’s “The Pentagon’s New Map.”

Mr. Barnett, a Democrat, persuasively argues that the tactical seeding of democratic values in nations susceptible to the insidious influences of radical Islam is the most reliable way to ensure the security of all, in particular the U.S.

But the modern Democratic polity has an institutional reticence to outsource the American values of free markets and a respect for civil liberties and the rule of law because it conflicts with their moral egalitarianism which, for many liberals, is as enamored of Fidel Castro as it is with Vaclav Havel.

The secondary counterweight to the prospect of projecting American values is their firm belief that the inevitable obligation to support the lesser of two evils–c.f., Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq war–demonstrates the folly of the goals of interventionism, which they view as ill-advised and hopelessly naive.

That is certainly an argument that can and has been made in our current geopolitically complex world, but, as Mr. Barnett and others have argued, it is itself mired in a dangerous naivete one predicated on a denial of the numerous fatwas pledging our demise.

We prefer the strategy defined by the Latin phrase, “Obsta Principiis,” as promulgated by the acolytes of pre-emption, and which is roughly translated as “resist the first aggression.” There is a virtual encyclopedia of historical examples in politics and war where a strategy of early tactical intervention either demonstrates its efficacy or the lack thereof saw the loss of countless lives.

From Alexander the Great, whose ingenious triumph against the Persians at Granicus makes the case for this strategy, to World War Two, which witnessed the death of 45 million and tragically demonstrates the fecklessness of a policy of inaction–read, anti-intervention–there is little question about which approach produces the most desirable result.

Yet, a relatively small, but remarkably intransigent faction of Americans–almost exclusively academic and media elites–of which Mr. Paul is their current standard bearer, seems to advocate a foreign policy effectively designed to replay history’s most egregious examples of strategic ineptitude.

Mella is editor of

Philip Mella