Wednesday, July 18th | 6 Av 5778

August 29, 2011 7:05 pm

Iran and All, It’s Got to be Ron Paul

avatar by Gabriel Martindale

Email a copy of "Iran and All, It’s Got to be Ron Paul" to a friend

Ron Paul at the 2007 National Right to Life Convention. Photo: R. DeYoung.

In 1836 the great 19th century Libertarian Richard Cobden, most famous for his campaign against the protectionist ‘Corn Laws,’ penned a pamphlet entitled Russia, in which he tried to calm the popular feelings of ‘Russophobia’ that would in time lead to the disastrous Crimean War of 1853-6. In this work, Cobden made anti-war arguments that will be familiar to any fan or opponent of Ron Paul. He argued that what we would now call the military-industrial complex, serving only the interests of the corrupt rich, was a dangerous parasite on productive, commercial society, perpetually stoking up bellicosity among the nation at large to engage in wars that weren’t in Britain’s interests. In reality, these interests were best served by a policy of peace and Free Trade rather than patrolling the globe gun in hand, which never fixed international problems and actually made them worse.

Cobden had more to say than just that, though. Hostility to Russia in 19th century Britain was largely premised on the (basically correct) perception that it was seeking to dominate and absorb the rickety old Ottoman Empire in order to expand territorially and dominate regional trade. Cobden argued that, far from fearing such a result, Britons should welcome it. Ottoman Turkey was an archaic military despotism and Russia would bring the benefits of modern Christian civilization, which in the long term meant more peace, more trade and more prosperity. Now, judging by the standards of either political freedom or economic development, Tsarist Russia was hardly a paragon of virtue, but there was a more fundamental problem with what Cobden was saying. He thought that an interventionist British foreign policy was by definition bad for Britain and bad for the world, but that an interventionist Russian foreign policy could be good for Russia and good for the world (Britain included). Since Great Britain was undoubtedly a closer approximation to Cobden’s libertarian ideals than Russia, why couldn’t it do at least as good a job?

The purpose of this little historical digression is to illustrate that the libertarian anti-interventionist argument is based on a fallacy, and has been since it first emerged. The case against government intervention at home is simple: the government has a monopoly on the initiation of force, it follows that if it concentrates on arresting criminals who rob, loot, murder or whatever and doesn’t intervene in the economy there will be an absence, or near absence, of force. All that will be left, then, is voluntary co-operation and the peaceful operation of market forces and the price system, thus producing the maximum possible prosperity and best quality of life. However, in foreign affairs, the case is very different: if a given government does not intervene that does not lead to an absence of force, it just means that other governments will intervene. To take an example, U.S. government involvement in the Congo has been basically nil over the past two decades, but that does not mean there has been an absence of intervention; rather, attracted by diamond wealth, the governments of Zimbabwe, Angloa and Sudan among others have merrily stuck their oar in, funding and arming one faction or another, the upshot being a civil war that has left literally millions dead.

So, while I can recognise that many of his specific arguments are sound (most notably: you can’t run an empire if you’re dead broke), the basic theory underpinning Ron Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy ideology seems to me totally wrong and borderline ludicrous. There is no free market in international relations that can fix things if the U.S. government gets out of the way, just a long list of other governments – variously nasty, stupid, thieving, grasping, murderous and incompetent – ready to intervene themselves. It is for lack of grasping this point that Ron Paul can make such easily falsifiable statements as ‘we gave ’em the gas’: who else could possibly have given Saddam Hussein poison gas except the almighty omnipotent federal government? (Except, you know, other governments.) My theoretical approach to foreign policy is almost directly opposite to his.

And yet, surveying the field of potential Presidential candidates, I have to conclude that the candidate likely to run the least bad foreign policy is none other than Ron Paul. Contrary to the Paulian theory it would be perfectly possible for the American government, through a pragmatic and well thought out programme of intervention, to make the world a better place (including for me). However, in reality any attempt to do so is fatally marred by a combination of chronic inconsistency and childish sentimentalism posing as ethics. The options for the future therefore appear to be these:

1)      Competent interventionism

2)      Non-interventionism

3)      What we have now.

I’d prefer (1), but In the circumstances I’m happy to settle for (2).

In specifying what I mean I’ll start with a favourite of Ron Paul: Iran. I don’t agree with his blanket criticism of the CIA inspired coup of 1953. Mosaddegh was democratically elected, but was also strenuously working to eliminate constitutional impediments to his power, well on his way to becoming a Soviet puppet and openly nationalising (i.e. stealing) the assets of both Iranians and foreigners. The coup that re-installed the Shah was well executed, checked Soviet influence and genuinely protected western economic interests and property. The real problems come later. First, the U.S. gave full backing to the Shah’s ‘White Revolution’ programme of modernisation that was, essentially, a direct continuation of the deposed Mosaddegh’s policies. A key part of this was economic statism, which, as everywhere else, led to inflation and misallocation of resources including in the labour market: i.e. mass unemployment. The U.S. did so partly because social democracy was then fashionable in many policy circles (especially at the C.I.A.) and partly because it had the bizarre idea that statism (as opposed to the opportunity to loot the wealthy) was wildly popular among the third world peasantry. The worst mistake of all, though, came when the Shah’s regime started toppling in the late 1970s. Carter’s administration dithered and dawdled, taking the absurd candyland position that they could only help out if the Shah didn’t kill anyone, whilst backing him with empty rhetoric and promises, until the Ayatollahs took over. At the end of it all, things would be much better if America had done nothing at all.

Ron Paul is correct that interventionism can create ‘blowback’; on the other hand, it can produce benefits that far outweigh it. The problem with the U.S. is that it intervenes enough to generate the blowback, but then changes its mind and annoys someone else instead, until everyone is angry, but nothing has been achieved. On this score, things are only getting worse. Any action like the 1973 coup in Chile that saved the country from total economic meltdown and seriously damaged the cause of global socialism is now unthinkable; instead both Left and Right are dead set on pursuing rapidly changing idealist policies that result in far, far more death and destruction and cost far more money, with no good to show for it at the end.

Take Libya. For decades Gaddafi was an open enemy of the West, funding and arming countless terrorists who went on to murder U.S., British, Israeli and other civilians in their hundreds. Then he unexpectedly flipped, abandoned his nuclear programme, became a Western ally and opened his country to investment and trade. How did the U.S. empire react? First by joining the unseemly rush to let bygones be bygones, welcoming him with open arms, then, when his regime ran into a spot of trouble, by joining in the unseemly rush to bomb him. Meanwhile, Syria remained hostile and is allowed to mow down its revolting citizenry with impunity. Any third world leader with an ounce of common sense will conclude that the schizophrenic U.S. is not an ally worth having and will instead look to a power – China, Iran, Russia – one can have some confidence in.

Then, of course, there is Israel. Officially, the U.S. is the Jewish state’s biggest ally, backing it to the hilt militarily and diplomatically. On the other hand, the U.S. is totally committed to the infantile delusion that the necessary and sufficient condition for ‘peace in the Middle East’ is a ‘democratic and free Palestinian state’ (a bit like saying that a necessary and sufficient condition for my personal solvency is winning the lottery every week for a decade; even if it’s technically true, so what?) So while Israel gets lots of shiny fighter jets it can use for totally pointless bombing raids on Gaza, it is forced to prepare to give away Judea and Samaria, so that the Arabs can fire rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (or those bits of land they won’t be busily running into the ground themselves). Taking this line doesn’t make America any more popular with the Arab world, of course, it just places its actual ally in grave danger, and for no good reason, since a (Fatah or Hamas) gangster-kleptocracy basket-case in the ‘occupied territories’ won’t benefit anyone, including the Palestinians.

If you think the world needs an active and interventionist America imposing peace and security over an unruly and violent globe, you may well be right, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to get over it. Your choice is between a blundering, borderline senile America aimlessly stoking resentment to no real purpose and an America that just leaves the rest of the world to get on with it.

I’ll pick the latter and with that the only serious objection to Ron Paul goes up in smoke. On the rather more important issue of impending economic and monetary collapse he’s clearly the best choice; front-runners like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are echoing his ideas, and all credit to them, but they haven’t spent the past three decades championing Austrian economics. They are among the increasing number of people who are rejecting the supply-side monetarism of Ben Bernanke or George W. Bush and are still on something of a voyage of discovery; it makes much more sense to support the experienced candidate who has already thought these issues through. In short, there are many good arguments for supporting Perry over an establishment corporatist like Romney, but the exact same arguments must logically weigh even more heavily in Ron Pauls’ favour. Get behind him, even if you think, like me, that he should shut up about Iran. He wouldn’t be the first supposedly fringe candidate in recent years to become U.S. President and he’d do a far better job.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • Amin

    “Mosaddegh was democratically elected, but was also strenuously working to eliminate constitutional impediments to his power, well on his way to becoming a Soviet puppet and openly nationalising (i.e. stealing) the assets of both Iranians and foreigners. ”

    There was no credible risk of Mosaddeqh becoming a Soviet puppet. The UK convinced the US of this though because it was at risk of losing its oil interests.

    As for robbing British assets, the UK took Iran to the International Court of Justice and lost. Iran offered to pay a fair amount for the assets. What it wasn’t willing to do was abide by an agreement that a corrupt Iranian monarch had made to semi-colonial powers half a century before signing over oil rights to the UK for the next century.

  • Ramin

    Nice article, with one exception: Dr. Mossadegh was not going to be a soviet puppet, in fact, he was very much pro American. He was a highly educated and honorable and honest man. Most people in the west never heard the truth about him, even to this day, judging by your article. Overthrowing Mossadegh still keeps 50% of Iranians hating America and Britain, as much as you wish to believe it is not true – because you do not know 1000s Iranians that I know in Iran and abroad. Iran is a country whose with thousands of years history of kindness and peace and justice – until CIA coup and US funded and Israeli built SAVAK security agency killing 143,000 dissidents. Until you accept the truth, you will not understand Iran.

  • BettyLiberty

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, Mr. Martindale! For the first time in my life, I’m truly excited about a presidential candidate, and so ready to take back my freedoms!

  • hass

    What a load! Iran is not the Congo. The people pushing for war in the IS are agents of another government: Israel. And yes the US was directly and knowingly complicit in Saddams use of WMDs and according to historians we even instructed our diplomats to try to shift the blame for Saddam,s gassing of the Kurds in Hallabja away from Saddam and onto Iran. The US sanction are not only backfiring by causing resentment amonhst Iranians (who also love their coubtry and massively support their nuclear program and who have long memories of similar tactics being used by imperial Britain and Russia against Iran) but the sanctions also work to the benefit of the government by making people more reliant on the state. Youd think 50 years of danctions on Cuba would have taught you something. In the case of Iran the sanctions have only limited US in forming policies. Even Bush said that weve sanctioned ourselves out of influence on Iran. Instead AIPC is pushing us down a sanctiobs path that can only lead to war and for the benefit of Israel.

  • Brian

    I can appreciate the complex consideration of ‘what if’ about Iran. My hat is off to you for having an adult conversation about U.S. foreign policy, versus painting it as a simple black and white issue; “either you are for foreign invasion, or you aren’t”.

    In either case, your points are well taken. Please consider a follow up article.

  • Brett D

    Having been highly involved in defense planning and training for years on both Iranian and N. Korean threats, I can stand behind Ron Paul’s position unabated.

    Iran, for one, cannot do anything with a nuclear weapon. They have no standing army (except for the Revolutionary Guard) and it’s virtually impossible for them to launch a missile with a nuclear payload at Israel or any of our assets.

    The reason being is because that would require an LRBM, which has 3-4 hour heat times that can be picked up by satellite. Within an hour we would mobilize one of the most massive air strikes in history. Even if Iran was able to get 100 missiles off the ground, they would have to pass through the most dense and advanced missile defense in the world. Not going to happen.. 100% impossibility.

    Further, Iran has no intent on using a nuke against Israel or America. They know it’s utterly suicidal. However, it does help deter any ideas of other nations invading, which is their point and in my opinion justified.

    If we intervene, they will immediately go to Pakistan, Russia, China, India and obtain MULTIPLE nuclear weapons and would then have motive to TRY to use them. Messing with Iran is messing with China. Intervention would potentially spark another cold war, with west vs. east.

    Intervention is extremely dangerous right now. If you’d like to see the REAL reasons why are in the Middle East, just read “The Grand Chessboard” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, our top foreign advisor.

    He lays out quite elegantly how controlling Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is the key to the U.S. becoming the one and only super global power on the planet. This is why Afghanistan has ALWAYS been a prime target for global powers to attack.. and failed every time.

    Don’t fall for war propaganda. You will bring on WWIII with stupidity.

  • Omar

    Although I don’t agree with your basic tenets, very well written article. You should be congratulated on your ability to hash out a thought unlike the 99% of journalists out there that give those like yourself a bad name.

  • RPTwentyTwelve

    Looking forward to vote Ron Paul in 2012!

    • belle

      Me too! Ron Paul 2012!

  • IMissLiberty

    I’d be happy if my representatives would just debate each war before deciding to engage in them. Ron Paul, as president, would insist that Congress declare war before he takes action as president, just as he always does as a Congressman. They are the People’s reps; they’re supposed to represent us, and correctly reflect how much we approve the target, goals, and cost of any war before we go in. It’s time we the People insist our reps actually do their jobs of upholding our rights and our Constitution. (It wouldn’t hurt, either, if they understood that everyone in the world shares the same rights.)

  • Michael Liang

    “To take an example, U.S. government involvement in the Congo has been basically nil over the past two decades, but that does not mean there has been an absence of intervention; rather, attracted by diamond wealth, the governments of Zimbabwe, Angloa and Sudan among others have merrily stuck their oar in, funding and arming one faction or another, the upshot being a civil war that has left literally millions dead.”

    So you’re saying that we should be involved in the internal affairs of other nations and choose whom we see is the “right” faction to ruin a nation? This is just absurd; we are not supposed to be policemen of the world. Let them intervene, it is none of our business. Your implication that civil war was caused by funding from other nations and that this intervention has left millions dead just hinders the point you are trying to make. Why even intervene then? You know you are just investing without judgement. Why should we prop up a government who we don’t even know will succeed are not?
    We need to just lay out hands off, and focus on our own country, defending our borders not overseas. We have NO MONEY, why should be even care about civil wars in other countries that we have no business in?

    • How does it follow from the premise that the interventions of a given country may in some cases be beneficial that said country should be a global policeman or ‘invest without judgement’?

  • Will

    I wish this was the type of discourse that was more frequently occurring around these issues. I don’t agree with some of your points/stances with foreign policy, but agree at the very least that these things are incredibly complicated and ethically tricky, and not easily solved by a blanket policy of staying out of everything vs. global policing. Ideally we would maybe be hesitant to enter into these entanglements but if deemed highly necessary by a legal process and executed well they may have their place.
    I support Ron Paul because he maintains consistent and well thought out positions and has integrity, even if I don’t agree on every last point. I happen to agree more with his foreign policy stance than the neo-con type position, while still acknowledging that Iran is in certain ways dangerous and may require additional discussion. I also happen to think that if his policy was applied across the board, that this would actually be better for Israel (some may disagree) to not have the US trying to tell them what to do and giving other nations in the area even more aid anyway. Israel is still going to be a strong US ally regardless and left to be able to handle their own affairs and defense more would probably be a net plus. I would love to see more pro Ron Paul sentiment from pro-Israel thinkers/groups considering that.
    I think a lot of this comes back to a sensible discourse instead of dumbed down and sensationalized left vs. right or other this vs. that debates. I happen to also be pro-choice, but acknowledge that that issue is extremely dicey, and Ron Paul is the _only_ conservative I have ever known to pose what seems to me to be legitimate reasons to be pro-life, as opposed to a purely “inflict ones religion on another through policy” agenda. Due to that my own opinion shifted some more towards his, instead of only being galvanized by attacks from nonsense. The capability for reasonable stances and discussion is why he seems head and shoulder above anyone else in politics right now outside of maybe Ralph Nader (way to the other side, but also intelligent, rational, and consistent). I agree Paul is not going to be perfect on everything for everyone, but I hope for the sake of our own political system that we choose someone like him over the other BS’ers in the field.
    Thanks for a sensible opinion article and hopefully none of the crazier RP supporters flames you for not being in lock-step.

  • pravin

    “if a given government does not intervene that does not lead to an absence of force, it just means that other governments will intervene”

    oh.the power vacuum strawman.

    RP is not of the opinion that these countries are virtuous and we are evil to kill their dictators etc.his point is a)the constitution doesnt allow us to do it b)there is no moral reason to send our children to kill other people,especially if they are not threatening us.
    c)US Govt is flat broke

    there are innumerable fights in the world and there is no moral reason to get involved in any of them UNLESS we are threatened

    as to israel’s problems: israel has already demonstrated it is capable of shooting down its threatening neighbors’s nuke facilities.also,they have 300 nukes. what does america have to do with their existential crisis? it is not as if israel is a son of the USA.

    • a) The constitution allows the U.S. to go to war whenever Congress permits, including in cases where it would be stupid and/or immoral to do so. That many of the interventions in the past were not constitutionally authorised does not preclude the possibility of inteventions in future being constitutionally authorised.
      b)First of all not every foreign intervention requires military action. Second of all the question of whether any given intervention is morally acceptable is a case by case matter, not to be dogmatically decided either way. Your particular position is self contradictory, since if all intervention is immoral it would follow that intervention to stop another intervention is moral, since it is always moral to stop an immoral action.
      c) agreed.

      But the main point is that your three arguments are simply not all that Ron Paul says. He explicitly argues that every single U.S. intervention makes things worse, based on an evidently flawed premise. This is why he claims that it would be good thing for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, when it is plainly true that if an angel stepped down from heaven and detroyed Iran’s nuclear programme the world would be a better place. (i.e. though the costs of intervention may in this particular case outweigh the benefits, there would be benefits)

  • Allen

    This was a great article, well written and well researched. I do disagree with your foreign policy but I understand those who share it. It’s hard to argue a non-interventionist policy when throughout history the only countries who used this policy were either themselves weak or wanted absolute seclusion(i.e. China). I don’t believe I can recall a nation in history with similarities to the U.S. that has resigned from constant military action. However, the one thing I notice with American foreign policy is that it doesn’t believe that anyone else in the world could pull of a revolution similar to our own. If the people of the country actually wanted change they would have to eventually organize themselves in some fashion, and then we would actually know who the rebels are and what they wanted, unlike the situation in Libya. Throughout history we have been shown the different of those who fight for freedom and those who fight for power. Power may when the battles, but freedom has always wins the war. So let those who want freedom fight for it like we did, let them appreciate it as we do. So then we can get back to focusing on protecting or own liberties. That’s all war is, a distraction that keeps you from seeing what’s really going on behind you.

  • Brian

    Excellent, well thought out article. I had much of the same concerns at a point– until I came to the realization that coersion is completely unethical, no matter the supposed ‘national interest’ de jour. This article needs to be spread far and wide, especially to the manufactured, fear based national security state supporters.

  • eric

    Hey thank you for the article,

    September is the month for Florida, we’ve got the Tampa and Orlando Debates, but the focus is on the 9.24.11 Orlando Straw Poll. A strong showing for Paul will force more debates on real issues not the MainStreamMedia scripts.

    Thank you
    9.24.11 Orlando Florida be there!

  • James Tiscione

    This article provokes debate and I can see by the responses that a consensus of endless war is not only destructive but a danger to our liberties at home. The battle cry for war is the art of creating an illusionary enemy with some kind of “ism” attached at the end. I believe that “terrorism” is the best “ism” to date that gives the excuse of a never ending USA intervention foreign policy. This serves the special interests of the military industrial complex and all other associated corporate supply chains. There are many other reasons that keep America in perpetual unsustainable wars but what more do we need to see? What can be said for the countless deaths to innocent civilians. Soldiers that are sent to die with the belief that they are fighting for democracy and to set people free…an illusion…deception of the worse kind.

  • I think the critical issue you overlooked is two fold as exemplified by the critiques of Anthony de Jasay and Robert A. Taft.

    First — that the State is not a neutral tool and it is filled with human beings who have the same traits as any other human. As well we know that absolute power absolutely corrupts, and a State which has the power to distill its hegemony across the Globe is about as powerful as you can get — inimically it means the US would become the de-facto Global Government. Not exactly a charming picture for individual liberty, or private property rights.

    Secondly — in order to affect this policy of world-intervention it must and will in due course or time subvert the liberties and property rights of individuals at home. Randolph Bourne once said: ‘ War is the Health of the State ‘, and since liberty is found in the inaction of Government (non-intervention), insofar as it concerns initiation of force, then you cannot have a policy of mass intervention across the globe and not expect that power to be forfeited at home. Robert Taft understood this.

    Similarly, you would have to believe that the people in Washington are smart enough to run the world, but are dumb enough not to know how to run just the US. This instantly, shows what flaws any policy of global intervention entails.

    Honestly, as great as Cobden and Bright were, they aren’t the epitome of the modern critique from libertarianism in regard to war. We have made many advances, though, you can say it is just the compilation of history and wisdom as many a Founder having read studiously knew. We were cautioned by the Anti-Federalists of the dangers of power wielded at home or abroad. They saw it first hand living as British subjects in the British Empire. Now we too US subjects, see it unveiled for all its stupendous errors in its latest incarnation — the US Empire.

    As for Cobden specifically — yes he had a fatalistic error if you happen to believe that he didn’t understand that an interventionist Britain abroad would destroy her liberties at home, though I happen to disagree with him on his argument that a Russian invasion would be beneficial. Certainly not beneficial for Russians at home. War only destroys — it does not produce. It is destructive of liberty and commercial society. It is a pox, and its bearer the Standing Army, are the bane of liberty and a nullification of the duty and mission of the militia. Look to the Anti-Federalists to see such magnificent prescience. Ron Paul is merely the modern Anti-Federalist embodied — something all Americans should be richly proud of.

  • T. Paine

    very rational and logical. This is what journalism should be.. It’s a shame that probably near no one will finish this article or understand its message. It makes people think to much…

    Big government, or the warfare state, is of course done perhaps with a few small sinister motives…but mainly it stems from good intentions.

    However, good intentions doth not reality bring and competence in fighting a war is almost impossible in todays world. Back 70 years ago, it was all or nothing…Now Americans go in, risk their lives, kill civilians, destroy a bunch of stuff….then in order to create the facade that we are the “good guys” – we spend a bunch of time rebuilding there country, bribing their politicians…and trying to keep peace. – meaning accomplishing nothing of specific value to this country…other than blowback, wasted money, and perpetual warfare

    Empire never was easy, and thats why its always failed. A country spreads out to far, and the borderline countries are always the first to rebel. People may be stupid and easily manipulated…but they still sense and know an outsider when they see it.

    we are the outsider. if we arent there to conquer due to political correctness….if the age of imperialism died long ago… then there is no longer a need to fight a foreign war at all. It is like two 40 year old adults getting in a bar fight over a sporting event. You got a wife and kids, focus on your own shit…not your exceptional machismo. You gotta work in the morning you dick.

  • koby in detroit

    Very well thought out article. The time is now to end the nonsense, or Americans for generations will suffer the consequences. As a RP supporter since before anyone knew his name, i have no problem with going through the pain that lies ahead, if it means this is a MUCH freer country upon my passing. Im 44.

  • Andrew Hein

    And who gets to make the decisions on which countries to intervene in? When to intervene? How far to go? I don’t feel any sort of obligation to let Uncle Sam “make the world a better place”. If you want to help, donate to charity with the taxes we’d save in paying for global interventionism .

    Interventionism makes *some* amount of sense (logically, not ethically) for a superpower nation with a fat paycheck and nothing to do but impose their own sense of morality and culture on the rest of the world. But considering we’re completely broke and have bigger fish to fry at home, non-interventionism is the only course that makes sense – at all.

  • Jordan Viray

    “There is no free market in international relations that can fix things if the U.S. government gets out of the way, just a long list of other governments – variously nasty, stupid, thieving, grasping, murderous and incompetent – ready to intervene themselves.”

    Libertarians don’t argue that American non-intervention automatically implies that free-market actors will fix things e.g. in Libya, Iran, or the Congo. Any intervention, however, should come only from voluntary transactions rather than having the US Government forcibly take wealth from Americans in order to finance even the best-intentioned interventions.

  • nader paul kucinich gravel mckinney baldwin ventura sheehan

    Radio Baghdad by Patti Smith