By David Beilstein
FOLLOWING the tense third presidential debate between the 44th President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, foreign policy is again en vogue. In which case, clarification of some ideological dimensions on the right, seem appropriate.
There seems to be several wings in conservative/libertarian circles pining for attention. Up first, is the so-called “non-interventionist” crowd — gyrating between paleo-conservatives over at Pat Buchannan’s digs, The American Conservative, and the other, the Ron Paul factions, and Reason magazine libertarians. One can, then, throw in Libertarian presidential contender, Gary Johnson on this side, too.
On the other side are George W. Bush era neo-conservatives, adapted from Bush I’s increased presence in the world militarily, starting with Somalia, Haiti, and Panama. Bill Clinton stepped into Bush I’s shoes and continued America’s expansionist roles, while depleting the military at the same time. An unwise move.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney appears, it would seem, to be somewhere between Bush I and Mr Clinton. Such appearances explain Mr Romney’s overly cautious tack in last night’s final presidential debate. Romney was credible, but hemmed in by the unpopularity of neo-conservative warmongering and its consequences; hence Mr Romney repeatedly made it clear he did not want another war.
Mr Romney’s reasoning is simple: the neo-conservative cabal has spoken rightly of a strong, emboldened America — one that stands up for its historic values, and is robust in strength and global reach. Problems. This group led by the conquering heroes of the first Gulf War triumph, somehow mismanaged America’s first two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, of the 21st century. This same group led by Rick Santorum and other neo-cons to pine for bombing the troubling nuclear tumor germinating in the arid lands of Persia. Consequently, the ideological sword responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan has been blunted by unpopularity at home and thus, found to be illegitimate to a majority of Americans.
Wisdom lingers here. There is less good than bad when it comes to the fog and friction of war. If one observed closely, they would sense Vice-President’s Joe Biden’s retort to Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan of ‘wanting another war’, was thrown high and hard to take advantage of such populist sentiment.
In either case, the Romney faction faces a dilemma — which regardless of a Romney presidency will require acuity. This ideological battle on the right will have to be resolved sooner rather than later because Republicans will have difficulty coalescing a cogent alternative to Democratic Party foolishness in terms of foreign policy if not unified in a general sense on foreign policy.
The environs of the debate seem to follow straightforward lines: the counter-terrorism policies of the Clinton administration (based on legal doggrel) lost credibility as Islamic-Fascist attacks grew in intensity and scope. The Clinton administration missed opportunities because of decreased focus and interest. In consequence, American credibility ossified and its enemies emboldened. New alliances were formed among the Islamic militants and the targets of their attacks expanded and reached out to New York and Washington, DC in catastrophic attacks.
President George W. Bush strutted into the Oval Office in January of 2001. In September 2001, premeditated murder and war sailed out of clear blue skies raining death from above. Bush reacted. He swiftly set afire through bombs and munitions Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bush’s policies kept America safe for his entire two-term presidency, squeezing the Islamic-fascist threat into corrugated tunnels in the Hindu Kush. But the Bush administration mismanaged the war in Iraq — where it got stuck in an unnecessary and costly insurgency — and in Afghanistan where larger mission creep lingers. Both wars plummeted Bush’s political capital and the Republican’s foreign policy reputation, Moreover, this led to a sense of illegitimacy of neo-conservative foreign policy migrations for a majority of Americans.
This collage of events sharpened the isolationist critique of the Bush years — and, likewise, created factions of disagreement among those on the right of the ideological spectrum. If the Republican Party wants to have a voice on foreign policy — if it wants to be the go-to party when it comes to foreign policy issues — it must codify these factions into some kind of coherent voice.
This author thinks there is middle ground to be tilled. I do not prefer middle grounds because it is often the ground of those lacking guts and without fibrous principals. In life, however, sometimes middle ground is not necessarily the acreage of compromise.
But. The trouble with the Ron Paul faction is their archaic views of the world — the Middle East in general and a underwhelmed naivety concerning totalitarian Islamic Fascism spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, specifically. Such realities will burn, and that fire will cross the oceans to America and threaten its own security and culture as it has done in Europe. This blue flame of totalitarian heat has already migrated into South America…
It is — that is, Islamic Fascism — close and it burns ever hotter and brighter across more of the world than before George W. Bush or Barack Obama rose to the presidency. And it grew uncontrollably during the second half of the Clinton administration.
It is a 21st century war of civilisation — no easy answers arise.
But it is also an incendiary problem maturing within a particular historical context. A problem rooted in Islamic teachings about Allah and Allah’s political, social, and religious rigidity — of one Kingdom of Heaven undiluted from Western ideas of dualism between Sacred and secular spheres of God’s reign.
Islamic Fascism is ideological renal failure. It will increase and get worse as time goes by. The other myopic issue with the Ron Paul crowd is etymology: Ron Paulians and Gary Johnsonians are not non-interventionists — but strict isolationists. And the 20th century informed us, harshly, isolationism does not work. It was conservatives, during FDR’s tenure that learned this lesson.
Still, confusion on the proper parameters of American might and foreign policy teleology abound with the neo-conservatives. The role of America is not to build a more peaceful, democratic world, but to preserve its own security — it’s own culture. If it is better for America that certain dictator’s rule over certain bands of tribal warriors, in far off nations, then it is better for America’s security. Our involvement in other nation’s affairs, if they have not made war upon us is unwise. Here is where, wisdom permitting, the paleo-conservative crowd seems prudent.
We cannot fight the world’s wars, nor should our aim be to do so.
The Obama administration’s democracy project — taking a hop, skip and a jump further than the Bush administration — has been a disaster and has empowered Islamic fascists in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. It has created a more uncertain, unsafe, and chaotic world, one where an alliance of such militant factions — between Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and even into South America (tri-border region) has been solidified.
America’s current latitude is against the so-called Ron Paul notion of removal and retreat from the global environ (impossible) and a reduction in American military might. The same holds true for Gary Johnson’s foreign policy madness. In a world of a rising China, an emerging and belligerent Russia, the present course of events is not the time for America to reduce its military prowess. Even more so, it is not the time to reduce America’s intelligence capabilities, as Ron Paul indicated he would do in a 1988 interview on William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Firing Line.
The defiance of the CIA and large U.S. Military capability by Ron Paul and some libertarian factions (Gary Johnson!) lacks global sophistication — mired in an unconstrained vision (Dr Thomas Sowell’s language) of human — and societal — worldviews.
As Karl Von Clausewitz opined ‘war is the natural intercourse between men within nations.’ America can do much to stay out of war — but there will be war. And since there will be war, America must be in a position to win those wars, large and small, quickly and viciously. Ron Paul and his ilk — along with Gary Johnson and his band of neo-hippie lieges — seek to prevent this top-notch military from being built through shear populism riding the crest of at least one war based on classically liberal principals, mismanaged.
But mismanaged war(s) do not mean the enemy is not real — or that it should not be destroyed. The animus of the CIA in this camp of isolationist crusaders is also weak sauce to cook with.
Just imagine! Had the CIA, unshackled from the Church Hearings of the 1970s, and congressional nose bleeding, been allowed — in 1995 — to remove Osama Bin Laden from this mortal coil by a targeted CIA strike, over six thousand Americans would be alive today, and two wars would not have been fought.
Ron Paul wanted to end the CIA.
One could make the argument the CIA should be reformed or replaced with a stronger more able paramilitary espionage agency — for its historical incompetence — but it is Ron Paul who blames the CIA for work if done correctly prevents the other arm of what Ron Paul apes about against: foreign Wars.
This is a Catch-22 and is intellectual low-ball for man with an M.D.
Had the CIA removed Osama Bin laden in a covert operation it would have given Ron Paul and Gary Johnson and their voters a world more peaceful, with an American nation not at war in the Middle East. Likewise, focus would have been allowed, ostensibly, to be on American domestic health and fiscal reform. The statist dragon could have received the slaying it required then — and needs more so now.
There would be more men and women alive today — and more children.
Fewer wars and less debt.
This reality is another reason why Ron Paul’s murky and foolhardy kvetching over the death of a terrorist leader in Yemen by a CIA covert operation is absurd.
Of this I am sure. President Bill Clinton — sexually aroused by Monica Lewinsky’s stylish beret — prevented the CIA from dispatching Osama Bin Laden. A few years rolled by, 9/11 did happen, and the march to war — drummed up by a justly enraged American public — drove U.S. forces into the flaming caldron of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush and Iraq’s smoldering Babylon. Political correctness and lack of HUMINT intelligence, spurned by congressional meddling, crippled the CIA, and was largely responsible for an intelligence service that ‘did not connect the dots.’
History thus informs us: a muscular CIA is necessary to secure America’s ability to be, truly, a non-interventionist sovereign nation. This is true with the U.S. Military, as well. I, myself, politically, am a libertarian. I’m an Old School non-interventionist of the Reagan era. I’m an American Negro and a Goldwaterite conservative of large appetite. Still, I dare not cross the rapids created by some libertarians desirous of reducing our military and doing-away-with the CIA. This action would, long term, hinder America’s ability to be a truly non-interventionist nation, prospering, and rightly impacting the world by minding our own business unless messed with.
The CIA was created to preserve American non-intervention at best, and keep wars small, and regional, at worst. William F. Buckley, in Miles Gone By, calls this the CIA’s honourable alternative quest.
I believe Mr Buckley was correct.
On the other hand, paleo-conservatives, particularly Pat Buchannan, are far wiser than and more informed about global circumstances than our libertarian isolationist friends. Paleo-conservative language is less bellicose than Ron Paulians, and it is also more correct than neo-conservatives by a country mile. Mr Buchannan, relying heavily on the good doctor of classical liberal intelligentsia Edmund Burke, has made excellent points on the large morass of American involvement where it does not belong. Mr Buchanan has etched out solid ground here and does not blithely announce military cutbacks and other senseless suggestions in dangerous seasons. He does argue for a sober foreign policy that would seem something of a perch Republicans can unify behind if made less radical.
While I did agree with the Iraq War — based on the late Christopher Hitchens’ argument and not the Bush administration’s weak case — I still find Mr Buchanan’s argument against the Iraq War articulated in his book, Where The Right Went Wrong, to be the best case yet of either left or right.
So. It is important to understand Islamic-Fascism has messed with America. It’s destruction, therefore, is by no means violating Jeffersonian or Madisonian ideas on American purposes in war. Neither is the eradication of America’s totalitarian Islamic-fascist enemies a violation of libertarian notions of non-aggression. Put simply, they, the Islamic militant threat is, global and has launched war against America.
They have come for war with us, immorally, and without proper sanction.
This fight then, can be waged without expanding American might over the globe and without nation building. Without democracy projects and power-grabs. This fight is about the destruction of a lethal enemy and not the perfecting of democratic utopias around the world that are an existential impossibility.
Finally, the American CIA and U.S. Military exist to preserve America’s ability to be non-interventionist. The Stealth Bomber was built — as was the F-22 Raptor and Apache helicopter — to preserve an edge. An edge, then, to remain a non-intervening nation, desiring peace always, but able to win any war in superior violence — a nation’s whose enemies look upon her fighting prowess and retreat, shots unfired… because, simply, it would be the wrong day to die.