KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL of the Wall Street Journal claimed, in “Why Ron Paul Can’t Win,” that “conservative Republicans” cannot accept Paul’s philosophy as it “fundamentally denies American exceptionalism and refuses to allow for decisive action to protect the U.S. homeland.”
Is STRASSEL equating American exceptionalism with the kind of non-defensive militarism America currently practices? It would appear so.
This writer’s position on said “exceptionalism”: “the United States, by virtue of its origins and ideals,” was unique. But most Americans know nothing of the ideas that animated their country’s founding. In fact, they are more likely to hold ideas in opposition to the classical liberal philosophy of the founders, and hence wish to see the aggrandizement of the coercive state and the fulfillment of their own needs and desires through war and welfare.
Thus, I find myself in agreement with this one statement by Princeton’s Joyce Carol Oates:
“[T]ravel to any foreign country,” Oates wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in November 2007, “and the consensus is: The American idea has become a cruel joke, a blustery and bellicose bodybuilder luridly bulked up on steroids…deranged and myopic, dangerous.”
I thought Paul was strong on Jay Leno, but should probably not have cozied-up to the Left in the way he did. More on that later:
UPDATE: About Bachmann, Paul Said, “she doesn’t like Muslims, she hates them, she wants to go get ‘em.'” “In reference to Rick Santorum, Paul said he can’t stop talking about ‘gay people and Muslims.'” (ABC)
Leave aside whether these statements are true or not: Paul has taken a classic Chris-Matthews kind of ad hominem swipe against Michele Bachmann: she hates Muslims. Santorum hates gays and Muslims. Siding with the Left by adopting its arguments may be situationally advantageous, but it is wrong, and will backfire on a Republican candidate in the long run. This tactic, even if it was a not-so-funny joke, damages Ron Paul’s effectiveness from the vantage point of conservative libertarians who think that liberty cannot be reduced to the non-aggression axiom and has a cultural and civilizational dimension.
Paul is wrong to imply, reductively, that Islamic terrorism in general and September 11 in particular are the sole consequences of American foreign policy. Libertarians cannot persist in such unidirectional formulations. Our adventurous foreign policy is a necessary precondition for Muslim aggression but it is far from a sufficient one.