Friday, February 8, 2008

The Wall Street Journal and Ron Paul

The Wall Street Journal has been known, for a while now, to be one of the main pillars of the neocon/Israeli-lobby propaganda machine. It was one of the principal media organizations behind the drumming up of support for the invasion of Iraq, and it has recently published several articles from the warmongering godfather of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, urging the US to bomb Iran rather than use diplomacy.

One of their columnists, Bret Stephens, recently wrote a commentary attacking Ron Paul's policy of non-interventionism and libertarianism is general.

In it he calls Ron Paul "fringe", his position one borne of "libertarian conceit", and his followers "cult-like". He defends the current US policy of interventionism and especially continued US aid to Israel and military interventionism in the affairs of Israel's neighbors.

Bret Stephens is a Jewish neoconservative and former editor and chief for the right wing Israeli paper the 'Jerusalem Post'. When John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University published their groundbreaking work "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", Bret Stephens, predictably, was one of its main critics.

The Wall Street Journal is an important facet of the Israeli lobby's propaganda efforts and its attack on Ron Paul is part of this effort to promote pro-Israeli interventionist US foreign policy.

Here are a few of the ridiculous arguments made by Stephens to try to discredit Ron Paul's policy position:

Dr. Paul's own remedy is that if "we trade with everybody and talk with them . . . there's a greater incentive to work these problems out." But here's a rub.

As historian Michael Oren observes in "Power, Faith and Fantasy," his history of America's 230-year involvement in the Middle East, as early as the 1790s "many Americans had grown dismayed with the country's Middle East policy of admonishing the [Barbary] pirates while simultaneously coddling them with bribes." It was precisely out of a desire to "trade with everybody" that the early American republic was forced to build a navy, and then to go to war, to defend its commercial interests, a pattern that held true in World War I and the Persian Gulf "Tanker War" of the 1980s.

1) The fight against the Barbary pirates was extremely limited compared to the 700+ American military bases in 130 countries, plus the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that is going on today. One can't compare a small naval incursion against pirate bases to decade long occupations involving half a million troops. Get real.

2) The tanker wars of the 1980's were a DIRECT result of American sponsorship of Iraq in its war against Iran. Even if we were to accept that a tanker wars scenario could happen in a world where the US didn't intervene every where, protecting those tankers is a far cry from 700+ military bases in 130 countries, with half a million American troops.

3) World War 1 was a completely unnecessary war that did not serve America's national interest. It served the narrow interests of the banks that, according to the Nye Committee, loaned Great Britain 85 times more than they loaned Germany (and therefore did not want the UK to lose the war). American intervention in WW1 cost America over a hundred thousand lives and led to the Versailles Treaty, which led to World War 2.

These details of history pose a problem not just to Dr. Paul's views of the Middle East, but to the intellectual architecture of libertarianism itself. Liberal societies are built on the belief in (and defense of) individual rights, but also on the overawing power of government to transform natural rights into civil ones. In the same way, trade between nations is only possible in the absence of robbers, pirates and other rogues. Whose job is it to get rid of them?

A strict libertarian might offer that mercenaries could be authorized to build aircraft carriers, Aegis cruisers and nuclear submarines to keep the freedom of the seas in the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca. But what happens when the pecuniary interests of mercenaries collide with the political interests of the U.S. or some other government? Ultimately, some kind of decisive power is needed there too, at least if the trading opportunities libertarians claim are so precious stand any chance of flourishing.

Private mercenaries should protect those Americans who trade in foreign countries. One can't expect the American government to protect American enterprises that go to dangerous foreign nations to do business. That would be, in essence, socializing the risk of international business. If foreign nations are obstructing international trade routes, then that is a job that the US navy can take care of. No foreign military bases or decade long occupations are needed to keep international water ways open. This is a ridiculous argument and justification for America's current policy of interventionism.

As far as mercenaries being "authorized to build aircraft carriers, Aegis cruisers and nuclear submarines", no absolutely not. The American government should not sanction or give access to proprietory American military technology to any mercenaries contracted by US nationals in foreign countries. If an American wants to do business in a foreign nation, the American government should have no authority to aid him/her in any way.

Mankind is not comprised solely of profit- and pleasure-seekers; the quest for prestige and dominance and an instinct for nihilism are also inscribed in human nature, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. Libertarianism makes no accounting for this. It assumes the relatively tame aspirations of modern American life are a baseline for human nature, not an achievement of civilization.

That's absolute nonsense. Libertarianism makes no assumptions about human nature, it makes simple declarations about the rights of man. One does not have a right to force someone else to contribute money to the protection of a foreign interest. It's as simple as that. All of this philosophical bullshit about nihilism and "the quest for prestige and dominance" has nothing to do with this discussion.

There is a not-incidental connection here between libertarianism and pacifism. George Orwell once observed that pacifism is a doctrine that can only be preached behind the protective cover of the Royal Navy. Similarly, libertarianism can only be seriously espoused under the protective cover of Leviathan.

Who said any thing about pacifism? The libertarian does not argue against fighting, but against forcing, by government mandate, every citizen to bear the costs of foreign adventures that do not serve the purpose of furthering national security.

I'm not surprised that Bret Stephens completely misses the argument for a non-interventionist foreign policy and uses weak spurious historical analogies to counter Ron Paul. A weak argument such as his cannot stand the light of honest scrutiny.