Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Senator Rand Paul Talks Sense On Foreign Policy

Senator Rand Paul ( R-KY) gave an important speech at the Heritage Foundation today. It's one of the more intelligent  expostions on Foreign Policy I've seen come out of Congress in quite some time. The more I see of Senator Paul, the more I'm impressed with his common sense and his understanding of the Founder's principles. And he clearly understands the threat of radical Islam.  Here's a slice:

Foreign policy is uniquely an arena where we should base decisions on the landscape of the world as it is . . . not as we wish it to be. I see the world as it is. I am a realist, not a neoconservative, nor an isolationist.

When candidate John McCain argued in 2007 that we should remain in Iraq for 100 years, I blanched and wondered what the unintended consequences of prolonged occupation would be.  But McCain’s call for a hundred year occupation does capture some truth: that the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with Radical Islam.

As many are quick to note, the war is not with Islam but with a radical element of Islam - the problem is that this element is no small minority but a vibrant, often mainstream, vocal and numerous minority. Whole countries, such as Saudi Arabia, adhere to at least certain radical concepts such as the death penalty for blasphemy, conversion, or apostasy. A survey in Britain after the subway bombings showed 20% of the Muslim population in Britain approved of the violence.

Some libertarians argue that western occupation fans the flames of radical Islam – I agree. But I don’t agree that absent western occupation that radical Islam “goes quietly into that good night.” I don’t agree with FDR’s VP Henry Wallace that the Soviets (or Radical Islam in today’s case) can be discouraged by “the glad hand and the winning smile.”

Americans need to understand that Islam has a long and perseverant memory. As Bernard Lewis writes, “despite an immense investment in the teaching and writing of history, the general level of historical knowledge in American society is abysmally low. The Muslim peoples, like everyone else in the world, are shaped by their history, but unlike some others, they are keenly aware of it.”
Radical Islam is no fleeting fad but a relentless force. Though at times stateless, radical Islam is also supported by radicalized nations such as Iran. Though often militarily weak, radical Islam makes up for its lack of conventional armies with unlimited zeal.

For Americans to grasp the mindset of radical Islam we need to understand that they are still hopping mad about the massacre at Karbala several hundred years ago. Meanwhile, many Americans seem to be more concerned with who is winning Dancing with the Stars.

Read the rest here


B.Poster said...

This certainly is one of the better speeches on foreign policy from a US official in quite some time. Of course given the current mess that US foreign policy currently is the bar is low indeed.

Given the low bar that is curently set, the speech did not need to suggest much to be a vast improvement. As such, there are plenty of things that Mr. Paul got wrong but there are few thing he got right.

Firs tthe things he got right. Radical Islam is relentless force that has tremendous zeal that is has used to make for times when it has been militarily weak. Perhaps most importantly he seems to understand that radical Islam will not go quitely into the night if America simply withdraws from the Middle East. Additionally he understands the distribution of weapons to Egypt right now is a bad idea. Finally he seesm to understand the positions held by the followers of radical Islam are not radical but mainstream for this group.

Some of the things he got wrong are while he appears to come closer to understandng the threat of radical Islam than most US officials even he does not understand the gravity or the nature of this threat. Radical Islam poses a threat to America that is many times greater than the threat posed by Nazi Germanuy or Imperial Japan ever did or ever could have. From the context, he does not appear to get this.

The comments on Iraq are real head scratcher that lead to wonder what universe Mr. Paul inhabits. Over 50% of Americans do NOT believe Iraq attacked us on 911. In fact, over 50% of Americans believe former President Bush and his advisors lied about Iraqi WMD by fabricating the evidence and Iraq was no threat to America at all. While the intellegence turned out to be inaccurate, there was no attempt by the formaer Administration to decieve. By allowing the standard narrative to go unchallenged we are hampered in making the necessary improvements to our intellegence services that are needed for us to be effective.

The comments on Iran and the comparison and contrast between the debate about this problem in the US and Israel is interesting. He appears to suggest that the debate in America less robust than it is in Israel and that to much emphasis is being placed on a military option by the American government in the debate,

Both ideas are incorrect. The debate in America is mostly about unsing a combination of diplomacy and sanctions to solve the problem. Very little emphasis is given on a potential military solution other than tieless efforts by government officals, media pundits, and other assorted "experts" to undermine a potential military solution.

Also, while the debate in America about the Iranian porblem is not less robust than it is in Israel, it is different. First of all in Israel the debate likely begins with the notion that Israel has the right to exist. In American circles of power and influence, it is an acceptable positon to take that Israel has no right to exist. Such individuals control the most important positions wtihin think tanks who advise leaders of both major political parties, they hold important positions within acedemia, the media, and the foreign policy establishment.

To take the position that we should not be creating another Arab state by taking it from Israeli land, is to end one's career in the abouve fields mentioned or to prevent it from even getting started. Such people are shunned, called "Islamophobe", or worse.

At least Mr. Paul does seem to understand that for sanctions to work we will need Iran's major trading partners of Russia, China, and India on board. Right now they are not. As such, the sanction are not as effective. In fact, Mr. Paul over estimates the effectiveness of the sanctions as they are currently.

All in all the speech, as well as Mr. Paul's understanding of foreign policy, could use much improvement but it is a vast imrpovement over what is curently in plance.

B.Poster said...

Mr. Paul also gets it right when he points out that the Arab grudge is old and they never forget, while many Americans are more interested in who is winning "dancing with the stars" and other trivial things. Right now America, on the whole, is not a serious nation. Until more Americans become serious people, it is going to be exceedingly difficult to attack this problem effectively.