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Maybe, Just Maybe, Ron Paul Was Right
You may not like the truth, but that doesn't make it any less true. Radley Balko writes at Reason that maybe Ron Paul had a point:

Perhaps, Paul suggested, the 15-year presence of the U.S. military forces in Muslim countries may have motivated them. For that, Giuliani excoriated him, calling it an "extraordinary statement," adding, "I don't think I've heard that before."

Let's be blunt. Giuliani was either lying, or he hasn't cracked a book in six years.

The "blowback" theory isn't some fringe idea common only to crazy Sept. 11 conspiracy theorists. It doesn't suggest that we "deserved" the Sept. 11 attacks, nor does it suggest we shouldn't have retaliated against the people who waged them.

It's a well-established theory accepted among most foreign policy scholars that states, simply, that actions have consequences. When the Arab and Muslim world continually sees U.S. troops marching through Arab and Muslim backyards, U.S. trade sanctions causing Arab and Muslim suffering, and U.S. bombs landing on Arab and Muslim homes, it isn't difficult to see how Arabs and Muslims could begin to develop a deep contempt for the U.S.

This isn't to say we should never bomb or invade an Arab or Muslim country. Certainly, to the extent that the Taliban in Afghanistan gave Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda refuge after the attacks, we had no choice but to invade the country and topple its government.

But we also shouldn't just attack any Arab or Muslim country, which is what we seem to have done with Iraq. Saddam Hussein's government was brutal, ruthless and tyrannical. No doubt. But so are a number of countries with which we're allies, most notably Saudi Arabia .

Hussein's government wasn't a threat to us. It wasn't militant Islamist. It was secular. There were no WMDs. And Saddam Hussein had no connection whatsoever to Sept. 11.

Not the truth people like to hear. In fact, if you tell that truth, people will accuse you of being downright un-American, and maybe do whatever they can to keep you off the air and out of the debate. Tell the "truth," however, and you'll reap some pretty nice rewards. For example, Balko continues:

It's striking just how right people who think like Ron Paul were before the war, and how incredibly wrong those now piling on him were. And yet Paul Wolfowitz was promoted to head the World Bank; Dick Cheney is still vice president; and Mitch Daniels is the governor of Indiana.

The people who were wrong were rewarded. And without any sense of shame, they go right on mocking the people who were right.

And yet, I still heard George Bush on the radio yesterday, going on about how the "dangerous winds" of terrorism are "swirling," and suggesting they'll come blow our house down here in America, but for our war in Iraq? Yeah, right. The truth: Because of our war in Iraq, there are now many more terrorists out to get us.

The other truth: We're not going to "win" by staying in Iraq. We're only going to pour money and troops down the drain to avoid saying we've lost. And yes, I think, vis a vis Muslim collectivism, it's most likely impossible to maintain a democracy in an Islamic country.

Jonathan Rauch, again in Reason, puts it pretty concisely:

The generals were doing everything short of sending up fireworks to warn that Americans will not know by September whether Iraq can be secured enough so that U.S. forces can come home. Rather, Americans may know whether Iraq can be secured enough so that U.S. forces can productively stay in Iraq. If the surge works, the troops would resume what they were doing four years ago: building the government, rebuilding the country, and (hopefully) standing down as Iraqis stand up.

Bush is, in effect, asking for a do-over. It is a tough request to make, and audacious in light of the administration's performance the first time around; but Bush warns that the alternative is worse, because to fail in Iraq would be a disaster.

Here he runs into a problem. The public does indeed believe that failure in Iraq would be a disaster—for Iraq. But the public does not believe it would be a disaster for the United States. To the contrary: In an April CBS News poll, only 30 percent of respondents said that a withdrawal from Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism against the United States, while 59 percent said there would be no change and 8 percent said the threat would diminish. Other polls have been finding for the better part of two years that the public sees the Iraq war as making the United States no safer from terrorism. The public, in other words, views stabilizing Iraq as social work rather than security work.

In the past year, public opinion has tipped from expecting U.S. success in Iraq to expecting failure, but Bush's bigger problem is that the public has rejected his whole strategic vision. "By a nearly 2-to-1 margin," the Gallup Organization reported last month, "Americans say the benefits of winning the war in Iraq to the United States are not worth the costs the United States would have to bear in order to win it." Bush believes that the United States cannot afford to lose in Iraq; the public believes that the United States cannot afford to win.

Posted by aalkon at May 24, 2007 8:12 AM

Comments

I guess all that stuff in Bin Laden's first da'wa doesn't apply then?

Bin Laden, to the extent that our presence in the middle east even mattered to him, was simply that we stood in the way of his aim to unseat the monarchy in Saudi Arabia. He could give a shit about Iraq and Palestinians.

Ron Paul was wrong. Period. And to insinuate that our foreign policy for the last 20 years has somehow created an ideology that we know dates back to the 1950s is beyond moronic.

The war in Iraq has NOT created "more" terrorists, it has simply drawn some of the hidden ones out of the shadows.

And your continuous harping on Islamic countries being incapable of maintaining democracy, and therefore some semblance of peaceful co-existence, tells me that you expect that we will ultimately end up walling off the middle east or wiping it out.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 7:20 AM

Response to aalkon in reference to his comment...

You are overlooking a few telling facts concerning Bin Laden Co's motivations:

1.) The USA has supported the Saudi Regime for decades which directly opposes the stated aims of Bin Laden

2.) Shortly prior to and for a decade after the first Gulf War, American troops were stationed on Saudi soil which was considered detestable and a sacrilege by many Arabs, including Bin Laden.

3.) Ron Paul in 30 second sound bites during a debate can't laundry list every single foreign policy factor in the last 60 years but he has written volumes on the subject. Ron Paul's position is backed up by the 9/11 Commission and CIA personnel.

Posted by: R. Harmon at May 24, 2007 7:37 AM

:/ CORRECTION:

My above comment was directed to the comment by brian at May 24, 2007 7:20 AM...

Posted by: R. Harmon at May 24, 2007 7:40 AM

Actually, R. Ron Paul's insane position is NOT backed up by either. Although he likes to think it is.

re: 1 - So, we ought to choose which governments to support based upon whether or not our enemies approve? Do you understand the balance of power in SA? Half of the royal family wants a pseudo-secular monarchy. That half is presently in power, and was the position of the now-deceased King Fahd. Bin Laden wanted Fahd dead, because he supports the OTHER half of the family, who are raging Islamists who wish to use Saudi oil money to finance the elimination of Jews, apostates, and infidels. I would suggest to you that regardless our support for the present government of SA, Bin Laden would still find us worthy of attack because we won't let them destroy Israel.

re: 2 - our troops were on Saudi soil BY INVITATION. What other arabs think of it is immaterial. Unless, of course, those arabs get a say in how Saudi Arabia conducts its internal policy. I rather doubt that SA gives a shit.

But, if you believe we ought to conduct our foreign policy based upon not offending those committed to our destruction, that's fine. I commend to you 1938 as an example of what awaits.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 7:54 AM

And your continuous harping on Islamic countries being incapable of maintaining democracy, and therefore some semblance of peaceful co-existence, tells me that you expect that we will ultimately end up walling off the middle east or wiping it out.

We have pretty good relations with the governments of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. None of which are democracies. Just saying.

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 8:38 AM

And yet Saudi Arabia is actively funding the construction of mosques to preach islamic supremacy throughout the world.

Which is why I said they were a pseudo-secular state. They definitely have a state religion, and they are exporting it. They just don't have the clerics visibly running the show (like Iran).

Saudi Arabia is our friend for the simple reason that we are the only thing that stopped Saddam from taking them out in 1991, and we are the only thing keeping Iran from being able to do the same. If Iran and Iraq had not been so hell-bent on regional dominance, the Saudis wouldn't give us the time of day.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 8:55 AM

Brian, your comments Saudi Arabia are right on (I think they also really like us cause we've done so much to make their ruling family fabulously wealthy, too), but you neglected to address the key point I was trying to make: That democracy in the Middle East is absolutely not a precondition to having peaceful relations with the U.S. In fact, it often is the case that we have allies over there because a dictator/king/president chooses to ally with us for strategic reasons when a democratically elected leader would almost certainly do the opposite. Pakistan, anyone? Democracy ain't the panacea that some people think it is.

Posted by: justin case at May 24, 2007 9:28 AM

Justin -

That's as may be, but so long as the despot in charge is willing to finance terrorist activities, he is a threat to us. Directly or indirectly.

A democracy is less likely to finance such things, since the people of the country will now have a stake in what happens to said country. So long as Saddam was the dictator, there was no incentive for him to comply with UN or US demands, since there was no way that the people could impose change.

And when the ruling council of a country is ideologically inclined to despise everyone, there's no likelihood of peaceful relations. Again, because the individuals that could benefit from such relations have been denied the choice to do so.

At least that would appear to be the theory. Whether it works or not is yet to be decided. But I think we can make a case for it on the basis that Germany and Japan haven't been invading anyone since WWII.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 9:33 AM

Easier said than done, Brian. This coming from someone who has lived and worked extensively in the 4 nations (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan) JC mentioned.

Posted by: Joe at May 24, 2007 9:58 AM

It comes down to whether you believe a foreign policy of interventionism is correct or whether it simply a bad idea to mix ourselves up into another region's conflicts.

At the end of the day, it's not a matter of proving if blowback exists, or if we do more good than harm.

The question is this:

Should the US Government get placed back into the Constitutional Box and follow a non-interventionist foreign policy?

Our government can't become a world empire and remain a constitutional republic.

Posted by: R. Harmon at May 24, 2007 10:49 AM

R. -

The proper question is this:

Does the Constitution's requirement to defend the United States from outside attack trump an exhortation from the first President to avoid foreign entanglements?

And it leads to this question:

Does the prevention of a future attack count as self defense, or must we wait for an attack before striking?

And finally:

What is the Constitutionally proper response to a military attack by a non-state actor?

If the United States had followed an interventionist policy in 1938, there would not have been a World War II. Pearl Harbor would not have been attacked. The Holocaust would not have happened. Israel would never have been created. The Cold War would likely not have happened.

But by not intervening, all those things, and more, happened.

Somewhere in the calculus of self-interest there has to be room for preventive maintenance.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 11:23 AM

It's weird how this administration is calcifying in its policies and rhetoric.

This comment is too early... IJS it's a very strange time.

Of course, there's still plenty of time for a scandal to break, so that we can hate these guys in a bold new way.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 1:29 PM

So true, Crid.

What are we going to find out once the fool leaves the White House post 1/21/09?

Remember how long it took to get the finer details of Gulf I pre-digital revolution? Now compare the details about Gulf II in a post 1994 world?

All those military officers, their wives, disgruntled DOD planners, mid level White House staffers, State Dept officials saving their emails on CD-ROM. Little digital camcorders. MP3 recorders on wristwatches. A virtual treasure trove of information for journalists and historians.

Now in 2007, the DOD begins restricting US forces access to the internet in Iraq. Real fucking geniuses. I just hope Colonel H.R. McMaster writes an Iraqi sequel to Dereliction of Duty.

Posted by: Joe at May 24, 2007 2:17 PM

Yeah. The most interesting part of the recent scandals, or scandalettes, was that they involved emails. I remember reading in late December 2000 that Bush had written goodbye emails to all his friends saying that he'd no longer be able to stay in touch that way, because he couldn't risk subpoena. So theoretically, the whole administration was savvy about how to avoid leaving tracks... But apparently not.

Again, it just feels strange this week. I'm not saying history's going to take a turn for the better just because he's leaving office, but something about Edward's "bumper sticker" wisecrack and Bush's "He's naive" retort from earlier today makes me think that a lot of the attitudes about these conflicts are subject to review. While I supported invasion, that review would be an indisputably good thing.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2007 3:20 PM

"Does the Constitution's requirement to defend the United States from outside attack trump an exhortation from the first President to avoid foreign entanglements?"

@BRIAN:

Personally, I don't doubt the wisdom of General Washington's warning, but in regards to the Constitution, warlike diplomacy is at odds with a constitutional government. The Constitution and empire can not abide together, one must give way.

War is truly the health of the state, read: big government. The bigger and more powerful the government, the more restrictions on personal liberty there will be. Higher taxes, intrusive government and "the end justifies the means" mode of thinking takes hold and runs rough shod.

This brings up the practical value of having a non-interventionist foreign policy because it is compatible with our nation's Constitution.

Don't confuse non-interventionism with pacifism or isolationism. The best way to simplistically describe it would be the slogan: Don't tread on me!

Posted by: Ray Harmon at May 24, 2007 4:40 PM

Ray -

Of course you're begging the question. You've already assumed that any non-retaliatory military action (as you call it "warlike diplomacy") is ipso facto "empire". To call the Iraq war "empire" is a stretch that even Mr. Fantastic couldn't pull off.

I think that the problem with your (and all followers of the capital L libertarian ideology) worldview is that you start from the assumption that military power is only useful for empire building or retaliation. There are other uses for a large military - deterrence and pre-emption being two very good ones.

The Constitution doesn't say anything about interventionism. It simply requires the Federal Government to defend the United States from attack, and gives the Executive sole power as Commander-in-Chief.

Keep in mind that had France had a non-interventionist foreign policy this nation would not exist.

Posted by: brian at May 24, 2007 4:54 PM

Since this is the most recent Muslim related post, just wondering if you, Amy, have had a chance to read "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Most likely, I'm usually behind on these things. Chances are it was discussed here forever ago. Anyway, wanted to let you know I thought of you while reading it. I think the exact thought that crossed my mind was "Alkon would've shit herself if this girl had sent her a request for advice." Anyway, all obvious misconceptions about Islamic law aside, I found it riveting, and altogether inspirational that at least there are still people with cognitive skills reasonable enough to have found their way out of it like she did.

Posted by: Abby at May 24, 2007 6:03 PM

@BRIAN

No, we aren't working in a vacuum here. The last 60 years of American involvement overseas is a fairly open book even if you disregard the "debatable" parts.

Having US Military presence in over 200 nations around the world is one indicator of empire.

http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/intervention/2003/0710imperialmap.htm

The other indicators are historical events such as Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq. All those little "undeclared" wars guided by an increasingly powerful Executive Branch of our government.

It's readily clear that the US has taken a leadership role in world affairs and maintains client states, which kind of rounds out the label of empire.

Having served overseas in the military and as a defense contractor at the Pentagon, I have some idea of what military presence entails. I don't have a problem with a strong military or a military action. My problem is foreign intervention and unconstitutional government because both of those things go hand in hand.

By the way, your comment concerning France:

France was already at war with the British, so it can hardly be called an intervention from a position of prior non-involvement. France's assistance in bloodying the nose of the British Empire with the successful rebellion of one of it's colonies speaks for itself.

Posted by: Ray Harmon at May 24, 2007 6:20 PM

Thanks, Abby. She's an incredible woman and I'm an enormous admirer. I haven't gotten around to reading it - just skimmed it and have posted her words here before - but it's on my list!

I sometimes get letters from fundamentalists -- mostly Christian ones. And it's usually pretty sad how they're stuck in some jail of irrationality. The saddest one recently was from a Latino lesbian teen living in the south who said her mother would disown her if she came out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2007 6:26 PM

A lot of the problems in the Middle East can be explained by the loss of in group favored status found among Muslim men with the eventual increase of women's roles within their society.

Every year the numbers of women becoming more educated within the M.E. is on the rise. The next step for the women will be entering the work force. Any Middle Eastern nation has potential as long as 2 things:

1. Increasing numbers of women in education and the reduction of illiteracy too.
2. Women entering the workforce.

Is anyone surprised that the most articulate outspoken critics of Islam are women?

Posted by: Joe at May 24, 2007 6:45 PM

Gotta say, Joe: I'm not too shocked at that.

Posted by: Abby at May 24, 2007 7:13 PM

Brian asks - Does the prevention of a future attack count as self defense, or must we wait for an attack before striking?

If there is adequte proof, and the situation calls for it then yes, too bad there wasnt any proof in Iraq huh?

Also brian - what is to prevent individauls from using tht line of resoning and kill the accused child molester 3 blocks down the street before he hurts our child?

brian again - To call the Iraq war "empire" is a stretch that even Mr. Fantastic couldn't pull off

Then why did Bush appoint Bremmer as a viceroy?

http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/viceroy

Posted by: lujlp at May 24, 2007 11:15 PM

brian writes - Ron Paul was wrong. Period. And to insinuate that our foreign policy for the last 20 years has somehow created an ideology that we know dates back to the 1950s is beyond moronic

Our foreign policy dates back past the 1950's in regards to Iran and much of the middle east.

Posted by: lujlp at May 24, 2007 11:18 PM

Pat Buchanan defends Ron Paul:

http://www.buchanan.org/blog/?p=759

Posted by: Doobie at May 25, 2007 12:08 AM

lujlp -

Look up the name Sayyed Qutb. Then you'll understand my 1950 comment.

Our foreign policy in the middle east had NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11. It can certainly be blamed for 1979, but that's more because we failed to follow through, and let the Islamists BACK in.

And an Empire, by definition doesn't give back that which it conquers. Unless you're prepared to say that we're installing a colonial government in Iraq, in which case I'll just laugh at you.

Doobie - if Buchanan defends him, then he's doubly wrong. Buchanan is one of the most repulsive humans on this earth. A combination of xenophobe, racist, anti-semite, isolationist, and a Hitler apologist to boot. If Pat's fer it, I'm agin' it.

Posted by: brian at May 25, 2007 1:31 PM

It's not an endorsement of Buchanan the person. Even a broken watch is right twice a day.

Posted by: Doobie at May 25, 2007 5:05 PM

@BRIAN

You really think it wouldn't matter if we hadn't spent the last 60 years intervening in the Middle East? You claim we still would be attacked?

Id so, your conclusions regarding the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East being unrelated to the terrorist attacks on the USA are at odds with the 9/11 Commission report and CIA testimony as well as the stated reasons given by the terrorist planners themselves.

I have yet to hear you assert anything other then "they just despise us". Maybe you need to dig a little deeper, because people have motivations for what they do and how they feel.

Posted by: R. Harmon at May 25, 2007 8:26 PM

@BRIAN

Islamic extremists have always existed since the inception of Islam, but the same is true for Christianity and other religions. The extremists represent only a small percentage of the adherent population of any given religion. Consigning a whole cultural, ethnic or religious group to the category of "evil doers" is the equivalent of what the Germans did in Nazi Germany. By definition extremists (whether political, religious, environmental, etc.) will respond to any perceived threat with violence. People spike trees to "protect" the forest, attack Abortion Clinics, assassinate political leaders; all these things have motivations, which is not the same as a moral justification.

On the subject of terrorism:
You really think it wouldn't matter if the US hadn't spent the last 60 years intervening in the Middle East?

You claim we still would be attacked?

If so, your conclusions regarding the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East being unrelated to the terrorist attacks on the USA are at odds with the 9/11 Commission report and CIA testimony as well as the stated reasons given by the terrorist planners themselves.

I have yet to hear you assert anything other then "they just despise us" because that's their ideology. Extremists have a convenient recruiting tool and it's called "deep and festering resentment of the United States of America".

Maybe you need to dig a little deeper, because people have motivations for what they do and how they feel.

Posted by: R. Harmon at May 25, 2007 8:52 PM

R. - Pray, what intervention of ours in the affairs of Libya precipitated the attacks on our vessels in 1796?

And the CIA report. The one run by George "Slam Dunk" Tenet? The one that missed the nuclearization of Pakistan, India, and North Korea? The ones that missed 9/11? Sorry, but anything the CIA publishes is nothing more than a political hit-piece designed to embarrass whomever occupies the Executive branch. CIA and State fight over foreign policy, and the Executive takes it in the ass.

The 9/11 Commission report, if memory serves, doesn't say dick about our presence in the middle east as a precipitating event in the 9/11 attacks.

And I most emphatically believe that no matter what we did regarding the middle east, up to and including outright ignoring them, at some point we would be attacked.

Your problem is that you live in Ron Paul land where everyone is perfectly rational, and the only reason muslims attack anyone is in self-defense. News Flash: Islam is not rational by western standards of thought. Attempting to rationalize what is done by Islamists into a post-enlightenment thought process is, quite literally, insane.

As to your concept of responding to "perceived threat" - check this: the existence of even one non muslim is considered an existential threat to Islamists.

Finally - if our foreign policy is to blame, can you please explain the Islamic invasion presently happening in Thailand? How many Buddhist colonizations have occurred there? Basically, for every argument you and Ron Paul can put out, I can find several counter-examples that prove your argument to be nothing more than juvenile rationalization.

And as far as digging? No, thanks. I listen to what the Imams say. Their motivation is simple. It isn't a "deep and festering resentment of the United States of America". It is a "deep and abiding devotion to Allah". Allah says "kill all infidels". We're the biggest and infidel-est there is.

I'm done. You and Ron have fun in your little fantasy world. I'll stay in the real world where Islam has been attacking the west for 1300 years and shows no sign of stopping unless they are brought to heel.

Posted by: brian at May 25, 2007 10:30 PM

Your memory doesn't serve.

And, attacks on American vessels off the Barbary Coast don't support your position.

If you discredit the CIA then you are begging the question of WTF was the Bush Administration getting their Intel? Answer is: they weren't listening to the CIA, they decided to disregard the warnings.

Take your hatred of the people of Islam and shove it up your wannabe Nazi ass, you seem to have lost the ability to reason.

Nice acrobatics, no argument.

You go ahead and live in a world where your actions have no consequences, I choose to reside in the land called "reality".


Posted by: R. Harmon at May 26, 2007 6:32 PM

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