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Exposed: Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Ignorance and Naivety

Among other qualities, a good presidential candidate must be knowledgeable and able to think outside the box; equally important, he must not be naïve or gullible — certainly not swallow everything the enemy says hook, line, and sinker.

During the recent Republican candidate debate, Congressman Ron Paul exhibited his ignorance and gullibility when the panel was asked “Do you plan to decrease Defense spending, to balance spending, or do you believe high spending is essential to security?”

After Paul explained how he was “tired of all the militarism that we are involved in,” and his plan on cutting back, he said, “But we’re under great threat, because we occupy so many countries…. The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us…. but we’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves.”

This is, of course, an old and well known narrative.

By questioning Paul, however, Rick Santorum exposed the latter’s problematic foreign policy approach:

On your [Paul’s] Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11. Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible. The president of the United States — someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11. We should have — we are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt [Gingrich] talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists [full transcript here].

After rejecting Santorum’s thesis, Paul made his fatal blunder:

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit — they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing – [audience booing] I didn’t say that. I’m trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing.

This exchange clearly revealed Paul’s lack of knowledge concerning the nature of the enemy. It’s one thing for some Americans to believe that the source of all conflict is the United State’s presence in some countries, it’s quite another for a potential president to think, and speak, this way.

Ironically, Paul even contradicted himself: minutes earlier, when discussing the need to cut back on the military, he complained that we had a military presence in 130 countries — bringing to mind the question: if U.S. military presence is the source of problems, why haven’t these countries lashed out?

But what’s worse is Paul’s naivety — that he would actually swallow and regurgitate verbatim the propaganda al-Qaeda has been dishing for years, to wit, “Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit — they have been explicit, and they wrote and said“; and “I’m trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing.”

Did it ever occur to the Congressman that al-Qaeda could be, um, lying? Had he bothered to juxtapose al-Qaeda’s propaganda to the West — which indeed does amount to blaming U.S. foreign policy for their terrorism — with the other things “they wrote and said,” he would learn their ultimate motives.

For example, for all his talk that U.S. “occupation” is the heart of the problem, shortly after the 9/11 strikes, Osama bin Laden wrote in confidence to fellow Muslims:

Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: [1] either willing submission [conversion]; [2] or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; [3] or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)

This medieval threefold choice, then — conversion, subjugation, or the sword — is the ultimate source of conflict, not U.S foreign policy (see also “Reciprocal Treatment or Religious Obligation” which compares al-Qaeda’s messages to the West with its internal messages to Muslims, documenting all the contradictions).

The good news is that, if Paul is ignorant and naïve regarding al-Qaeda and its motives, based on all the loud booing he received, increasing numbers of Americans are not.


Raymond Ibrahim is associate director of the Middle East Forum, author of The Al Qaeda Reader, and guest lecturer at the National Defense Intelligence College.
  • fishman

    I got to admit that is bad. However, is it not more ‘naive’ to believe a ‘fetus’ is not a person. I would say anyone believing that is willfully ignorant.

  • Theodore Kobernick

    Your frequent use of loaded language hardly displays the thoughtful intelligence one should bring to a serious discussion of an important matter.

    You are of course correct in citing Osama bin Laden’s holy war rhetoric and actions. Nevertheless, Ron Paul makes the valid point that our militarism and interventions in the Middle East do lend credence to the madmen of radical Islam.

    Consider for example our war in Afghanistan: it goes on and on, partly because the country simply has no government capable of making and maintaining peace with us on our condition that they effectively suppress al Qaeda. Moreover, if our government would learn lessons from history, we would know the price of waging war in Afghanistan — as well as the likelihood of the futility of it.

    Consider the second Gulf war. Aside from relying on dead-wrong intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction, we blundered terribly by not exercising more patience. Even the President, while calling for war, did not make a strong case that Iraq was on the verge of employing those weapons. On top of that, as the war progressed, and Halliburton was awarded huge contracts to rebuild some of the destruction (part of which rebuilding was almost immediately destroyed again), some Americans began to wonder if the main point of the war was not really to create waste, so Halliburton — whose former CEO was then Vice-President of the USA — so Halliburton could fleece the USA with those no-competitive-bids contracts. On top of that, our grunts were augmented by “contractors” — civilian mercenaries.

    Ron Paul, and all the candidates, are forced to make simplistic statements of their positions. It is in the nature of a political campaign in the United States. But that does not mean that we who publish comments need to be simplistic.

    Military force is, for any major power, the sine qua non of effective diplomacy. Theodore Roosevelt mustered the naval power when he persuaded England and Germany to back off from Venezuela. His Great White Fleet world cruise quietly shook the big stick; but it was an action which PREVENTED wars.

    I would very much like to hear what Ron Paul has to say about diplomacy backed by military might, as opposed to a perpetual war.

  • noelfitz

    TK,

    thank you for your contribution here.

    Your views are always solid and thoughtful. The whole world seems to be in difficulties now and the choices made in free elections are vital.

    To “speak softly and carry a big stick” is important (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt).

    I wonder was there a parallel in he Cuban Missile Crisis with Kennedy and Khrushchev, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis.

  • Theodore Kobernick’s comments are right on! Two other issues that need to be discussed without super-patriotic passions clouding the questions, are these: [1] Why would it be so dangerous if the USA reduced its imperial presence in 130 countries? Or even eliminated the overseas empire entirely?
    [2] History seems to indicate an inverse relationship between the extent of empire and the extent of democracy at home. Would it not, therefore, be expedient for the United States, both economically and politically, to refocus on saving the republic instead of preserving and/or extending the American empire?

  • goral

    The author’s assessment of the mindset of Islam is quite correct. They are not at all interested in our way of life. On the other hand we are not at all interested in our way of life either, at least not in the way that we once referred to the Christian West.

    While Ron Paul is verbalizing the issue simplistically, the fact of the matter is that we did bring 9/11 on ourselves by cultivating a relationship with the Arab world on merely an economic and political basis.
    Why does our foreign policy mirror that of Israel? Why do we continue to accept the Islamic world on par with the civilized nations. How has this war and our presence helped the Christian communities in those countries?

    The fact of the matter is that we have once again miscalculated the proverbial benefits of going to war. We call this war the war on terror. How ridiculously naive is that term?! How politically correct not to name the enemy.

    Our gov’t needs a time-out on foreign conflicts.
    It is as ineffective and dangerous in waging wars as it is in handling the economy.

  • noelfitz

    Marilyn got it right in the Monroe doctrine, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_Doctrine.

    I like to get replies to my posts, but their is no need to tell me Marilyn’s name was Norma Jeane Mortenson/Baker.