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Republican candidates misguided

Mark Poyar | Wednesday, January 16, 2008

After returning home from another wildly unsuccessful Las Vegas trip two weeks ago, I had the misfortune of watching most of the ABC/Facebook debate between the leading Republican contenders. The five “mainstream” candidates sparred for an hour and a half in what looked like a competition for the crown of village idiot. Fortunately, ABC News decided to also include Ron Paul, the ten-term Congressman from Texas, in order to introduce some rationality into the debate.

One incident in particular stands out in my mind. The moderator, Charlie Gibson, said that our foreign policy used to be based upon defense, rather than offense. America would form alliances and would only engage another country militarily with international consensus. America would not initiate hostilities; America would only attack if attacked. However, America abandoned this policy in favor of preemptive war with the invasion of Iraq by the Bush Administration. To use the words of the moderator, the “Bush Doctrine” meant that the U.S. has “a right to a pre-emptive attack, that we can attack if this country feels threatened.” It was on this basis that the U.S. invaded Iraq. Gibson then asked each candidate whether his agreed with the Bush Doctrine.

In response, Ron Paul said that he fully supported the foreign policy that helped elect Bush in 2000, namely a humble foreign policy, no nation building, and minding our own business. In fact, he reminded the Republicans that they were very critical of Bill Clinton’s involvement in Kosovo and bombing of Iraq. Accepting the Bush Doctrine would be the first time in our nation’s history that we accepted as our policy that we start the wars.

Paul then said the real issue of the campaign is the nature of terrorism, specifically why the terrorists hate America so much that they would sacrifice their own lives to kill innocent American civilians. It is not because we are free or prosperous. It is because the United States invades Middle Eastern countries, occupies their countries, has bases in their countries and holy land, props up dictatorial regimes and has been doing so for over fifty years. It is because they object to our continued presence and influence in their internal affairs. Osama bin Laden told the world after September 11th that “I swear to God that America will not live in peace before all the army of infidels depart the land of the prophet Muhammad.” Our bases in Saudi Arabia were the excuse for that day.

But surely, no one with even half a brain could object to the argument that U.S. foreign policy is the motivating factor in terrorism against the United States? Wrong. Every single one of the other candidates rejected this self-evident line of reasoning. Paul’s comments set off a ten minute long heated but sadly amusing exchange in which every other candidate argued against the obvious.

Mitt Romney blamed terrorist attacks not on U.S. foreign policy, but on “radical jihad” that is trying to take down every government and replace them with radical Islamic theocracies. Pretend that Romney is correct and the real reason that the terrorists attack America is their desire to institute Islamic theocracies around the world. If this is their goal, why then aren’t they trying to bring down China, Luxenbourg or Sweeden? Indeed, how does attacking America in any way help them to institute an Islamic theocracy in America? If U.S. foreign policy has nothing to do with why they attack us, then isn’t atheist China a more guilty target that the U.S.? Isn’t it obvious that the main targets of terrorism – the U.S., Israel, England, and Spain – were supporters of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East? Apparently not. As Paul said later in the debate, the question they are unwilling to ask is why is it that they attack America but not others.

Thompson declared his support for the Bush Doctrine. Giuliani then said that Paul’s analysis of the situation was “seriously flawed” and then stated that the terrorism threat that America faces “has nothing to do with our foreign policy” and is “completely irrelevant.” Seriously.

Paul asked them to visualize how we would feel if China came from halfway around the world and said “We want you to live like us. We want you to have our economic system. We want bases on your land.” Clearly, America would be furious, and rightfully so. Rather than respond, Romney maturely accused Paul of “reading their propaganda.” Huckabee then agreed with Romney’s position.

It is a sad testament to the Republican Party that someone who says that the threat of terrorism has absolutely nothing to do with the United States’ foreign policy could possibly be taken seriously. Not only are Giuliani and his fellow goons taken seriously, they represent the mainstream of the party. Meanwhile, the only man who actually represents the things Republicans routinely pay lip service to – federalism, free trade, low taxes, cutting spending, sound money, balanced budgets, deregulation, the Constitution, freedom and peace – is about as popular as a wet fart in a sauna within Republican Party establishment. Ron Paul is too honest for his own good, and the liars around him know it. America deserves better than them.

Mark Poyar is a senior finance major and vice president of the College Libertarians. Their Web site is http://ndlibertarians.blogspot.com. He can be contacted at mpoyar@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.