Republican Peace Piper

September 18th, 2011

By Jan Barry

Rep. Ron PaulRon Paul is the kind of presidential candidate the American people haven’t seen in a long time—one who’s dead serious about ending overseas military adventures. That’s a stance that is increasingly popular with disgruntled voters across the political spectrum, which could well spell trouble for President Obama. Activists on the left and the right are increasingly fed up with Obama’s military surge in Afghanistan and foot-dragging in getting the remaining troops home from Iraq.

At the Republican presidential candidates’ debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express in Tampa, Florida the other night, Paul drew a thunder roll of applause when he said: “We spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars we don’t need to be in and we need to cut there. And then put this money back into our economy here.”

This kind of response is rattling the foreign policy establishment. With polls now showing that a majority of Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents want a drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, one startled foreign policy analyst noted, “in the mid-August Republican presidential candidates’ debate in Ames, Iowa, one of the loudest applause lines was for isolationist Rep. Ron Paul’s demand to ‘bring our troops home.’”

Paul, the controversial, libertarian congressman from Texas, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam war, doesn’t just toss out applause lines. Like Eisenhower, who ended the war in Korea and spent his presidency reining in a rambunctious stable of warhorses, Paul is determined to spell out the fiscal and social consequences of allowing the military-industrial complex to rule the roost.

“We’re under great threat,” Paul continued during the Tampa debate, “because we occupy so many countries. We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke.”

He continued to press his point even when many in the audience began booing his contention that US military actions overseas stirred up a hornet’s nest of terrorist reactions. “We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?” Paul said.

It’s hardly news that Ron Paul has been saying these kinds of things for years. “Opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more generally to U.S. military activity abroad, has been a cornerstone of Paul’s candidacy and sets him apart from the rest of the Republican field,” ABC News noted in a report on its website.

What’s changed is the sharp rise in public unease over the decade-long war the US launched in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by 19 young men from the Middle East on behalf of grievances that are still being hotly disputed.

“Two in three Americans, 65 percent, now want to reduce or withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, up dramatically from 39 percent in 2009, according to the new German Marshall Fund 2011 Transatlantic Trends survey,” noted a blog piece by Bruce Stokes that CNN reposted from YaleGlobal Online.

“A solid majority, 58 percent of Republicans, now want to see U.S. forces in Afghanistan reduced or withdrawn. Such sentiment is up a dramatic 36 percentage points since 2009, according to the GMF survey,” Stokes continued. “Disengagement is even more strongly supported by Democrats (70 percent) and Independents (66 percent), but their swing to that position is less pronounced. Backing for reduction or withdrawal is up 23 points among Independents and 24 points among Democrats since 2009.”

Ron Paul’s stance on military spending, or more likely the tanking poll numbers on public support for the Afghan war, stirred a Greek chorus of war weariness from two other Republican presidential candidates, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Here’s an amen moment in the Republican candidates’ otherwise contentious debate that the liberal Nation magazine ran approvingly on its website:

Huntsman: We are ten years into this war.… America has given its all in Afghanistan. We have families who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And it’s to them that we offer our heartfelt salute and a deep sense of gratitude. But the time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan. We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation-building at a time when this nation needs to be built. We are of no value to the rest of the world if our core is crumbling, which it is in this country.

Perry: Well, I agree with Governor Huntsman when we talk about it’s time to bring our young men and women home and as soon and obviously as safely as we can. But it’s also really important for us to continue to have a presence there. And I think the entire conversation about, how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan, I don’t think so at this particular point in time. I think the best way for us to be able to impact that country is to make a transition to where that country’s military is going to be taking care of their people, bring our young men and women home.

Chances are that Obama, who successfully ran in 2008 on a platform of reforming the federal government, will face a Republican challenger next year pressing for real change in the war arena.

For more information:

Ron Paul on foreign policy,” YouTube video
Ron Paul Booed During Debate,” ABC News
The U.S. public wants disengagement,” CNN GPS
Perry and Huntsman Agree: Get US Out of Afghanistan,” The Nation

(This article was also posted at EarthAirWater.)

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4 Responses to “Republican Peace Piper”

  1. d |

    I agree,I think,as a life-long democrat,I will be voting for Ron Paul,in the primary. I hope this doesn’t make republicans less interested in him. He is the lesser of the evils and,espially,less scary than Perry. I am positive,Obama will lose the next election,unless he does something drastic,but it seems,the Republicans,won’t allow him to do anything now.

  2. larry |

    I have a lot of admiration for Mr. Paul. However, he has started to look a lot like Ralph Nader. A perennial also ran that never really gains any traction even though he looks good during the primary season. However, I must concede that another of the perennial candidates, Jerry Brown, manages to come back and win on a regular basis. So maybe, just maybe, Ron Paul could win. Then again it could be said, about the time pigs fly.
    I wouldn’t count Obama out for a second term. Money decides many of our elections. Obama has millions of dollars from rich and powerful men that crave more riches and more power.
    The notion that the congress has held Obama back is only partially true. This President has by-passed the congress on numerous occasions to get a desired result. Of course many will point out similar actions by other Presidents. However, that was then, we are talking about now.
    The bright side is that Obama has bumped Jimmy Carter up from worst to second worst President in at least the last 60 years.

  3. Tom Carter |

    Ron Paul is right that we should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s just about done in Iraq, and in Afganistan, the sooner the better.

    I’d note, though, that he’s wrong when he says, “…we occupy so many countries. We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke.” In almost all cases, our military presence in other countries is with the agreement of the host government, validated in bilateral agreements generally in the form of Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA). That’s not “occupation” in any sense. We aren’t in 130 countries, unless he’s counting little numbers like Marine Security Detachments in embassies, there at the service of the State Department. And we don’t have 900 “bases.” We have a much smaller number of large bases, with a larger number of small presences, in some cases very small. Exaggeration doesn’t help an argument, especially when the facts are so readily available.

    In any case, I’d agree with Paul that we could do without some of the overseas commitments we have that involve basing troops in foreign countries.

    Ron Paul is like most libertarians — now and then he’s right about something. Most of the time, though, he has ideas that are impractical, impossible, and sometimes completely off the wall.

  4. d |

    I’m sorry,Larry,I disagree with you. I think Bush was the worse president of all time,remember,he got us into these stupid,neverending wars,and the economy had already gone south, before he left office. It is true that,perhaps,Obama could’ve done more,or not spent so much,but he is hardly the total reason for this huge mess,we are in. I know you are gonna lament all us democrats,still blaming Bush,but,gosh darnit,he did cause it,and no matter how you try not to see it,it’s right before your eyes. Only a fool,would’ve wanted to be president,after Bush,and try to fix his enormous mistakes.

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