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Ron Paul, Foreign Policy, and the Republican Mainstream

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One of the most fascinating aspects of the Ron Paul campaign is the standard reaction of his opponents to Paul’s foreign-policy positions. They say that Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views are outside the Republican mainstream.

What is the Republican mainstream view on foreign policy? Here are its essential components:

1. Undeclared wars.
2. Wars of aggression — that is, wars in which the United States is the attacking nation.
3. Invasions and occupations.
4. Kidnapping.
5. Torture.
6. Rendition.
7. Indefinite military detention without trial.
8. Military tribunals.
9. Foreign aid, including to dictatorships.
10. An empire of 1,000 military bases in 130 nations around the world.
11. A national security state, consisting of a military-industrial complex, a standing army, and the CIA.
12. A conflation of government and country.
13. A “My government, never wrong” sense of patriotism.

Those are the things that characterize U.S. foreign policy within the mainstream of the Republican Party. Ironically, they also represent the views of President Obama and the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

That’s what the mainstream in both political parties says America is all about and should be all about.

Ron Paul and the libertarians stand against all those things. Unlike the mainstream, we oppose a foreign policy based on empire, interventionism, and militarism. We believe in individual liberty, free markets, and a limited-government, constitutional republic, just as our nation’s Founding Fathers did.

Another interesting phenomenon is the fact that young people are flocking to the Paul campaign in droves. In fact, it seems that as the mainstream press has ramped up its criticism of Paul’s foreign-policy views, for being outside the mainstream, his support among young people has soared.

What’s the explanation for that?

One reason might be that young people tend to be more idealistic than old people and more willing to change their views if they conclude they’re wrong about something. Old people tend to be more cynical about things and their views oftentimes become concretized with age, making it more difficult for them to reexamine and change long-held perspectives.

My hunch is that as young people flock to the Ron Paul campaign, they’re thinking to themselves: “We don’t want a country that is perpetually starting wars and crises. We don’t want an imperialist, militarist regime within our midst. We want a country that is leading the world in the principles of liberty, free markets, and limited constitutional government. We want a country in which the American people are interacting with the world in trade, peace, and harmony. We want a free, prosperous, peaceful, harmonious society.”

I also think that another factor here is that young people are discovering that old people, especially in the Republican Party, have been lying to them. For decades, Republicans have been telling young people that the Republican Party supports “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” and the warfare state, and many young people have believed it and accepted it.

But then along came libertarians, who also support “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” but who oppose the warfare state.

Obviously, something is wrong with that picture. You have two separate groups of people both standing for the same principles but standing on opposite sides of the line with respect to the warfare state. They both can’t be telling the truth. Either the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” or the absence of the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government. It can’t be both ways.

One can imagine a young Republican asking a Republican oldster, “If the warfare state is freedom, free enterprise, and limited government, where does that place Ron Paul and the libertarians? They also support freedom, free enterprise, and limited government but oppose the warfare state.”

What’s the Republican oldster say? He answers in the only way he knows how: “Ron Paul and the libertarians are outside the mainstream. They’re on the fringe. Don’t listen to them. Don’t read what they’re saying. Stay away from them.”

But that’s not good enough for many young people. That just causes them to ask more questions and to seek answers.

And that’s why so many in the Republican Party resent Ron Paul and libertarians so much. We have exposed their lie and their life of the lie.

Without libertarians — without Ron Paul’s campaign — the Republican mainstreamers could just keep telling young people and everyone else that the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government,” and there would be no one to call them on it.

With libertarianism on the rise, it has become increasingly difficult for them to get away with their lie. And the more they attack libertarians for being outside the mainstream, the more their lie is exposed.

What really frightens the Republican mainstream is that their statist view on foreign policy is in danger of no longer being mainstream. After all, a mainstream view is never set in concrete. If enough people shift to a new view, that view becomes the new mainstream.

Don’t forget that the libertarian view on foreign policy was once the mainstream view among our American ancestors, including the Founding Fathers. The statists slowly gained ground in attracting people to imperialism, militarism, and interventionism until things shifted, making the warfare state the new mainstream view.

Today, nothing is clearer than that the mainstream view on foreign policy is finished, not only because of the damage it has done to our country and to people around the world, not only because it’s sending the government toward more spending, debt, and inflation, not only because its features are characteristic of totalitarian regimes, but also because its consequences include ever-increasing infringements on our rights and freedoms here at home.

As more and more people realize that the current mainstream view on foreign policy violates principles of freedom and morality, the libertarian perspective on foreign policy is certain to become the new mainstream view in America.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.