Is Israel a strategic asset or a liability?

Greg Sclobete writes:

To be honest, I don’t know how huge a deal the revelations are in this Foreign Policy piece (and needless to say, these are allegations, not established facts). The short version – agents from Israel’s intelligence service are alleged to have disguised themselves as American CIA agents to hire terrorists to kill people inside Iran.

I think a good way to frame this is to ask: would Britain’s intelligence service do something like this? If the answer is yes, then Israel’s actions are in keeping with how international spy craft and subversion work among allies. If the answer is no, then the argument that Israel is key strategic asset for the United States becomes a lot less credible.

Daniel Larison adds:

 It’s not just the false flag nature of the operation that is bothersome. If the report is true, this operation involved a terrorist group that blows up civilians in mosques, and the perception that the U.S. was behind the group that did these things invited attacks on Americans. In addition to encouraging atrocities against civilians, the operation made it seem as if the U.S. were complicit in those atrocities. […]

Suppose instead that it was U.S. agents posing as Mossad who recruited Sunni terrorists to launch a series of attacks on civilian targets in southern Lebanon, which in turn invited Hizbullah retaliation against Israel. Wouldn’t there be a great deal of outrage about this if the roles were reversed? On top of that, what purpose could be served by such an operation except to slaughter civilians and sow chaos?

Good question. These days it appears as though both Iran and Israel are doing their best to keep up the impression of imminent war. Iran’s chest-thumping and Israel’s own bellicosity may be more hot air than anything. Both stir trouble, sow chaos, but does either really want war?

America is the helpful stooge in all of this. Either that or we’re doing our best to keep things from boiling over. Perhaps, in fact, those are one and the same. Either way, Iranian nuclear scientists are showing up dead; allegations that the Mossad is impersonating the CIA in order to hire terrorists are floating about; and Iran is saying damn the torpedoes and plunging ahead with its nuke program.

It’s hard to know how this would play out under a Ron Paul presidency. As Alex Knapp noted a while back, Paul wants us out of essentially all of our foreign treaties, and that would include our entanglement in Israel:

Let’s not forget that Ron Paul doesn’t just want to bring the troops home. He wants to pull the United States out of all international organizations and as many treaties as possible. He wants the U.S. out of the United Nations. Out of NATO. Out of the WTO. Out of the ICJ. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he opposes the Vienna Convention.

In other words, he wants the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world to reverse its 200+ year tradition of strengthening international law as a means to settle disputes between nations without resorting to war. I’ll be the first to admit that the system of international law is weak and imperfect. But it’s a damn sight better than the alternative. The Founding Fathers didn’t put, in the Constitution, the provision that treaties trump Congressional statutes for nothing. They’re important for the wheels of diplomacy to keep turning. Pulling the United States out of so many international organizations will no doubt cause quite a few to collapse. What’s going to replace it?

Thinking about this again in terms of Israel only, while I think Americans need to disentangle and take a big step back from that conflict, it’s one of those precarious steps that you don’t want to make too quickly. That’s one of my own quibbles with Paul’s foreign policy – he may be right on the broad view that we’re far too entangled in the world’s affairs, but when it comes down to the particulars it all becomes much more complicated (notably, the same rule applies to shrinking the government; conservatives talk about wanting to shrink the size of the federal state but since they spend so little time actually caring about governance, it’s always Democrats who come up with detailed plans. See for example, Obama’s recent plan to consolidate agencies like the Small Business Administration.)

Israel has grown far too comfortable with a reliable friend in the United States. This would not be the first time they’ve done something like this, if the allegations are true. Something needs to change in this special relationship of ours.

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Jon Huntsman Picks Up a South Carolina Endorsement

Pundits and voters alike make politicians out to be more than what they are.

It’s probably too little too late for Jon Huntsman, but the Mandarin-speaking ex-governor and ambassador can tuck the endorsement of South Carolina’s The State under his belt:

Mr. Huntsman is a true conservative, with a record and platform of bold economic reform straight out of the free-market bible, but he’s a realist, whose goal is likewise to get things done. Under his leadership, Utah led the nation in job creation, and the Pew Center on the States ranked it the best-managed state in the nation.

He also is head and shoulders above the field on foreign policy. He served as President George H.W. Bush’s U.S. ambassador to Singapore and President George W. Bush’s deputy U.S. trade representative and U.S. trade ambassador, and the next entry on that resume is even more impressive: He was a popular and successful governor in an extremely conservative state, well positioned to become a leading 2012 presidential contender, when Mr. Obama asked him to serve in arguably our nation’s most important diplomatic post, U.S. ambassador to China. It could be political suicide, but he didn’t hesitate. As he told our editorial board: “When the president asks you to serve, you serve.”

We don’t agree with all of Mr. Huntsman’s positions; for but one example, he championed one of the nation’s biggest private-school voucher programs. And with George Will calling him the most conservative candidate and The Wall Street Journal editorial page endorsing his tax plan, independent voters might find less to like about his positions than, say, Mr. Romney’s or Newt Gingrich’s.

What makes him attractive are the essential values that drive his candidacy: honor and old-fashioned decency and pragmatism. As he made clear Wednesday to a room packed full of USC students on the first stop of his “Country First” tour, his goal is to rebuild trust in government, and that means abandoning the invective and reestablishing the political center.

One really is forced to recall, when reading things like this, how much of politics is style not substance. The pragmatic center-right independents are drawn to Huntsman’s demeanor as much as anything. Even if his record is far to the right of where they’d like to be, his “honor and old-fashioned decency” are enough to carry the day. I’m sympathetic to this, though I find it ultimately less persuasive than policies which I actually agree with. Of course, since we can’t trust any politician to stick to their guns on policy, maybe demeanor really does matter.

On the flip side you have the Herman Cains of the world, men who aren’t really all that conservative – who don’t really even know the proper conservative talking points – but who make waves with voters because of their folksiness or their willingness to come across as extreme. Who cares that Newt Gingrich’s record is pocked with glaring betrayals of conservative orthodoxy, three marriages, and a history of lobbying. The fact that he can talk the talk and call the Obama administration a “secular socialist machine” is all it takes.

Liberals have been suckered in by candidates as well. No better example comes to mind than Mr. Obama himself, a man whose record and statements portrayed him as every bit the centrist Democrat and liberal internationalist but whose many fans saw in his message of hope and change something far greater.

Something to remember when placing our eggs in lonesome baskets. Ron Paul has gathered about him a huge, diverse, and most importantly die-hard following. What if, in the end, he turned out to be just another politician? And what if our pragmatic, charming Jon Huntsman turns out to be just another boiler-plate Republican with a trigger finger?

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Huntsman The Hawkish Owl

Huntsman's foreign policy record is too thin to know what he'd do in office.

Daniel Larison takes issue with my description of Huntsman and Obama as “owls” – a term I use to describe a realist foreign policy preference that is neither hawkish in the neoconservative sense or necessarily dovish:

I won’t rehearse the litany of all the interventions Obama has supported over the years, but suffice it to say I don’t think he fits the “owl” definition. Huntsman has less of a public record on these issues, which makes it a little harder to judge, but based on what we do know he has flatly opposed last year’s war of choice in Libya, he wants to wind down the war in Afghanistan, but he favors starting a new war of choice in Iran. This last one is so much more important and so completely wrong that it’s hard not to give it more weight. On Iraq, he took no public position on the war between 2002 and today, but he endorsed the most zealous pro-war candidate in the last cycle and criticized the withdrawal of U.S. troops and called for a residual force to remain there apparently indefinitely. Put another way, on the most important foreign policy issue of the last decade Huntsman professes to be agnostic or at least unwilling to revisit the debate, but based on how he is misjudging Iran it is fair to guess that he would have favored invading Iraq as well.

This is all true enough. I think Obama actually started out as an owl and moved in the hawkish direction over the years, culminating his move toward interventionism in the invasion of Libya and the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki. This is also what gives me most pause about Huntsman whose positions on Afghanistan and Libya were pretty good but, as Daniel notes, has made very loud noises about Iran.

Beyond the troubling nature of his Iran comments, Huntsman reminds me a little bit of a rightwing version of Obama. Obama seemed much better on matters of war and peace when he was on the campaign trail. In office he’s never stopped disappointing. Isn’t it just as likely that Huntsman will do the same, sounding a cautious note on various foreign threats and then pounding the war drum as loud as ever when the mullahs taunt him?

In any case, Daniel is correct – Obama is no owl, though I think his hawkishness is much less ingrained than many of his Republican rivals. He is a mildly hawkish technocrat who believes we can do small but important things through intervention. His administration also talks tough on Iran, but I don’t worry nearly so much that he’d actually go through with all-out war as I worry about a Romney or a Gingrich administration. Huntsman has too little a record on these issues to say with certainty.

Ron Paul and Gary Johnson are the only candidates who are firmly and reliably anti-war. But Obama, I’d wager, is still a more sober commander in chief than someone like Romney who, so far as I can tell, wants to revamp neoconservatism in ways that the Obama administration, however bad it’s been on continuing Bush-era policies, hasn’t even dreamed of. When it comes to Iran, Obama makes me nervous. The majority of his GOP rivals have me quite literally terrified.

What do we do when confronted with the threat of an Iranian war and the lesser of two evils? I can’t honestly say.

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Will Ron Paul Endorse Mitt Romney To Beat Obama?

Could Ron Paul endorse Mitt Romney?

Anti-tax advocate (fanatic? champion? crusader?) Grover Norquist says that a Ron Paul endorsement of Romney could make or, if he withheld it, break Romney’s presidential chances.  ”Ron Paul is the only candidate for the Republican nomination whose endorsement will matter to Mitt Romney,” he writes. “It is the only endorsement that will bring votes and the only endorsement, if withheld, that could cost Romney the general election. If Ron Paul speaks at the GOP convention (as he was not invited to do in 2008), the party will be united and Romney will win in November 2012. If Ron Paul speaks only at his own rally in Tampa, Florida (as happened at the 2008 GOP convention in Minnesota) the party will not be at full strength.”

Conor Friedersdorf runs through three possible scenarios in which Paul endorses Romney: 1) he gets some big concession from Romney; 2) he does it for his son, Rand whose own presidential ambitions may depend on Ron Paul’s allegiance to the party; or 3) beating Obama is just that important.

On point one, Conor points out that nobody can trust Romney so this is a very unlikely reason Paul would have to endorse him. However, this is the only of the scenarios that is at all likely. “If we don’t pull it off, and we’re not in first place, yes, that would be a good goal,” Paul said, before the New Hampshire vote. “I run to win, and I have won a lot, but we also want to help direct the party and the country in a certain way, so that would be a very positive strategy to have an influence in the party.” What will this mean? In what way does Paul plan on brokering out his influence?
 On point two, I find it unlikely that Rand Paul’s success in a future election would depend on Ron Paul’s allegiance whatsoever. He’s already supported candidates from other parties, endorsing the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin. Paul is so far outside the mainstream of his party, up until now they’ve likely preferred he endorses someone else. And finally, on point three I agree entirely with Conor. On the issues that matter to Paul it’s not at all clear whether Romney would be any better and he could possibly be much worse than the current president.

So no, Ron Paul isn’t going to endorse Romney unless he has some trick up his sleeve that we aren’t privy to. Not only that, but Paul would risk seriously upsetting his own base and support with the endorsement of someone like Romney. Since he’ll have a bunch of delegates by the time the convention roles around, this will make for some really intense politics in the coming months. Only Paul has the national organization and war chest to go toe-to-toe with Romney for the long haul. That he’s the sort of Republican who can at once run a close second, maybe even better, and not be likely to endorse the guy that wins is a pretty big deal. We certainly don’t see elections like this every year (or four, as the case may be.)

Of course, it’s possible he’ll endorse Gary Johnson if Johnson takes the Libertarian party nomination. But the question of how much influence Paul wants over his own party makes me wonder. If Paul really does want to steer the Republican ship, it’s possible Johnson is just very much out of luck.

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Why Are Pundits So Fascinated With Jon Huntsman?

Jon Huntsman – the pundits' Republican

Maybe it’s because Huntsman has been open to criticizing his own team or maybe it’s because he’s sent out some tweets about his acceptance of global warming – maybe it’s just that his daughters are interesting – whatever the case, pundits of all stripes are fascinated with the man. Huntsman himself wants to ‘stay relevant‘ in South Carolina and I suspect that we bloggers and journalists will keep him as relevant as we possibly can. (Voters, on the other hand, may not.)

Will Truman explains:

I can speak, at least to some extent, as to why a moderate or moderate-conservative would sign on with Huntsman. In addition to having a cooler persona than the other Republicans, Huntsman is interesting. For those of us that like political discussion, he seems to be the most likely candidate to actually deliver it. Presidential debates between Huntsman and Obama would be interesting (and not just because one used to work for the other). And if Huntsman is more conservative than he lets on? All the better! It would draw a great contrast during the election discussion. Huntsman could even help redefine the right into something less piquish and flesh things out.

Huntsman may be conservative, but he is also (if that) a different sort of one. He has gone after the banks in a way that few other candidates have. His platform includes opening up energy exploration and eliminating oil subsidies. These are things he seems ready and able to talk about. The other Republicans, for the most part, don’t.

This sounds about right to me. I just keep trying to find a Republican I can respect and admire and Huntsman fits the bill. Romney, despite his more moderate beginnings, strikes me as simply too disingenuous – too much the slimy politician, and too much the brash, chest-pounding hawk.

But Huntsman I do admire. Not so much because he’s come out as a man who believes in science but because he has remained pretty cool-headed, because his foreign policy is more realistic than the general thrust of his party, and because he’s been strong on the issue of financial regulation. He is, quite bluntly, the antithesis of the talk-radio right that has so dominated the conservative movement since Rush Limbaugh first blazed his way onto the airways.

There is, of course, another Republican candidate who would provide even more – and more important – contrast with Obama. But Ron Paul represents such a fundamentally different vision of government and society that even I cringe at times. Austrian economics are fascinating and offer profound and valuable insights about society and human nature but they simply don’t offer up all the answers to this confounding economic crisis we face – even if the Austrians were good about diagnosing the disease.

In many ways that’s how I feel about Austrians and about Ron Paul: they have a good sense of what’s wrong with the country, but their prescriptions are unsatisfying and, to be honest, romantic. As a romantic I can absolutely sympathize with the Austrians, but I’m a reformed romantic.

The gold standard? End the fed? Scale back or eliminate relatively harmless limbs of the federal government like the Department of Education? From where I’m sitting these are all distractions from more important problems like war and the war on drugs – issues that Ron Paul is very good on. But that’s because I’m primarily concerned with civil liberties.

But I digress. The point is simply that, as interesting as Huntsman is, he’s not nearly the most interesting candidate. But he may be the most palatable mainstream Republican in the race for many of the reasons Will notes. He’s not a hawk so far as I can tell, whatever his statements on Iran. He strikes me as more of an owl – a term I’d also apply to Barack Obama. Back when I considered myself a reform conservative I think a guy like Huntsman would have really excited me – not so much these days.

And yet, I can’t stop writing about the guy. A part of me, I think, still has a dog in this fight. Maybe I was a liberal, non-interventionist Republican in a past life.

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Does Ron Paul’s New Hampshire Success Mean That Independent Voters Are Actually Really Conservative?

Jon Huntsman is not a moderate but he appeals to independents.

Jon Huntsman is not a moderate but he appeals to independents.

Writing at his new Daily Beast digs, David Frum notes that independents are not necessarily centrists. “If Ron Paul did well with independents, it’s because the state’s independents actually tilt to the right of the mainstream Republican party,” he observes. But is this true?

The post has a picture of Huntsman (duplicated here), another politician who has been described as a ‘moderate’ when in fact, other than his admittedly more moderate social views, the former governor and ambassador is well to the right of guys like Romney or Gingrich when it comes to fiscal policy, taxes, and markets. That he’s also affable and not prone to talk-radio-screechiness is a point in his favor but not an argument for his centrism.

That being said, I think it’s just wrong to say that independents are conservative or that they are to the right of the Republican party. It not only depends on each individual independent, it also depends on the issue.

The reason Ron Paul did so well in New Hampshire is largely because a lot of people are war-weary. They’re tired of the war on drugs. They want a scaled back federal government. They’re libertarians, in other words, or anti-war liberals. If anything is true it’s the fact that Paul draws a wide swath of the electorate to his banner.

The problem lies in our insistence in framing everything in this tired old left-right dichotomy.

I mean, I used to think of myself as a conservative (now I resist the urge to use scare quotes) – my friend Alex Knapp won’t let me forget this piece on up-and-coming conservatives that listed me as ‘David Frum: The Next Generation.’ And while I do think David makes tons of sense on lots of domestic policy issues, I tend to have very different foreign policy views. I’m more of a libertarian than David and to the left of him on issues like the drug war. I also call myself a liberal though I’m probably too conservative for many liberals (and too bleeding-heart for most libertarians.) These labels are blunt instruments used more often to cast people out of a group than to include them in a meaningful cause.

In any case, if you go to New Hampshire you’ll find a lot of independent voters who are probably to the right of the Republican party on fiscal issues but well to the left on social issues. The fact is, calling people right or left these days is often just an exercise in futility. Outside the tribal grounds most people are either not very political at all or much more heterodox than we give them credit for.

So I wouldn’t go so far as to beat the America-is-a-conservative-nation drum just because indie voters gave Ron Paul second place in New Hampshire. Actually, going against all my pundit instincts, I’d be careful to draw too many lessons at all from a primary season. It’s too much the tournament, too much the emotional brawl, to really give us a clear picture of the American electorate, try as we might.

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Should Conservatives Unite Behind Ron Paul To Defeat Romney?

Ron Paul has asked the rest of the field to drop out and help him defeat Romney.

Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire Tuesday doesn’t cement the former governor’s lead quite as much as he had hoped. Ron Paul came in a strong second – maybe not as strong as Santorum’s close second in Iowa – but strong nonetheless. Since everyone who scores gets some delegates this time around – unlike past years where it was winner-take-all – this leaves Paul with the second most delegates. Now the Paul campaign is urging that everyone other than Romney drop out and unite to defeat Mitt and support Paul.

“Ron Paul tonight had an incredibly strong second-place finish in New Hampshire and has stunned the national media and political establishment,” said campaign chief Jesse Benton in a statement.

“When added to Paul’s top-tier showing in Iowa, it’s clear he is the sole Republican candidate who can take on and defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

“The race is becoming more clearly a two-man race between establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the candidate of authentic change. That means there is only one true conservative choice.

“Ron Paul has won more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than any candidate but Mitt Romney.

“Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been shown in national polls to be the only two candidates who can defeat Barack Obama.

“And Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates who can run a full, national campaign, competing in state after state over the coming weeks and months. Ron Paul’s fundraising numbers — over $13 million this quarter — also prove he will be able to compete with Mitt Romney. No other candidate can do all of these things.

“Ron Paul is clearly the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the campaign goes forward.

“We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.”

Of course, this is never going to happen. Romney’s enemies may despise him but they tend to despise Paul just as much. It’s dubious that Newt Gingrich could deflate his ego long enough to forget that Paul called him a chickenhawk. Even Newt’s deep-seeded loathing for Romney won’t erase Paul’s own attacks on the former speaker.

Beyond that, while Paul is certainly positioned to run a national race, he may lose momentum in South Carolina. He’s polling around fourth place there behind Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney. No chance anybody but Perry drops out before South Carolina though the bumbling Texas governor doesn’t seem to realize this.

At some point we’ll start to see candidates leaving the race. Huntsman put all his eggs into the New Hampshire basket. If he can’t make headway in South Carolina or Florida I don’t see any reason he’d stick around. Santorum will likely get a boost in South Carolina though that may not last beyond Florida and neither he nor Gingrich have the warchest to keep this act up much longer.

So it is possible – likely even – that sometime in the near future this does become a two-man race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. But don’t expect chickenhawks like Gingrich to lend him their support. Santorum and Huntsman are wild cards, but it’s hard for me to imagine either of them going to bat for Paul. Which means he’s on his own, paving the way for his son, Rand Paul, to win in the next election or the election after that.

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In New Hampshire ‘Live Free Or Die’ Voters Will Choose Romney Because Freedom’s Just Another Word

Voters wait outside a polling station before its door opened for primary voting January 10, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Voters wait outside a polling station before its door opened for primary voting January 10, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Despite being a bastion for libertarian-minded independents, New Hampshire voters will probably choose Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s primary. It’s possible that Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman could pull a Santorum-like surprise, but not very likely.

Of course, anything is possible this primary season. Even Rick Santorum is polling better in New Hampshire after his strong Iowa showing. Santorum’s boost in the Granite State is a sign of Romney’s weakness. Voters are scrambling to find whichever anti-Romney candidate will do – even a socially conservative populist like Santorum.

Santorum has had a little help from his friends, of course, as all the candidates turn their ire on Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is out for blood, accusing Romney’s former company Bain Capital of “looting” workers. “Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money?” Newt asked, turning his own populist rhetoric up another notch.

The Gingrich of the past has been very clear about his capitalist credentials. Certainly his talk of the current president’s ‘secular-socialist machine’ has been a far cry from the populism of his current campaign. Then again it’s no surprise that the mercurial former speaker is turning to populism. His tenure as the leader of the opposition in the House was defined by his anti-Clinton populism.

Meanwhile, Santorum is running as the Pat Buchanan candidate, minus Buchanan’s foreign policy views. Economically populist, socially conservative, it’s striking that in the Tea Party infused GOP Santorum is holding such sway with voters. Then again, it’s somewhat baffling that Romney or Santorum would make inroads with New Hampshire voters.

This is home to the Free State Project after all – a movement aimed at getting as many libertarian-minded people to move to New Hampshire as possible and create a sort of libertarian safe-haven there. New Hampshire voters are more socially liberal than other conservative states but they’re very fiscally conservative. This is essentially the antithesis of Rick Santorum. Romney isn’t much better.

The lesson is simple: never underestimate the culture wars. The Tea Party, it turns out, was just a clever facade. The conservative movement has never truly shifted gears from social to fiscal conservatism. Tea Party austerity politics are simply a manifestation of the recession – the confluence of a liberal in the White House and high unemployment. Social conservatism is still very much en vogue. Peel back the fiscal conservatism and underneath the Tea Party veneer you’ll find the culture wars very much alive and kicking.

New Hampshire may be a better fit for Jon Huntsman or Ron Paul than it is for Romney or Santorum. And Huntsman does appear to be surging after a tireless on the ground campaign there. But it’s too little too late for the former Utah governor whose socially moderate views and fiscally conservative record place him more inline with New Hampshire voters than either Romney or Santorum.

Ron Paul has a steady show of support in the state as well but probably not enough for the win. He may be the Tea Party dream candidate, but in 2012 the Tea Party may be going out of style – if it ever was truly in style to begin with.

As strange as it is for the independent, deeply libertarian state of New Hampshire to elect a big government conservative like Romney when they have perfectly acceptable candidates in both Paul and in Jon Huntsman, smart money is still on Romney for the win.

Beyond New Hampshire, unless Santorum can pull another magic trick after South Carolina, the nomination is Romney’s to lose. Santorum doesn’t have the financial base to pull off a nation-wide Iowa surprise. Paul does but it’s hard to see him getting enough delegates nationally to topple Romney (Paul may not be running to win, of course, but more on that later.)

In any case, after the surprise in Iowa, today’s New Hampshire primary should be interesting. But “Live Free Or Die” will prove about as true a motto as it was in 2008 when New Hampshire went to that other neoconservative big-government candidate, John McCain.

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Peace, Love, and the Ron Paul Revolution

Ron Paul in New Hampshire

Once upon a time, Congressman Ron Paul published a newsletter. In it were many vile, racist things – at least for a several year period in the late 80′s and early 90′s when whoever was at its helm attempted to rile up nationalist white fears about race wars, a unified North American state, and various other kooky ideas.

But is this the Ron Paul we see today in the campaigns of 2008 and 2012? Is this the Ron Paul we see campaigning across New Hampshire or railing against American arrogance overseas?

I would suggest that it is not, and furthermore I’d suggest that this was never the real Ron Paul. If anything, Ron Paul was far too lax and too libertarian when it came to who he accepted into his big libertarian tent. The people behind his newsletters, at least for a few years, should never have been given the keys to the city.

Thank goodness that the reason Ron Paul now gains traction among so many people on the right and the left is not the things written in his newsletters. I would argue that, despite what many of his detractors say, his appeal is also not in ‘nationalism’ or ‘isolationism’ but rather in one very simple concept: peace.

Sure, many Ron Paul fans want a drastically reduced federal government and an end to the Federal Reserve and so forth, but these are not compelling enough ideas to cast such a wide net. It’s peace and love – hippie stuff! – that make Ron Paul a sort of icon these days.

And he is more of an icon than a likely president – a fiery prophet of sorts. A John the Baptist for the American Empire, standing at the edge of American decline.

This is a great ad, but it’s right there at the end that fascinates me, just as the word LOVE emerges and then flips around to complete the Revolution logo.

I don’t know if Ron Paul is an honest man or if he is simply obsessed with the Constitution rather than a man who cares deeply about the consequences of our unconstitutional actions. A lot of people suggest that his anti-war stance only applies to undeclared wars. I’m not so sure. He emphasizes unnecessary wars just as often as he mentions that they’re undeclared. Perhaps the two aren’t so different.

Either way, I don’t think he’s racist or homophobic. I don’t think his federalism would set back too many individual liberties. Red states are already red and blue are already blue and the abortion debate and the gay marriage debate are already being fought on a state-by-state level. Federalism, in other words, is largely a reality in this country. Moving more in that direction may or may not be a good thing. Ending the Education Department might hurt funding for some schools, but so far as I can tell the most illiberal reforms in education in the past decade have been at the hands of the feds under No Child Left Behind.

Paul is a mixed bag, but his candidacy represents a real turning page in American politics – a turn from pure tribalism and the hawkish status quo toward something different. Toward peace and love and all that hippie nonsense. It’s refreshing. More like this please.

P.S. I’m actually hoping for a third party run from Paul with Dennis Kucinich on the ticket. You say you want a revolution…

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