Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Peace, Not Non-Intervention

Well, I see that since I posted Bits and Pieces a fight that I'd like to join has broken out on the internets.

Ron Paul has suggested that America has been wrong to participate in wars. All wars. Ever. He would bring American troops home from everywhere and eliminate military action as a response to anything short of an invasion, and maybe not even that.

Some liberal commenters, who would like to see less American intervention, have latched onto Paul's non-intervention meme, perhaps just the word. Do they really think it was a bad thing for the United States to participate in World War II? And I guess that maybe even an attack on American soil (Pearl Harbor, remember?) isn't enough to justify military action for him. And then there's Robert Wright, who finds that the issuer of racist newsletters has "moral imagination" in his foreign policy.

I thought Kevin Drum got it right the other day: don't leave your message to crackpots to carry. If you look beyond non-intervention, as Kevin does, Paul is crazy. I would argue that he carries his non-intervention to a point of crazy as well.

I would like to change that framing, by reference to the much saner op-ed penned by Nicholas Burns. Let's look at peace as an objective. Not just withdrawing troops from everywhere, although troop withdrawal would be part of it. What would it take to bring peace in the places where the United States is involved? Yes, we're involved everywhere, so that would be peace to the world. (Didn't we just have a holiday with something about that?) That would require prioritizing some things: Iran and Israel would be near the top of the list, and things like relations with Russia might be framed differently.

Yes, I understand that we are going into the campaign with the candidates we have, rather than the candidates we might want, and Paul's non-intervention sounds sorta kinda like peace. But thinking it out suggests that Paul's preference are likely to lead to less peace, not more: let the Iranians get a nuclear bomb. Let the Israelis slaughter Palestinians and take their land. Confine the relationship with Russia to commerce.

And that's only the nonintervention part. Kevin outlines the rest.

It looks to me that if we want peace, we need to be thinking about peace and encouraging the candidates. Stephen Walt has pointed out that to get ahead in Washington, young international relations graduates have to be hawkish in either political party. To press for peace, we've got to do some thinking about it and then lean on the candidates. Ron Paul has done none of that. His foreign-policy ideas are just as crazy as his goldbuggery.

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