Pacifism, libertarianism, and the future of the Republican Party 15

Daniel Greenfield – one of the writers we most respect, and on most issues agree with – argues against Rand Paul’s position on drones and the government’s possible threat to lives on American soil. (See our post Death or due process? March 7, two days ago.)

Rand Paul is anti-war, like his libertarian father Ron Paul. His views on America’s conduct of foreign affairs are like his father’s.

It is chiefly on the issues of foreign policy and war that we part company with most libertarians.

So on these issues we are as critical of both father and son as Daniel Greenfield is. But we do not agree with all he says.

There are Conservative sites that are positively giddy about Rand Paul getting positive mentions from John Cusack [Hollywood leftist critic of the use of drones] and [Maoist Communist] Van Jones. [Feminist pacifist] Code Pink’s endorsement is being treated like some kind of victory.

Are we really getting worked up about getting a pat on the head from the left? …

Even saner heads are calling Rand Paul’s filibuster a political victory. The only place that it’s a victory is in the echo chambers of a victory-starved party. And to Code Pink and Van Jones who are happy to see the Republican Party adopting their views.

The “brilliant victory” was that some Republicans tried to go further on the left than Obama on National Defense. Maybe next they can try to go further left than him on Immigration, Gay Marriage and Abortion. 

And if that doesn’t work, Rand Paul and Jon Huntsman can get together on ending the War on Drugs.

On the issues of gay marriage and the war on drugs we too take a libertarian view. We don’t think that what people do in their private lives is the state’s business. (We notice that marriage is a fading institution, and so anticipate that all unions, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will become civil contracts of the same kind – leaving the religions to decide for themselves who may be married by their rites.)

On abortion our position is not conventionally conservative or libertarian. We think it should be rare and early. The law should speak on the matter only to set a time limit.

We cannot be for uncontrolled immigration as long as the host country is a welfare state.

Daniel Greenfield continues on the subject of drones, which, he says, was a smokescreen obscuring Rand Paul’s real cause:

Most Americans support using drones to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. Most Americans don’t know about the filibuster or care. Most Americans want political and economic reforms, not conspiracy theories.

The Paul filibuster was about drone strikes on American soil, the way that Obama ‘only’ wants to ban assault rifles.

This isn’t about using drones to kill Americans on American soil. That’s a fake claim being used by Rand Paul as a wedge issue to dismantle the War on Terror. Now that he’s manipulated conservative support for that, he can begin moving forward with his real agenda.

Rand Paul is on record as opposing Guantanamo Bay and supports releasing the terrorists. He’s on record opposing drone strikes against Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, saying, “A perpetual drone war in Pakistan makes those people more angry and not less angry.”

This position is no different than that of his father. The only difference is that Rand Paul is better at sticking statements like these into the middle of some conservative rhetoric.

To which we say, endorsing Greenfield’s view: the belief, held by the far left and the libertarian movement, that countries hostile to the United States have been provoked to spiteful bellicose fury by American policies and actions, is wrong. It is ill-informed. America is resented for what it is – free, prosperous, successful, and above all powerful – not (unless in particular temporary instances) for anything it has done or is doing. Obama sympathizes with the resentment, and is doing his best to make the country he presides over less free, less prosperous, less successful, and much less powerful.

That the “war on terror” (ridiculous phrase but referring to something real) is not America’s fault, is the point on which we are in entire agreement with Daniel Greenfield. It is al-Qaeda, he says, which has turned the whole world into a battlefield, not America. And he is right.

Here, in the middle of Rand Paul’s drone rant is what he really stands for and against.

“It’s one thing to say yeah, these people are going to probably come and attack us, which to tell you the truth is probably not always true. There are people fighting a civil war in Yemen who probably have no conception of ever coming to America.”

The people fighting that “civil war” are tied in with Al Qaeda, including the Al-Awlaki clan, whose scion, Anwar Al-Awlaki helped organize terrorist attacks against America and was linked to 9/11.

“… We do know the U.S. drones are targeting people who have never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States, so we’re talking about noncombatants who have never pledged to carry out attacks are being attacked overseas. Think about it, if that’s going to be the standard at home, people who have never really truly been involved with combat against us. Take Pakistan where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. … Think about it. If it were your family member and they have been killed and they were innocent or you believe them to be innocent, it’s going to – is it going to make you more or less likely to become involved with attacking the United States?”

This isn’t about stopping Obama from killing Americans. This is straight-line anti-war garbage.

“You know, or how much – if there’s an al-Qaida presence there trying to organize and come and attack us. Maybe there is. But maybe there’s also people who are just fighting their local government. How about Mali? I’m not sure in Mali they’re probably worried more about trying to get the next day’s food than coming over here to attack us.”

And a politician reciting Michael Mooreisms like these is supposed to stand for a “Conservative Victory”?

“I think that’s a good way of putting it, because when you think about it, obviously they’re killing some bad people. This is war. There’s been some short-term good. The question is, does the short-term good outweigh the long term cost, not only just in dollars but the long-term cost of whether or not we’re encouraging a next generation of terrorists?”

Is this the new conservative position now? That killing Al Qaeda terrorists only encourages more terrorism?

Are we all Paultards now? …

“Ultimately we as a country need to figure out how to end war. We’ve had the war in Afghanistan for 12 years now. The war basically has authorized a worldwide war.”

Not just to end the Afghan war (which should have been ended eleven or so years ago), but to end war as such. Absurd. And Rand Paul thinks that if America does not go to war, there will be no (international) wars.  That belief is naive to an extreme.

And Paul’s statement that America’s going to war in Afghanistan “authorized a worldwide war” is totally false. Islam is at war with the rest of the world doctrinally. The attack by al-Qaeda on America on 9/11/2001 was an act of aggressive, not defensive war, and it was in pursuit of religous ends.

We will quote a little more from the Greenfield article, because his argument is about more than Rand Paul’s position on foreign policy, war, and drones; it is about Conservatism and the Republican Party.

This is Rand Paul’s position. It’s the position of anti-war protesters in 2002. It’s Barack Obama’s original position before he discovered that war wasn’t so easy to end.

If you stand with Rand, this is what you stand with.

Everyone can do what they please, but if you’re going to stand with Rand, then let’s be clear about his positions and agenda. And be clear about whether you share them or not.

No more dressing this up in “Rand Paul is standing up for the Constitution.” That’s the same dishonest claim his father made for years. And none of the even more dishonest, “Drone strikes on Americans in cafes” nonsense.

That’s not what this is about.

1. Do you think that the United States is murdering innocent Muslims and inspiring terrorist attacks?

2. Do you think that if we just leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone?

3. If you think all those things, then wasn’t the left, which has been saying all these things since before September 11, right all along?

Is Van Jones agreeing with you… or are you agreeing with Van Jones? …

The Left believes those things because they are on the side of America’s enemies and want them to win. Rand Paul believes them because he knows nothing about the world beyond the borders of his own country and mentalities beyond the limits of his own imagination.  

The lesson that the Republican Party refuses to learn is that you don’t win by abandoning conservative values.

• You don’t win by going liberal on immigration.

• You don’t win by going liberal on government spending.

• You don’t win by going liberal on social values.

• And you don’t win by going liberal on national defense.

You either have a conservative agenda or a mixed bag. And Rand Paul is the most mixed bag of all, because the only area that he is conservative on is limited government.

If the new Republican position is open borders, pro-terror and anti-values, then what makes the Republican Party conservative?

Reducing conservatism to cutting the size of government eliminates it and replaces it with libertarianism. It transforms the Republican Party into the party of drugs, abortion, illegal immigration, terrorism… and spending cuts. And the latter is never going to coexist with a society based on the former. …

If Rand Paul is the future of the Republican Party… then the party has no future.

I don’t believe that we can win through political expediency that destroys principles.

We tried that in two elections and we lost. Watering down what we stand for until we stand for nothing at all except the distant promise of budget cuts is how we walked into the disaster of 2012.

John McCain in 2008. Mitt Romney in 2012. Rand Paul in 2016. And what will be left?

To be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left. It doesn’t need to stumble briefly to the right on a few issues that it doesn’t really believe in. It needs to be of the right. It needs to be comprehensively conservative in the way that our opposition now is comprehensively of the left.

If we can’t do that then we will lose. America will be over. It’ll be a name that has as much in common with this country, as modern Egypt does with ancient Egypt or as Rome of today does with the Rome of the imperial days.

We agree that “to be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left.” And we agree that Rand Paul is wrong about foreign policy and the world-wide war.

But we do not agree that libertarianism is a creed of the Left. How can it be? The Left stands essentially for state control and collectivism – viewing human beings sociologically, as units of a herd.

The American conservative Right stands for freedom of the individual above all. The Republican Party stands for freedom of the individual, therefore small government, low taxes and the free market; for property rights, therefore low taxes and the free market; for the protection of freedom, therefore the rule of law and strong defense. That is the logic of freedom. Those are the values of conservatism and the Republican Party. They are our values.

We certainly do not want illegal immigration and terrorism. Nor to “go liberal on government spending”.

But we do think the Republican Party should bend further toward libertarianism. Not leftwards, but rightwards. Individual freedom must mean that individuals make their own choices, even if those choices are harmful to themselves. What they smoke and whom they bed with are obviously matters of personal choice – while government spending, immigration, and terrorism are matters for the state.

There is a new generation of young Republicans who are conservative in their thinking about freedom under the rule of law, but frustrated by stale authoritarian attitudes towards drugs and homosexuality. They are conservative in their loyalty to the Constitution, but impatient with the religiosity of most conservatives.

Some of them are forming themselves into a new caucus. They name themselves the Republican Reason Caucus. Read about them here.

We think they may, and hope they will, restore vitality to the thoroughly demoralized Republican Party.

  • rogerinflorida

    This is from Karl Denninger’s site;

    You have to love Italians, where in our political universe is politician with such style, verve and enthusiasm.

    • Jillian Becker

      Great fun. A tremendous rabble-rouser. Whether he’s right or not hardly seems to matter – its political show-biz. But then, isn’t politics largely show-biz anyway?

  • liz

    Thanks for clarifying Rand’s true motives here. Of course, it was too good to be true that any real conservative victory was acheived here.
    This new caucus is very encouraging – we need to promote it all we can. It seems to be the only hope for the Republicans, who are imploding from the rot of religiosity on one hand and dishonest career politicians on the other. It would be great to just bypass all of that and move forward without them.
    Whether that is realistically possible is another question.

  • rogerinflorida

    Just one more quick thing: Daniel Greenfield has a post that is worth a read, and worth saving:

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you for this, rogerinflorida. It’s very good. I shall make use of it. Daniel Greenfield is a very good thinker, a fine and prolific writer, and a very nice man.

  • Jack

    I’m influenced by Rand but I am not a libertarian; for this very reason. The libertarians, as exemplified by Ron Paul and now his son, are usually state-hating pacifists in their foreign policy. Lew Rockwell, the gang over at the Von Mises Institute, Harry Brown when he was alive, the Pauls, they all push this “blowback” crap; ie that the Islamic attacks on us are because of “American interventionism” in the Middle East. None of them ever say it is because of Islam. This they share with the Left.

    But even further, the libertarians are motivated by an animus against the state which is the exact opposite of Conservative thought, which in this case I agree with. Conservatism understands that the nation state is essential for allowing for the growth of a prosperous people and for defending them. Libertarians, even if they are not anarchists, see the state as a necessary evil. This leads them to share a philosophic nihilism with the Left. I usually find myself more disgusted by libertarians (on non-economic subjects), especially if they are anarchists, than by any other political movement with the exception of the hard Left. What is needed is to take the best elements of the libertarian movement and the best elements of the Conservative movement and build off that. But that will take time. And I don’t know if America and the West have that time.

    But what are our options? Not many. We have to oppose the Left with the best tools we have all the while not surrendering to religious Conservatism. Can the Republican Party be slowly reformed? Is the Tea Party a good first start? Its really tough to tell. But that really is our only choice. You can never reform the Democratic Party, they are a party of socialist thugs.

    But Roger is sadly right about the effects of demographics and any future amnesty. As the country loses its white majority the Left will gain total domination. The fat lady will be singing then. I’m not a racialist but in our current context with a Leftist multiculturalist egalitarian welfare state, where the Left portrays whites as a bunch of racist capitalist pigs (unless they’re modern liberals) and is actively pushing for a race war, non-Euro immigration will hasten and ensure our doom. And that last point is something that libertarians do not and will not even consider. (With the exception of the Paleo-libertarians, but they have a host of other problems including their insane American hating foreign policy).

    Its a race against time. If enough pro-liberty ideas can gain currency in the short term than maybe. But, I also try to remind myself that there have been gloom and doom scenarios for as long as I have been reading about politics. Society seems to be more resilient than most political prognosticators give it credit for. Lets hope that continues.

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you, Jack. Only one thing you say troubles me. The Von Mises Institute holds that view? If so, they are surely out of step with Von Mises
      himself. He did not have to deal with the advance of Islam as we do, but his beliefs would not have supported the idea that the West was to blame for the savage acts of a totalitarian movement hung over from the dark ages.

      • Jack

        You haven’t been hanging out at the Von Mises Institute web site. They really should rename it the Murray Rothbard Institute because von Mises was not an anarchist. They are very good on economics but they do have a strong anarchist, state-hating slant to pretty much everything they comment on. And Stephan Kinsella who is a big name there is a real nihilist; and a pacifist to boot.

        • Jillian Becker

          Jack, an economist friend tells me your suggestion that the Von Mises Institute be renamed the Murray Rothbard Institute is right on the nail. He also endorses what you say about Stephan Kinsella. But he adds that there are still some “good” (ie free-market but not anarchist, nihilist, or pacifist) people associated with it. Most importantly, he says, they have a superb collection of the works of von Mises.

  • rogerinflorida

    There is now no way of saving the National Republican Party. The entire party platform and record in office has been lies, deceptions, accommodations and pandering to special interests. The party apparently is now insisting on border security first before amnesty, well where were they when they controlled the Presidency and both houses of congress; answer; they opened the border. Where were they on deficit spending when they were in control; answer, they busted the budget. Where were they on growth of govt. when they were in control; answer, they vastly expanded the bureaucracy. In all these instances, and others,when in power, they did the opposite of what they claimed their principles were. Even Mitt Romney, outstanding man that he is, could not persuade the white voter to turn out and vote R in sufficient numbers to overcome the democrat machine. Now the RP looks to grant amnesty to, they say 11 million illegals, more like 25 million by the time they all come out of the woodwork. This of course will only encourage further illegal immigration, they know this and want it.
    I have said that the only path forward for those of us who believe in individual liberty, property rights, and individual responsibility is to concentrate on the State party’s. If enough of the majority white states can resist the federal encroachment then there is some hope. Unfortunately nothing is being done, or even being proposed, to re-vitalize the private sector, this is nothing short of calamitous, as David Goldman has predicted; an economic tsunami is coming to the US. The private sector is imploding. between a third and a half of the US population is now being kept afloat by unsustainable govt. handouts, whether they be welfare, medicare, or fat salaries for no work.
    There is no recognition of this, except of course by the left who see this as a transitory stage to a fully socialized economy. Sorry to sound so glum, but I think we are going to have to go through the fire before this can be fixed, and maybe not even then.

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you, rogerinflorida, for this comment, Gloomy as it is, these truths need to be reckoned with. And they are truths. But how about a New Republican Party? New blood, new ideas? Old corrupt codgers persuaded to try and feel young by saying yes to it?
      The Democratic Party has been taken far to the left. It cannot be countered by middle-of-the-road policies. It has dragged the middle of the road leftwards. Extremism calls forth extremism in opposition to it.
      The choice should be starkly put as freedom versus serfdom (in the Hayekian sense). The only slogan of the right should be “Freedom”.
      True, the way to regained freedom and prosperity is, as you put it, “through the fire”. Voters who put Obama in power (many of them for the plainly racist reason that he’s black so it made them feel good) have to feel how miserable socialism feels, even with all its handouts.
      The message has to be got across that only the free market brings jobs, and employers must have incentive to employ.
      All over the world values and life-styles are changing more rapidly than ever before. Some old ways have to be let go. “Conservative” cannot be allowed to mean just “out of date”.
      I suppose it’s possible that the human instinct for freedom with its responsibilities may be overwhelmed by the instinct for “being looked after and no worries”. That is a fearful thought, because it would mean that humanity is condemning itself to extinction. (There are signs that that has begun to happen. The population statistics warn of it.)
      What do you say, Jack?
      And you, liz?

      • rogerinflorida

        Ms Becker,

        The way forward is to appeal to the young voter, and the grounds on which to appeal to them are their purely selfish (and therefore rational) interests. Young people working today are being penalized with taxation and saddled with unsupportable debt that is going to pay the bills for a load of old farts who neglected to save enough, or are hoarding their wealth in order to live high and pass on inheritances to their children. Couple that with reduced wages and harder working conditions and you have a reservoir of discontent that a savvy politician should be able to exploit. Before I was ejected from our local Tea Party I was disappointed at the average age of the membership, good luck manning the barricades with that crowd.
        I have said these things before on these pages: We need to scrap income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and inheritance tax and replace them all with a 20% VAT. just think; no more April 15th BS, no more “allowances” (thank you so much nanny state for allowing me an allowance of my own money!). No more depreciation tables, no more damned tax code designed to make all of us criminals and therefore easier to coerce and intimidate. The VAT should be collected by the states and a portion of it passed to the Federal govt. The States should be the primary deciders of what services to provide to their citizens. That would end the blackmail practiced by the Fed govt. Here in Florida we have amended the state Constitution (!) to prohibit public funding of light rail projects, but they keep coming back because the FG threatens to withhold highway and other funds unless us unwashed come to our senses.

        We need to scrap affirmative action; merit based hiring, scholarships, etc. should be the absolute rule.

        People should be able to engage in trade and profit by any legal means without having their earnings confiscated.

        The welfare system has to be pure welfare, staple food items supplied in bulk, no cash.

        The other major thing is health care, I have said it is a major imposition of incredible liability to mandate employer provided coverage. I don’t think there is any other requirement so destructive of business in the US, where we differ is that I believe there should be a basic single payer HC system, this could be accomplished by making everyone eligible for Medicare, provided you have proof of paid premiums.
        This program can appeal to young people, but it is not going to be advanced by past their sell date phoneys like John McCain et al.

        • Jillian Becker

          I agree with all you say here, rogerinflorida, except about welfare (I don’t think the state should provide it at all, that it should be phased out as a state provided benefit) and health care (same reason).

          Have you visited Republican Reason Caucus? If you haven’t please google it or use the link in the article. I am helping them because, as you say, “the way forward is to appeal to the young voter”. I am the only ancient among them. They honor me with the position of Adviser so they can benefit from my experience and grey-hair wisdom.

  • Azgael

    If you think legalizing heroin or bath salts or any of the other drugs is a right thing to do than you are the SAME as those on the left. Libertarian is borderline Anarchism. The problem is Americas focus, they need to shift away from punishing those who are helplesly addicted to these HIGHLY DEADLY AND TOXIC substances and sending them to rehad and SEVERALY punishing the Maker/Growers(death penalty) and the distributors/sellers(30 years jail minimum). Iv e seen what these toxic substances can do and if you think they should be legal than you need to be locked up in a white badded room and the key thrown away cuz your a danger to all.

    • Jillian Becker

      Try reasoning instead of emoting, Azgael. Try to make a reasonable case, an argument for your point of view. For instance, ask yourself: Why should one sort of thing that can harm people be banned and other things that can harm them not be banned? Does banning something stop people using it? (You have seen people harming themselves with drugs even though drugs are banned.) How can Libertarianism which you say is “borderline Anarchism” be on the Left when the Left is for big government, heavy regulation, and (often) totalitarian control?