If I understand the editors' concerns, I have not been accused of deviating from the Founders' logic; if anything I have been accused of adhering to it too strictly. The question, therefore, before readers -- and soon voters -- is the same question I have asked for almost 20 years in Congress: by what superior wisdom have we now declared Jefferson, Washington, and Madison to be "unrealistic and dangerous"? Why do we insist on throwing away their most considered warnings?While I am often sympathetic to libertarian-type policies, Paul's understanding of US foreign policy -- both present-day and historial -- is woefully naive and dangerous.
A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them....
It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationsists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.
A Paul administration would see Americans engaged overseas like never before, in business and cultural activities. But a Paul administration would never attempt to export democracy or other values at the barrel of a gun, as we have seen over and over again that this is a counterproductive approach that actually leads the United States to be resented and more isolated in the world.
First, his understanding of the Founders' approach to foreign policy is overly simplistic and inaccurate. It's true that George Washington, in his farewell address, warned the new nation against "the insidious wiles of foreign influence" and "excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another". Washington went on to make a Paul-like recommendation:
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.Yes, this warning was less a deep-seated belief in impartiality than a response to America's fledgling status and under-developed power. As Robert Kagan makes clear in his magisterial work Dangerous Nation, such fears of entangling alliances were situationally determined. Where the US was weak, so was its desire to take sides or develop an activist foreign policy, and as American power would grow, so would its foreign policy, even in the hands of the Founders Paul is so convinced were opposed to such expansion. Washington provided some explanation for his apparent preference for neutrality, saying its point was "to endeavor to gain time for our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its fortunes." Even one as opposed to growth of federal power sought to tie the US to revolutionary France against Great Britain and was instrumental in developing the peace-time navy.
Paul's understanding of present-day foreign policy is just as flawed as his grasp of history. Implicit in his argument is that claim that American foreign policy is dangerous to both the US and to the rest of the world. In this op-ed, he focuses on the exportation of democracy "at the barrel of a gun," but his presidential campaign website voices his opposition to American membership in the WTO, NAFTA and all other free trade deals (not to mention his paranoid fear of the mythical NAFTA Mexico-to-Canada superhighway), the UN, humanitarian intervention, and all uses of force not expressly authorized by Congress.
Not only would such policies undermine the entire liberal economic order established by the US that is so vital for ensuring American and international prosperity, but it would undermine what little international political order there is, as such order largely depends on American hegemony. As Niall Ferguson wrote in his Foreign Policy article "A World Without Power," "anyone who dislikes US hegemony should bear in mind that, rather than a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to US primacy." The world wars were both products of international political systems lacking hegemonic control. Absent US security guarantees, the EU would be hard pressed to sustain itself, restraints on Iranian, North Korean, and even Chinese aggression would disappear, and the relative levels of cooperation and comity that currently exist in international politics would collapse.
Paul may try to disguise his policies in the cloak of the political philosophies and foreign policies of the Founders. But don't be fooled. George Washington wouldn't vote for Paul. Nor would Thomas Jefferson.