When Ann Coulter praised Ron Paul at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., the right-wing author and provocateur said she supports everything the congressman stands for except foreign policy. This wasn’t the first time Coulter made this point.
Said Coulter at CPAC in 2008, “I must say I love Ron Paul on everything but Iraq.” Comparing Paul’s foreign policy stance to that of the congressman’s fellow non-interventionist Pat Buchanan, Coulter added “Whenever I listen to Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan I always think ‘I can’t listen too long or they might convince me.”
Coulter is essentially saying that when it comes to foreign policy-ignorance is bliss. Quite literally, conservatives can no longer afford this willful ignorance.
Being pro-war is to the mainstream Right what global warming is to the Left-an unassailable dogma that is integral to their respective political identities. Like global warming, believing in the righteousness and necessity of the “war on terror” is an act of political faith, and any heretic who holds challenging views is not to be tolerated-hence conservatives like Coulter, refusing to even listen.
And yet questioning government, especially on something as important and expensive as foreign policy, is unquestionably a conservative exercise. Much like conservatives have done when considering national healthcare, cap-and-trade and federal stimulus, is it “liberal” simply to consider a cost/benefit analysis of America’s recent foreign adventurism? Speaking at CPAC this year, retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski noted: “The phrase ‘war on terror’ has been used to justify trillions of dollars in spending, hundreds of thousands of new government positions, and thousands of new government contracts. At the same time, the ‘war on terror’ has produced very little in terms of new technology or enhanced security, has vastly increased the degree of national centralization, and has created many new permanent trees and branches in the gnarled world of federal and state institutions.”
Mainstream conservative’s usual retort to those who question US foreign policy is that national security is a top priority, for which any cost is justified. This is true. But is it possible that our government is as reckless with foreign policy as it is in every other sphere? During his speech at this year’s CPAC, Ron Paul made this distinction: “There’s nothing wrong with being a conservative, and come up with a conservative belief in foreign policy where we have a strong national defense and we don’t go to war so carelessly.”
Trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives later, too many right-wingers will still not consider-much less admit-that we went to war with Iraq carelessly. What did Iraq have to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda? Did Saddam Hussein really threaten the US? These questions are never asked, and are even considered treasonous by many conservatives. Allegedly to reduce the terrorist threat, we are now escalating our war in Afghanistan, bombing Pakistan, eyeballing Yemen and placing sanctions on Iran. How do any of these military actions abroad stop future “shoe bombers” or “underwear bombers” from striking at home? What does any of this have to do with America’s national interest and how does it make us safer? Few conservatives are connecting these dots or asking the obvious questions. On this subject, blindness to government incompetence and recklessness is now considered conservative.
Despite what his critics portray, Paul’s approach to Islamic terrorism is not to ignore it, but to examine motive and develop a sound strategy by pinpointing our defense. Just one month after 9/11, Paul introduced the “Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001,” legislation that would have allowed Congress and the President to specifically target Bin Laden and his associates by placing a bounty on Al-Qaeda leaders. Paul said the Act “allows Congress to narrowly target terrorist enemies, lessening the likelihood of a full-scale war with any Middle Eastern nations. The Act also threatens terrorist cells worldwide by making it more difficult for our enemies to simply slip back into civilian populations or hide in remote locations… Once letters of marque and reprisal are issued, every terrorist is essentially a marked man.”
In hindsight, what would have been the more conservative, productive approach after 9/11—spending three trillion dollars in Iraq or placing a $1billion bounty on Bin Laden and every other Al-Qaeda member’s head?