The Magazine

A Radical’s Radical

Ron Paul and his supporters.

Jan 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 19 • By JAMES KIRCHICK
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Paul has attracted a particular type of liberal—not mainstream Democrats, but “progressives,” precisely the people who would ordinarily be most appalled by the bigotry expressed in Paul’s newsletters. In their support for him, these writers routinely note Paul’s opposition to America’s “empire” as the most stirring part of his candidacy. “Would that we had someone on our side who could make the case against an American empire, or American supremacy, in such a pungent way,” wrote the historian Corey Robin, though ultimately dismissing Paul as a vessel for progressive values. 

This analysis sees America’s unrivaled superpower status, manifested in the presence of U.S. military bases overseas (at the behest of national governments), as the moral equivalent of King Leopold’s brutal exploitation of the Belgian Congo. America may indeed be overstretched, but that’s a condition that anyone wishing to maintain the liberal world order that has brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to mankind should seek to rectify, not manage into further decline. Ending America’s role as hegemon and ceding whole parts of the globe to the likes of Russia and China is no prescription for a more just world.

Either these ostensibly “progressive” individuals are unaware of the Ron Paul newsletters, or they are willing to ignore their contents in promoting a man who shares their analysis of international relations. One suspects the latter, seeing that never has anyone with so pure a Chomskian reading of America made it so far in national politics. 

But while Paul’s warnings about the costs of American “empire” have gained traction as a result of the global financial crisis and the tenth anniversary of the war on terrorism, his Cassandra-like cries are an old tune. In a December 1989 newsletter, for instance, he predicted that “Japan Will Ally With the USSR” and “The American Republic Will Be Replaced With Democratic Fascism.” In 1991, following the coalition victory in the Gulf war, he predicted “hundreds of thousands” of casualties would come to light. When that didn’t happen, his newsletter warned, “Although today there’s nothing but glory and optimism over the Persian Gulf ‘victory,’ as time passes, and the suffering and political problems continue for years, we will come to see the war as one giant My Lai.”

Ron Paul is a radical, and he has attracted radicals of all stripes to his cause, the only politician to have garnered kind words from David Duke and Louis Farrakhan. In a disquisition on Jewish bankers and the Fed in August, Farrakhan lauded the Texas congressman for “trying his best, but he’s like a man crying in the wilderness.” Those who support Paul will join him in the political wilderness, which seems an excellent place for them to stay.

James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributing editor to the New Republic.

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