Showdown at the Foreign Policy Corral

Showdown at the Foreign Policy Corral

Senator Rand Paul

The elites want intervention, the people want peace – and a showdown is coming

Aside from the aging effect, there’s the numbing effect of likening every target-of-opportunity to Hitler and yelping “Munich!” at the mere hint of a peace flare-up. This constant babble has inured the public to the War Party’s time-honored tactic of propaganda-by-historical-analogy. If every tinpot dictator is Hitler, then perpetual war is our inevitable future. In the face of such a bleak prospect, the average American may be forgiven for thinking we should just pull up the drawbridge and say to heck with it.

by Justin Raimondo

Yet another national poll shows Americans want their government to be “less active” overseas. In 2001, the same pollsters asked people the same question less than a week before 9/11: 14 percent gave the “less active” answer. That more than a decade of constant warfare has soured many Americans on interventionism should come as no surprise, but who expected a quadruplingof anti-interventionist sentiment?

This comes as a shock to the War Party, and to their base in the Washington Establishment: while they no doubt realize broad support for their foreign policy agenda has largely evaporated, this “isolationist” tsunami should have them in panic mode. And, indeed, there are a few stories about this, including one all about some self-proclaimed “expert” who says “isolationism” is endangering World Peace, or something to that effect. But in general Washington’s reaction to this poll has been like their reaction to all the other similar polls with similar results that have been released in the past few years or so: indifference.

That’s because, as far as the political class is concerned, what the American people think about foreign policy doesn’t much matter – because the matter has already been decided. There are good reasons for this Bourbon indifference to the views of the rabble.

To begin with, the two party system rigs the “debate.” Normal Americans don’t think about political/ideological issues except around election time, and notably during presidential elections. They listen to the two candidates, watch the televised debates, and on that basis make their choice. The problem is they don’t usually have much of a choice when it comes to foreign policy issues: that’s because the primary process has already sifted out the candidates least acceptable to the War Party. The result is that voters in the general election get to “choose” between candidates competing with one another to see who can be the most belligerent.

pro-Israel tweedledum-and-tweedledee
pro-Israel tweedledum-and-tweedledee

On the Republican side, the party is burdened with a ready-made interventionist constituency. The “born again” evangelicals who make up so much of the party’s base adhere to a dispensationalist theology biased in favor of supporting Israel unconditionally – which means supporting Tel Aviv’s policy of dragging us into their many wars and blood feuds.

On the Democratic side, the party leadership is in a state of vassalage to a donor class that predicates its support on the presidential candidate taking a pro-Israel position, but this is not the decisive factor. The Democrats, after all, are the party of FDR and LBJ: as such, they are committed to internationalism as a matter of high principle, with only the ghost of William Jennings Bryan making barely audible protests.

And of course one could make a similar claim about the Republicans’ institutional-ideological commitment to overseas mayhem: this, after all, is the party of Nixon and Bush II. Indeed, that legacy hangs heavily around the necks of the party’s dwindling activist base, but there’s a new boy in town: his name his Rand Paul. Whose name, by the way, graces the title of the Washington Post’s analysis of the poll results: “What if Rand Paul is right about foreign policy?

Robert A. Taft
Robert A. Taft

The modern GOP must deal with the shades of Nixon and the still-living ghost of George W., but the party has an alternative tradition to look to: the Republicans, don’t forget, were once the party of Robert A. Taft, a.k.a. “Mr. Republican.” Taft opposed US entry into the European theater during World War II, opposed NATO, and warned, in Eisenhowerian terms, of the domestic dangers of militarism. And Taft was a relative moderate compared to “isolationist” Republicans in the House, like Howard Buffet (yes, the famous billionaire’s father), who warned “we cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home,” and Taft’s 1952 GOP convention floor manager Rep. George Bender, who savaged Winston Churchill for his criticism of Henry Wallace going abroad to criticize US foreign policy. If Churchill could come to Fulton, Missouri and deliver his famous “iron curtain” speech which launched the cold war, said Bender, then Wallace should be granted the same exporting license to promote peace overseas.

Wisely, Sen. Paul hasn’t explicitly conjured these historical figures: why re-fight the lost battles of yesteryear? He has enough on his plate fighting the very real foreign policy wars of 2014, and his many enemies would like nothing better than to tar him with the “isolationist” brush. But the tarring effect of that particular brush is wearing a bit thin: isolationist was a propagandistic phrase invented to appeal to the emotions of a generation now passing rapidly into history.

Aside from the aging effect, there’s the numbing effect of likening every target-of-opportunity to Hitler and yelping “Munich!” at the mere hint of a peace flare-up. This constant babble has inured the public to the War Party’s time-honored tactic of propaganda-by-historical-analogy. If every tinpot dictator is Hitler, then perpetual war is our inevitable future. In the face of such a bleak prospect, the average American may be forgiven for thinking we should just pull up the drawbridge and say to heck with it.

Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul

Senator Paul is playing a very smart game when it comes to foreign policy: his latest venture is very much like his Ukraine plan, which involved not “letting Vladimir Putin get away with it” – and also cutting off all aid to Ukraine. Seems like only Jonathan Chait caught on to that one, but so far I’m the only one who seems to have caught on to Sen. Paul’s latest curve ball: his “pro-Israel” bill that would wind up costing the Israelis a pretty penny.

Entitled the “Stand With Israel Act,” the legislation would cut off all aid to the Palestinian authorities within five weeks if they fail to recognize Israel, abjure terrorism, and pledge not to attack the Jewish state.

It is being opposed by AIPAC, the largest and most politically connected pro-Israel lobbying organization, and – from its perspective – with good reason,: because the loss in aid would have to be made up for by the occupying power, i.e. Israel, which has the legal obligation, under international law, to provide basic infrastructure on Palestinian territory it controls.

AIPAC-takes-Hill-320x239The international and local repercussions of not providing these basics just aren’t worth the price, and so AIPAC is doing Tel Aviv’s bidding in opposing Paul’s bill – not that the AIPAC leadership has to be told.

Moreover, AIPAC argues that present law is sufficient to rule out any US aid to a coalition Fatah-Hamas government, while Paul’s bill calls this into question. Ah, say the Paul folks, but can the Obama administration be trusted to not utilize the ever-present waiver which is a key part of any restriction on “foreign aid”? We have all sorts of “human rights” and “anti-terrorist” legislation making economic and military aid conditional on satisfying all sorts of criteria: the kicker is the President can waive these conditions in the name of the “national interest” – he being the very embodiment of that exalted myth.

Very clever – the “Stand With Israel” Act satisfies practically every constituency important to the Senator’s presidential prospects. The very name is enough to fool the snake-handling yahoos whose pastors liken standing with Israel to standing up for Jesus. Hey, they’re cutting off aid to those terrorist heathens! Yippee! You got a problem with that?

Informed that Israel may wind up paying the tab, this same yahoo might very well look you in the eye and ask: Well, what’s wrong with that?

No wonder AIPAC is opposing the “Stand With Israel” Act.

Another key constituency the bill should satisfy: libertarians. In calling for an end to aid, it fulfills a central requirement of libertarian orthodoxy in that it cuts government expenditures – and lessens US involvement in a matter that is none of our business. In this it also satisfies another key constituency: the overwhelming majority of Americans who, if polled, would support the Senator’s bill overwhelmingly. Foreign aid being the least popular government program imaginable, these same Americans would also end or at least severely curtail aid to Israel. But that will come later, after the ground has been prepared.


This is a replay of Sen. Paul’s memorable campaign to end aid to Egypt – which, in retrospect, was a prescient move, one for which he isn’t getting the credit he’s due. While he promoted it by declaring that not one penny ought to be going to “countries that burn our flag,” it’s one of history’s little ironies that the current flag-burners are also military autocrats – and the aid keeps flowing on account of that presidential waiver.

The quadrupling of “isolationist” sentiment in the years since 9/11 shows the importance of playing the long game. This was the strategy we here at adopted in the days and months following that signal event, in which it seemed the country and indeed the entire Western world had gone mad. Like medieval monks preserving the last remnants of literacy and human civilization – did you ever read A Canticle for Leibowitz? – against a new Dark Age of militarism and mayhem, we held the fort and counted on being proved right in the end.

And now we are coming very near to the end. That’s what the rise in anti-interventionist sentiment augurs: a political showdown between the War Party and its many enemies on the right as well as the left. Whether this involves the person of Senator Paul, or some other political figure, is hard to tell at this point. However, the mere fact that the Senator’s name is now popular shorthand for a foreign policy of minding our own business is a sign of the times. The elites want intervention, and the people want peace. A showdown is coming – so stay tuned to this space.

justinraimondo2007-10Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (ISI, 2008), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is a contributing editor for The American Conservative, a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute, and an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

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  1. Justin is a very well versed reporter. Just a reminder of yesteryear s. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were selected,not elected for one purpose. Suppress the fear of the public of more wars to come. After 4 years with Jimmy, the public forgot all about the killings in the far east and Bingo–the War thugs selected Reagan and CIA Bush for eight years of hell in South America and Russia cold war. Poor Jimmy–got the boot by Money/oil men. Interest rates 21% and oil .gas prices tripled–all be cause he was soft and wanted respect for the Palestinians.
    Really sad–no one dares to report it like it is–America is evil-predatory nation that kills for game.

    • Yep!
      The Money and the Power: Israel’s Gambling on US Presidential Elections.

      “…Greenspun duly received him in his office. “Why the hell should I get money for Jimmy Carter?” he asked.

      “Because Jimmy Carter is going to be president,” Joel answered boldly, “and if you don’t support his campaign he’ll fuck you.”

      Greenspun told Joel to come back in two hours. He returned to find Greenspan sitting at a table surrounded by other toughs. In the middle of the table was a paper bag. “So the Baptist fuck wants money,” Greenspun growled, as he pushed the bag over to Joel. “Remember, this comes from the state of Israel. Don’t you ever forget it.”..”

      Read more:

      Some things don’t change in American politics, and rich people sitting in Las Vegas with pots of cash is one of them.

      EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s how it works folks, and that is how all of the players play the game.

      Rather simple, and rather sick, isn’t it?

      And, you will notice that the tough guy is always smiling when he twists your arm. He can afford to, he has just bought it, and he now has an “unbreakable grip” on it. And, he can break it any time he wants to!

      Welcome to the real world!

  2. As a non American living nowhere near the USA I can tell you that the greater community I have contact with increasingly hates the US for its interventionalist foreign policy.
    It really is one things after another that the USA cant seem to help getting itself involved in Iraq, egypt, afghanistan, syria, ukraine, north korea.
    People hoped for peace with Obama after the war mongering Bush but only received more of the same, probably worse.
    Why cant the USA simply mind its own business. Redirect all the money spent on illegal wars to their people.
    Their infrastructure, health care, education, welfare. Stop killing innocent people in other countries and look after their own.
    If they did this the world would be a much better place for it.

  3. The people may want peace, but the elites always find a way, to get their way.

    As a perfect example, I offer the US entering WWII in a climate of extreme anti-war sentiment. Hundreds of thousands rallied at public events against intervention, as the effects of the brutal and senseless WWI were fresh wounds in the American psyche.

    But through clever and purposeful manipulation of the Japanese, Roosevelt and friends were presented with the event that changed Americans from staunch pacifists to vengeful soldiers, overnight.

    Pay attention for the upcoming false flag event, and this time, don’t fall for it.

  4. Every Politician and Pundit that calls for war must be PUT in the front lines. How quickly they will SHUT UP.

  5. Rand Paul is an insufferable hack. Remembering that Paul bailed on his father, Ron Paul, and endorsed Mitt Rmoney. Election cycle 2012. Nifty bit of filial switch up no doubt. As for Raimondo, Justinian is a snotty strutting peacock ever so enamored of the sound of his own bluster. Randy boy is ever so Israel first and that is a non starter.