Kevin Drum recently added a new tack to the intra-mainstream-liberal argument over Ron Paul, going beyond talking about anti-interventionism with a “yeah, but…” and mentioning the newsletters and their obvious disagreements with much other views of Paul’s, and towards asserting that Ron Paul is radioactive even on what they ostensibly agree with him on. The last sane conservative on foreign policy, also known as Daniel Larison, jumped in to take issue. In response, Drum contradicts himself:
-“People are thinking anti-intervention? Well, DUH, Iraq & Afghanistan! Paul means squat!”
It’s true that the American public is less enamored of war these days than it used to be, but the obvious reason for this can be summed up in two words: Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are more skeptical of military adventurism than they were ten years ago because the shock of 9/11 has worn off and we’ve gone through two spectacularly disastrous foreign wars. Ron Paul has played almost no role in this at all.
-“Paul is speaking a foreign language on this stuff, no one will agree!”
If you want to advance the cause of a less interventionist foreign policy, you need to find a way to persuade the American public to agree with you. Ron Paul doesn’t do that. He’s never done that. He’s such a stone libertarian that he literally doesn’t know the language to do it.
Um…didn’t you just say people agreed without Ron Paul’s input? Where would the persuasion even come in if people are already there?
This isn’t even the most revealing part of Kevin’s post though. He saves that for a postscript:
I’m in favor of a less interventionist foreign policy, a view that has plenty of voices these days not named Ron Paul, but I’m not a hardcore non-interventionist like Paul. If Iran seriously tried to mine the Strait of Hormuz, for example, I’d fully expect the U.S. Navy to put a stop to it, even if that meant sinking a few Iranian vessels.
If you remember nothing else when it comes to international policy, remember this: people do things for a reason.
In such an exchange, which Kevin is saying he would support, the incentives on both sides — why Iran would mine the strait, and why the U.S. Navy would sink Iranian ships in response — need to be thought of. In Iran’s case, there are other nations in the region that use the strait, and it is assumed that they would see a problem with Iran effectively monopolizing safe passage through it. As such, it is not merely the U.S. government that such a move would antagonize. Could they possibly convince their neighbors that this move was worth the damage to them, merely to annoy the U.S., or would they react in ways up to and including sparing the U.S. Navy the waste of ammunition?
In the U.S.’s case, the use of the strait by Iran’s neighbors and also by others as a pass-through for trade reasons makes it important, but shows obvious incentive for those other than the U.S. to be concerned about access to it. For perspective, here’s a map (click the thumbnail to expand):
Point “A” on that map is Washington, D.C. Point “B” is the Strait of Hormuz. What Kevin is asserting as unquestionable is that the primary responsibility of B falls at A. Whatever you may think of the utility of this, the reasoning behind it has gone unexamined long enough.