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Monday, August 22, 2011

How is a Ron Paul supporter like an Obama supporter? (it's not what you think)

I have received the same accusation from two very different groups of people, and I find it somewhat disconcerting. The accusation is simple - that I am uneducated. Now, granted, depending on the subject, that may or may not be true. For example: calculus? You'd better ask my husband. But in all of these cases, the subject in question was current politics. The problem here is that I am a full time student on the Montgomery GI Bill, and I am studying to earn a degree in political science. I study political theory and current politics because in a way it is my job to do so.

But it is the way that the accusation was phrased that was the most disturbing. In all cases it was pretty much the same:

The only reason you see things the way that you do is that you're listening to the media and not the actual person.

The only reason you think that is that you don't really understand the subject.

You wouldn't believe that if you had read all the information that I have.

Basically, they were all saying that if I only had better information, a better education, or a more correct method of research, I would obviously agree with them. The implication was that since their education and research had brought them to a certain conclusion, anyone who reached a different conclusion could only do so by using faulty logic. The problem is that even if they happened to be correct in their position, advocating it by insulting my intelligence is not likely to gain them any ground in terms of debate. I found the conversations to be quite condescending, and what's more, none of the people in question offered any actual factual information to back up their positions - the only arguments they presented were the ones that attacked my education rather than my position on the issue.

So I'm sure you're dying to know: who were the two groups of people leveling said accusations?

Half of them were Obama supporters, explaining policies like the healthcare bill by saying that if I could only gain a better understanding of his vision I would support him as well.

The other half were Ron Paul supporters, explaining that I, with ten years of military experience and the benefit of an intensive three month course on foreign policy, could only find Ron Paul's foreign policy lacking if I was not properly educated.

So for those of you who disagree with me - I expect disagreement. I have said so many times. I do not expect to win friends with my political views. What I expect is respect for my opinions, and a debate that is based on facts, logic and issues rather than ad hominem attacks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why We Can't Afford to Take Ron Paul Seriously

The question that has been popping up, both on facebook and in the media - and then brought to the forefront by comedian Jon Stewart - is "Why does the mainstream media and the GOP insist on ignoring Ron Paul as a serious Presidential contender?" The question becomes especially pertinent when you consider the strong second place showing he made at the straw poll in Iowa last week.

The problem that I have, and that many others seem to share with me, is that Ron Paul has done such a fantastic job of painting himself into an extremely tight corner that even those who agree with Paul on most issues are afraid that the mess we would make getting him out would ultimately be prohibitive. It is true that most conservatives and Tea Party activists are thrilled with his voting record when it comes to fiscal issues. He takes a very strong pro life stance as well, which is refreshing, as that is somewhat less common among libertarians. But his opinions on things like drugs and prostitution still rub the majority of Americans the wrong way. For example, his comments about addiction in the Michael Gerson article below paint addicts as lesser human being who do not deserve help or sympathy. The problem is that in America today, just about everyone has either struggled with addiction himself or has been affected by someone who has.

 But the big sticking point is foreign policy. Ron Paul looks at foreign policy in a way that is far too oversimplified. His comments lead you to believe that foreign policy is nothing more than a global game of "Gotcha last," where the United States tags people and then plants bases on their land to prevent them from ever having a turn. Of course those other nations hate us now - it's because we've taken away their autonomy and abused their sovereignty. He doesn't mention the fact that, after two strikes, we made sure that we could keep a military presence in Germany to avoid another World War or a Holocaust. The same goes for Italy and Japan. And Ron Paul also doesn't mention the fact that Italy, Germany and Japan don't seem to hate us all that much, despite the fact that our military presence there has been larger than in other nations and has been there longer.

In the case of Iran, Paul suggests that Iran hates the United States simply because we refuse to just allow them to have nuclear weapon capabilities. 
He neglects the fact that Iran has issued statements condemning the United States on a cultural basis for years, and the fact that Iran has quietly been at war with the United States since the early 1980's. Paul says that if Iran did indeed get nuclear weapons, they would be stopped by Pakistan or China, or the fact that they have no air force before they could make a strike on the United States. He ignores the fact that Pakistan, though claiming to cooperate, failed to disclose the location of Osama Bin Laden. He also glosses over the fact that China has made moves in the last several years to overtake the United States as globally dominant, and may not actually have a problem with another nation taking potshots in our direction. But by far the most dangerous assumption is the fact that Iran's lack of air force will keep them from attacking the Continental United States. If you recall, the last time a major attack was executed on U.S. soil, those involved were perfectly content to use our own planes against us. The other issue is that even more than the United States, Iran hates Israel. And many of the nations that Paul claims will "keep Iran's nuclear ambitions contained" stand with Iran in that hatred. A nuclear attack on Israel would most definitely lead to an Israeli response in kind, which could easily be the start of another world war.

His foreign policy, in fact, is most reminiscent of one-time FDR Vice President Henry Wallace - the same Henry Wallace who was demoted from Vice President to Secretary of Commerce because of his extreme reverence for Joseph Stalin.

"After FDR died, the new president, Truman, kept Wallace as secretary of commerce. With the war over, however, Wallace found himself in a tough spot. Troubled by the onset of the Cold War, he was driven to speak out on September 1946, and denounce the new threat to world peace: that is, the threat posed by America and Truman to that amiable peacenik Joe Stalin. Shortly thereafter, Wallace was removed from his position.
Importantly, Wallace was far from finished. Like Ron Paul, Wallace steadily denounced American foreign policy, as pursued by both Democrats and Republicans—and he pursued the presidency.
Like Ron Paul, Wallace would not let those World War III seeking “Imperialists” working in the interests of “British Colonialism” get off easy. (For Paul today, replace the words “Imperialists” with “Neo-cons” and “British Colonialism” with “Israel.”) And when Stalin would do something unpleasant, such as take over Czechoslovakia in February of 1948, Wallace would explain that it was Truman’s fault. Wallace blamed America first, in spite of the blatantly aggressive actions of an obvious external enemy."

Ron Paul speaks of "militants" in many countries who would like to see the United States hurt, crippled or even destroyed. Currently they are focusing their attacks on our soldiers overseas, soldiers who are well trained to handle insurgents and terrorist activities. If we withdraw all of our troops from overseas and return them to the United States, we leave those militants no recourse but to bring the fight to our backyard. That greatly increases the possibility that their targets will be civilian, and thus unprepared and untrained for an urban combat situation.
Paul also suggests, however, that those militants would be neutralized by the United States' withdrawal of troops from their nations. What he forgets to take into account is the elementary school playground. On the playground, there is no guarantee that all of the kids you are nice to will reciprocate. There is no guarantee that the kid you push on the swings will not tie your shoes together when you are not looking. Ron Paul forgets to account for that guy.
He also fails to account for the baseball theory. How many people in the United States hate the New York Yankees - and for no other reason than the fact that they are nearly always at the top of the league? People want to see someone, anyone, take them down - and not by one run, by double digits if possible. The United States, the global Yankees, have been on top for so long that there are nations who would like nothing better to see someone - anyone - take us down a few notches. They don't care if the force comes externally (from a military defeat, a terrorist attack) or internally (from economic policies such as the ones being implemented by the current administration) as long as it comes.
So why are people dismissing Ron Paul as a serious candidate? Because taking him seriously means failing to take the future of the United States seriously.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Cost of Conservatism

Today I lost a friend. Figuratively speaking, that is.
I got a message on Facebook from a woman I have known since I was about ten years old. In the message, she said that she was sad to inform me that she was going to have to "unfriend" me because she didn't want to constantly be subjected to my political views. She went on to say that she found Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party to be reprehensible and that they were attempting to systematically rip apart the fabric of our nation. She also said that they were attempting to undo the great strides that we as a nation had taken in the last generation. If she had stopped there, I probably would not have been offended. I do not expect my political views to make me any friends, nor do I expect even people I know well to want to constantly talk politics. But the message went on...
"So when we choose to express our political or religious beliefs in the public forum, we risk offending and alienating our audience (and for what reason other than strutting our stuff!) by possibly treading all over their different beliefs without invitation. I learned this in my '50's, and I hope that you will learn it much earlier by discontinuing making your Facebook page a stage for your political views."

She is not the first "friend" I have lost over politics, either. A guy I knew in high school dropped off my Facebook page shortly after a debate we had over the Healthcare bill that passed in March of 2010. He was a liberal on all issues but the sanctity of life, and he was arguing for the healthcare plan. I was outraged over the legal maneuvering being advocated by Congress to force the passage of the bill, and the comment I made was something like this: "Any elected official who is willing to subvert the Constitution for personal or political gain should be tried for treason and, upon conviction, be hanged on the White House lawn." As a law student who was staunchly opposed to the death penalty in any form, he said he doubted he could continue to talk to me since it was obvious that I advocated cruelty. I reminded him that claiming to be pro-life until another issue superseded that one indicated that he advocated cruelty as well. "At least the cruelty I 'advocate' is directed at someone who has done something to warrant it," was my response. That was one of the last times we ever spoke.

I was reminded, suddenly, of a recent conversation I had with my mother. She told me that perhaps I should temper my commentary in order to offend fewer people. I understand her point, and I do believe that it is foolish to post that which you know to be inflammatory for the sole purpose of offending others. But it is also foolish to compromise the truth in order to avoid offending others.

My husband pointed out that it lines up very well with C.F.W. Walther's sermons on the subject of the law and the Gospel. The truth inherent in the law is offensive to people - but it is the offensive nature of that truth that drives the understanding that the Gospel is necessary.

Likewise, in terms of politics, we must first be made aware of what is wrong with America before we recognize the depth of the need for something right. If we ignore all that which offends us, we are only availing ourselves to half of the information at best. If we subvert the truth in an attempt to be less offensive, then we are just as guilty as those who actively spread the falsehoods we are attempting to arm people against. 

There are those who will hate us for the truth we tell. There are those who will lash out at us, call us names, or simply disappear from our lives. The cost of conservatism, like the cost of truth, can be steep. But choose to accept it, and you can pay that price up front. Deny it, and you will still be forced to pay it later - only on someone else's terms rather than your own.