What’s the nicest thing you can say about Ron Paul? How about this–he adds a missing “moral dimension” to the Republican debate on foreign policy.
A favorite Paul pedagogical device is to analogize foreign situations to American ones. A campaign ad promoted by a Paul-supporting super PAC begins by asking us to imagine Russian or Chinese troops in Texas. The point is that this is how our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan look to locals.
I’ve long thought that the biggest single problem in the world is the failure of “moral imagination”–the inability or unwillingness of people to see things from the perspective of people in circumstances different from their own. Especially incendiary is the failure to extend moral imagination across national, religious, or ethnic borders.
If a lack of moral imagination is indeed the core problem with Americas foreign policy, and Ron Paul is unique among presidential candidates in trying to fight it, I think you have to say hes doing something great, notwithstanding the many non-great and opposite-of-great things about him and notwithstanding the fact that he has in the past failed to extend moral imagination across all possible borders.
Paul illustrates the split between a long-forgotten isolationist wing of the Republican party, which of late, has been overshadowed by the more recent divide between global interventionists a la Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and the realists of Bush the Elder/Baker/Scowcroft.
In truth, the modern Republican Party has always been a house divided, pulled between its desire to crusade against evil abroad and its fear that that crusade will empower the evil of big government at home. In 2012, I suspect, Ron Paul will expose that division in a way it has not been exposed in a long time. And Republicans will not soon paper it over again.
In this short piece, Beinart notes that Ron Paul may aspire to the new Calvin Coolidge, who observed in 1925, “The people have had all the war, all the taxation, and all the military service they want.”