Much has been said about Ron Paul’s foreign policy. Some of it has been good. A lot of it has been not so good. And there is no one who objects more strongly to his foreign policy than his fellow Republicans.
Paul’s foreign policy is “isolationist,” “naïve;” and “dangerous.” On foreign policy, Paul is “to the left” of President Obama. He is an “ultra-radical leftist.” Because of his insistence that it is the dominant ideology of “interventionism”—what Paul and others characterize as “militarism” and “neo-imperialism”—that accounts for an increase of Islamic hostilities toward theUnited States—Paul, his detractors claim, “blamesAmerica.”
This is the first thing of which to take note.
Accompanying this phenomenon is another: with Ron Paul’s surging popularity, his enemies have resorted to playing against him what black Florida Congressman Alan West rightfully calls “the last card in the deck”: the race card. Because of some newsletters that he published a couple of decades ago, Paul has been accused of “racism.”
So Paul is a dangerous isolationist, an American “blamer,” if not a hater, and a “racist.”
This deserves to be born in mind as we turn our attention, in just a couple of weeks, to another American with whom Paul is not ordinarily linked—at least not in any positive sense.
Every January the public sector grinds to a halt and one solemn event after the other unfolds as Americans remember Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday. This is relevant to discussions regarding Paul’s foreign policy, for the very same Republican contributors to Fox News, talk radio, National Review, and The Weekly Standard who spare no occasion to blast away at Paul for his views will be equally ready to lavish praise upon Dr. King.
King’s position on foreign policy, you see, was vastly more similar to Paul’s than it is to any other Republican candidate. In fact, it shares much more in common with Paul’s understanding of foreign policy than it shares with President Obama’s. The difference between King and Paul, however, is that for however blunt Paul can be, the language in which he characterizes his position isn’t as damning as that the terms in which King cast his position.
Although Republicans like to speak of King as if he was a neoconservative before there were neoconservatives, the fact of the matter is that if anyone was an “ultra-radical leftist,” it was King. This is the thesis for which Michael Eric Dyson makes a compelling case in his 1996 book, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am no fan of Dyson, a hard leftist himself. But he is to be commended for this insightful work on a sorely misunderstood historical figure. To appreciate King’s approach to foreign policy, Dyson situates it within his larger moral vision, a vision, according to Dyson, within which the goal of “racial justice” figures centrally.
Although we hear little of this on MLK Day, King had come to believe that “the vast majority of white Americans are racists, either consciously or unconsciously.” How could they not be? According to King, America“was born in genocide.” “Racial supremacy” was in America’s DNA from the beginning, a fact that is seen from its treatment of “the original American, the Indian [.]” King condemned Americaas “perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.” Near the end of his life, he concluded that if Americahad any hope of changing, there would have to be “a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values” (emphasis mine).
America’s “racism” extended to its foreign policy. The Vietnam War, King declared, was “senseless” and “unjust.” It is Americans, he continued, who are the “criminals in that war,” forAmericahas “committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world.” The United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” American foreign policy vis-à-vis the fight against communism generally and the Vietnam War specifically was nothing more or less than “a new form of colonialism.” Furthermore, even asAmericasubjected non-whites to unjust treatment overseas, it continued its assault upon blacks here: black soldiers, he remarked, were drafted in an “extraordinarily high proportion to the rest of the population.” Dyson credits King with “showing the lethal links between racism, militarism, and poverty.”
Interestingly, just as King’s conceptions of domestic and foreign policies are bound together by a single moral thread, so too do Ron Paul’s views on the same co-exist within a unified ethical vision. Moreover, although King was a leftist while Paul is certainly not, there are similarities between the two.
Importantly, like King, Paul too regards American foreign policy as “imperialistic” and “militaristic,” and the wars in which we are engaged as “unjust” and “immoral.” He has also suggested, on more than one occasion, that it is animated by a subtle but enduring bigotry against Muslims—virtually all of whom are non-white.
Like King, Paul posits an inseparable connection between the federal government’s aggression toward non-whites abroad and what he perceives to be its unjust aggression toward non-whites here at home. The so-called “War on Drugs,” Paul thinks, is “racist” in conception and effect, for not only has its prosecution had the effect of transforming black communities into warzones, blacks are disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.
At the center of King’s worldview is the goal of racial equality; at the center of Paul’s is liberty for all. Still, they both note a racial subtext that unitesAmerica’s domestic and foreign policies, a subtext to which they equally object.
Let me be clear: I agree with neither MLK nor Ron Paul on these matters. Nor would I want to be read as suggesting that the latter is something like a clone of the former. If I thought this, I would not have invested countless hours into arguing for Paul’s presidential candidacy.
Rather, my point here is simply to show that their radically disparate treatment of King and Paul exposes exactly the sort of intellectual dishonesty and inconsistency that we have come to expect from Republican politicians and their media propagandists. In treating King reverentially while treating Paul unconscionably, Republicans convict themselves of the most crass sort of cynicism, for when it comes to the issues under discussion, Paul is much closer to King than are they.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.