The Middle East Policy of Rep. Ron Paul

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EMET does not, as a matter of policy, support or oppose political candidates or any political party. However, we feel it appropriate to comment substantively on a political figure’s foreign policy positions, especially those jeopardizing the national security of the United States and her allies, including Israel.

With Republican Congressman Ron Paul coming in a close third in the Iowa presidential caucus, we must look seriously at his foreign policy views, particularly on the Middle East and Israel, and ask whether such views are suitable for a commander-in-chief charged with the security of the United States during a period of conflict with a determined Islamic enemy.

Much attention has been paid, since Paul’s strong showing in Iowa, to statements issued in Rep. Paul’s newsletter publications. Many of these newsletters contain material on domestic matters (such as race relations) that may be objectionable, but one of the most troubling statements on the foreign policy front relates to credence given to a conspiracy theory blaming the Mossad for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. From an April 1993 edition of the newsletter:

It was only a matter of a few days after the World Trade Center bombing before Mohammad A. Salameh was arrested. Is he guilty? Who knows? Recall that shortly after the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended and accusations were made. Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists matters little.

This statement shows a susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking, which, while contrary to any good analysis, is particularly dangerous when considering the Middle East. The Arab world is fraught with all manner of ludicrous and delusional conspiracy theories about the Jews and Israel, and that a potential American Commander-in-Chief would give them any credence is deeply troubling. Even if, as Rep. Paul claims, he was not the author of the newsletters in question, then at the very least he hired and supervised, or failed to supervise, individuals who maintained these beliefs. Anyone who genuinely considers the possibility that Israel would intentionally bomb an American civilian building for the sole purpose of framing Islamic terrorists, cannot ever be an ally of or, indeed, even neutral in regards to Israel.

The other interesting element of the quote is the use of the word “retaliation.” The assumption that any act of terrorism committed by Muslims must be the result of U.S. behavior, and, therefore, justifiable is a hallmark of Paul’s policies and is deeply troubling. A perfect illustration occurred in Paul’s remarks during the December 15th Iowa Republican debate. “… [T]o say all Muslims are the same is dangerous talk,” he stated. “They don’t come to kill us because we are free and prosperous. Do they go to Switzerland and Sweden? I mean that’s absurd.”

Of course all Muslims are not the same. No one is suggesting that they are. Paul’s claim that Muslims want to harm us “because we are bombing them” ignores the reality that Islamists have deeply-held religious and ideological beliefs that mandate jihad against non-believers, the spread of Sharia, and the dominance of an Islamic caliphate. We know this because not just Islamic terrorists, but Muslim jurists, thinkers and policy-makers say so routinely, as evidenced by a wide collection of Arabic-language video and transcripts available from translation services like MEMRI.

Ironically the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police recognizes better than does Rep. Paul the reality of jihadist motivations, writing in a 2006 report summary, that Switzerland was both home to, and a target for, Islamist terrorists.

Furthermore, which Muslims exactly does Paul claim the United States bombed prior to the 1993 “retaliation” bombing?

Paul blames Israel for much of the faults of the Middle East and, according to former Paul staffer Eric Dondero, has privately expressed his wish that Israel not exist. Dondero writes,

He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the American taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.

Paul has attempted to create the impression that his stance on Israel is motivated not by anti-Zionism, but, rather, by a principled position on independent national sovereignty. He points to his voting against condemning Israel for the 1981 Osirak reactor bombing, and claims that our “interference” with Israel is to their detriment. Said Paul in a November presidential debate in Washington,

We interfere with them when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that’s their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the ’80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it’s none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves.

EMET believes that a close American-Israeli security alliance is to the benefit of both nations, but we understand that one could make the opposing argument that Israel is burdened by its American alliance in good faith. However Paul’s stance is disingenuous, as evidenced by his remarks on the House floor on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza that began in December 2008. Paul claimed that Hamas was “encouraged by and really started by Israel,” much as he blames the U.S. for the rise of Al Qaeda. In interviews with Iranian state television, Press TV, he described Gaza as a “concentration camp.” Far from wanting to free Israel to see to its own national security, Paul seizes upon occasions when Israel acts to ensure its security, as in Operation Cast Lead, to condemn it and, by extension, the United States.

Paul prefers pat answers that blame America and Israel to conducting serious investigation of the motivations of our self-declared enemies. Indeed Paul’s belief in American-centric grievance terrorism denies agency to other countries and cultures. He refuses to take into account any historical, cultural or political developments prior to America’s rise to superpower status. Paul’s only solution is a return to American isolationism as a foreign policy.

Paul believes that if Washington ceases to support and ally itself with the Jewish state, then a large number of America’s problems with the Muslim world will disappear. But suppose that a President Paul initiated a foreign policy in which the U.S. government didn’t defend Israel in the United Nations Security Council, recognized “Palestine” as a nation, called on Israel to negotiate with that state, and stopped the sale of American weapons or technology to the Jewish state. Would these actions prompt the Islamist or Muslim worlds to reward us with better behavior?

Certainly, there is plenty of evidence to suggest they would not, just by examining the past three years. President Barack Obama is markedly less supportive of Israel than was President George W. Bush. Obama made improved relations with the Muslim world a cornerstone of his foreign policy, as delineated in his Cairo declaration in 2009. Based on the Paul logic, positive results should come from the Muslim world, but we see no evidence of its becoming more supportive of the United States. Have the Palestinians been more willing to compromise? No. The Palestinian Authority seems to be approaching the even more extreme and radical group, Hamas, with which it now plans to merge. Also, the PA has unilaterally pushed for statehood recognition by the United Nations, an effort the Obama Administration has opposed. And has the rest of the Muslim world become more cooperative with the United States? Not at all. Pakistan hid Osama Bin Laden until we found and killed him, and it continues to support the Taliban in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia still produces textbooks and religious materials filled with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish bigotry. And Iran still pushes ahead with nuclear weapons production.

We have every reason to suspect, therefore, that the Middle East’s reaction to an even softer Ron Paul approach to diplomacy would be greater intransigence.

Paul pretends that this reality does not exist or that it does not matter. Osama bin Laden should not have been killed, under Paul’s reasoning. Iran is not trying to acquire a nuclear bomb, he claims, and if it were, that’s Teheran’s choice. “If I were an Iranian, I’d like to have a nuclear weapon, too, because you gain respect from them,” he told Iowans.

Paul’s foreign policy has a seductive attraction. If all the troubles America endures are because of her actions, then ceasing these actions is a cure-all. But this is simply not so. A retreat to some mythical isolationist foreign policy is as impossible as it is undesirable. It would cede regional hegemony to national and non-state actors who have their own innate motivations for wishing death to those they label “infidels,” and make the world, America, and Israel, infinitely more insecure.

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About the Author

Kyle Shideler
Kyle Shideler is the Director of Research and Communications for the Endowment for Middle East Truth

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