Ron Paul Foreign Policy Ad

I haven't seen this until this morning, but this is a video put out by a PAC supporting Ron Paul's campaign. I don't suspect the content of the video will sit well with many conservatives who like to think of the presence of US military forces as at best largely beneficial to the host state, and at worst, mostly benign. In spite of the pressures to cut budgets and downsize government, I think the Republican party is still largely composed of people that take a very militaristic view of American foreign policy and how we should conduct ourselves on the world stage. That said, I would imagine that this sort of thing is largely baked in as this policy position is not new for Ron Paul and probably doesn't matter too much in terms of swaying voters one way or the other. Nevertheless, the video is pretty impressive insofar as its bluntness is concerned.  

(Video via Steve Clemmons at the Washington Note) 

Michael Flynn

About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

3 Replies to “Ron Paul Foreign Policy Ad”

  1. There are a number of things that are interesting about it. I think you’re right that it won’t play well with most Republicans, but the ad is nonetheless framed in a very different way than it would be if it had been put out by a Democratic candidate from the left fringe. It makes appeals to nationalism, implies that Texas is the heartland, plays on fears of China and Russia, etc.
    Another thing I find interesting about the add is its response to the frequent claim the’s isolationist. He’s anti-interventionist, yes, but that’s not the same. The same misunderstanding of isolationism leads people to describe certain periods of US history as exhibiting an isolationist foreign policy, or to describe Washington’s Farewell Address as advocating isolationism. How did we reach a point in history where we think that opposition to invading countries that maybe kinda sorta pose a threat, maybe, and then occupying them for a decade afterwards, is synonymous with not wanting to have any engagement with the international system whatsoever?

  2. Hi Phil, good to hear from you. Sorry it’s been so quiet on my end lately.
    I agree that the ad is framed for a different audience. Still, I find some of the references in there interesting to the extent that the ad evokes images of US troops misbehaving in ways that many Americans, especially more conservative Americans, probably tend to downplay, disregard, etc. There is some effort to blunt those comments through references to “bad information” but the references to torture and killings with little or no consequences was still surprising to me. But I suppose this really resonates with more of that traditional small-government conservative element where there is perhaps still greater mistrust of a large standing military as a threat to individual liberties and freedoms.
    As to the isolationist issue, it’s true that even most individuals who have been labeled as isolationists were really not isolationists in the strict sense of the word. Most states within the US were engaged in the international system to some extent through economic/trading relationships, but one of the big differences seems to have come in the form of preferences over the degree of militarism and intervention as you mention. Many southern states at the turn of the century tended to favor free-riding off of British efforts to secure trade routes and saw little need for the US to build up its own naval forces as a result. Especially since those naval forces would probably be used to compete more aggressively with the British, and other European states to which the south sent most of its agricultural products, for access to other markets overseas. I’ve really enjoyed Peter Trubowitz’s book “Defining the National Interest” when I’ve taught my AFP class. He does a great job of looking at some of these issues and how they’ve changed over time and how the economic interests of states helps to shape their perceptions of what constitutes the “national interest.”
    Perhaps the label may also have some roots in the distinction between high and low politics. Even here, things like Washington’s farewell address, as you mention, really do not promote a position that could be construed as strictly isolationist. He clearly understands the potential for need of temporary alliances at certain times. But overall I can see how, given this distinction, people could make a case for using the term “isolationist,” even as they might push for engaging in the international system in other ways that may fall under the rubric of low politics.
    I think the post-war era has, for many people, made the idea American internationalism and leadership synonymous with military force. I think this speaks to the issues you raised this morning concerning the idea of American “exceptionalism.” Perhaps many individuals link the notion of American leadership in the realm of democracy and values with our position as a military superpower. Being seen to fall behind on the latter, or abdicate our “duties” in that sphere arguably has direct implications for our ability to pursue the former. WWII and the Cold War really linked the issue of American military power (or exceptionalism, if you will) with the idea of exceptionalism in the realm of democracy and liberty to a degree previously unseen.

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