Jacob Sullum

Reporters routinely describe Ron Paul's foreign policy views as "isolationist" because he opposes the promiscuous use of military force. This is like calling him a recluse because he tries to avoid fistfights.

The implicit assumption that violence is the only way to interact with the world reflects the oddly circumscribed nature of foreign policy debates in mainstream American politics. It shows why Paul's perspective is desperately needed in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As the Texas congressman has patiently explained many times, he supports international trade, travel, migration, diplomacy and cultural exchange. Furthermore, he supports military action when it is necessary for national defense -- in response to the 9/11 attacks, for example.

The inaccurate "isolationist" label marks Paul as a fringe character whose views can be safely ignored. Given the dire consequences of reckless interventionism, that clearly is not the case.

This week, the U.S. officially ended its war in Iraq, nearly nine years after launching it based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to us because he had weapons of mass destruction.

The war, which replaced a brutal dictator with a corrupt, wobbly elected government that may not be able to defend Iraq's borders or maintain peace in a country riven by sectarian violence, cost the U.S. $800 billion and nearly 4,500 American lives. More than 100,000 civilians were killed during the invasion and its aftermath.

The regime installed by the U.S. in Afghanistan to replace al-Qaida's Taliban allies is even weaker and more corrupt than the one in Iraq. Ten years after the invasion, we still have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and so far the war has cost about $500 billion, 1,800 American lives and thousands of civilian casualties.

The United States would have avoided both of these costly nation-building projects if Congress had listened to Ron Paul -- or even to George W. Bush circa 2000, who (as Paul frequently notes) ran on a promise of a "humble" foreign policy that would not aim to solve all the world's problems. Now that the same people who supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are portraying Iran as an intolerable threat to national security, some Paulian skepticism surely is appropriate.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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