After his fourth-place showing in Florida, Ron Paul, by then in Nevada, told supporters he had been advised by friends that he would do better if only he dumped his foreign policy views, which have been derided as isolationism.
Not going to do it, said Dr. Paul to cheers. And why should he?
Observing developments in U.S. foreign and defense policy, Paul's views seem as far out in front of where America is heading as John McCain's seem to belong to yesterday's Bush-era bellicosity.
Consider. In December, the last U.S. troops left Iraq. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now says that all U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan will end in 18 months.
The strategic outposts of empire are being abandoned.
The defense budget for 2013 is $525 billion, down $6 billion from 2012. The Army is to be cut by 75,000 troops; the Marine Corps by 20,000. Where Ronald Reagan sought a 600-ship Navy, the Navy will fall from 285 ships today to 250. U.S. combat aircraft are to be reduced by six fighter squadrons and 130 transport aircraft.
Republicans say this will reduce our ability to fight and win two land wars at once -- say, in Iran and Korea. Undeniably true.
Why, then, is Ron Paul winning the argument?
The hawkishness of the GOP candidates aside, the United States, facing its fourth consecutive trillion-dollar deficit, can no longer afford to sustain all its alliance commitments, some of which we made 50 years ago during a Cold War that ended two decades ago, in a world that no longer exists.
As our situation is new, said Abraham Lincoln, we must think and act anew.
As Paul argues, why close bases in the U.S. when we have 700 to 1,000 bases abroad? Why not bring the troops home and let them spend their paychecks here?
Begin with South Korea. At last report, the United States had 28,000 troops on the peninsula. But why, when South Korea has twice the population of the North, an economy 40 times as large, and access to U.S. weapons, the most effective in the world, should any U.S. troops be on the DMZ? Or in South Korea?
U.S. forces there are too few to mount an invasion of the North, as Gen. MacArthur did in the 1950s. And any such invasion might be the one thing to convince Pyongyang to fire its nuclear weapons to save the hermit kingdom.
But if not needed to defend the South, and a U.S. invasion could risk nuclear reprisal, what are U.S. troops still doing there?
Answer: They are on the DMZ as a tripwire to bring us, from the first day of fighting, into a new land war in Asia that many American strategists believe we should never again fight.