Ron Paul on Israel

Jan 042012

In this video, Ron Paul talks about Israel and Gaza:

Two things:

First, it’s appalling that he’d speak to the state-controlled Iranian television at all. By doing that, he sanctions a repressive dictatorship and avowed enemy of the United States.

Second, he’s not just saying that we shouldn’t be meddling in Israel’s problems but instead leave her to manage her own self-defense as she sees fit. He explicitly criticizes Israel on moral grounds, citing her as the aggressor in the conflict, and he sides with the Palestinian terrorists.

Oy vey.

Ron Paul on Foreign Policy

Dec 232011

Recently, I spent some time watching videos of Ron Paul speaking on foreign policy, particularly Iran. Ever since my webcast discussion of his views, I’ve wanted take a closer look, because my sense is that his views are not merely mistaken, but reveal some deep error in his principles.

In a recent editorial — What Ron Paul Thinks of America — Dorothy Rabinowitz writes:

Ron Paul’s efforts on behalf of Iran’s right to the status of misunderstood victim continued apace. On the Hannity show following the debate, Dr. Paul urged the host to understand that Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had never mentioned any intention of wiping Israel off the map. It was all a mistranslation, he explained. What about Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust? A short silence ensued as the candidate stared into space. He moved quickly on to a more secure subject. “They’re just defending themselves,” he declared.

So is that a fair recap of his views? Well, you can see for yourself in the following videos.

(1) Iowa GOP Debate: 11 Aug 2011

(2) Ron Paul with Sean Hannity: 22 Sep 2011

(3) Ron Paul with Sean Hannity: 15 Oct 2011 (?)

(4) Ron Paul on Fox News Sunday: 6 Nov 2011 (?)

(5) GOP Debate: 15 Dec 2011

(6) Ron Paul with Sean Hannity: 15 Dec 2011

So what do I think of all that? Oy, that’s a bit hard to untangle. Mostly, however, I see deep-rooted moral equivalence.

Ron Paul flatly refuses to draw any distinction between (mostly) free countries like the US and Israel and repressive dictatorial theocracies like Iran. He seems to think that every government is legitimate, including governments run by batshit-crazy terrorists who repress their own citizens and threaten their own neighbors. Hence, he supposes, every regime is entitled to defend itself against its perceived enemies, including with nuclear weapons.

That basic view — that moral equivalence between nations — is why Ron Paul repeatedly stresses the sheer number of nukes possessed by various countries — without any regard for the principles, policies, or even sanity of the regime. That’s also why he regards Iran has having just as much right to the “respect” afforded to nuclear regimes as does Israel. Perhaps worse, he can’t even fathom that Iran might be allah-crazy enough use nuclear weapons offensively against other nations (i.e. Israel, then America). He’s not just ignorant of that possibility: he’s willfully blind to it.

Ultimately, the serious threat posed by Iran and other totalitarian Islamic regimes could easily become reality under any Ron Paul presidency. He would open the door to the slew of state-sponsored terrorist groups seeking to destroy America and establish a global caliphate. As I said in my webcast discussion, if you think that Obama can destroy the economy with more controls, you’re right… but just think about the economic devastation inflicted by a nuke in Manhattan. Iran doesn’t need a land army to do that — just the nuclear weapons that Ron Paul urges us to permit Iran to develop.

Contrary to Ron Paul’s moral equivance in foreign policy, other nations ought to be judged based on their respect for rights. A nation that respects rights is not a threat to other free nations — and likely would be an ally. Dictatorial nations must be clearly identified as such, then monitored for threats. Serious threats should be swiftly and decisively eliminated. Ron Paul will not do that, not because the threats don’t exist, but because he refuses to see them.

Even when military action would not be proper, dictatorial regimes should be identified as morally illegitimate, clearly and forthrightly. Any American president with a shred of love for liberty ought to say to despots, “Your regime is despotic and vicious. Your power is unjustly obtained and unjustly exercised. Your citizens, if they value their lives, ought to rise up in revolt, then establish a constitutional government based on the principles of individual rights.” Ron Paul won’t do that, not even to Iran, because he doesn’t draw moral distinctions between nations.

What will Ron Paul do instead? He suggests that America befriend Iran, a barbaric theocracy openly seeking to destroy us. After all, he says, we used diplomacy with the USSR and China, so why not use it with Iran? Basically, he wants America to adopt a stance of weakness and cowardice — even now, while the threat is merely potential and could be defused at minimal risk to American lives.

Ron Paul’s views on these matters are so fantastically twisted that I can’t even regard them as any kind of “foreign policy.” He’s willfully blind to the proper moral principles and to the basic facts — and hence, he would be the best possible ally of our sworn enemies. Although I’m far more concerned about domestic than foreign policy in this election, Ron Paul’s foreign policy is so bad as to disqualify him, in my view. America would not survive four years with him at the helm, I don’t think.

Videos: An Early Look at the Election and GOP Candidates

Dec 162011

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I took an early look at the 2012 election, then surveyed four GOP candidates — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson. I’ve posted all five questions as videos, and so here they are!

The first question was:

What’s your view of the upcoming 2012 election? By what standards do you judge the presidential candidates?

My answer, in brief:

In a presidential candidate, I’m not looking for either John Galt or “Anyone But Obama.” I’m looking for someone who will do more good than harm to the cause of liberty in America.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The second question was:

Should I support Mitt Romney for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Romney deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Mitt Romney is a smooth talker, but his proposal reveal that he has no understanding of individual rights or the economic problems facing America. He’s no better than Obama – and likely worse, because the opposition will vanish. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The third question was:

Should I support Newt Gingrinch for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Gingrinch deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Newt Gingrich is explicitly theocratic, and a major threat to the separation of church and state. He advocates and practices “active governance,” meaning right-wing social engineering, not liberty. Like Obama, he is enamored of bold transformative ideas, which could be okay or horrible for liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The fourth question was:

Should I support Ron Paul for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Paul deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?

My answer, in brief:

Ron Paul is not even libertarian, but a neo-confederate conservative Christian, albeit with some grasp of basic economics. He’s a rationalist, driven by ideology, and not open to facts. He would be very dangerous to elect as president, not just for actual policies, but as a supposed advocate of liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

The fifth question was:

Should I support Gary Johnson for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Johnson deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election? Also, should supporters of Gary Johnson vote for him on a Libertarian Party ticket?

My answer, in brief:

Gary Johnson is not John Galt. However, he’s fundamentally oriented toward facts, plus he has good basic principles about liberty. Alas, he was shut out from the race by the media and the establishment GOP. I recommend voting for him in the primary, as well as in the general election, if he runs as the Libertarian Party candidate. I still reject the Libertarian Party, but a protest vote can be delimited to endorse him and not the party.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Video: The Morality of Torturing Terrorists and Criminals

Sep 202011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed the morality of torturing terrorists and criminals. The question was:

Is it moral to torture criminals and/or terrorists? We supposedly were able to track down Osama Bin Laden with information obtained by torturing captured Al Qaeda prisoners. Is it moral to torture criminals, terrorists or other evildoers to gain useful information to fight crime or help win a war? If so, should there be any limits on when and how torture should be used by the government?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you like it, please share it! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

Law of Treason

Feb 252011

Law professor Hanah Volokh kindly sent me the following about the law of treason yesterday, in response to my fumbling remarks in last Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast:

I was just listening to your Rationally Selfish Webcast that I missed last weekend. I’m not an expert in the law of treason, but I do know a little bit about it. Treason does not actually require a formal state of war or aid to a declared enemy in war.

Black’s Law Dictionary, which is probably the most widely used legal dictionary, defines treason as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.”

The current federal statute criminalizing treason is 18 U.S.C. section 2381, and it reads, “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason . . . .”

Prosecution for things like espionage, terrorist acts, arson, sabotage, and conspiracy are much more common than for treason, though, even if the acts committed are technically within the definition of treason.

A person can commit treason by making war against the state in the absence of a pre-existing war. If you act to overthrow the government, that counts as treason. This idea was behind the actions taken against communists in the U.S. during the 1950s.

Confederate soldiers and government officials also committed treason against the United States even though it was not a declared war. The Confederacy took the legal position that secession was permitted and they were not treasonous because they no longer owed allegiance to the United States. The Union took the legal position that secession was not permitted and the military action was about restoring the union and putting down an illegal rebellion. After reunification, the Confederate soldiers and officials were considered to have committed treason, though the vast majority of them were pardoned.

Right now, America has many undeclared enemies, thanks to its weak and appeasing foreign policy. As a result, many actions that should be prosecuted as treasonous, such as inviting the heads of terrorist states to speak at universities — are not subject to any kind of legal action. However, my question would be how “enemies” should be defined, given a proper foreign policy. Clearly, the category would include any states with which we’re at war. As Hanah notes, people or groups attempting to wage war from within (or without) are also properly considered “enemies.” Beyond that, I could only see that the term should apply to states that a reasonable person would understand to be committed to overthrowing the US government. For various reasons, it might not be worth waging war on such states — perhaps they’re so poor as to be unable to inflict damage and/or our military is occupied with a serious threat elsewhere. Nonetheless, it would be treason to assist their efforts.


Biddle on the NYC Mosque

Sep 172010

The Fall 2010 issue of The Objective Standard features a major new article by Craig Biddle, “The Ground Zero Mosque, the Spread of Islam, and How America Should Deal with Such Efforts“.

Craig Biddle explains the crucial importance of recognizing that we are at war with a deadly enemy — and the importance of defending America based on the principles of individual rights and the rue of law.

One key quote:

If we want to protect civilized society, we must unwaveringly uphold the principles of civilized society — no matter how justifiably outraged we may become about the irrationalities and injustices perpetrated by our enemies. If, in an effort to stop Muslims from destroying America, we trample individual rights and the rule of law, we will have surrendered the very thing we were supposed to be fighting to protect.

Thank you, Craig, for a well-written and well-reasoned piece!

(The rest of the Fall 2010 lineup looks excellent as well.)

The Greater Danger: Islamic or Christian Dictatorship?

Aug 312010

This video of Brigitte Gabriel discussing the barbarity of Islam has been making the rounds on blogs and social media recently:

(Note: This is a multi-part video series.)

Diana and I heard Brigitte Gabriel speak at the same LPR 2009 conference that Yaron Brook spoke at. She is a staunch Christian who took an uncompromising stand against the Islamic threat to America. She told some heart-rending stories of life as a Christian under Islamist rule in Lebanon. She made a compelling case that the Islamists want destroy America. And she had the mostly-conservative crowd eating out of her hand.

And she’s just one of many eloquent Christian conservatives out there on the lecture circuit making their case against the Islamic threat — and arguing that the only solution is for this country to recommit to Christian values.

For this reason, I regard her and her allies as a serious long-term danger to America, even though her criticisms of the barbarity of Islam are correct. She correctly identifies the current problem, but she also offers the wrong solution.

Let me explain why I regard the Christians as the greater long-term danger to America — even while I also agree that the Islamists are the greater immediate short-term threat to this country.

Based on my reading of American culture and sense of life, I personally don’t think this country can actually be conquered by the Islamists. Yes, the Islamists will try as hard as they can. And yes, they could do a tremendous amount of damage (with more 9/11-style attacks or worse). And yes, they could kill many Americans in the process. But they couldn’t actually take over and impose Sharia law on us.

There’s still a general “ornery streak” alive and well amongst many Americans that would reject any such an attempt to subjugate us to Sharia law. Many Americans would fight back by any means necessary — especially in the much-maligned “Red states” where that ornery streak runs deep and where the populace is well-armed.

(This is in contrast to Europe, where I think many of those countries could fall under Sharia law due to their internal weaknesses).

But I do think that if the Islamists successfully committed more major terrorist attacks on US soil, it would arouse a backlash by decent Americans seeking some kind of forceful response. Conservatives like Brigitte Gabriel would exploit this and use pro-American rhetoric to rouse Americans against the Islamists. And this breed of conservatives might even implement a somewhat better foreign policy, at least for a while.

But they also would couple that with appeals to Christianity, sacrifice, faith, etc. — all in the name of being “pro-America”. Those are the sorts of appeals that the neocons, John McCain, and other bad conservatives have been making for many years — and which would strike a renewed chord in an America shaken up by a string of deadly attacks at home and abroad. Americans would likely reject our current policy of appeasement (correctly seeing it as having weakened this country), but would instead embrace an even worse nationalism. And without a firm commitment to individual rights, any new conservative nationalist government would very likely impose a variety of “emergency” measures that might be superficially reasonable (and might even be appropriate in short-term wartime settings), but would somehow never be repealed.

If dictatorship ever comes to America, it won’t be an Islamist one. Instead, it will more likely be a Christian one, but one which would arise as a direct result of our current weak approach to the real and immediate Islamist threats. Furthermore, such a Christianist regime could gain traction here in a way that an Islamist regime never could because the Christianist regime would have a superficially “pro-American” veneer.

Tellingly, polls taken in the past few years show the following:

Given these facts, I think a Christian dictatorship could appeal to many Americans in a time of crisis, especially if it came to power on a platform of fighting back against the Islamists — and if it were viewed as the only moral alternative to the policies of appeasement and secularism that allowed such attacks to happen in the first place.

Hence, it’s critical to both oppose the immediate and serious Islamist danger, but also be alert to the Christian totalitarian threat.

Back in 1980, many Americans (correctly) recognized the USSR as a threat, but also thought that we could use the Islamist mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan as allies against the communists. Of course today the USSR is no more, but the Islamists are now a real danger to us in a way that few (myself included) anticipated 30 years ago.

But as more conservatives start speaking out against Islam, I want to highlight the importance of closely examining what they stand for in addition to what they are against.

And on a positive note, I also wanted to highlight the importance of offering Americans an alternative principled self-interested approach to foreign policy that doesn’t rely on appeals to faith, altruism, and sacrifice. Fortunately, we have such an approach to offer. Let’s hope our message reaches enough Americans before it’s too late.

Hsieh AT OpEd: The Real Problem Is Not The Mosque But The Nukes

Aug 182010

The August 17, 2010 American Thinker has published another one of my OpEds, this time on foreign policy:

The Real Problem Is Not the Mosque But the Nukes

My theme is the NYC Mosque would become a non-issue if the US would adopt a proper foreign policy, explicit identify our enemy, and take the necessary action against Islamic Totalitarianism and its primary state sponsor Iran.

I also cite and quote John Lewis’ article from The Objective Standard, “No Substitute for Victory’: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism“.

Here is the opening of my piece:

All the energy devoted to this issue of the Ground Zero Mosque is distracting us from the far more serious problem of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If this more fundamental problem is properly addressed, then the NYC mosque issue will become irrelevant. Conversely, if America doesn’t deal with this more fundamental problem, then any legal or political maneuvers to stop the NYC mosque — even if successful — will make little difference in the long run.

Opponents of the mosque argue that allowing its construction near the ruins of the World Trade Center would symbolize America’s weakness and would embolden anti-American, anti-Western Islamists around the world. While true, the reason why America is perceived as weak against the Islamists is because we are. And nothing illustrates this more than our current policy (or lack thereof) toward Iran’s nuclear program…

(Read the full text of “The Real Problem Is Not the Mosque But the Nukes“.)

How To Truly Honor Our Soldiers

Jun 012010

While on vacation recently in New York City, Diana and I attended a nice get-together with some local Objectivists. That evening, we had the pleasure of chatting with another Objectivist visiting NYC who was also an active-duty officer in the US Army.

Because I don’t want him to get into trouble with his superiors, I’ll refer to him by the pseudonym of “Xavier” or “X”.

“Xavier” is a captain in the US Army. He commands an armor (i.e., tank) company, in charge of over 90 soldiers. He participated in the initial invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein, and he has served 3 tours in Iraq. He is currently stationed in the US, but will likely be deployed next to Afghanistan.

Based on his experience, he confirmed several of the points that writers such as Elan Journo and John Lewis have repeatedly made. According to Captain X:

1) If the US military were left free to do its job, they could eliminate the threat of Islamic Totalitarianism in very short order. The US military has the technological and physical capabilities to easily win the war.

2) As one example what our military is capable of, the invasion of Iraq and the breathtakingly swift overthrow of Saddam Hussein illustrates one brief episode when our soldiers were left relatively free to operate as they should.

3) The biggest obstacle to winning the war is our civilian leadership. The failure of our political leaders to correctly identify the enemy and take appropriate action to defeat them places our soldiers in an untenable position where they are not allowed to win.

4) One egregious example of our civilian leaders handcuffing our soldiers is their imposition of contradictory rules of engagement. Our soldiers are told that they are allowed to defend themselves from attack. But if they fire at an enemy fighter who isn’t clearly holding a weapon, then they could be punished for using excessive force. Soldiers are thus always forced to second-guess themselves while in combat, for fear of legal repercussions afterwards.

Despite all this, Captain X plans on making a career in the military. He loves this country, he loves his job, and he regards military service as a noble profession. He and most American soldiers want to defend our country, and they want to do what it takes to defeat our enemies.

To the extent that our civilian leaders prevent them from doing that and instead waste their capacities in various altruistic and/or “humanitarian” missions, they are merely placing these brave soldiers’ lives at risk in a form of useless sacrifice.

As Alex Epstein wrote in his recent Memorial Day piece, “What We Owe Our Soldiers“:

Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily — because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.

Our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen deserve better than this.

Because of their position as active-duty soldiers, men like Captain X can’t freely speak out and criticize the policies of their civilian political superiors.

But we can.

If we wish to truly honor the men and women who are selfishly risking their lives to protect their (and our) freedoms, those of us who are able to speak out should.

We should demand that our government pursue a rational foreign policy based on defending American self-interest. We should demand that our leaders explicitly identify Islamic Totalitarianism as the enemy and that they explicitly pursue the goal of overwhelming victory over that enemy. And we should demand that our military be allowed to achieve that victory by all necessary means.

In short, we must exercise the precious freedoms (such as freedom of speech) that prior generations of soldiers have fought and died for, and use those freedoms to defend the ability of the current generation of soldiers who are now fighting (and dying) to preserve them. That’s in our self-interest as Americans — and a matter of simple justice towards those serving in our military.

Our battle won’t be with bullets and artillery shells, but rather with ideas.

If you need “intellectual ammunition” for this fight, the following articles and books make a good starting point, both to read and to recommend to friends, family, and elected officials:

“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense
Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein
The Objective Standard, Spring 2006

“No Substitute for Victory”: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism
John Lewis
The Objective Standard, Winter 2006-2007

America’s Self-Crippled Foreign Policy
An Interview with Yaron Brook, Elan Journo, and Alex Epstein
The Objective Standard, Fall 2009

Winning the Unwinnable War
Edited by Elan Journo

Nothing Less than Victory
John Lewis

Although I regard President Ronald Reagan as a very mixed politician, I agree with this quote:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Are we willing to fight for that freedom? The choice is ours.

(Also cross-posted to CapMag.)

The Soft-Spoken Genocidal Muslim at UCSD

May 132010

This video — particularly the last few seconds — contains the most chilling exchange I’ve ever watched. It’s David Horowitz drawing out a soft-spoken female student from UCSD… who also happens to be a Jew-hating, Hitler-admiring, lustfully genocidal Muslim.

She ought to be expelled from the university, as a threat to safety. No professor should be willing to have her in class, nor should any student be willing to sit in the same room as her.

If she’s not a citizen, she ought to be expelled from the United States — immediately — as a threat to national security. If she is a citizen, she ought to be closely watched by the government for any sign of or association with terrorists, then charged and imprisoned accordingly. Anything less — which is what I expect, sadly — would be a shameful failure to defend America against its sworn enemies.

(Via Adam Mossoff, who said, “This girl is so soft-spoken about expressing her support of global genocide of Jews, it’s like watching a clip from the Nuremburg trials in which the Nazis plainly described their atrocities as if this was no different to them from describing a trip to the beach (and it wasn’t).”)

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