Tonight the GOP convention will broadcast a video tribute to Ron Paul, which will then be followed with a speech by Rand, his son, the Senator from Kentucky.
It has been less than a decade since the Iraq War was launched, and already the Republican party is forced to acknowledge a wing that is non-interventionist. Think about how remarkable that is. Insiders know just how disorganized the 2008 Ron Paul campaign turned out to be. And how despised he was by so many in the party. Four years later he is a more important figure in the party that Rudy Giuliani. He is the leader of a major faction.
This doesn’t mean we’re going to get a reasonable foreign policy soon. But it is something to celebrate.
My own view has been that a sensible foreign policy will not be possible without a new kind of fusionism. On the one hand there must be the non-interventionists like Paul–I proudly call myself an isolationist. They provide the vision, even the romance of America standing independent from the corruption of European or Middle-Eastern intrigues.
On the other hand, we need the expertise and statesmanship that are prized by foreign policy realists. We need them to explain why this or that intervention is unwise. We need them to understand and pursue the diplomatic means to avoid war. After interviewing and observing him at length, I was drawn to the candidacy of Jon Huntsman precisely because I saw in him the possibility of a “real” realist. (Daniel Larison and I could fight about whether that was an illusion another time.) I also happen to believe that a coalition against stupid wars has to be transpartisan, just as the interventionist coalition has been able to capture the high places of both parties.
In other words, we need people who believe as a matter of principle that elective wars are destructive nonsense. And we need other people who know why some particular elective war is nonsense as a matter of analysis. Idealists and experts.
But there is a problem. Currently the realists aren’t holding their end of my proposed bargain, at least politically. They may not even be interested in it. Consider that during the Iraq War, a much balleyhooed “realist” like Chuck Hagel cast a vote for the war itself. His only “realist” contribution came once the war was politically toxic for Republicans. He creased his forehead with some gravitas and made frustrated noises and… well that was about it. The Iraq Study group, supposedly made up of tough realists, just rolled over dead after issuing its own chin-stroking report. That was the entirety of the “realist” response to the Iraq War.
So those of us who dream of saner days in policymaking should take a moment tonight to appreciate everything the Paul faction has done. Currently they are the only political force capable of electing House and Senate members who are reliable anti-war voters no matter which party holds the Executive office. They are the only political faction educating their constituents on these issues. They are the only one reaching out to other Republicans to build consensus on them. Yes they are a dreadfully small force. But try to name a single “realist” politician who can be trusted to vote and argue against intervention when the pressure is really applied to “do something” in Syria or Iran. I can’t think of one. Not yet.
And so I’ve come to the temporary conclusion that the only way we may ever see dependable realists is to keep growing the Paul coalition of peace-loving Republicans. We need more of Rand Paul and Justin Amash. We need more institutions dedicated to peace as a matter of principle. Perhaps once these radicals make the political process safe for peace, we’ll get the experts and wise men on board.
So yes, I’ll be cheering for Rand tonight.