Rich Lowry is in full denunciation mode in a new column on Ron Paul, which leads him to make a number of exceptionally dim criticisms, including this one:

In the debate, Paul went on to warn against a push “to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims,” as if a country that has resorted to force of arms to save Muslims from starvation (Somalia), from ethnic cleansing (Bosnia, Kosovo), and from brutal dictators (Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya) is bristling with an undifferentiated hostility toward all Muslims. This isn’t an expression of an anti-interventionism so much as a smear. It goes beyond opposition to American foreign policy to a poisonous view of America itself.

Lowry is being deliberately misleading here. Lowry must know that Paul wasn’t talking about America, but he chooses to misrepresent what Paul meant in order to portray him as hostile to America. That’s the sort of petty nationalistic garbage that we have all come to expect from National Review over the last decade, but the good news is that far fewer people take what they have to say seriously than in the past. Paul was addressing several of his rival candidates, and the substance of what Paul was saying about the need to avoid a conflict with all Muslims was not terribly different from what Bush said when he was in office.

Many of Paul’s rivals in the current field are well-known for their alarmist views on the dangers from supposedly ubiquitous “radical Islamists,” which they define so broadly as to include virtually every Muslim who takes a critical view of U.S. foreign policy. Gingrich has recently been one of the leading contenders for the nomination, and so far as I know Lowry has never had a word to say about Gingrich’s ludicrous ranting about the dangers of shari’a being imposed in America or his demagogic overreaction to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” Bachmann is closely aligned with some of the wackier professional anti-jihadists, and Santorum has outdone most of the other alarmists with his warnings about “Islamic fascism,” which is the phrase he uses to conflate and confuse a large number of different groups of Muslims.

The context for Paul’s remarks about hostility toward Muslims was the exchange over Iran. Paul was responding to one of the more alarmist anti-jihadist candidates, and he was arguing that it was foolish to believe that jihadist violence was provoked solely by “who we are,” because this misunderstanding is a recipe for endless conflict. America isn’t bristling with “an undifferentiated hostility toward all Muslims,” but quite a few of Paul’s rivals are, and an honest analysis would acknowledge that. The interventionists among the anti-jihadists may try to deflect this charge by pointing out their support for wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, which they present as benevolent acts of liberation, but what those wars all have in common is that they are collectively responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. For that reason, these wars provoke resentment among most Muslims, and violent reaction from some. When it comes to Iran, every other Republican candidate favors launching yet another war that will confirm in the minds of the vast majority of Muslims that the United States is hostile to them. If anyone is encouraging a “poisonous view of America,” it would be the people calling for the U.S. government to start another unnecessary war.