Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ron Paul and Barack Obama

I've spent the year trying to study the different candidates and messages regarding America's future under a new President beginning in 2008. I've particularly mentioned some candidates that I couldn't support and I think I've made my case pretty clearly as to why. But I have not spent enough time talking about the candidates and messages that I *do* believe are worthy of support.

The two candidates that I find most compelling, given my particular values and concerns, are Barack Obama and Ron Paul. They are similar in many ways and I probably could support either of them in the general election.

Each of them talk with sincerity about unity, honesty, communication, and freedom.

At present, Paul gets the edge in my book. Paul is taking the much more difficult road, however, with his principled stance against special interest and lobbying funds – and consequently his actual message and platform are much less well-known.

Obama has plenty of mainstream corporate and lobbying support which assures him a greater probability of succeeding as either a Presidential or VP candidate in the general election, but also brings with it a great deal of baggage. Obama's substantial Israeli lobby support is, I would expect, an important part of his political calculus now – to name just one example.

Both Paul and Obama seem to have a better connection to the 'lower and middle' classes that comprise over 90% of our nation (depending on your definition, of course, read on). Congressman Paul spent decades delivering the babies of young, growing families. Senator Obama quit a law firm to follow his heart-felt calling to social work in struggling Chicago neighborhoods. The surprise and disbelief on his opponent's face last week when he asked if they realized that less than 6% of the country makes more than $97,000 (the income point that was being portrayed as 'working middle class') was just priceless – and for me, very telling. Most politicians with the means to compete at this national level are so far removed from the average citizen that it is simply unreal. But Paul and Obama – through their vocational choices – have a far greater understanding than average.

I've discussed some of Obama's multiple strengths before, but I haven't said much about Paul and he has become the candidate I support most strongly. I'll discuss them both more in future posts. Today I'd like to introduce Paul.

As a Latter-Day Saint my favorite parts of the Paul message are:

1. The Constitution is an inspired document that we have all pledged to uphold. We should follow it, and if we do not intend to, we should be honest about that and discuss it.

2. We are a Christian nation and should reasonably be expected to follow the precepts Christ taught. If we live as an example to the world, we will do far more good than if we attempt to force such values at the barrel of a gun.

3. Debt is real and must be reckoned with. The sooner the better. Denial doesn't make it go away. As Paul said the other day "My personal finances would be very good if I was borrowing $1 million a month. But someday the bills will come due." Key components in the Paul platform are reckoning with our astronomically frightening debt and fostering an atmosphere in which individuals and families could do the same. By at least one measure, simply fulfilling our current debt obligations would require $175,000 from each man, woman, and child in the nation. I don't know about you, but I won't *earn* that much this year . . . and neither will my wife or sons. The vast majority of that debt is from our ever-increasing misadventures in foreign policy. The fact that – like most debt – it's only increasing is not good. Furthermore, much of our debt is on loan from 'less-than-friendly' nations like China.

4. Individual responsibility is liberating and requisite. As nations, communities, families, and individuals we should be promoting liberty and responsibilty. Paul believes that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. should be free of our national aid grants that purchase their military hardware and their indebtedness. They could then work out agreements that made more sense in the region and weren't complicated by pandering for our financial aid. [It is assumed by some in the media that this would benefit the Arab countries more than Israel, but there are a number of groups – even within Israel – arguing the reverse. Paul's consistency on the issue frees Israel's hand. Also it prevents the US from propping up dictators that surround them – like the $10 billion dollars and F16 aircraft we just sent Mushariff in Pakistan . . . not to mention all those years alternating propping up Iran and Iraq.]
Likewise, Ron Paul strongly advocates helping individuals and families break free of becoming dependent on government aid. He contends, quite convincingly, that if we were more rational in our foreign policy we would save so much money that not only would government welfare projects actually be solvent but further, individual Americans would see more money in their own pockets – which is an important step in reducing the number of people who become dependent on government aid.

5. Finally, for Ron Paul, every individual soul has worth and should not be dismissed with a label or attacked with a collective slander. When Ron Paul talks about our schoolchildren, soldiers, or immigrants, or the citizens in Iraq, Israel, Mexico, or Darfur – he has the same message. He doesn't need to tailor his message to appeal more to the Arab League or to the WTO or to Iowa veterans. If you listen to his reasoned wisdom on Iraq, for instance, you find that he has concern for both our valiant young men and women being sent into battle and the innocents that sometimes find themselves 'collateral damage'. He is not a weak pacifist or an isolationist. Indeed he strongly advocated going after bin Laden and al Queda – and still does – (remember when that was a shared goal?). But he believes that each use of our considerable might should be reasoned, clearly laid out, and executed quickly and judiciously.

Despite not being in the back pocket of any large and influential organizations, Ron Paul's message is so rational, so 'in touch with the people', so consistent, and so, well, "good" that he literally has the largest grass-roots support any presidential candidate has ever seen. His supporters put up signs and spend hours creating you-tube videos, writing letters to the editor, etc. Regardless of what you think of such efforts, please take a couple of minutes to watch one short exemplary fan-made video. Paul's words are clear and speak for themselves better than any summary I could attempt.






27 comments:

Toadicus Rex said...

Lest some misconstrue my intentions; I really like Ron Paul's message. I agree with him on literally everything; but here's the rub. Let's say he gets elected. I think when he's exposed to classified information, and put in the same role, with the same information as our current President, I think he might pursue the same course of action. I don't know. I think he's much better domestically than anyone else. I just struggle with the foreign policy; not that I disagree with the efforts. I support George Washington's suggestion that we simply STAY OUT of foreign politics, and that we not make treaties, etc. I'm just of the opinion that at this point of time, it might be too late to start that.

Doug said...

Toadicus,

Thank you for taking the time to read and post. That's one of the best things about blogs.

I think you hit the nail square on the head: that's really the question - is there classified information that would cause a reasonable person to support our unreasonable foreign policy, lol. Given the information we *have* our foreign policy seems absolutely idiotic to somebody like me - and apparently Ron Paul as well.

But let's say that such classified information existed like you suggest. I agree with you that - given how intelligent and reasonable Ron Paul is - it would cause him to pursue our *current* foreign policy. . . . he might even be able to articulate it better without giving away vital secrets.

Therefore, my follow-up question would be "How could you *not* vote for the man?" [Considering that you find him "better domestically than anyone else" *and* capable of pursuing whatever course of foreign policy squares most with the facts as he would have them.]

Toadicus Rex said...

I'll grant that Ron Paul seems like the ideal candidate, if you accept the premises you stated.

1) ...is there classified information that would cause a reasonable person to support our unreasonable foreign policy...? : That's a little like asking if I stopped beating my wife yet. I have to accept the assertion that we have an unreasonable foreign policy before I can arguably respond to the question. In my case, I don't accept the assertion.

2) ... given how intelligent and reasonable Ron Paul is.... : You're kind of baiting me here. You're making the assumption that I agree that he's reasonable and intelligent. In this case, he seems to be... but as yet I'm not convinced.

I agree that his record in congress is stellar. My main concern with him is placing himself into a box, and his foreign policy is precisely the part of his platform that is difficult for me to support.

Doug said...

I'll grant that you've accurately identified two weaknesses of my debating technique. In fact, what I'm wondering is what it takes to get you over to my side.

I'd much rather have you over here helping get the word out then trying to best you at debating and philosophy since you already seem my better at both of those (and you've only posted a couple of times).

But as for the specific content:

My main concern with him is placing himself into a box, and his foreign policy is precisely the part of his platform that is difficult for me to support

That makes sense. I could argue with you. I could point out that George Bush campaigned on a 'No nation building' platform and did a 180 when presented with a new situation. I could reiterate that I *agree* with you that the possibility exists that 'classified' information would change Paul's mind.

I even understand that you meant to emphasize the likelihood of earth-shattering 'classified' information and not any supposed inherent logic and wisdom of Mr. Paul when you made that statement (while I really liked the statement with an emphasis on the latter, lol).

But I won't argue with you. The truth is that - to borrow a Stephen Covey analogy - the 'windshield' that Paul is looking out through when considering foreign policy is wildly different than any of the other candidates. I think it is important to stop and assess the validity of that view (and whether it is at least clearer than his opponents) and not brush it under the rug.

I stand with Paul on this one. There are things I like about each of the candidates, but I agree with you that 'foreign policy' is huge. It is, in fact, his view of history and foreign policy that most attracts my vote.

Toadicus Rex said...

Ok. The things I like most about Ron Paul is everything he seems to believe domestically. And for that, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian". I certainly have issues with any candidate that would support the persistence of most social programs.

Since I really haven't addressed the actual post here, let me make an aside and say.... Barack Obama??? Surely you jest. Certainly he's the best of the Democrat candidates, but good heavens! I'd take Guiliani or even stoop so far as to take McCain over Obama. (I'm stretching on that last bit.)

I'll illustrate that. I took a "Sociology" class to fill my GE requirement during college. One of the papers dealt with the "social problem" of obesity, and what "social programs" could be enacted (made law) to curb this horrible issue. I made the statement that "weight problems are an individual problem, not a social problem. And if beyond the individual, between the individual and their doctor." That's the condensed version. The response I got back from the teacher was "Yes, but what social programs could be enforced to curb the problem?" (almost verbatim). And this was at a largely conservative university!!! (BYU, for those that are wondering)

So I can't understand at all your support of Obama.... not at all. If there's anything that attracts me to Paul, it's as I stated, the opposition to programs that Mr. Obama fully supports and would like to expand.

Ok, so anyway, back to something I actually care about. Here's my problem with the argument as stated:

If Paul's windshield is to merely criticize the war, he's pandering for votes. That's what I've seen so far. He hasn't made the statement (at least that I've seen) regarding what happens if he gets into office and finds out his windshield was cracked. Are his motives good? Sure, they appear to be. But to state categorically that he'd pull us out of Iraq without even knowing that intelligence is a logistical failure; let's say there is conclusive reason (even to Paul) to remain and conceivably extend this war. At that point he has two choices; pull out or keep it going. If he pulls out, he's being loyal to those that expected him to - and more disloyal to his conscience and the country if the intelligence learned requires secrecy. If he remains, he is disloyal to those that expect him to pull out, and if the data requires secrecy... he appears to be a charlatan, and further weakens the country, especially in the eyes of other nations.

So what do I expect of a good candidate - suppose it were me? Well, first, I'd have to consider the fact that the sitting President is privy to intelligence that I am not. Due to this, I'd be rather careful stating that I'd go against the judgments made. I'd state my case against the actual problem (Militant Islamic Fundamentalism), and make it clear that I would do all in my power to keep America safe.

In fact, it would lean me more to Paul's side to see him actually state something along those lines, rather than simply parrot a liberal media in its criticism. It would be interesting to see someone that is "neutral" simply state that those criticizing also are not privy to said data. That's the larger issue.

I don't see Ron Paul's position; I supported President Bush because I believe him to have his conscience in line. In fact, I think to state that he is a "warmonger" is that same inductive argument; you assume that there is no intelligence supportive of the war, so you support the opposite.

And that, in a nutshell, is my argument for the war. I do not make that "intelligence lacking" assumption. In fact, the only assumption I make is that I can trust the conscience of the person in office. Is that wise? Well, I suppose that is the crux of the issue. And if you support Ron Paul you're doing the same.

I don't know if I've explained my argument fully here. I'm exhausted, just got back from the Thanksgiving trip about an hour ago and I'm beat. Perhaps I'll spend more time on it in the morning.

carissa said...

toadicus,

IF the president is exposed to some classified information, important enough to go to war over, do you think he should share that info with Congress or keep it to himself? It sounds like you think it's the president's role to decide when to go to war (and then go ask Congress for permission). It's not supposed to work that way. That decision is reserved for Congress alone, and to do their job correctly they should have access to any information needed to help make the decision, no?

Doug said...

Toadicus,

Lol. I really appreciated your sociology story. I teach a computer course some semesters and I try not be like that with my assignments. In all fairness, though, he was probably one of those elitists who force his undergrads to regurgitate a certain type of thinking but only listen to grad students. That happens for a lot of people. You could answer the "What kind of social programs . . ." question with "None." as a grad student and the response would be "Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant." whereas if you're an undergrad they're all like "What part of the assignment didn't you get?"

I would explain my support for Barack Obama this way:

I don't view myself as an idealogue. I almost always vote Republican because I prefer the positions of sustainable self-sufficiency to the ennervating enabling of the welfare state but when the Republicans are not willing to create an atmosphere of sustainable self-sufficiency (ie sending most of our tax money to unwise and impractical foreign conflicts) then I'm gonna look around a bit.

In a fiscally perfect world, we'd get somebody like Ron Paul who would start pushing things in the best direction (and heck, if I can do anything to help make that happen I'm going to). The Ron Paul plan has less people on the government dole but has strong provisions for assuring people are better able to support themselves in the first place. But if I'm gonna live in a nation that continues to demand such a high level of income redistribution regardless then everything I know and believe (eg Mosiah 2) tells me that redistribution should be used to help the poor and the needy *long* before it should purchase F-16's for Musharaff's dictatorship in Pakistan.

The s-chip bill was a good example for me. We have some serious economic and insurance problems in our nation. The bill simply funded a law already on the books in order to help uninsured children; out of nowhere President Bush starting pushing detailed questions about the funding levels and income ceilings that had previously been decided. Utah's Senator Hatch defended the previous decisions and championed funding it, as did [imho] many other reasonable people. But President Bush was under pressure to suddenly appear fiscally conservative - which he has never been. So at the same time he was demanding huge money to purchase weapons for supposed "allies" like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, he vetoed a small amount of money earmarked for children's health insurance. I'm sorry but I just can't support that.

If you are judging Barack Obama simply on the basis of his political party, then I would suggest you go and read some of his writings and speeches. I feel like he stands out among the Democrats just as Paul stands out among the Republicans: a fresh and reasonable voice for good in government. I can't say the same about very many of the other candidates.

Along the same vein, I had an interesting conversation with a professor friend of mine the other day. He strongly supports Romney in everything except his ideas about healthcare. As you might guess, I actually admire what he did with healthcare in Massachusetts and what he proposes nationally. It's almost the antithesis of what Ron Paul would propose, but - again - I think you have to look at the package deal. I would prefer Ron Paul's America, but in Romney's America or Obama's America then I want to see funding [supplied by money my government is taking anyways] going to help the people that need it most. And I'm going to pay close attention to how that is done, since the very idea violates many of the principles of 'good government' that I ascribe to. While I don't see anybody but Paul advocating what I consider a reasonable vision of those particular principles – amongst the other likely choices – Obama stands out for me as a principled candidate with a package deal I could support.

Also, given that this is my 'promoting peace' blog, he gets special mention here as a Democratic candidate pushing back against Hillary's foreign policy which - despite all the spin - is nearly identical to what every Republican except Paul proposes.

Finally, I agree with Carissa [thank you for your post btw] that IF there exists 'classified information' that would better justify our war in Iraq, our proposed war in Iran, our lack of proposed war with bin Laden in Pakistan . . . instead resulting in a strange 'alliance' whereby we provide them with advanced weaponry and funding even while they declare martial law and spread nuclear secrets then Constitutionally, at least, those important facts should be communicated to members of Congress who would declare war or not on that basis.

Occam's razor suggests that we don't try to account for such doubtful information and instead discuss the known facts. Has President Bush even claimed that there exist such secrets?

Even explanations from the White House have most foreign policy originating from secretive committees (note: this is not speculation, these are *known* committees) in Dick Cheney's office. His daughter Elizabeth Cheney, for instance, has been a full-time employee on the committee planning potential regime change in Syria and Iran ("Iran-Syria Operations Group") - a special department within the State department which reports directly to the VP - for two years now.

Toadicus Rex said...

Carissa,

Actually, I didn't imply anything of the sort. I don't know the ins and outs of the intelligence sharing mechanisms of Congress and the White House.

However, I am aware that there are a number of intelligence briefings to which Congress is privy; I do not know the extent. I have also been led to believe by a number of sources that Congress tends to be less than attentive to these intelligence briefings. This is all beside the point, however.

I'm not suggesting that the President is solely responsible for the decision to go to or remain at war. He/she is influential, perhaps the single most influential person in that decision. He is the commander-in-chief. And as such, in a previously authorized war, such as the one in Iraq, he has jurisdiction. Congress at this point could choose to de-fund the war, which they won't do, but that's their role. Other than that, they haven't got much say.

Let's take the possibility of a "new" war (and that is debatable, we won't go there right now, however).... say, with Iran. Should Congress re-authorize? I think so. Could it be construed as "part of the 'war on terror'"? Yeah, I suppose, but I don't see how that would get past Congress either... and I don't think the American people would stand for that kind of unilateral thinking. So it's really irrelevant.

The President may hold the position, but Congress does hold the purse-strings and wars and military exercises are expensive; it's the give-and-take of the constitution.

So... long and short of it, nope. I didn't think that, and I'm not sure how you extrapolated that position from that which I have already written.

Toadicus Rex said...

Ok, wow. I guess I've got the time to tackle this one too. What's sad about the blog format here is that the conversations can't be threaded beyond the post to which they were originally attached... but (sigh) anyway....

There are a couple points that bother me about what you said, Doug.

1. sending most of our tax money to unwise and impractical foreign conflicts: That's simply nowhere near the truth. The vast majority of our tax dollars go to entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare (accounting for over 40% of the US Budget), etc. The war pales by comparison - and those projects don't end when we pull out of Iraq, or any other war.

2. everything I know and believe (eg Mosiah 2) tells me that redistribution should be used to help the poor and the needy *long* before it should purchase F-16's for Musharaff's dictatorship in Pakistan. : I think I actually choked on this one. Name for me one time in Biblical history when a Prophet or Christ himself advocated enforced redistribution of wealth by a government. I don't recall in Mosiah 2 reading where King Benjamin said "Therefore, I have taken from you of your worldly goods such that all might participate in your good fortune." Good heavens, man. There is a world of difference. Redistribution is a personal choice, not an entitlement!

3. The s-chip bill : Wow. I don't even know where to start there. I have a hard time imagining Ron Paul would agree that a middle class family with an income of $70k per year should receive free health care from the government. You've been reading too many liberal publications, my friend. That bill was a step (and not a small one) toward socialized medicine.

4. I am not judging Barack Obama for his political party. I'm judging him on his domestic and foreign policy, which in both cases I find repugnant.

5. I actually understand why Hillary is basically backing the Bush foreign policy. I think she got it explained to her. And let's be honest - Democrats aren't going to pull out EVEN IF THEY WIN THE ELECTION.

6. On Occam's Razor. If we assume the most simple answer is the correct one, then either of two cases is the most likely: 1) Bush is a warmonger, or 2) Such intelligence exists. Since we know there is classified intelligence (of any type), we must assume the most likely is #2, or that intelligence exists. I don't think Occam's razor supports your argument. Think about the statement "Has President Bush even claimed that there exist such secrets?". By nature, if you want something kept secret, do you tell people you know something they don't?

7. The Vice President is an elected official. I have no problem with people he puts in his committees or those assigned to him. I really don't understand the vitriol against him in particular.

carissa said...

Forgive me if I assumed incorrectly. It just sounded like you supported Pres. Bush and the way he took us to war with Iraq. President Bush said, “I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands.” October 7, 2002

As a member of Congress, Ron Paul said this in response:
“I must oppose this resolution, which regardless of what many have tried to claim will lead us into war with Iraq. This resolution is not a declaration of war, however, and that is an important point: this resolution transfers the Constitutionally-mandated Congressional authority to declare wars to the executive branch. This resolution tells the president that he alone has the authority to determine when, where, why, and how war will be declared. It merely asks the president to pay us a courtesy call a couple of days after the bombing starts to let us know what is going on. This is exactly what our Founding Fathers cautioned against when crafting our form of government: most had just left behind a monarchy where the power to declare war rested in one individual. It is this they most wished to avoid.” October 8, 2002

Here's something Thomas Jefferson said in 1807:
"The power of declaring war being with the Legislature, the executive should do nothing necessarily committing them to decide for war."

I think both the President and Congress should have listened to Paul on this. Where do you stand?

Toadicus Rex said...

Carissa,

Wow, that's loaded. Well, here's my take.

First, the U.N. is an evil organization that should be kicked out of New York post-haste, and our own nation's membership withdrawn. I can't stress that enough. And this is a situation that reveals the problem most horrifically.

Who said we'd use military might? The U.N. did. Over and over again. The U.S. bought off on the U.N.'s membership a long time ago, which was ratified by Congress. In essence, the U.N. had already threatened Iraq with the military might of the U.S., despite what any liberal might say. We've already committed to basically letting the U.N. tell us what to do, though we can vote not to support it (yeah, that'll happen).

That said, I don't agree with Paul about this war. I see what President Bush did effectively is ask for a declaration of war. Isn't that the same thing as "authorizing the use of America's military"? I think we're debating semantics, and I really don't want to do that. But stating "The President is authorized to use military force in Iraq to enforce U.N. Security Council demands" is semantically equivalent to "The Congress of the United States declares war on Iraq until U.N. Security Council demands are met." Only the terminology is different, the words mean the same thing.

The stewardship of the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As such, he has the sole responsibility to direct the military after the declaration has been made.

Let me illustrate. If in WWII, Germany, Italy and Japan had immediately withdrawn from all occupied countries, made a substantial "I'm sorry" payment to the United States, and backtracked their aggressive stance 100% after Congress had declared war, should President Roosevelt have been forced to commit troops anyway, because Congress had declared war?

That said, Jefferson is right, and I like the fact that at least Paul is considering that a potential breach of the separation of powers has occurred. I just don't agree with his verdict.

carissa said...

But the difference is not purely semantics (although it appears that way to many people). When Congress passed the AUMF, it did not automatically declare us to be at war like a declaration of war would have done. What it did was transfer that decision over to the President to make, pending certain conditions. The President then had the authority to decide when or if we actually went to war, then simply inform the Congress. Congress is just as much at fault for handing over their power as the President was for asking them to do it. I realize not everyone sees it the same way I do, but to me it doesn’t respect the original intent of how it’s supposed to work.

I agree with you about the U.N. Ron Paul has tried to get us out of the U.N. for 20 years. I’d like to understand where it is that he goes wrong in your eyes if you agree with him on domestic issues, our involvement with the U.N., and the idea of non-intervention with foreign politics? Is it just that you support our presence in Iraq and don’t think we should leave?

Toadicus Rex said...

My position is basically this: Ron Paul is a phenomenal candidate. I really really really like him. The only problem I have with him is uncertainty what he will really do with the Iraq war or "war on terrorism" should he win the presidency. I see this as the most critical issue of this election, and probably of our time.

I stated this before, but I think Paul's position on this issue is pandering. I don't think it's intentional pandering, but it is an open niche. By doing that, I think he's painting himself into a box. That worries me because I want to know where he stands, and his position isn't revealing to me.

I have a real problem with the concept of "leaving" Iraq, as Paul would do. Yes, it gives incentive to the Iraqi's to take over, but they have terrorist influx from other countries making them the battleground... and I think Bush is right on that. The terrorists don't want to lose their foothold in that country, and the fledgling democracy in that country is not currently strong enough to deal with the problem. Our assistance is vital to them. So let's say we pull out. What does that say to the world?

It says to those thinking about joining the terrorists that it's an effective method of gaining control, and that they can and will win against the Great Satan. If you think the war on terror is the best terrorist recruitment talking point, it will be virtually ineffective by comparison.

Additionally, whether Paul likes it or not, we've made commitments to the Iraqi people to stay the course. And despite what you can hear from the liberal media, most people over there know what we're doing and appreciate it.

So yeah, I like Ron, but this is my turning point issue, and I think he's dead wrong on it. I just wish I could agree with all of his message, he'd be ideal.

Doug said...

Toadicus,

It sounds like you are making the domino-terrorism argument - the same one I used to believe about the domino-communism theory that had us in Vietnam for so many years. It's the idea that if we didn't jump in to stop every sovereign nation toying with the tenets of communism that the whole world would catch communist fire and destroy us.

Basically most options for dealing with anti-democratic governments [communism, fascism, etc.] boil down to two fairly divergent philosophies.

We can either:

(1) Push the American Empire. Create strategic alliances with the "enemies of our enemies" utilizing huge bribes of foreign aid and weaponry. Colonize when we have to. At least create permanent US bases that are little island colonies in every region of the world. Cuba, Iraq, Korea, Germany, the Philippines, Japan, etc. Flex our muscle often and keep the largest fiercest army the world has ever seen on as many nation's borders as we possibly can so they have a bit o' respect. *And then* (because quite frankly those actions don't worry me as much as what we do on top of that) secretly plot with subversive groups in any sovereign nations that still don't fall in line. Arm, fund, train, and otherwise aid extremists, communists, terrorists -- whoever -- if they can help de-stabilize any government that isn't properly quaking in its boots when we command.

Or

(2) Re-focus on the ideals of the United States of America. Be strong and free. Don't compromise our standards to prop up any supposed "enemies of our enemy". Take care of our own and be a shining beacon of light. Evaluate our actions and quit any legitimate greivances that some nations might have against us.
Isolationism is wrong, but independence is not. If oil, for instance, is any part of the calculus in the middle east, let's use our Yankee ingenuity to solve the problem - let's become energy independent. Let's set a good example and show other nations that you can protect your own interests without invading other sovereign nations, without battening down civil liberties, and without subterfuge and lies.

I'm only starting to read the writings of Ezra Taft Benson. He felt very strong about the evils of spreading communism (within and without our nation). I even thought for a time he was willing to back stronger military action to counter it - and perhaps he did. But here is a quote you might find interesting from page
185 of An Enemy Hath Done This:

"The key to a solution of the problems in Vietnam is an understanding that we have no business being there int the first place — at least not under the present conditions or authority. Nevertheless, we are there and we are involved, so what do we do now? Since we shouldn’t be there in the first place, we should now concentrate on doing whatever is necessary to bring our boys home."

Mitt's father, George Romney, discovered the propaganda about Vietnam was simply that: propaganda and determined after long and careful study that the US was doing more harm in Vietnam than good. As a previously popular and ardent supporter of the war, his new-found caution basically deep-sixed his Presidential candidacy overnight. It was said in a recent Time magazine article that his father's comments angered and bewildered the young Mitt Romney still in France on a mission. But he has said on more than one occasion that eventually he discovered that his father was exactly right.

You can argue, if you like, that Iraq and Vietnam are wildly different. You can explain, if you choose, that terrorism and communism pose quite different threats from each other. I'll save you the time and admit I already agree. But I think the underlying principles that govern how to deal with the matter are the same. We can choose to force behaviors on the world while claiming, ironically, that their freedom is our ultimate goal or we can stop policing the world and re-focus on our own freedom and independence.

I truly don't believe it is old-fashioned to consider that we might set a good example, protect our true borders, and see how long it takes different regions to see which system works better. Ezra Taft Benson and J. Reuben Clark both held high government office. Clark was Under-Secretary of State, for instance. They both seem to have felt pretty strongly about preferring option (2) above.

Finally, if you are truly convinced that the Iraqi people want our continued assistance then let them vote on it! Some have proposed such a vote and I think it is a great idea. If the Iraqi people want us there then it is hugely different from the current occupation - for us, for them, for the rest of the world. Let it be on their terms and not ours. And then let our people consider those terms and if we can accept the implications. Right now what we are doing is far too close to what the Syrians did to Lebanon twenty years ago when they sent 'peacekeepers' to quell the civil war and then simply never left.

Toadicus Rex said...

Well, I appreciate your arguments, very well thought out. I also appreciate the fact that you identified my first and principle rebuttal, that communism and terrorism are not the same; the fact is, you are right. But you come to the conclusion that both can be handled the same. I reject that.

As far as your (2), I wholeheartedly agree. I wish we had adopted George Washington's approach to foreign policy, which is the following: Stay out of it.

We've got a major problem though. This is not a traditional enemy. Border strengthening doesn't protect us from those that are born and raised here. Yeah, I admit, if we'd been doing this all along we might not be having this problem, but if all the world were moral, terrorism wouldn't have been an issue either. Fact is we haven't and it isn't. All three of these are unfortunately ideals that, while noble, presently aren't realistic.

Regarding the vote, why didn't we ask the people of Iraq to vote on whether or not they wanted us to come in in the first place? Because it was as irrelevant then as it is now; if we have perceived a threat coming from their country, and they are unwilling or unable to do something to eradicate it, we have an obligation to our people to do something about it. And we are doing it surgically, which principles of wartime morality do not require.

carissa said...

So if another nation "perceives" our President to be a threat to their security they could potentially be justified in overthrowing our government?

Toadicus Rex said...

Yep.

Of course, it's necessary to point out that justification is a subjective thing, so you can almost always find some method of justification, particularly in hindsight.

carissa said...

So by your logic, the terrorists could be justified in attacking America (admittedly, their methods are horrific) because they "perceive" that our country has committed many acts of aggression, violence, and injustice upon their people. I'm sure you've read Bin Laden's 1998 fatwa. Ironically, instead of listening to their reasons for attacking us, we do more of the things that incite their hatred against us. Where will this lead us? Should their concerns be ignored?

Toadicus Rex said...

Carissa,

To the terrorists (the ones that believe what they're being told by their superiors), they are justified. I mentioned justification is subjective. Justification doesn't make it right or moral.

And yep, we should ignore their reasons for the most part. We can, through righteous national introspection, look at whether or not any are valid and truthful.

The fact is, like it or not, terrorism isn't about these causes the terrorist groups claim. For example, if the Palestinian state were so important, do you honestly believe that these countries surrounding them could not give them land for it?

Nope, terrorism is a method of exerting power or control over another. In this case, they don't have the ability to go head-to-head against the US, so they use a subversive medium to try to bring us down to their level, or at least cow us into submission. For the dictator thugs that run the countries from which the terrorists get their funding, as well as other sources of power, it's like having the mafia in your back pocket; you can appear legitimate but wield unholy power - best of both worlds.

So yep, it's going to continue. As long as these dictator thugs hold a virtual monopoly over the oil supply, they have almost limitless funds - which we give them because we're too subservient to our environmentalists to actually drill our own reserves. And in my opinion, drilling our own reserves and cutting off their money supply would almost stop terrorism cold-turkey.

carissa said...

Okay, so you believe a more effective way of reducing terrorism would be energy independence, right? I agree with you there too. Are you familiar with HR 4004, the bill sponsored by Ron Paul which calls for "allowing offshore drilling, eliminating regulations that restrict refining, and suspending harmful tax rules that discourage domestic oil production"? If that's a better way to fight terrorism than these endless wars that are causing massive debt, why not support Ron Paul?

Toadicus Rex said...

LOL you guys are relentless!

Yep, I agree that it's a better way of fighting NEW terrorism, and cutting off the funding is an excellent way to keep them from building.... but we have a problem NOW.

It takes a long time to get a refinery up and running, and offshore rigs, etc. Those aren't one-month projects. And we have a terrorist problem with an already funded organization.

I guess what I'm getting at is we can't do just one, we need both for the time being, until we are back on our feet, and the terrorists have been knocked off theirs (economically speaking).

carissa said...

Ron Paul is the best package deal for our country's problems. We can't pass him up! And now I promise I'm going to sleep. Thanks so much for your thoughts, you are a very nice person.

Toadicus Rex said...

I'm still not there yet. Food for thought, certainly. For now I'm still leaning toward Mitt.

Toadicus Rex said...

I spent quite a while trying to remember a quote that kept coming to my head after your post, Carissa, and now after a couple hours I've found it on the net, so here it is. Oh, wait, let me frame it. You asked:

So if another nation "perceives" our President to be a threat to their security they could potentially be justified in overthrowing our government?

I answered in the affirmative, that justification is subjective. Here's my quote, from the musical 1776. A line by Benjamin Franklin.

A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It is only in the third person - "their rebellion" - that it becomes illegal.


And another:

Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers.

carissa said...

It is very subjective, you’re right. But speaking in a general moral sense, if the people of Iraq wanted to overthrow their oppressive government, that is their business and their decision. When does it become justifiable for another nation to do it for them without their consent for help? As you suggest, there could be times when the people are too oppressed or unable to do it themselves, so there may be circumstances when another nation in justified in helping to fight for them (France helping America during the Revolutionary War comes to mind). The other scenario when it could be justified, is when that government is a proven threat to the security of another nation and all other diplomatic efforts have been exhausted.

So was that the situation with Iraq? The justification for going into Iraq was that their leader was perceived as a threat to our national security (as well as to others including his own people). The key word here would be that he was “perceived” to be a threat to us. Was he in reality? Maybe. But then, so are the leaders of a whole lot of other countries. We had no well-documented proof that he was planning to attack us, just intelligence reports suggesting he’d be able to. (We also had selfish reasons for wanting him gone that had nothing to do with the stated reasons.) Was that enough to justify our attack? The thing that we should learn from Iraq is that our “perception” can be wrong. It is widely agreed that our government greatly exaggerated the threat. Was it worth the enormous cost? If we can march into other countries without any proven and well-documented evidence of the wrongs they have actually done to or plotted against our country, where will it all end? Won’t other nations start attacking us because our aggressive pre-emptive style of warfare is perceived to be a threat to them and now everybody thinks they need to strike before they get struck? What a mess. Yes, you could say it is a risk to wait for them to make the first move, but it is an even bigger risk to live in a world where everyone is pre-emptively fighting everyone else. That is what worries me if we don't change our foreign policy.

Remember, in the Book of Mormon, when the people said, “let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands” but their leader, Gidgiddoni, said “The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.” Why did the Lord care? Was it simply a better strategy? Maybe, maybe not.

President Kimball said, “We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us -- and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7) -- or he will fight our battles for us (Exod. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many).” The False Gods We Worship, June 1976

Surely we have an obligation to fight for our own defense, but I worry that the line is becoming fuzzy in the eyes of many people at to where defensive action ends and aggression starts. If our actions against others are not purely defensive, will the Lord help us fight our battles?

Toadicus Rex said...

kCarissa,

Well done. You've identified the single argument that gives me pause in my convictions regarding the war.. but hang on, let me get there.

A nation becomes justified in attacking another nation when they (or an ally, though this is sick and wrong imho) have been attacked/threatened by the first nation.

As far as the perception goes, our not finding WMD in iraq... well, I have a hard time believing that they were destroyed. Saddam might not have been making more, but we knew they were there, so did the UN. Personally, I believe he either sold them or gave them to another country, bare minimum moved and retained control. Point is, it was Saddam that gave the perception, not some wild speculation on our parts. He certainly did nothing to halt that perception. The idea of an everybody fighting everybody situation is a slippery slope fallacy. The threat Saddam presented was well documented, WMD or no. I think the vast majority of countries around the world recognize that and realize it wasn't an off-the-cuff strike.

And now for the most powerful argument, one I truly have little response to other than to say "I don't know" in a deeply understanding and concerned voice. It's one I've considered deeply, the one that gives me pause, and the most compelling argument against the war, that God doesn't want us on the offense and won't support us as we go after these guys.

You nailed the argument on the head, and so I won't go further than that. For now, I've chosen to err on the side of my "gut feeling". I wish we had a prophet for a president....

carissa said...

me too, that would make life much easier :)