Home

Ron Paul on Iran

Paul’s stance on Iran may place him outside the mainstream of Republican presidential candidates. It doesn’t place him outside the mainstream of the American public.
John Phelan
16 January 2012

I was in a Minnesota casino hotel room with a six pack watching the results and fallout of the Iowa Caucus. It was the closest I’ve ever come to fulfilling my teenage dream of being the next Hunter S Thompson.

Then Fox News cut away mid-speech from Ron Paul, who came in third just 3% behind the nominal winner Mitt Romney, to hear what Newt Gingrich had to say. Newt had come fourth, 9% behind Congressman Paul. 

Paul has been getting this sort of treatment all along. Perhaps Fox News believe, like Romney and Gingrich, that Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy place him outside the ‘mainstream’.

The issue Romney and Gingrich were attacking him on was Paul’s opposition to the use of military force to prevent Iran getting a nuclear bomb. This is a hot button issue for the GOP candidates. Speaking after Iowa each of them, except Paul, made a point of mentioning the possibility of confrontation with Iran.

But while Paul’s stance may place him outside the mainstream of Republican presidential candidates it doesn’t place him outside the mainstream of the American public. Polling evidence indicates that opposition to action against Iran is not the sole preserve of half a dozen hippies and that support tumbles when diplomacy is given as an option.   

How has Paul come to this position? He is neither opposed to war per se nor even to pre-emptive war. He told an audience in Iowa that, “You don’t have to wait until they have put their feet on our soil”

Paul’s opposition seems more specific than a simple pacifism. Quite simply, he doesn’t view Iran as a threat. He told the same Iowa audience that, “there are no signs” that Tehran is building a bomb. Given that Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said on CBS’s Meet the Press on Monday night “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? Uh, no, but we know that they are trying to develop a nuclear capability” - then the hysteria directed at Paul by his neo-conservative and liberal interventionist critics seems overdone.  

Paul has other reasons for not seeing Iran as a threat. He has claimed that the Iranians feel surrounded, with unfriendly nuclear armed states like Israel and Pakistan on their doorsteps and US military bases in every neighbouring country. The Iranian are acting logically, Paul appears to believe, to actual threats. He spoke of his belief in a reasonable Iran again in Iowa when he said, “What are the odds of [the Iranians] using [a nuclear weapon]? Probably zero. They just are not going to commit suicide. The Israelis have 300 of them”. If the Iranians are reacting logically they can be reasoned with or, if you prefer, appeased.                                                       

This is more problematic. When the Iranian president says he wants to see Israel, “wiped off the map” is he reacting rationally to perceived dangers or is he just a loon? Just as history shows that interventions can go badly wrong it also shows that some people are exactly as dangerous as they appear to be. Paul’s insistence on seeing unreasonable people as being as reasonable as he is could be a major weakness.

But does it matter? The fact is that with a trillion dollar deficit and a debt ceiling rising like a Fourth of July rocket America cannot afford another war. Watching presidential candidates speculate on which country to bomb next is a bit like watching a bunch of homeless guys peering through the window of a BMW dealership and wondering which i8 to buy.

The people up in arms about Paul’s foreign policy have got it back to front. America’s wealth was not based on its ability to project military power; America’s ability to project military power was based on its wealth.

Who's getting rich from COVID-19?

Boris Johnson's government stands accused of 'COVID cronyism', after handing out staggering sums of money to controversial private firms to fight COVID-19. Often the terms of these deals are kept secret, with no value-for-money checks or penalties for repeated failures which cost lives. And many major contracts have gone directly to key Tory donors and allies – without competition.

As COVID rates across the country surge, how can we hold our leaders accountable? Meet the lawyers, journalists and politicians leading the charge in our free live discussion on Thursday 1 October at 5pm UK time.

Hear from:

Peter Geoghegan Investigations editor, openDemocracy, and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Jolyon Maugham Barrister and founder of the Good Law Project.

Layla Moran Liberal Democrat MP (TBC)

Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief of openDemocracy

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData