Ron Paul – Rudy Giuliani Blowback Debate (Video)
The most interesting exchange from last night’s Republican debates was between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani over the cause of the 9/11 attacks. Paul asserted that they were “blowback” resulting from American interventionism in the Middle East, putting him right in Giuliani’s wheelhouse.
Is Ron Paul crazy as loon? Or is he on to something here?
The answer to both questions is Yes.
Al Qaeda has listed its grievances against us many times. This list, compiled from their 1998 declaration of jihad, is a good summary of their demands:
- The end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state;
- The removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian peninsula;
- The removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands;
- The end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India;
- The end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera;
- The conservation of the Muslim world’s energy resource and their sale at higher prices.
Giuliani’s indignant insistence that he doesn’t “think [he’s] ever heard that before” is a great applause line but either dishonest or indicative of a woeful lack of awareness of world politics. [Of course, as Anderson notes, these are not mutually exclusive options.]
He compounds this during a post-debate interview with Sean Hannity trotting out the “they hate us for our freedom” nonsense. There are plenty of free countries in the world and most of them are much less religious and further along the road to homosexual rights, sexual freedom, toleration of drug use, and other things that would offend radical Muslim sensibilities than we are.
The reason the United States rather than Denmark or Holland or Canada was at the center of the jihadist threat was our foreign policy. We’re the number one supporter of Israel on the international scene, often standing alone among major powers in that regard. We sell modern military equipment to Arab dictators that the jihadis view as apostate. We do everything in our power to keep oil prices down. Our footprint in the Middle East is huge and our policy objectives are diametrically opposed to those of the Islamist fanatics.
That said, Paul’s insinuation that the 9/11 attacks were therefore our fault is outrageous. We can simultaneously recognize that our policies make people angry and insist on our sovereign right to act according to our interests. We can recognize that radical Muslims have grievances against us and still insist that murdering innocents is an unacceptable means of expressing those grievances.
Further, as Sean Hackbarth correctly notes, appeasement is not the answer.
Ask yourself this if the U.S. brought all its overseas forces back to the U.S.; if the U.S. left NATO and other alliances; if she told Israel, “You’re on your own,” do you really think Osama bin Laden and the Islamists would declare their war on the West to be over? Think they would go back to their villages and abuse their women in peace?
Obviously not. Indeed, they would rightly think they’ve won and take the lesson that they can achieve their policy aims through terrorism. Presumably, others would come to the same conclusion.
Ultimately, American foreign policy has to be set based on our interests and our values. Paul is right, though, that deciding that our sphere of influence is the entire globe and using all the tools available to The World’s Sole Remaining Superpower will naturally rub some people (including our allies) the wrong way. That needs to be factored into the equation.
UPDATE: Byron York has an excerpt from a post-debate interview with Paul, who dismissed as demagougery the idea that he “blames America.” “I blamed bad policy over 50 years that leads to anti-Americanism,” Paul said. “That’s little bit different from saying ‘blame America.’” Just a little bit. (via Andrew Samwick)