Ron Paul’s America
The promise and peril of the isolationist strain in American Conservatism.
Withal–if you’ll permit me that final Kauffmanism–I retain a certain soft spot for the author. There is something charming about a man out of time, especially when the man knows that he is a man out of time and shouts it defiantly from the mountaintops. And besides, he is trying to do good work here, showing contemporary conservatives that their intellectual forbears have not always been war-mongers and leading those who might be inclined to follow down a less bellicose path.
Ain’t My America isn’t likely to have much impact, though. Kauffman admits that he is too overwhelmingly outflanked and that he is, “perhaps, the least influential political writer since Wavy Gravy.” This is ultimately a cri de coeur from one man, and an unusual man at that. His world–a world in which democratic Europe might have been overrun, in which ethnic guerilla armies of the future are free to kill as many “enemy” civilians as they can with no fear of America lifting a finger–isn’t one in which either I or most Americans would want to live.
But it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see the Republican Party, and even a good third to 40 percent of the Democrats in Washington (the ones who voted for the Iraq War and continue to support it or the Bush doctrine to some degree), pay the man some heed. America needs first and foremost to back peddle from the Cheneyesque quest for hegemony that has driven foreign policy for the last eight years. Kauffman goes too far in that direction. Still, there is much to be learned from the historical arguments against empire that he presents; even though Randolph and other critics may have been motivated to take the positions they took by conservative impulses, the points they made were often progressive in essence by today’s standards. Liberals should have serious disagreements with Kauffman, but, as with the proverbial menu at a Chinese restaurant, we can find things to like.
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