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In Defense of Senator Rand Paul's Foreign Policy

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Writing in The New York Times on May 30, 2014, columnist David Brooks launched a clumsy preemptive attack on Senator Rand Paul's foreign policy in hopes of derailing his presidential ambitions.

Mr. Brooks concocts an "autocracy" challenge from trifles light of air that he insists should compel the United States to bestride the world like a colossus bedecked with money and arms to promote democracy. Reminiscent of imaginary weapons of destruction discerned in Iraq, the columnist trumpets that "[d]ealing with thuggish radioactive autocracies will probably be the great foreign policy challenge of the next decade." According to Brooks' fevered ruminations, autocracies "have to whip up nationalistic furies. They have to be aggressive in their regions to keep the country united on a permanent war footing. Unstable within, autocracies have to be radioactive abroad." Zimbabwe's dictatorial Robert Mugabe is said to exemplify such autocratic aggression.

But the dictator discredits everything Brooks associates with autocracy. He has refrained from questioning borders with Zimbabwe's neighbors. He has not inflamed regional rivalries. President Mugabe has been preoccupied with oppressing and intimidating his domestic political opponents lead by Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe has desisted from stirring ethnic or tribal tensions to provoke strife elsewhere. Other than the bogus case of Zimbabwe, Brooks is unable to identify any chronically aggressive or interventionist autocracy on the planet. Isn't he tilting at windmills like Don Quixote?

Brooks salutes President Obama's strategy "to do a lot more to mobilize democracies to take collective action against autocratic aggression." But he is clueless as to what type of collective action might be taken or which democracies should be mobilized. Suppose an autocracy attacks an autocracy, for example, the cases of the boundary dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea or the South China Sea conflict between China and Vietnam. Should democracies intercede? Brooks ducks the question. He is also opaque about a workable definition of an autocracy. Does it fit Burma, Pakistan, Jordan, Venezuela, ad infinitum? A foreign policy pivoting on a key undefinable term is worthless.

Brooks applauds Obama for allegedly championing democracy around the globe echoing Presidents Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush. President Wilson urged entry into World War I in order that the world "be made safe for democracy." And then came Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and the grisly killings of tens of millions. President Bush declared that "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." And then came torture, predator drone assassinations, limitless surveillance of American citizens, and secret one-branch government at home.

Mr. Brooks laughably swoons over a commencement address of United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government explaining why democracy promotion must be the locomotive of American foreign policy. The Obama administration routinely embraces autocracies or worse in its Empire-like quest for global domination or energy resources. Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf Sheikdoms, and Vietnam are illustrative. Brooks' voices counterfactual confidence in the democracy promotion capacity of the United States. In recent years, we have attempted to summon into being viable democracies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Venezuela, and Libya without result. The United States has neither a moral nor constitutional obligation to promote democracy abroad even if we knew how, which we assuredly do not.

Brooks bugles that America risks greater danger by too few military or other interventions abroad than too many. But experience teaches the opposite. The United States provoked 9/11 by its ubiquitous military or economic interventions or manipulations throughout the Middle East to prop up keenly execrated regimes. The Vietnam War was an unmitigated and exorbitant calamity fought in the name of defending democracy against autocratic communism. Trillions of dollars have been squandered and thousands of lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan to promote democracy. Those twin conflicts unwittingly made Iran the regional hegemon. Obama initiated an unconstitutional war against Libya to overthrow the autocratic Col. Muammar Gaddafi after he renounced WMD. Libya plunged into clusters of tribal civil wars. Weapons were spewed into terrorist hands throughout the Middle East. And Iran and North Korea were taught that to discard WMD would be to invite a war of aggression by the United States. In contrast with these grim evils associated with too many wars or interventions, Brooks fails to identify a single instance in which United States restraint abroad begot a serious threat to the national security.

Reminiscent of the fictitious domino theory and missile and bomber gaps that fueled the Cold War and underwrote the military-industrial complex, Brooks hallucinates about the probable catastrophes that will ensue if the United States neglects to strangle autocracies in their pre-embryonic stages with military force or sister interventions. He delivers a high octave warning that, "[I]f [the United States] neglects constant garden-tending, the [autocratic] thugs will grab and grab and eventually there will be horrendous conflagrations...The autocrats will drag the world into an ungodly mess."

In sum, Brooks perfectly reflects the psychology of Empire featuring logarithmic exaggeration of external threats to justify perpetual objectless wars that promise to culminate in self-ruination. At present, Senator Rand Paul is the only antidote for this life-threatening disease.