Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For Folks Smarter than Me: Is Ron Paul a John Mearsheimer "Realist?"

I do hope that Ron Paul stays in the Republican race, between another batch of racist newletters coming to light today, and his pain in the ass truth-telling about foreign policy as exemplified by his astonishing idea that common sense ought to have some influence on statecraft, he is mighty entertaining.

The audiences for the Republican primaries are more fun than the candidates themselves. Last night, the Tea Party GOP South Carolinian populists were in great form as they cheered Newt Gingrich putting uppity negroes back in their appropriate place, and booed Ron Paul's suggestion that the golden rule ought to have some impact on America's foreign policy calculus.

The latter moment was very telling. Years ago I believed, truly in my heart, that the United States was preordained for greatness and that she could do no wrong in the world. My thinking was tautological: America was great because it is great; America does good abroad because America is good; America is first among nations and by virtue of that fact she can do what she wants because she is the first among equals (and lessers).

I was also seven years old at the time.

Contemporary populist conservatives are mired in anti-intellectual authoritarianism. Their rabid brand of American exceptionalism is resistant to all empirical reality, fact, and nuance. The Tea Party GOP, in its appeal to nativism, and desire to court Fox News low information voters, encourages and reflects a profound amount of infantile thinking on the part of its public. When mated with a penchant for Christian Dominionism, and the hold that "faith" and the Culture Wars has over reason, the realpolitik of the Right naturally devolves into that of true believers, heretics, traitors, secret pledges, and the "paranoid style" of governance and politics.

The negative response to Ron Paul's damnable thought that America does not have carte blanche to act in the world without consequences or blowback is a symptom of this cultural-political sickness.

In watching Ron Paul work through the idea that states should think long-term and that no power is more "exceptional" than any other--thus freeing it from the consequences of its actions like some divine chosen one--I was called back to Robert Kaplan's recent Atlantic magazine piece on noted political scientist John Mearsheimer.

In Kaplan's profile on Dr. Mearsheimer's body of intellectual work (with an obligatory mention of the Israeli Lobby thesis), and the influence of "realism" on international relations theory, one passage seemed particularly relevant:
Such thinking is prologue to Mearsheimer’s admonition that a struggle with China awaits us. “The Chinese are good offensive realists, so they will seek hegemony in Asia,” he tells me, paraphrasing the conclusion to Tragedy. China is not a status quo power. It will seek to dominate the South China Sea as the U.S. has dominated the Greater Caribbean Basin. He continues: “An increasingly powerful China is likely to try to push the U.S. out of Asia, much the way the U.S. pushed European powers out of the Western Hemisphere. Why should we expect China to act any differently than the United States did? Are they more principled than we are? More ethical? Less nationalistic?”
For the many folks smarter than I am on these matters, can you help a brother out? Is Ron Paul a type of realist--perhaps a "defensive" one? If not, what school of statecraft is Ron Paul an adherent to? Is he a pure isolationist?

I play in these waters at the child's end of the wading pool, and there is no way I could swim in said pool without two life preservers and a rope. Teach me a thing...or ten.

1 comment:

Alphonse Ponzillo said...

The problems confronting our American civil society are military
economical and political. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will pursue
the present dialogue concerning these three most aggressive
opponents of our civilian American disasters. Ron Paul will not pursue
the present dialogue concerning our
three most American aggressive civilian disasters and Ron Paul will not pursue the dialogue of Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.