Lindsay: Is foreign policy a problem for Ron Paul?
November 28th, 2011
10:32 PM ET

Lindsay: Is foreign policy a problem for Ron Paul?

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter

By James M. Lindsay – Special to CNN

A common trope so far in campaign 2012 is the argument that Republicans have turned isolationist. Someone apparently forgot to tell voters in Iowa. Polls currently have Ron Paul running fourth there. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that what’s hurting him with many Iowa Republicans is his non-interventionist foreign policies.

Dusty Juhl, a supporter of Mr. Paul in Iowa working for a libertarian-leaning group, estimated that 90% of the people he contacts raise concerns about the congressman’s foreign-policy views.

Mr. Paul illustrated the possibilities and limits of his campaign during a visit to a Warren County Republican breakfast here recently. He sent the room into broad applause when he reminded the audience that he has long called for closing the U.S. Department of Education—a pet cause of politically active home-schoolers. But the reaction was more muted when Mr. Paul switched to troop deployments.

“We spend way too much money overseas, so I’d start by bringing the troops home from around the world,” Mr. Paul said. About half the audience clapped. The other showed no visible reaction.

The reservations that Iowans have about Paul’s foreign policy views are striking. Why? Because the Midwest has historically been a stronghold of isolationist sentiment in America, and Iowa is the most Midwestern of states. (Indeed, Hollywood delights in movies in which Iowans are reluctant to go to war.) So perhaps “isolationism” doesn’t quite capture the complexity of the debate within the Republican Party on foreign policy.

Not everyone is alarmed by Paul’s foreign policy views. Conor Friedersdorf believes they are more mainstream than those his opponents espouse. Charles Krauthammer is not buying that argument. He blasts Paul for “living in the 20s [and thinking] we can have a moat around the United States and if we ignore the world, the world will ignore us.”

Paul isn’t the only GOP candidate in the news for his foreign policy views. Herman Cain used his appearance yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” to reiterate his opposition to President Obama’s plans to draw down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not surprisingly, he added that “I feel strongly that we should stand with Israel.” The Washington Times thinks that Cain’s approach to foreign policy is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Les Gelb, CFR’s president emeritus, worries that Republican presidential candidates are looking backward to a “bygone world of dire military threats” rather than forward toward the new truth of world politics - economics matters. Looking back at the CNN presidential debate last week, Gelb observes:

The real shocker was how all those candidates, save for [Ron] Paul and [Jon] Huntsman, almost totally neglected the now-central economic dimension of international affairs. Only those two noted the new reality of world politics - that economic strength now matters more than military might.

The gathering eurozone crisis may force the GOP presidential hopefuls to address the topic of international economics, regardless of whether they are ready to or not.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.

soundoff (136 Responses)
  1. jo_smith456

    Problem for Ron Paul? I am sure of one thing... virtually ALL the security advisers/appointees (from Ivy League schools, to lobbyists think-tanks, etc.) of the US administrations since George Bush2 to the present, HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL in bringing about our present very low integrity and respect that US gets in the world today.... At least, with Ron Paul, it would probably be a fresh start....

    December 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  2. John

    here we go again mainstream media talking about ron paul only when they have soemthing bad to say. ok mainstream media can u stop bashing the only true patriot of the GOP

    December 4, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  3. aaron

    Look at this person trying to smear Ron Paul. He wants to bring our troops home, cut the spending, cut taxes, get big government out of people's lives, reign in the debt, and get get rid of the Corporate Stranglehold on American Politics. I would gladly vote for Ron Paul over Obummer or Mittneycare any day.

    December 4, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  4. jim

    Ron, should you not win the election, please get your citizenship and run in Canada.....we could use a leader like you!!

    December 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  5. Newfamilyguy

    Mr. Paul has a very sound foreign policy, it goes a little something like "mind your business", I support him 100%!

    December 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  6. Sick

    Ron Paul knows what he's talking about. Don't you want that in a leader for a change? I urge you to look him up on youtube, read about him. You will see that he has remained consistent and clear for decades. How many politicians can you say that about these days? Paul realizes that Iran and their hypothetical nuclear weapons aren't that much of a threat. So, why make a big deal of something that you REALLY shouldn't be worried about? That's all he's trying to say- and it makes great sense.

    December 5, 2011 at 3:55 am | Reply
  7. gliese42

    I have only one thing to say and that is either Ron Paul or Gingrich will be nominated but how they plan to oust the great Obama is yet to be seen

    December 6, 2011 at 2:20 am | Reply
  8. Mainer

    According to Wikipedia..."Isolationism is the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic
    commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the
    entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at
    peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities."

    On the other hand Wiki says this about non-interventionism..."is a foreign policy which holds that political rulers should avoid alliances with other nations, but still retain diplomacy,
    and avoid all wars not related to direct self-defense. This is based on
    the grounds that a state should not interfere in the internal politics
    of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination."

    I hope that clears this up for the masses of writers who continue to label Ron Paul as an "Isolationist". Language is very important in journalism!

    December 11, 2011 at 10:38 am | Reply
  9. guy

    let's be real: Charles Krauthammer is Jewish... and wants US bow to Israel on everything, even if it doesn't benefit US. screw him, go Ron Paul!

    December 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Reply
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