I have written several posts regarding Rand Paul – primarily around the time and decision where he first sent strong signals that his approach to politics would not be a principled one. After a time, this theme got tired – how many times would I write such a thing about any other unprincipled politician?
In the last six months, I have exactly one post labeled “Rand Paul,” and even this was only regarding a recent NY Times hack-job on his father and the Mises Institute. The entire subject – Rand Paul isn’t principled – became a dead-horse to me. I had made a soft-decision to drop this subject from my writing orbit.
Until today. Rand Paul has written an op-ed regarding the situation in Ukraine, and Russia’s role in it. It has opened a crack in the resolve of my soft decision. But before I get to why, first I will be clear: my comments will not be made through a libertarian lens – in my book, he almost always flunks this test. In any case, he doesn’t want to be judged by such a standard. Fair enough.
Second; why my reference to the CFR? I think Rand is missing a shift in elite intentions, one that has been in evidence for at least six years.
But first to Rand’s op-ed; I will examine his comments using his own yardstick – he runs away from the label “libertarian” whenever he finds himself in polite society.
Instead, from his website:
…he has proven to be an outspoken champion for constitutional liberties and fiscal responsibility, and a warrior against government overreach.
Rand Paul has gone total neocon regarding Russia as evidenced in his op-ed regarding Russia and Ukraine in Time. I will view his comments through the lens of the “constitution,” “government overreach,” and common sense applied to the totality of events surrounding this situation.
Forgive the extensive quotes from his op-ed, but virtually every line is troubling – and could have been said by any neocon with a pulpit:
Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community…. It is important that Russia become economically isolated until all its forces are removed from Crimea and Putin pledges to act in accordance with the international standards of behavior that respect the rights of free people everywhere.
Is it possible to have any meaningful dialogue regarding events in Ukraine without recognizing the significant role the US government has played in creating this reality? Russia may have something to answer for, but the US agitations have been blatant and obvious for all to see.
This isn’t Rand’s first foray into ignorance or willful blindness when it comes to Russia and foreign policy. The last meaningful post I wrote regarding Rand Paul was when he wrote a response to a Putin op-ed regarding Syria. My criticism of Rand today is the same as it was six months ago.
Back to the current op-ed:
I have said, and some have taken exception, that too many U.S. leaders still think in Cold War terms and are quick to “tweak” the international community. This is true.
Tweak? The US government has taken actions that have directly resulted in the death of millions since the end of the Cold War. Every single action was taken in a region that posed no threat to the security of the territory of the United States. I count sixty-one actions and interventions since 1991, not one of them (on quick glance) in the western hemisphere.
This is a “tweak” in Rand’s world.
But mutual respect and practical diplomacy is a two-way street, where Russia or any other nation should not be tweaking us, or their neighbors, either.
Wikipedia has no comparable list of Russia’s drive down this “two-way street” that I can find. Rand must be driving the wrong way on a one-way road.
It is America’s duty to condemn these actions in no uncertain terms. It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia’s latest aggression.
Find one clause in the Constitution that authorizes this.
Putin must be punished for violating the Budapest Memorandum, and Russia must learn that the U.S. will isolate it if it insists on acting like a rogue nation.
The Budapest Memorandum said that Russia wouldn’t violate the integrity of Ukraine, but now it has.
This treaty “included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine as well as those of Belarus and Kazakhstan. As a result Ukraine gave up the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile between 1994 and 1996.”
The treaty was also signed by the US government. Yet Rand makes no mention of the actions of the US government in precipitating these events in Ukraine – “violating the integrity of Ukraine.”
What of other agreements?
Another expansion [of NATO] came with the accession of seven Central and Eastern European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
The incorporation of former Warsaw Pact countries has been a cause of increased tension between NATO countries and Russia. Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly agreed to allow German reunification within NATO after being promised that NATO would not expand "one inch to the east."
This did not come with a treaty, and for a time the reality of such assurances was highly contested. However, guess what? It seems that assurances were given:
After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.
Regarding the German proposal to limit NATO expansion eastward:
What the US secretary of state said on Feb. 9, 1990 in the magnificent St. Catherine's Hall at the Kremlin is beyond dispute. There would be, in Baker's words, "no extension of NATO's jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east," provided the Soviets agreed to the NATO membership of a unified Germany.
Sadly, it wasn’t in writing. Would it have mattered anyway?
Bank to Rand:
I recommend a number of specific and decisive measures to punish Putin for his ongoing aggression.
On what Constitutional authority?
Economic sanctions and visa bans should be imposed and enforced without delay.
Economic sanctions are an aggressive act – depriving individuals the ability to buy and sell. They place hardships on the residents of all involved nations, all for the sake of the game being played by their politicians. Sanctions have often killed and have often led to war.
We should also suspend American loans and aid to Ukraine because currently these could have the counterproductive effect of rewarding Russia.
Why is the American government making loans and providing aid to Ukraine in the first place? Where is the Constitutional authority for this?
I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it.
Wait a minute! I thought this shield had nothing to do with Russia!
According to the United States administration, the system was intended to protect against future missiles from Iran, such as the alleged Shahab-6, although in November 2007 the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate reported that Iran's nuclear weapons program had been halted since late 2003.
Russia didn’t like the idea, and had the US not abandoned the plan Russia would have escalated:
Russia threatened to place short-range nuclear missiles on its borders with NATO if the United States refused to abandon its plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Poland and the Czech Republic. In April 2007, then-President Putin warned of a new Cold War if the Americans deployed the shield in Central Europe. Putin also said that Russia was prepared to abandon its obligations under a Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 with the United States.
And exactly how would Rand “make sure the Europeans pay for it”? Would he threaten them with sanctions too?
Does Rand believe Ukraine is worth all of this? Even his fairy-tale, ignore-reality version of Ukraine?
I stand with the people of Ukraine against subjugation and support their efforts to restore freedom. The Ukrainian people must be free to determine the fate and future of their own nation without unwarranted military or political intimidation from Russia.
I promised I wouldn’t go full-blown libertarian in my criticisms – but how exactly are “the Ukrainian people” to decide anything about an individual person, without violating rights. However, in the spirit of this post, I suggest the following: God did not use the seventh day to lay the political borders of the various tribes and states.
If democracy is to mean anything, to say nothing of individual freedom, such borders should be as pliable as the people who live within them choose them to be.
What if the people in Crimea vote to go one way? Is their vote meaningless? Can it be ignored, simply because Khrushchev decided to gift this region to Ukraine in 1954? Does this decree set in stone forever the will of future generations? (I know, I am speaking in the collective – it is nonsense, but it fulfills my commitment regarding this post.)
The real problem is that Russia’s President is not currently fearful or threatened in any way by America’s President, despite his country’s blatant aggression.
But let me be clear: If I were President, I wouldn’t let Vladimir Putin get away with it.
This is the meat of it. Tough times demand tough talk, demand tough hearts, demand tough songs, Demand....
What is interesting is that the elite might be moving away from Rand and toward Ron. I noted something similar during the time of the Syria debacle. And just today, I see this from Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. The entire post is worth reading; I offer several highlights, without comment:
Russians, Americans, Europeans, and Ukrainians plunge on toward the all-time foreign policy record for venality, lying, hypocrisy and self-destructive maneuvers. They show no shame and scant regard for consequences. At this moment, Russia is the most to blame for having transformed a very bad situation into a crisis. Top U.S. officials contribute with their daily evocation of saintly principles that the United States itself has often defied. Experts and politicians goad the White House on with demands for tough actions against Russia that they surely know will fail.
This pile of garbage and ineptitude is heading in one direction—toward a long-term crisis very costly to all.
There’s one chance to turn things around, but it’s a long shot. All leaders involved have to tone down their “explanations” and self-justifications. They have to stop threats and sanctions for the time being.
Last but not least are our very own American heroes. Hillary Clinton, of course, hit the jackpot with her comparison of Putin to Hitler (never mind her clarification the next day).
President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the State Department were not to be outdone by their domestic critics. They preached obedience to constitutions, namely the Ukrainian one, when we often ignore others’ constitutions ourselves.
…as for Washington’s record of vigorously and rigorously upholding the territorial integrity of nations, that’s also a load of baloney. President George W. Bush recognized the independence of Kosovo, a province of Serbia, despite previous commitments not to do so and strenuous Russian objections.
…when our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, let their own rank baloney run away with them, serious diplomacy goes down the drain.
If a high-ranking official at the CFR is writing such words, it is best to take heed. These words are consistent with one of my long-held views – those in power do not want world war, meaning nuclear war. The risks to them are too great – unlike during the conventional wars prior to 1945.
It also suggests another shift, one I mentioned in a recent post: political leaders in the west, trained in belligerence, are acting to type. Obama, never the belligerent type, was selected six years ago because he would not be a McCain or Hillary – a bombast. The way to de-claw the belligerents is to slowly withdraw support. Through Obama, they may have begun this process politically. Through the financial calamity, they may be doing this financially.
Has the memo circulated amongst the elite – time to take the US down a notch or two, they are getting too big for their britches? If so, the next US president will be like Obama, relatively soft on militarism.
I still think Rand is a likely winner in the next presidential race. I think he will improve his odds if he is able to read the tea leaves and move toward his father’s position on overseas adventurism (Rand doesn’t come with his father’s “handicap” of wanting to stick strictly to the Constitution otherwise; therefore, he is a safe bet for those who want to maintain control through regulatory democracy).
Rand: set up a meeting with Leslie Gelb. This may help you in your political aspirations.
In the meantime, tone it down – this will be helpful for the perpetuation of life on earth.
(Thanks to EPJ and Mike Rozeff)