In my book SWINDLED I mention that Congressman Paul remains the only politician to ever change my mind on anything, but I declined to mention in the book what exactly the issue was. The issue was foreign policy, and I'll let you in on how it happened. but first a little background.
I was a teenager in the late 80's and came to political awareness listening to Rush Limbaugh in his early days. I grew up in a lower middle class family with a strong history of Democratic support, and Rush's promotion of individual liberty fascinated me. I was probably a mainstream conservative by the time I joined the military. As a member of the military I made multiple trips to the Middle East to enforce one UN resolution or another even though I disliked the UN and felt our military was being mis-used, I believed that our overseas intervention was an unfortunate, but a necessity.
I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and although I always felt there was something fishy about the Sept 11 attacks, I accepted the idea of a pre-emptive war on terror. Even while accepting it it, I saw that it could be used as an excuse for all sorts of villainy. Unfortunately over the next few years, I was more than right. The attacks were used as an excuse for the greatest expansion of the police state in my lifetime, all pushed by a president who claimed to believe in limited government. I watched family members who were still in the military do 4 and 5 tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan , with no end in sight. And to make things worse, nobody seemed to have a solution except more of the same. Well, not exactly nobody.....
In 2008, while running for President, Congressman Paul was part of a debate in South Carolina. I remember watching this debate specifically because of the exchange between Dr. Paul and Mayor Giuliani. Dr. Paul made the case that American foreign policy was making things worse and that the 9/11 attacks were an inevitable result of misguided American foreign policy. The crowd at the debate were silent, maybe even a little hostile, and when Giuliani wrapped himself in the flag of 9/11 and demanded that Dr. Paul withdraw the remark, the crowd went wild. It was interesting theater in that the highly lauded "Mr 9/11" seemed to have scored a decisive blow against the lesser known Congressman from Texas. But what happened next was the most amazing moment of the campaign; Ron Paul did not back down. To a hostile crowd he continued to patiently, politely explain himself. He was , like so many other times in his career, alone in a crowd. I thought to myself, the old guys got guts.
But the larger question was,what if he's right? I had a President in whom I had lost all confidence who repeatedly had said 'they hate us because we're free'. Surely, I thought, this would be an easy thing to research. All I have to do is find some self-proclaimed enemy terrorist type citing our freedom as a reason for his hatred. As far as I can tell, gentle reader, no such proclamation exists. Over and over again, those hostile to US interventionism say the same thing. They cite our meddling in their internal politics, or our occupation of their sacred lands, or our financing and arming of their enemies. As a military man, I had been taught the concept of 'asymmetrical warfare', a technique by which a small force can outmaneuver and score symbolic victories over a larger military opponent. It occurred to me that was exactly what was going on. The 'irrational politics of the Middle East' might not so irrational after all.
The other thing that Dr. Paul said that night was he asked how would we react if another country did to us what we were doing to them. What if China was doing patrols in the Gulf of Mexico, or building military bases in Kansas? Extending that out, we could include drone warfare, or toppling of regimes or manipulation of currencies or trade sanctions. To apply one set of standards to ourselves and another set to every other nation on earth is worse than incompetent; it's the morality of a bully. Its the morality of a government that thinks, whether it says it out loud or not, that might really does make right, and that we do these things because after all, we can. A government who will do this to nameless, faceless people abroad will eventually turn that mindset towards its own citizens which is exactly what we are seeing now, and will continue to see for the foreseeable future.
I go public with this because the other night Mayor Giuliani was on some news channel being asked his opinion about some terrorism related issue. This vexed me greatly.This mayor , who had misread the reasons for overseas hostility to America, was still being treated as an genius while the man who had predicted this and others to follow was a media pariah on this issue. Its almost as ludicrous as Giuliani being asked his opinion on Paul supporters right before the 2012 convention. As "America's Mayor" criticized people like myself I couldn't help but think that Mayor Giuliani had managed to win NO delegates in his run for the White House, yet he was an expert on what Dr, Paul should do. His campaign had ended with a mountain of debt, but he was an expert on how the well-funded Congressman from Texas should handle himself. Along a similar line, Mr. Giuliani could never hope to amass the sort of young enthusiastic crowds that appeared everywhere Ron Paul went, but his opinion was the one being sought. Is the world a crazy place or what?