Gnawing at the Conscience of the Right: Ron Paul and the Military-Industrial Complex

As Ron Paul’s campaign quietly recedes into oblivion, I am astounded by how little direct engagement has been made with his ideas by the leading voices on the Right. The vast majority of conservative commentators have chosen the short-term strategy of derision and ad hominem. He has been scorned as a conspiracy nut, a “truther,” or “the fringe.” However effective that approach may have been in the near term, it has revealed a flaw in the present conservative mindset—a flaw which I suspect gnaws away at the psyche of our leading pundits.

Paul’s views on foreign policy are entirely consistent with his conservative understanding of American constitutional government and the ideas of individual liberty and free enterprise. His views are so consistent in fact, that taking them on directly requires a great deal of energy and consideration. More particularly, it is very, very hard to assert that the military-industrial complex is not itself a problem every bit as serious in its implications for liberty as the welfare state.

What has made Paul so troubling is that he has very carefully and logically pointed out that the economic principles which American conservatives supposedly affirm, apply as much to military bureaucracy and administration as they do to any of the interventions of which the left is so very fond. If there is to be a serious effort to reduce not only the nation’s debt, but also the individual’s dependence on government, it will surely need to engage not only domestic social spending, but America’s military-industrial commitments. That is not happening on the right of the political spectrum in anywhere near the degree that is necessary. Indeed, just the opposite is happening.

The more the threat of fiscal ruin confronts us, the more all things military are being wrapped in the flag and shielded from any serious analysis based on core conservative principles. That will have far-reaching implications not only for our fiscal and political well-being, but our culture.

Increasingly conservatives appear to be willing to pay deeper homage to values of martial valor and discipline, and a near limitless demand for personal sacrifice than to those of personal independence and liberty. The rhetorical appeal of these martial virtues is only too apparent when contrasted with an effete Left for which nothing seems too tawdry to subsidize.

But let us not kid ourselves. If the martial virtues ultimately replace the virtues of individual independence and personal responsibility, rather than merely supplementing them, we will no longer have liberty or limited constitutional government. Spartan predominance was not a good long-run outcome for Greece as a whole.

There is a good case to be made for a strong effective military force. There is a good case to be made for constrained but direct engagement with enemies abroad. But to make that case consistent with freedom, the argument must be grounded on the core traditional commitments of our constitutionally limited republic under law. We cannot simply harp on and on about foreign and domestic terrorists. Those who profess to be conservatives cannot blithely continue to ignore the questions of extended and extensive military engagements and the consequences which follow from them for expenditure and economic dependence (not to mention the Constitution) which Paul has raised.

Unfortunately, fear now drives the engines of both parties, whether it be the fear of economic uncertainty or the fear of hostile enemies everywhere, and this is why the short-term strategy to deal with Paul has been so effective. If we continue down this path, though, as many of our military leaders must certainly realize, that victory will ultimately prove Pyrrhic, even if it were to somehow win the White House.

14 thoughts on “Gnawing at the Conscience of the Right: Ron Paul and the Military-Industrial Complex

  1. “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.” – Faramir, LoTR

    A Tolkien quote for everything.

  2. ‘Quietly recedes into oblivion’ – you’ve got to be kidding! Ron Paul’s latest campaign appearance saw 5000 attendees in an electrifying and emotionally charged event. I’m following this from the UK and I can see the truth blacked out by the US MSM. Wake up, turn off the TV and do some genuine research. It’s too late in the UK – we have ceded all sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats in Europe, along with any chance of a free and prosperous future for our children. It’s not too late for America but time is running out.

  3. What an uncomfortable post! Here we were enjoying some nice spring weather and you had to bring this up. What’s wrong with you? Of course you cannot have the cake and eat it too but, also of course, even more must you make certain that the cake does not have you!

    Let me add just a question. Why are the Americans so magnificently willing to risk their children in wars they consider just, while at the same time they want their banks to act like cowards and lend only to what is officially perceived as not-risky? http://bit.ly/dFRiMs

    1. Cause in America you either have: a) multiple homes already, or b) not a chance in hell of ever getting one anyways; if you’re with the latter group the military might just be the best job available to you, and if you belong with the former group then a good war means extra returns on that Halliburton stock. Win-win, right?

  4. I am shocked by your surprise, or maybe I am surprised by your shock.

    Standard issue Democrats and Republicans are really on the same page when it comes to the military and foreign engagements. To be sure, there are differences in the details of why they support specific foreign military intervention – Dems tend to focus more on humanitarian concerns, the GOP on international friendships and security – but they both are motivated by a sense of what is best in the short and long term for the US and its citizens. And they both are, in my opinion, wrong.

    So it should come as no surprise that none of the candidates and their supporters are ready, willing, and able to engage Ron Paul in a substantive discussion of the military. They believe their point of view is in accordance with the Constitution and the obligation to defend and protect the US and its citizens, so why would they entertain the arguments of someone arguing their belief is a violation of it?

  5. “As Ron Paul’s campaign quietly recedes into oblivion…” A Standing room only crowd of 5000+ people showed up at the University of Illinois today to hear Congressman Paul speak wednesday evening…Are you not, for whatever reason, making yourself part of the “short-term strategy to deal with Paul”. It seems that you are propagating the marginalization of the policies, you indeed support, in your otherwise superbly written article…

  6. Mr. Agricola states that “There is a good case to be made for a strong effective military force. There is a good case to be made for constrained but direct engagement with enemies abroad”.

    Oh? I wonder what that case might look like.

    For the life of me I don’t know of any foreign power or any private group or individual who poses a threat to the security of the United States. Canadaians and Mexicans have always had easy entry and exit to our country and pose zero threat. Any other country on earth would not even contemplate an attack because they know the retaliation would be fatal. There is zero chance of another country attacking us. Criminals such as the World Trace Center bombers and he 9-11 hijackers committed their crimes because of US military activities abroad, not because of a lack of a military force.

    A Swiss type system of an armed volunteer force that is available in an emergency would be a more effective national defense than the ruinisouly expensive standing army and air force we have now.

    1. Actually, the founders were opposed to having a standing army because kings (which is basically what we have now) tend to send them off to fight wars on a whim.

  7. Those of us that support Ron Paul must unite with a single action. Not vote? Wrlite him in on every ballot (lf you can actually write anything)? We must have an effect on the election. Obama or any of the other three is disaster, period. So it does not make much difference who wins. So what can we do? What action would most “shock” the status quo? someone come up with an answer.

  8. I appreciate these comments. Perhaps “oblivion” was too extreme–I certainly hope that the issues and the people involved in bringing them forward will be emboldened to press on and compel the mainstream media to take note. I also would like very much if conservatives in general turned their attention to the substance of the issues and would address them with the seriousness that their own principles demand. At the very least I hope this has raised that question in their minds.

  9. When you have the same individuals who own and control most of the Military Industrial Complex in America also owning and controlling most of the Main Stream Media how can you expect Ron Paul to get any fair or unbiased media coverage? In fact how can you expect Ron Paul to get any coverage at all? Even though the Internet has made great strides in spreading a 3rd way of thinking, unfortunately, most voters today have many of their opinions formed by watching TV reporters or reading the establishment media. I really believe that if we had a free and fair Presidential election where ideas could be discussed and debated between Ron Paul and Obama,that Ron Paul would become the next President of the United States. But alas,I’m sorry to say that this probably will never occur. A pity.

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