Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has learned his lesson, and it is this: it’s better to be bold. He’s exchanged the mealy-mouthed equivocations of his ill-fated presidential run – when he actually met with Bill Kristol, presumably to negotiate getting a break from his neoconservative nemeses – with a full-on frontal assault against the War Party. As I write, he is standing in the well of the Senate, making the case for his amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would nullify the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that gave the green light to the Afghan and Iraq wars and subsequent American aggressions.
In marked contrast to the carefully modulated rhetorical tone he affected during the 2016 primary – never that convincing to begin with — Sen. Paul seems to have found his voice. Here’s an excerpt from his earlier Senate speech:
“I rise today to oppose unauthorized, undeclared, and unconstitutional war.
“What we have today is basically unlimited war – war anywhere, anytime, any place on the globe.
“This vote will be to sunset, in 6 months, the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force.
“No one with an ounce of intellectual honesty believes these authorizations allow current wars we fight in 7 countries.
“Some of the more brazen advocates of war maintain the President can even fight war in perpetuity without any Congressional authority.”
A wonderful word, brazen – it brings to mind the brassiness of a whore and the wanton evil of a serial murderer, both being characteristics of the War Party and its camp followers. And certainly brazen is fairly descriptive of how, as Sen. Paul contends, the US Congress has failed in its constitutional duty to debate and vote on the many wars we have initiated since September 11, 2001. The War Party doesn’t want a debate, and that much was underscored when Sen. Bob Corker rose to table the Paul amendment, so that in the end the Senate never voted on the actual resolution but only on whether to cut off debate.
Typical cowardly parliamentary move.
Authorizing war and more war and unending war is not conservative and it is obviously in no way libertarian. War is after all THE HEALTH OF THE STATE. It is during war that the government always grows and liberties are reduced. That, sadly is why so many people like war.
We need about 5 more Rand Pauls in the Senate – at least – if we are going to even think about turning things in a positive direction.
But more libertarians also need to recognize the opportunity that lay in Trumpland too, even as we rail against the current power grab. Too many libertarians are completely wussing out these days and are trying to sell something that doesn’t even look like libertarianism to me. Heck some in Libertarian Party leadership even recently attacked The Mises Institute which is the embodiment of what libertarianism IS! So uncool is Trump that some libertarians or “libertarians” find pleasure in trying to play footsie with the statists who also hate Trump. (Not that Trump isn’t a statist. But at least there is talk of tax cuts, and deregulation, and reduction of bureaucracy.)
I recently met a long time and brilliant libertarian who made great pains to distance himself from anything and everything having to do with Trump. I asked him whether he would have preferred that Hillary was elected. He didn’t say yes, but he came close. Then I asked him what he thought would have happened to the Supreme Court had Hills won, and he did admit that the Gorsuch win (this person knows Justice Gorsuch and has respect for him) was an important win for liberty. Also the effort to get taxation under some kind of control he conceded was a positive. Then – I believe he conceded – on the issue of hyper regulation too. But he still wanted to pit Trump as a foil, because, well, it seems to me Trump just wasn’t cool with the right crowd.
The fear of course for some libertarians is that Trump has been too OK with the “white nationalist” crowd (which numbers in what – the hundreds in a population of 310 million people?). Some libertarians have bought that whole bit, repeated and repeated and repeated. So much for independent thought. I’m sorry I don’t see the white nationalist bit and I’ve been watching for this like a hawk.
And the border issues have also been an opportunity to show how “enlightened” some libertarians are. To virtue signal as only some libertarians can. You know borders are just lines man. – OK I buy that. I buy that those lines are creations of statism. And if we didn’t have a massive and very expensive welfare state I’d say keep them really wide open. (I am all for immigration for the record, but I’m not going to be insane about it particularly with the current tax burden Americans must endure.)
Really many libertarians seem to have forgotten that this country fought a Revolution for Liberty. That is a defining element of what it means to be an American. Being conscious of this is not anti-liberty. Understanding that the DNA of America still has deep and large strands of liberty in it, even with the current welfare/warfare state is a libertarian thing to understand.
Still, some don’t understand this. Or don’t want to understand this.
The “Never Trump” crowd can’t and won’t make these arguments because they reject Trumpism root and branch. Sen. Paul, to his credit, hasn’t joined his virtue-signaling suck-up-to-the-left libertarian comrades in making the President into a bogeyman.
At the root of this strategic mistake is a fundamental theoretical error: the militant anti-nationalism of our self-described “cosmopolitan” libertarians. It is ignorant nonsense to assert that all nationalism is statist: it depends on the context. And in the American context, such a sweeping generalization is especially absurd: after all, the Founders were American nationalists. The constitutional principles invoked by Sen. Paul in his AUMF speech would never have been operational if not for the fact that they founded a nation, one based on explicitly libertarian principles. The American Revolution was the first – and, so far, only – successful libertarian revolution in history: properly understood and placed in its historical context, American nationalism is libertarianism.
Libertarians fail to understand this at the risk of consigning themselves to a sectarian existence, one that is necessarily isolated from history and from the woof and warp of life as ordinary Americans experience it. Worse, this failure aligns them with the internationalist elites, who disdain the very idea of nationhood and national sovereignty – and who, for that reason, have no problem with a constantly expanding borderless empire on which the sun never sets.
It’s not for nothing that the biggest antiwar movement in American history – one demonized by both the liberal-left and the neoconservative right – chose “America First” as its moniker. As the left goes full-bore interventionist, the past is rising up to shape the future. Libertarians must either get on board the “America First” train, or else get left behind in the dust.