Political Discourse and the Beauty of the Brain

 Since I am a college professor, it probably won’t come as a surprise to readers of this blog that this post is a plea for more thinking and less emotionalism in our political discourse.  Our emotions are a delightful part of what makes us human.  But while we should listen to our feelings, it’s not good to be ruled by them.  For the most part, we cannot control our emotions.  What we can control is our response to them–and this is where the beauty of our brains enters the conversation.

The musings of this post got their start as I read an article from the Tenth Amendment Center authored by Michael Maharrey entitled, “I Love George Washington.  Except for his Foreign Policy.”  Maharrey’s honesty in the piece is refreshing.  He’s a former neo-conservative who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but who has now become more cautious in his estimation of how the United States should use its power abroad.

He argues that Ron Paul’s warnings about power projection should be heeded, but states clearly that he doesn’t agree with Paul on all issues.  Neither do I agree with Ron Paul on all elements of his foreign policy … but are you even still reading?  You see, for many of us, the mention of a particular politician with whom we disagree often causes an emotional disconnect to take place.  There’s the rub.

As Maharrey says, Ron Paul is not crazy.  I believe Paul is naive regarding Iran and its nuclear ambitions, but I also think we need to heed a great deal of the advice he offers when it comes to what George Washington called “foreign entanglements.”  Isolationism isn’t the answer, but neither is excessive interventionism. 

When it comes to the advice offered by Ron Paul or any other political leader of integrity, we must engage our intellectual sifters, excavating that advice for the precious nuggets it may contain.  To find a diamond of insight we sometimes have to dig through a bit of dirt.

American security has been greatly enhanced by the fact that forward-looking military leaders had the good sense to know when it was time to change course.  Early in the nation’s history it was foreseen that a strong navy was needed.  Not long after the start of the twentieth century it was proposed that air power would be a necessity.  In hindsight we can say that these innovations to our national policy were the right decisions.

For my way of thinking, we’re at another new juncture in our national history.  We need to reconsider our use of the military.  Our bases are scattered around the globe in more than a hundred countries.  In a world of increased connectedness and sophisicated technology, is this the most effective way to craft our military might?  Instead, could we have a smaller, more concentrated, more mobile military capable of projecting itself quickly, quietly, and with pin-point accuracy?  I suspect that the second of these options would serve us better.  It might also increase goodwill toward us around the world.

Some of my readers are retired military officers.  I look forward to their responses to this post.  In the meantime, to read the fine article by Michael Maharrey and the Tenth Amendment Center, click here.

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6 thoughts on “Political Discourse and the Beauty of the Brain

  1. John, much of our military strategy around the world is leftover from the cold war. Plus, as part of our foreign policy, these bases provide millions of jobs to locals in these countries, making them a very inefficient form of foreign aid. I agree with Ron Paul that we need to look very closely and close the majority (if not all) of these bases.

  2. This may be sligtly off track, but I somehow think it fits into the whole issue of foreign policy and internal security. What is your take on this article posted in:

    “Market Watch – The Wall Street Journal – Dec 2, 2011 12:13pm EST”
    Headline: The U.S. Senate passed a $662 billion appropriations bill for the Pentagon late Thursday despite a controversial provision that could strip Americans of the right to trial if they are suspected of terrorism.
    In the Text: According to the proposed legislation, the military would be allowed to hold any person suspected of aiding al Qaeda, the Taliban or an associated force without trial until the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are declared over.
    An amendment that would not “require” the military to hold American citizens or foreigners living legally within the U.S. was added at the last minute, but it doesn’t explicitly ban it.

    This is scary because it is hidden within a budgetary bill and seems to be an erosion of our constitutional rights – Again.

  3. A wonderful reminder of how quickly anyone can dismiss opposing ideas. As always, John, you ask that we dialogue about all important issues before coming to conclusions about any of them.
    My comment will show where our beliefs converge and where we part ways.

    I agree completely with Ron Paul’s foreign policy. Iran is no threat to the United States, and I find claims of it’s willingness to attack Israel vastly exaggerated. (See former CIA agent Robert Baer’s book “The Devil We Know” here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/devil-we-know-robert-baer/1100995286). Also, for those who consider we “isolationists” naive, I’d like to highly recommend two books by former CIA advisers: “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of Empire” by the late Chalmers Johnson, Ph.D and “Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism” by Robert Pape, Ph.D. Both men agreed with Paul’s foreign policy, and both stated that the true cause of most of the animosity in the world is America’s constant presence in other nation’s internal affairs. I disagree with your assessment that our security was greatly enhanced by the rise of military leaders. This rise lead to disastrous wars, like the War of 1812 and World War I. America, in my opinion, would have been far better served by staying out of such conflicts.

    On a note that’s more historical than confrontational, I’d like to look at where the term “isolationist” came from. That word was never used by the people which it applied to: “Isolationist” was really smear and a pejorative created by liberal internationalists to portray conservatives as head-in-sand-neanderthals who wanted to watch every innocent person in the world die, and close America off from others. In other words, it was pure propaganda then–and now. If you read the ACTUAL WORDS of the so-called “isolationists” (e.g. Robert McCormick, Garet Garrett, Senators Burton Wheeler(D-Montana) and Robert Taft(R-Ohio), etc.) they NEVER said that America should turn her back on the world. They wanted more trade, more diplomatic relationships with other nations–they simply didn’t want war. As a true conservative, Ron Paul agrees with Jefferson’s foreign policy of “Peace, Commerce and Honest Friendship”. As all true conservatives detest war, except when America is directly attacked, Ron Paul and those of us who agree with him prefer the term:”non-interventionist.

    (For some great work on the antiwar Old Right and the origin of the awful term “isolationist” see “Ain’t My America” by Bill Kauffman, “Reclaiming the American Right” by Justin Raimondo “Betrayal of the American Right” by Murray Rothbard (see here:http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/betrayal/index.html) “Roosevel and the Isolationists” by Juan S. Cole, and also “Where the Right Went Wrong” by Patrick Buchannan)

    My apologies for recommending so many books. But, as you write so eloquently, emotions often kick-start rejection; a fellow should show he has read the topic and offer professionals whose opinion is more qualified than his on topics of great importance.

    It saddens me to see such a wonderful institute as the Tenth Amendment Center dissent, even ever-so-slightly, from such a central issue. Rather than offering apologia on behalf of Paul’s position, I’d like to say that I believe this single issue–foreign policy–appears to be THE dividing line in the conservative movement, with youngsters like myself and active-duty military supporting Ron Paul’s non-interventionism and my parent’s generation supporting, by-and-large a Neo-Conservative, Liberal Internationalist policy. I know John, is no Neo-Conservative. Which is why I’m so grateful to have this debate on this blog. It is THE issue–the elephant in the room–that few want to discuss. As you so correctly explain about both sides: emotionalism has caused more headaches than any of us can imagine. Neo-Conservatives and moderates call Paulians “isolationists,” “anti-Semites,” “The type of people who let Hitler rise!” or, even more absurd, “liberals” and other angry pejoratives. We Old Right, Paulians respond with “Warmongers,” “fascists,” and other unhelpful phrases.

    In my time with mainstream and moderate Republicans, I’ve come to see that both sides stereotype one-another. Thus, our problems only exacerbate.

    Without sounding like a blatant shill for the Paul campaign, I’d like to make the radical statement that non-interventionism is the true Conservative principal. Harding, Eisenhower and Nixon were elected to END wars or keep us out of them, not start conflicts. Ronald Reagan pulled troops from Lebanon and was smeared an “isolationist” by the Neo-cons from National Review for doing so. We Paulians consider ourselves “Old Right” or true conservatives. I want to highly encourage everyone to look into the history of the conservative movement and come to understand one of the reasons we Paulians oppose war so passionately.

    In closing, thanks John. The Conservative movement needs to have this conversation so desperately. I’m glad to see you’re not afraid to start asking tough questions. That’s what makes you an excellent teacher and a true conservative.

  4. My sincere thanks to those who have made comments. Just to clarify, Matt, I don’t think Ron Paul is an isolationist … but thanks for clarifying. There are many who paint him with those colors. And regarding your comment about military leaders, in my post I may not have been as clear as I hoped. I meant to applaud effective military innovation more than any particular military leaders.

    • “effective” being a key term here. I note that the former Governor of Mississippi is trumpeting his latest:
      “Mabus and Tom Vilsack, the ag boss, said they are buying 450,000 gallons of fuel – for $12 million – from Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels LLC, a joint venture of Tyson Foods, Inc. and the Syntroleum Corporation. Solarzyme’s fuel is derived from algae, and Dynamics comes from used cooking oil and animal fat not suitable for food. Mabus added that the fuels, his latest push for a “Great Green Fleet,” can be used without engine mods.

      The deal marks the largest government purchase of biofuel in history, and will be used to power a carrier battle group during next summer’s maritime operation off Hawaii (the carrier is nuclear powered, but the other vessels – and the aircraft based on the carrier — will be using a 50-50 mix of biofuel and standard petroleum products).”

      a quick jog around the calculator indicates he’s paying $26.66 a gallon, wholesale. That’s what happens when you use the military as a social playground instead of a national tool. But then, it’s not his money. And you get to name ships after all kinds of interesting people
      Murtha, Chavez, maybe Sandusky if that segment had sufficient votes.

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