I stumbled upon an article in The New York Post last week titled “Rand Paul’s Triumph” and was surprised to see something positive about the libertarian senator from Kentucky in a neo-conservative newspaper. The headline gave me hope that perhaps after the last election, the Republican establishment might give up on its egregious trade-your-rights-for-security “core principle.”
I should have known better than to hope when the name of the article’s author, John Podhoretz, rang a bell.
Neo-conservatism was the brainchild of Norman Podhoretz and his protégé Irving Kristol decades ago, and Irving Kristol’s son Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard continues his father’s tradition today. So I suspected that John Podhoretz might be Norman’s son, similarly carrying on his father’s tradition and indeed he is. As a matter of fact, I quickly discovered that Podhoretz is part of the neo-conservative inner sanctum and was actually a co-founder of The Weekly Standard.
Hope does spring eternal, however, so I read on. After gushing with praise over Senator Paul’s intelligence, courage and determination (I was really hooked by then!), Podhoretz delivers his punch:
The logic of Paul’s view is that the United States is the aggressor in the war on Islamist terror rather than a bystander unwillingly drawn into a battle that has not yet been won.
Rand Paul, who turned 50 this year, is one of the most talented politicians of his generation. And one of the most dangerous.
While in my mind nothing justifies a massive attack on civilians like 9/11, I must sadly differ with the view that the United States was targeted for no reason whatsoever.
The author’s claim that the United States was merely a bystander with no presence or policy in the Middle East before 9/11 is false. His position is typical of neo-conservative propaganda, but for this author, it’s particularly disingenuous because he was an intimate part of a circle of associates who actively promoted an aggressive US policy in the Middle East prior to 9/11.
This policy pursuit was most clearly expressed in the mission statement of a neo-conservative organization established in 1997 by Bill Kristol, among others, called the Project for a New American Century (“PNAC”). PNAC had the stated goal to
strive to rally support for a vigorous and principled policy of American international involvement and to stimulate useful public debate on foreign and defense policy and America’s role in the world.
As concerning as it is, this mission statement is still modest to a fault. The purpose of PNAC was not simply to stimulate public debate, but to set a well-defined agenda for American foreign policy. To this end, PNAC published in the year of its founding a lengthy and comprehensive document called Rebuilding America’s Defenses that calls for a transformation of the Middle East and other regions, including regime change in Iraq, through the use of America’s geopolitical and military power. To this end, the document is shockingly straightforward, particularly the following passage:
[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor.
This document demonstrates that not only was the United States not “a bystander unwillingly drawn into a battle” as Podhoretz claims in his criticism of Rand Paul, but that the neo-conservative vision as laid out by PNAC recognized—one might even get the sense hoped for (horrible though that is to contemplate)—the benefit of a “catalyzing event’ of the enormity of Pearl Harbor.
The fact that Podhoretz continues to use 9/11 as justification for a foreign policy agenda that he knows predates it, and that actually exacerbates the factors that led to it, discredits him as a trustworthy voice in this debate.
I don’t dispute Podhoretz’s assertion that Rand Paul is “one of the most dangerous politicians” of his generation, but the danger Senator Paul poses is not to the security of the American people, it is to the neo-conservative dominance of the Republican Party.