Why I’d Have To Think About Who To Vote For, Barack Obama or Ron Paul

Let me say, first, that I’m confident this is not a choice we’ll ever face. It’s going to be Romney versus Obama. (Unless Ron Paul decides to run as a third party candidate, which, from a Democratic point of view, would be delightful).

Let me say, second, that I agree with pretty much every progressive critique of Ron Paul I’ve read. As Jeff has written, Paul’s positions on reproductive rights are abominable — and shows how truly shallow many libertarians’ commitment to liberty is. I think it’s clear that Paul is a racist; the only question remaining is if his past embrace of racism was heartfelt or cynical.1

He’s quite possibly antisemitic and homophobic as well. His economic ideas are to economics what creationism is to biology. And in the White House, Ron Paul could do a hell of a lot of real damage to the country.

There are domestic issues where I agree with Paul — particularly his opposition to the drug war — but I just don’t think that as President, Paul would have much power to end the drug war. And although I think Paul is better than Obama on many civil liberties issues, in many cases those issues don’t actually effect many people.

But.

I just don’t trust Barack Obama to keep us out of war with Iran.

And that’s huge. It should be huge to any progressive.

I pretty much agree with Srdja Trifkovic when he writes:

The Iranians are undoubtedly enhancing their enrichment capability and seeking control of a full nuclear-fuel cycle, but there is nothing in the recent International Atomic Energy Agency’s report to indicate that they are building a bomb. Nonetheless, the drumbeat has returned to Washington, and its objective is to present a military attack against Iran as a legitimate policy option to deal with a major threat to the United States. This campaign is reminiscent of the propaganda barrage over the 18 months preceding the war against Iraq in March 2003: It is based on an exaggerated threat and on the bogus claim that diplomatic solutions have been exhausted.2

We definitely seem to be moving towards war with Iran, and the Obama Administration is part of that movement. I have little confidence in Obama’s interest or desire in keeping us out of war with Iran.

Americans tend to vastly overstate the president’s power. A president is not a dictator, and cannot singlehandedly decide on policy.

But there are areas where Presidents have more influence. When it comes to foreign policy — and the decision to make war — no one is more powerful than the President. When it comes to the decision to go to war or not, the President has as close as he (or she) ever comes to dictatorial powers.3

How many hundreds of thousands of people will die if the US pursues another “war of choice,” this time with Iran? Is there anything wrong, from a progressive point of view, with considering that an overwhelmingly important issue?

I really don’t like Ron Paul. But preventing another needless war might be worth having an ignorant, racist, sexist, asshat like Ron Paul in the Oval Office.

I think that people who consider a vote for Paul impossible to justify from a progressive point of view are either undervaluing anti-war as a progressive principal, or are underestimating the danger of war with Iran under President Obama.

I’m not saying that war with Iran is certain if Obama is re-elected. But Ron Paul is far more war-adverse than Barack Obama, and for me, being war-adverse is very possibly the single most important trait of a good President.

Of course, in the real election, we’ll be faced with a choice between Obama, who seems to be leaning somewhat towards war with Iran, and Romney, who is leaning even further in that direction, although of course being Romney his actual views are hard to pin down. Despite the fact that Americans in general are fairly war-adverse, there will not be a viable candidate for President who is firmly committed to keeping the US out of war with Iran if at all possible — another sign of the failure of US democracy to produce genuinely democratic choices for citizens to vote on.

  1. That Paul may have merely appointed racists to speak in his name is not a good excuse; the ability to delegate authority competently is not incidental to being a good President. []
  2. Quoted from the excellent Eunomia blog. I really think that lefty bloggers who don’t read right-wing blogs are missing out on one of the best bloggers writing by skipping Daniel Larison. []
  3. I know that the Constitution gives Congress the job of deciding when the US goes to war. But Congress seems as eager to give up that power as the White House is to acquire it. []
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79 Responses to Why I’d Have To Think About Who To Vote For, Barack Obama or Ron Paul

  1. 1
    evil fizz says:

    I think it’s that you don’t trust Obama to keep us out of war in Iran, not Iraq in that reference.

  2. 2
    Robert says:

    Not going to get into the weeds on is-Paul-a-??, not least because it beats the crap out of me, I don’t know much about the man other than the Newsweek-story-level coverage. I know a lot about his nutjob followers – more charitably, the fraction of his followers who are nutjobs – because they infest conservative and libertarian sites, boards, and discussions like chiggers infest the Mississippi Delta. But you can’t tell much by the followers. (You can’t tell ‘em much, either.)

    However, I would not put this into the category of “never happen, it will be Romney, Gingrich at the outside”. Nobody likes Romney, I mean, nobody. He has the establishment, but the establishment has been losing its grip on the party for about a decade now and even if they were totally in control, they don’t give a crap about Romney either. Some people like Gingrich but just as many hate him, and – tellingly – the more experienced a person is in the party (not the same thing as being the establishment), the more likely they are to hate Gingrich. The younglings and padawans pick up on that. G has peaked.

    Paul’s people have energy and (a psychotically viral) form of organization. The Republican primary process is somewhat susceptible to energy and organization; the establishment used to use that to bulldoze their winner candidates through the process by virtue of having the big organization and the institutional-momentum variety of energy. That isn’t happening this time with Romney; he’s got an uphill fight for every state.

    Paul could very well pull it out. If it were any other candidate, I would say that we’d end up with a Romney-Paul ticket – Romney at the head on electability grounds, and Paul in the veep slot as a bone to the Paulbots. But there is no way in hell that is happening. They are just far too incompatible. Ditto a Gingrich-Paul ticket. And, although it may well end up happening just because it’s the least awful alternative to a Paul-headed ticket, Romney/Gingrich is not a bird that’s gonna fly very well either.

    So…give some more thought to your dilemna, because I give it about 1 chance in 3 of being a choice you actually have to make.

  3. 3
    mythago says:

    I think that people who consider a vote for Paul impossible to justify from a progressive point of view are either undervaluing anti-war as a progressive principal, or are underestimating the danger of war with Iran under President Obama.

    I think that people who consider a vote for Paul possible to justify from a progressive point of view are either undervaluing the hugely damaging effect Paul would have on everything from court nominations to agency policy, or are overestimating the danger of war with Iran under President Obama.

    The White House saying (in the opinion of other sources) that it will not completely rule out military action is not “fuck, Obama’s going to drag us into Iran.”

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Evil Fizz, thanks. Typo corrected.

    Robert, the funny thing about the Republican primaries is that none of these candidates is actually capable of winning a Republican primary election, because all of them, Paul included, are disliked by way too many Republican primary voters. But even though none of them can win, one of them will.

    Mythago, it’s difficult to say.

    But it’s certainly true that Obama has been far to the right on foreign policy compared to where I was hoping he’d be, and compared to where I thought he’d be when he was a candidate. (I voted for Obama over Clinton because I thought Obama would be more progressive than Clinton on foreign policy; ironically, he then made Clinton his point person on foreign policy.) On a large range of foreign policy related issues — from Bradford Manning to ridiculous legal rationalizations for war to indefinite detention — Obama seems similar to, or only marginally better than, Bush.

    If you have confidence that Obama would keep us out of war with Iran unless absolutely unavoidable, then of course there is no possible question of who is better, Ron Paul or Obama. But I don’t see any reason for me to share your confidence.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    Obama seems similar to, or only marginally better than, Bush.

    Perhaps that’s because Bush was right, and people who are in office see the data and have the perspective of responsibility, and come to the same conclusion as he did, and as Obama did, and as Paul/Romney/Obama Part II: The Wrath of Khan will.

    I advance this as a theory, not as a fact; while plausible it is also self-serving in the interests of power, which is automatically a red flag. But I have to say that it at least seems plausible. I don’t see Obama as unwilling to fight battles against people he doesn’t much respect; he doesn’t (or didn’t) much respect the largely right-wing national security apparatus built up under Bush (and before) but he seems to have decided, whether organically or because of CIA mind control lasers, that they were on basically the right track.

    It seems to me that you are forgetting a key possibility: Iran does not require our cooperation for there to be a war, if they desire one. War is unilateral. Sometimes you have to really push yourself to the limit to get a larger power to wearily recognize you as a combatant, but Iran is quite large enough to start an undisputable war with us whether we have President Paul, President Romney, President Obama, or President Jesus. You have to add that possibility to the possibility that President X will go off and start one just for shits and giggles (or for considered reasons of national security).

    I don’t think Iran is all that interested in fomenting a genuine war with us (strife and tension, yes, for domestic political consumption) but I also think that the odds that they would end up doing so under President Paul are significantly higher than they would be under President Obama. Pacifist, isolationist leadership is a red flag to the bull of certain kinds of aggressive nationalist states; Iran is that type of aggressive nationalist state right now. They’d start a fight with Paul because they think they could get away with it, bloody the giant’s nose and skate. They wouldn’t try that on Obama because they know he’d be dropping cruise missiles all up in their shit. Unfortunately the giant’s nose has a way of dragging the whole giant into a fight, even if the giant’s brain doesn’t want a fight at all.

    So how big a contribution for Mitt can I put you down for?

  6. 6
    mythago says:

    Amp, you are casting this in terms of position shift: because Obama shifted rightwards on some foreign policy issues, and war with Iran is a position rightwards of where Candidate Obama was, therefore it is logical he will shift more towards war with Iran just as he shifted on other foreign policy issues.

    That assumes that war with Iran is not much more than a policy decision. I don’t see war with Iran as in any way realistic or practical; both Manning’s prosecution and detention issues are things that happen within our borders, and however wrongheaded they are not on the same scale of difficulty or ability to pull off as invading Iran. The rest of the world couldn’t care much what we do with Bradley Manning, but it sure as hell does care if we start a war with Iran.

    Again being practical, ‘we will not rule out war’ is exactly what I would expect a Democrat who wants to avoid the wimp label to say in an election year; and our ability to affect whether or not our country goes to war under Obama is a lot better than our ability to affect whether, say, President Paul stacks the federal judiciary with wackaloons or dismantles HHS.

  7. 7
    Buttercupia says:

    The view is nice down here under the bus.

  8. 8
    Jenny says:

    I say we all write in Feingold and Saunders even if Feingold’s rather ignorant regarding Israel/Palestine:http://mondoweiss.net/2011/10/feingold-says-palestinian-authority-doesnt-acknowledge-israels-right-to-exist.html
    He can learn I bet.

  9. 9
    Robert says:

    I heartily agree that every progressive should follow Jenny’s strategy. Surely, taking votes away from Barack Obama and forcing him to campaign in prog-heavy states that should have been locked for him, will fill him with joy and gratitude towards the progressive movement, and greatly advance all that movement’s goals.

    Only, you should vote for Cynthia McKinney. Feingold doesn’t have crazy bug eyes, and you really have to have crazy bug eyes to get the full impact of the strategy on Obama’s future policymaking.

  10. 10
    nm says:

    I think there’s a big difference in being slow in ending a war and being quick to start a new one. There’s a lot of inertia involved in winding an existing war down, and it’s going to take time. (And there is no question that President Obama likes having some of the powers Candidate Obama protested against.) But, ya know, the guy campaigned on ending US involvement in the fighting in Iraq and continuing US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, and that’s what he’s (eventually) done. I don’t see an automatic leap from that to getting involved in a war against Iran.

  11. 11
    Jeff Fecke says:

    I think to believe Obama is going to start a war with Iran, you have to ignore the fact that Obama has yet to start a war during his presidency, and has indeed ended one. Indeed, the only new conflict Obama joined was illustrative. We can debate whether the brief involvement of NATO in the Libyan Civil War was a great decision or not, but there’s no question that US involvement was very limited and designed to have a minimum of blowback.

    Iran is a different story. There’s a huge difference between air support for Libyan rebels and a land invasion of a nation with a large and powerful military. And given Obama’s foreign policy bent — which is decisively from the realist school — it’s impossible for me to believe he actually would start war with Iran without a causus belli.

    So why won’t he rule it out? Because he’s a realist. Because saber-rattling is a useful tool to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons (and yes, Iran with nuclear weapons would be a serious problem, not just for Israel and the US, but to Iraq and Saudi Arabia). But logistically, I don’t see any way Obama actually invades.

    Moreover, I think you misapprehend the reasons Paul opposes action in Iran. Paul is a paleolibertarian, and the person who his foreign policy is most comparable to is Pat Buchanan — who also, you may remember, opposed war in Iraq. Paul is an isolationist, who would withdraw America’s sphere of influence back to our borders. This is good if you don’t want to attack people, yes, but it’s bad if you believe in, say, foreign aid to poorer nations.

    Basically, you’re putting the slim possibility of war with Iran on one side, and all of the positions in which Obama is unquestionably better than Paul (abortion, racism, economics, social justice, welfare, currency, international aid, etc., etc.) on the other, and saying they balance. I simply don’t think so.

    Indeed, because Paul would withdraw from the world — and leave the world to fend for itself — I think the odds of an Iranian conflict would skyrocket. Do you think Netanyahu would sit on his hands as America walked away? Not a chance. I think that the odds of Israel attacking Iran would be much higher under a laissez-faire Paul foreign policy than under Obama’s realpolitik foreign policy. And the consequences of that are exponentially more dangerous than even an American attack on Iran (which, while idiotic, would at least have the tacit support of most regional powers).

  12. 12
    Jenny says:

    I dunno, Obama’s already started up a war in Somalia:
    http://www.alternet.org/story/152976/has_obama_just_kicked_off_another_oil_war_–_this_time_in_africa?page=entire
    and he’s ordered the assassination of people overseas so part of me believes at this point Obama just might be prone to starting a war.

  13. 13
    Jenny says:

    “Only, you should vote for Cynthia McKinney. Feingold doesn’t have crazy bug eyes, and you really have to have crazy bug eyes to get the full impact of the strategy on Obama’s future policymaker”

    C’mon, don’t be racist. I don’t like Mckinney because she goes along with anti Semitic conspiracy theories(http://adamholland.blogspot.com/2009/04/cynthia-mckinney-and-far-right-red.html), so let’s focus on actual positives and negatives of candidates rather than appearances.

  14. 14
    mythago says:

    Jenny @12: FFS. A blog post by some random guy making very attenuated connections to hint that efforts to stop the LRA are just another oil war is really shitty evidence that Obama has totally started a war in Somalia so we know he’d be all up in Iran’s shit at the drop of a hat.

    But let’s pretend Mr. Blogger is completely correct. Are we supposed to believe that a Paul presidency would magically make all this go away? That Big Oil’s money would never tempt Paul or anyone in his administration? Or that, you know, since the organization formerly known as Blackwater is a mercenary outfit that we’re supposed to believe Big Oil can’t just hire them and bypass all that government-forces nonsense?

  15. 15
    Harlequin says:

    I don’t think a war with Iran is likely–if for no other reason than that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, Iran is strong enough to give us trouble in an organized way.

    Robert @9:

    taking votes away from Barack Obama

    This position presumes that progressive votes automatically belong to Obama as the Democratic nominee. They don’t.

  16. 16
    Robert says:

    @Jenny – There is no correlation between crazy bug eyes and race, and I didn’t bring one up. I’m nonracist, to the extent that I can be given my upbringing and environment, to the degree that I feel free to think that crazy dumbasses are crazy dumbasses and can be referenced as such, including derogatory comments concerning their crazy appearance, regardless of skin color.

    @Harlequin – True, they don’t belong to him. But if he doesn’t have them, he is less able to win against people that most progs find worse, and the people those progs might prefer to give their votes to have no hope of winning. It’s like having your dad go to the track. You don’t necessarily demand that he put his money on one of the horses with near-even odds, but if he starts betting on lampposts and parking meters you’re gonna be pissed off because he’s just being a huge waste of everyone’s time.

  17. 17
    Delinda says:

    I really don’t like Ron Paul. But preventing another needless war might be worth having an ignorant, racist, sexist, asshat like Ron Paul in the Oval Office.

    Easy for you to say, white guy, that Ron Paul is sexist and racist won’t affect YOU, wouldn’t it?Fuck you and your emotional blackmail- “hey people of color and women, it’s wrong of you to care about Paul racism and sexism since OBMA COULD KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE, so screw your priorities”.

  18. 18
    Delinda says:

    Crazy manic progressives – why did I expect better from you guys. What kind of progressive wouild rather have Ron Paul as president? Lily-white guys, that’s who.

  19. 19
    Delinda says:

    Basically, you’re putting the slim possibility of war with Iran on one side, and all of the positions in which Obama is unquestionably better than Paul (abortion, racism, economics, social justice, welfare, currency, international aid, etc., etc.) on the other, and saying they balance. I simply don’t think so.

    Well, a white guy who won’t be affected by Ron Paul’s racist and sexist policy, and don’t really care about those effects, might think so.

  20. 20
    Delinda says:

    This reminds me of right-winger scolding feminists for fighting for equal pay in the US because women are being stoned to death in Saudi Arabia and no one can fight for any other feminist goal EVER until that problem is solved.

  21. 21
    Delinda says:

    I mean, hey people of color and women, it’s not like you fate is as bad as those who Obama would kill in the invasion of Iran that may or may not happen, so you people should just shut up and bow to Ron Paul your overlord.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Delinda, are you writing your comments from Pakistan, where you could be killed by US drone attacks? Because if not, the same argument — that it’s easy for you to not give a crap about non-Americans killed by American policy, because it doesn’t effect you — could be used against you. Also, as a Jew, it’s hard to see how Paul’s antisemitism is irrelevant to me – but, funnily enough, you don’t mention antisemitism, even though my post did.

    My point is not that Paul’s racism or sexism are irrelevant, or that it would be wrong for a progressive to be against Paul because of his racism and sexism, and for many other reasons as well. But I think war versus antiwar is, like racism and sexism, a crucial issue for progressives.

    Just as there’s nothing wrong with a progressive deciding to vote against Paul because of his pro-life views, there’s nothing wrong with a progressive voting against Obama because of his anti-civil-liberties views, or his foreign policy record.

  23. 23
    Delinda says:

    Why not vote for Gary Johnson, then? Most of the same policies, without the racism, sexism and yes, anti-semitism baggage. But hey, supporting Ron Paul might get you lots and lots of traffic, not so for Johnson.

  24. 24
    Delinda says:

    Delinda, are you writing your comments from Pakistan, where you could be killed by US drone attacks? Because if not, the same argument — that it’s easy for you to not give a crap about non-Americans killed by American policy, because it doesn’t effect you — could be used against you.

    Ampersand, like I said before, you sound like those people who scolds women for fighting for equal rights in the US because they should be more concerned with the fateof the poor, poor women in other countries first, as if it’s not possible to fight for both. At least the progressive movement would have some influence over Obama, how much influence do you think you’ll have over Paul?

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    Why not vote for Gary Johnson, then? Most of the same policies, without the racism, sexism and yes, anti-semitism baggage.

    Well, it’s not like I’m planning to vote for Ron Paul. I’m not a Republican and don’t vote in the GOP primary, and I don’t expect either Johnson or Paul to wind up winning the Republican primary. My expectation is that I’ll vote for Obama because he’s better than Romney, and it’ll be irrelevant anyway because I’m in Oregon (not a swing state — or if it is a swing state, than Obama has probably lost).

    But yes, if by some miracle Johnson won the GOP primary, then he’d present the same basic dilemma (albeit less extreme) — he’s better than Obama on antiwar, but worse than Obama on many other issues (Johnson has implied that he’d appoint justices who’d overturn Roe v Wade, for instance). If I had to choose between Johnson and Paul, I’d vote for Johnson.

    What I’d really like is an actual antisexist, antiracist, progressive, antiwar Democrat to vote for. I don’t think that’s a ridiculous thing to want.

    I’m really not sitting around thinking about my blog traffic, btw.

  26. 26
    Delinda says:

    But the fact remains that you think Ron Paul would make a much better president than Obama. Sorry, maybe I don’t understand who you are before, you are someone who put being anti-war above anything else in the world, racism, sexism, anti-semitism, that’s all much less important to you than being anti-war. As long as Paul keeps the country out of war, it doesn’t matter if he promotes racist, sexist and anti-semitic policies. I understand your stand now, so there’s no need for me to engage with you any longer.

  27. 27
    mythago says:

    What I’d really like is an actual antisexist, antiracist, progressive, antiwar Democrat to vote for

    Well sure. That’s a far cry from an outlandish argument that because Obama shifted right on some foreign policy issues, there is a serious chance that he, and not Paul, would get us into a war in Iran.

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Ampersand, like I said before, you sound like those people who scolds women for fighting for equal rights in the US because they should be more concerned with the fateof the poor, poor women in other countries first, as if it’s not possible to fight for both.

    Yeah, I saw your earlier comment, but didn’t respond to it because it’s such an obvious lie.

    1) I didn’t talk about “the poor, poor women in other countries.”
    2) I didn’t say that we should put off fighting racism and sexism in the US until the rest of the world is perfect.

    I think that people who say that are ridiculous (and I’ve said so in the past). It’s an obvious ploy for excusing racism and sexism. If you want to continue to accuse me of saying that, please quote where I’ve said that or anything like it.

    What I did say is that the argument “you only say that because it won’t effect you” argument cuts both ways. You’re absolutely right, as a white man, I won’t be harmed by a misogynistic, racist president. But it’s equally true that as (I suspect) someone who lives in the US, you won’t be harmed by the US killing people in other countries.

    At least the progressive movement would have some influence over Obama, how much influence do you think you’ll have over Paul?

    I see virtually no evidence of progressive influence over Obama; on the contrary, Obama has been extremely quick to throw progressives and feminists under the bus.

    But the fact remains that you think Ron Paul would make a much better president than Obama.

    No, that’s not what I said, nor is it something I believe.

    I don’t think you have any understanding of what I wrote, frankly. You’re projecting views onto me that I just don’t hold.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    That’s a far cry from an outlandish argument that because Obama shifted right on some foreign policy issues, there is a serious chance that he, and not Paul, would get us into a war in Iran.

    I think it’s obvious that a huge portion of the foreign policy establishment in the US is gearing up for the potential of a war with Iran. The possibility is talked about — and, increasingly, advocated for — among “serious people” in much the same way war with Iraq was discussed in the years before our invasion of Iraq.

    Right now, there isn’t a consensus in Washington among so-called “serious” people that we should attack Iran. But it’s certainly possible that such a consensus could emerge, just as it’s emerged in the past for other conflicts. What if Iran tests a nuclear weapon, or some other solid evidence of nuclear weapons in Iran emerges? I think there would be enormous pressure on the President to take “decisive action” in that case.

    You seem extremely confident that Obama would never, ever give in to such pressure, but I’m not sure what your confidence is based on. Obama has already proven himself untrustworthy when it comes to foreign policy promises, he takes pride in his willingness to compromise or give in to Republicans, and he doesn’t seem to have any strong convictions against war. Of the two of them, Paul does seem more likely to hold an uncompromising line against pressure to invade Iran.

  30. 30
    Robert says:

    Paul might be more INCLINED to resist the pressure, but I wonder if he might be less ABLE? Only Nixon could go to China…it maybe that Paul, in actual office and having to make actual tradeoffs with his foreign policy establishment, might be forced to agree to a war precisely because of his isolationist leanings. IE, Obama might be able to hold the line at some token action and point to his muscular activities on other fronts to deflect “he’s a wuss” incoming fire, but Paul being “a wuss” across the board would have no such defense.

  31. 31
    nojojojo says:

    Gargh. Please delete previous; forgot who I was for a minute. ;) I blame the eggnog.

    I really don’t like Ron Paul. But preventing another needless war might be worth having an ignorant, racist, sexist, asshat like Ron Paul in the Oval Office.

    Sorry, Amp, can’t agree with you — because what you’re framing here isn’t a bad/worse choice. It’s not a choice between war or not-war; it’s a choice between a war against Iranians or a war against Americans. And the rest of the world, where that world contains women or people of color. We’ve had racist, sexist asshats in the presidency before, remember, and they’ve put in place policies in line with their contempt for large chunks of humanity, and those factors have done damage to millions that continues to affect the whole world to this day. Including causing death on a massive scale.

    Maybe you have the privilege to think this way. I’m far more terrified of a racist, sexist asshat than a hypothetical war against Iran, because I don’t have a nuke to defend myself with.

  32. 32
    buttercup says:

    Seriously though. Next time anyone asks me why so many feminists and people of color cast a jaundiced eye at able bodied liberal white guys, I’m going to point them at this post. And all the arguing and “I never said that” and “show me where I said x” is never going to change the fact that you wrote, right up there, that it might be preferable to have a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, randian faux-libertarian who would cast away from the rest of the world (along with what good will the current administration has managed to reclaim for the country) than a second Obama term. This is not just an intellectual exercise to women, people of color, disabled people, the economic underclass, etc. This is our lives you’re hypothesizing about here. Seriously. The word Fauxgressive was invented for these situations.
    Think about it.

  33. 33
    Robert says:

    Buttercup, Nojojo, would you clarify something for me? (Jointly or separately if you don’t agree.) I can see a number of things that you might be arguing and I want to try to understand which of them you ARE arguing (or something else that I’ve just missed).

    Are you saying that a) any national executive who has a racist past is unacceptable if there is a non-racist alternative like Obama, regardless of the moral failings or likely actions of that alternative? IE, if Obama was running on an explicit platform of “we are going to kill every left-handed person in the world and use their bones to build weapons to kill every ugly person” or something similarly over the top but not explicitly racist – and I’m not trying to make light of the scenario, I’m just trying to present something that is truly over the top – would Obama still be the preferred alternative? Is being racist, along Paul’s lines, a factor in that? IE, Paul could be waaaay more racist than he’s publicly been in the past; I personally know people who, given the Oval Office, would be issuing executive orders resegregating the armed forces and firing all the minority staff members. He could also go the other way, if he was (say) the least racist imaginable white guy of privilege, would that matter in the equation?

    Is the problem (b) that it’s non-minority (well, non-black; Amp is Jewish) people doing the strategizing? IE, if Nehisi-Coates came out with a “Paul is dreadful but despite the things he might do to me and people who look like me I prefer him to Obama for x,y,z reasons”, would that be OK? Or still objectionable?

    Is the problem (c) Paul’s specific ideology, which would preclude some kinds of racism (he would be appalled at, say, a farm subsidy program that deliberately wasn’t made available to black farmers) but which would end or sharply curtail some social programs heavily used by minority communities, rather than his personal attitude? Or is it both? (IE, if Paul was personally “I hate the colored people” but in practice was leaving WIC and military desegregation and Section 8 housing alone, would that make a difference?

    Or is the problem (d) not so much that the analysis was done by white-guy Amp, or even the conclusions that he reached, but that his analysis feels disrespectful to the communities that you guys identify with or want to protect? I guess another way of asking this would be, if there were only a handful of black people or disabled people or whichever group is in question, and Paul hated ‘em but the alternative was Obamahitler, who planned to nuke China and kill 120 million people just for fun – would the analysis still be offensive because it disrespects the community, or would it fall under some kind of ‘greater good’ concept/exemption?

    I am not wanting to argue any of these points with you (though of course if you want to argue about something, I’ll doubtless argue back), I am genuinely trying to reach a fuller understanding of the exact thinking of the (three to date, I think) commenters who have been really mad at Amp. Thanks in advance.

  34. 34
    Delinda says:

    Buttercup, we can’t say those things because then we would be accused of not caring about the lives of all the people in other countries that Obama is killing/bombing.murdering by his endless wars. In this calculation, WE are the heartless bastards by voting for Obama, while this particular white guy voting for Ron Paul is the good guy.

  35. 35
    Mari says:

    I’m not Nojojo or Buttercup. But I am a wheelchair user, and I can say I’m not particularly worried about whether Ron Paul does or doesn’t respect people with disabilities. What I am worried about is that he has a track record of saying that the Americans With Disabilities Act is anti business and anti freedom.

    On a very practical level, the ADA allows me to get into buildings and on and off sidewalks. But I live in a (relatively) older town, where most of the buildings were built before the ADA was in place, which means that even post ADA, there are places within a mile of me that I cannot enter. With the ADA, I have a chance — not a great chance, but a chance — of telling those businesses that legally they need to make chances that allow me to get into them with my wheelchair, and this in fact happened within the last six months with a local tiny strip mall thing that holds two restaurants and a dry cleaner that previously had no ramps. They do now, and now, I can enter and use the closest dry cleaner. In another situation, a local major road construction regularly blocked/denied wheelchair/pedestrian access across a road, which meant I could not reach my local grocery store/bank/pharmacy. With the ADA, I could at least call and have _legal_ grounds for a protest which helped (sorta) with getting temporary sidewalks somewhat available, and ensured that when the road construction was done, our crosswalks had fully accessible ramps (huge improvement over what was there before) and I could reach the grocery store.

    This may not mean much to you. But I can assure you, on a daily basis, this means a GREAT deal to me. And this is not some hypothetical possible war or not war or mere attitude: it’s a law with practical consequences for me, and it’s elimination, or a failure to enforce it, will have very real and practical consequences.

    I don’t care that Ron Paul is a non-minority white guy. I’ve voted for non-minority white guys before and will probably do so again. I do care that he has spoken out against the ADA, and this is the sort of practical consequences that I have to think about when voting.

  36. 36
    Buttercupia says:

    Robert, I’m not going to take the bait here, I’m just going to reiterate what Mari says-that people like Paul, and policies like those he would likely endorse, are real-world harmful to people like us. You know, women. Disabled people. People of color. Old people. Poor people. It’s no intellectual exercise to us to even consider voting for someone like that, even if he were not a white, able-bodied, incredibly privileged person. Sometimes a douche is just a douche.

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Mari, I agree that’s a really strong reason to vote against Ron Paul, if he were running against Obama. Paul couldn’t eliminate the ADA, but he could certainly appoint people to the DOJ who’d avoid enforcing it.

    But are you saying that this should be the only issue I base my vote on? If not, then why isn’t Ron Paul’s greater antiwar commitment an issue I can should weigh in the balance, along with (not instead of) Paul being wrong on the ADA?

    [Edited for clarity.]

  38. 38
    Ampersand says:

    Nojojojo wrote:

    Sorry, Amp, can’t agree with you — because what you’re framing here isn’t a bad/worse choice. It’s not a choice between war or not-war; it’s a choice between a war against Iranians or a war against Americans. And the rest of the world, where that world contains women or people of color. We’ve had racist, sexist asshats in the presidency before, remember, and they’ve put in place policies in line with their contempt for large chunks of humanity, and those factors have done damage to millions that continues to affect the whole world to this day. Including causing death on a massive scale.

    Can you say what policies, specifically, you think Ron Paul will pursue that will lead to “death on a massive scale” (apart from invading other countries)?

    I’m not being sarcastic or coy. I can think of many policies President Paul would follow that would cause thousands of deaths (cutting UNFPA funding, women and girls dying due to unsafe illegal abortions) and cause a lot of suffering (reduce ADA enforcement and civil rights enforcement, reduce support programs for poor people), and although he’d also do some good (reduced enforcement of the “war on drugs”), I don’t have any doubt that the bad would outweigh the good.

    But given the big limits in the President’s power — it’s not like the President can just set domestic policy, he has to get things passed by Congress — I don’t see what power President Paul would have to cause massive deaths on the scale of (say) the Iraq War. But it’s completely possible I’m missing something.

    Maybe you have the privilege to think this way. I’m far more terrified of a racist, sexist asshat than a hypothetical war against Iran, because I don’t have a nuke to defend myself with.

    It’s true that I have privilege, and that could lead me to underestimate the damage Paul would do to women and to POC (which I think would be enormous). I’m trying to guard against that, but I could be screwing up.

  39. 39
    Ampersand says:

    Jeff:

    I think to believe Obama is going to start a war with Iran, you have to ignore the fact that Obama has yet to start a war during his presidency, and has indeed ended one.

    He “ended” the Iraq War in the sense that he followed the withdrawal agreement that Bush had made before Obama took office. (He also escalated the Afghanistan war). Obama got out of Iraq reluctantly and because he had no choice, as far as I can tell.

    But logistically, I don’t see any way Obama actually invades.

    If Israel bombs Iran in an attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran retaliates, that could easily lead to a war that the US would (under President Obama) feel obligated to join on Israel’s side. It’s also possible that the US could bomb Iran to pre-emp Israel bombing Iran.

    Contrary to your argument, I don’t think the virtual guarantee of US support makes it less likely that Israel will attack Iran. On the contrary, it seems obvious that guaranteed support from the world’s most powerful military, making a war less costly and a victory more likely, would make attacking Iran, or persuading the US to do it, a more attractive proposition.

    The Obama administration is making a commitment to Israel that the US will attack Iran rather than let Iran develop a nuclear weapon. From Ynet today:

    The Obama administration has assured Israel privately that the US would strike Iran if its nuclear program cross certain “red lines,” The Daily Beast reported Wednesday, adding that at the same time Washington was trying to convince Israel not to attack Tehran unilaterally.

    According to the report, the “Israelis went ballistic” after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier this month that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.”

    Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren lodged a formal diplomatic protest, prompting the White House to reassure Jerusalem that the administration had its own “red lines” that would trigger a strike on Iran and that there is no need for Israel to operate unilaterally, the American news website reported.

    I understand and approve of the Obama administration’s desire to deter Israel. This is a definitely a “choose the lesser evil” situation. Nevertheless, that’s a dangerous commitment to make.

    And even if we avoid being pulled into an Israel/Iran conflict, it’s very possible for conflict to happen simply through increased hostility and misunderstandings between the two countries (read this piece by Trita Parsi, as well as this piece by Lyric Hale, for more on that).

    I don’t understand your lack of concern. Do you really think it’s not plausible that we’ll be at war with Iran sometime in the next four years?

  40. 40
    Freemage says:

    Amp: I think part of what you’re missing in that analysis is just how invisible the deaths that Paul would cause really are. Effective disengagement from the world stage–particularly from the UN and various international aid bodies–would, in fact, likely lead to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of deaths, but these deaths would all be attributed to proximate causes (famine, war, pestilence). Furthermore, such disengagement would, frankly, be extremely destablizing; if four small wars kick off in the Middle East and Africa that wouldn’t have occurred if we were still engaged diplomatically, do we just chalk that up to “Third Worlders will be Third Worlders”?

    Hell, I’ll even move us a bit to the east; a Ron Paul-style “bring every soldier in the world home” policy would very possibly result in a North Korean offensive against South Korea. I don’t think NK would win–SK has a stronger economy by far, and that is largely what determines the course of war these days. But the bloodshed would be enormous.

    No, domestically alone, we wouldn’t see as many deaths under Paul as we would in a hypothetical Obama-invades-Iran scenario. But that’s not the right analysis; we need to weigh international harm against international harm. And Ron Paul would be a fucking disaster internationally.

    And then, on top of that, we have the fact that, under Paul, Americans would lose health care access, minorities would suffer greatly, and women and gays would just be completely marginalized. Also, we have trouble tracking exactly how many people will die in the U.S. due to a Paul presidency, because cancer deaths resulting from environmental destruction tend to take awhile to show up. Paul’s likely evisceration of the EPA (it’s not hard, just appoint the ideological heir to James Watt) would take decades before the harm was fully manifest.

  41. 41
    Blshf says:

    You should define what you mean a little better. If you mean “war” as in the Iraq invasion then you are worrying about nothing. Iran has three times the population of Iraq; is much more important as an oil exporter (and has the ability to shut down all ship traffic in the Persian Gulf which would be disastrous to the world market); and would resist much more than Iraq did (no Kurdish separatist minority, no dictator hated by most of the population, no history of losing a war to America). If you mean “bomb research facilities and bases”, well, that is much more conceivable but I don’t think Obama would do it. Despite how Serious Beltway People like to claim that Iran is run by lunatics, a nuclear Iran would be just as deterrable as other nuclear powers are. Military actions short of an invasion would not be certain to end Iran’s nuclear program but could have many of the same repercussions. Check out this piece on why the pro-attacking people are all wet.
    Also, if Ron Paul wins the caucuses next week, he still isn’t going to be the nominee. Mike Huckabee won in 2008 and was a much more plausible candidate than Paul, appealing to more parts of the party, and seen as more likely to be competitive in the general election. He didn’t win another primary for a month and dropped out a month after that.
    So in the spirit of bringing people together I think both sides debating in this thread should quit worrying about second-term Obama invading or bombing Iran and the many, many, damaging outcomes of a Ron Paul presidency and worry about Israel bombing Iran, which the U.S. would be unable to stop but would share in the blame for, would destabilize the Middle East, possibly cause an oil shock that would send the world economy reeling back into decline, and could happen well before January 2013. Happy New Year!

  42. 42
    Harlequin says:

    Robert @16:

    But if he doesn’t have them, he is less able to win against people that most progs find worse, and the people those progs might prefer to give their votes to have no hope of winning.

    Most progs find worse, true, but the question is–how much worse? If the calculation they make says “not very much”, that Obama isn’t good enough on the things he’s good on to outweigh the negative aspects where he’s the same as or worse than the Republican, then it isn’t analogous to betting on lampposts. I get on a soapbox about this a lot, but this is like the argument that Nader lost the election for Gore in 2000. He didn’t. Gore lost the election by the existence of the electoral college, and secondly by not convincing enough voters that he was enough better than Bush (which should have been easy to do).

    In fact, this is similar to the argument that Amp and others are having above: is being a fairly hawish president enough to pull Obama farther away than Paul in the would-take-actions-favored-by-progressives balance sheet? I don’t think so, not least because Rand’s economic policies would kill our economy in its current state, as well as all the mentioned problems with his civil rights positions. But I think it’s reasonable for Amp to show his calculation there and let others disagree with his exact reasoning and try to convince him otherwise, and I think it’s reasonable for other progressives to choose a third-party candidate for the same reason. In fact you could say Amp’s position is worse, since voting third-party is still equivalent to an abstention (leaving aside funding issues for the following election), whereas Amp’s does double the damage by also voting for a candidate with a chance of winning.

    Speaking of which, Amp @39:

    Do you really think it’s not plausible that we’ll be at war with Iran sometime in the next four years?

    I don’t, because I can’t wrap my head around the stupidity of that, although really Bush should’ve taught me better by now.

  43. 43
    nobody.really says:

    [P]eople like Paul, and policies like those he would likely endorse, are real-world harmful to people like us. You know, women. Disabled people. People of color. Old people. Poor people. It’s no intellectual exercise to us to even consider voting for someone like that….

    I sense this sums up much of the opposition to Amp’s argument: Paul’s policies would be harmful to “people like us.” And to fully understand that, we need to explore invisible, unstated privilege.

    Of course, women, disabled people, people of color, old people, and poor people live in Iran as well as the US. I suspect that a war in Iran would be HUGELY harmful to these people in Iran.

    But those aren’t the people we’re concerned about. No, we’re concerned about “people like us” — women, disabled people, people of color, old people, and poor people who live in the United States. And if the welfare of Iranian women, Iranian disabled people, Iranian people of color, Iranian old people, and Iranian poor people must be sacrificed to promote the interests of their American counterparts, so be it. In an American election, “people like us” count; Iranians don’t.

  44. I was going to link to Lyric Hughes Hale’s piece, but Amp has already done so. A particularly apt passage is this:

    Pressure against Iran can be subtle and pervasive, and is not confined to business. I am a board member of NIAC, National Iranian American Council. Members are mostly Iranian expats here in the US who support cultural exchange and a peaceful relationship between the US and Iran. After submitting a grant proposal, NIAC was recently told that the Macarthur Foundation “does not currently provide support for projects related to Iran”. They are not alone; this is true of many major foundations in the US, which I find astonishing. Less knowledge of Iran than we already have will hardly augment our understanding of a country that we all agree is of such strategic importance to our national interests.

    Persian, the official language of Iran, and its cousins are spoken throughout the Middle East, and it has been deemed a critical language. The year I graduated from the University of Chicago, one of the few centers of Middle Eastern studies in the US, other than myself there was only one other undergraduate who majored in Near Eastern Studies with Persian as the language elective. Things are not much better today. According to the Modern Language Association, only .001% of language learners in institutions of higher learning study Persian, about 2000 students nationwide. On the other hand, I have seldom (maybe never) met an Iranian college graduate who did not speak English. And unlike Michelle Bachman, all of them know that we do not have an embassy anymore in Tehran.

    The point is, and the point that Trita Parsi makes in his excellent new book, is that due to the lack of understanding between our government and Iranian leaders who have been isolated from the rest of the world, war will not be a decision, but a mistake.

    I think it’s hard to underestimate how deeply problematic our mutual ignorance is, though ours is much more deeply seated than theirs (in my opinion). Were we to invade Iran–and I do not doubt that there are a lot of people in and out of government here pushing for that–the Iranian people would likely unite behind their government in ways that would make the war far more difficult and costly, in human lives, as well as by other measures, than anyone anticipates. And so an attack on Iran–by us or Israel–would actually be doing the Islamic Republic a big favor, especially a time when what Parsi, in his piece, calls the “political cannibalism” in Iran is weakening that government from within.

    Since it is from the 10th-13th centuries, the Iranian literature that I translate is not directly relevant to current affairs or the world we live in today, and so I am not surprised when people who are interested in funding the translation of works of Iranian literature do not want to fund my projects, but it is astonishing to me that foundations in the US are not actively pursuing projects that will increase our understanding of Iran overall. Now, it seems to me, is when foundations like this ought to be hungry to fund projects that would increase our understanding of Iran. It is as if they are still wearing the blinders that this country, collectively, put on when it looked at Iran after the Islamic Revolution and what we call here The Hostage Crisis.

    My guess is that while the US surely has its own “red lines” in terms of Iran’s nuclear program, and while I have no doubt that battle plans for invading Iran have existed for some time, few people–though those few are vocal and important–actively want an invasion of Iran because of the difficulties such a war would bring. I tend to agree with Hughes and Parsi that if a war with Iran happens, it will happen because of some mistake or misunderstanding. What I find most troubling is that such a misunderstanding will likely be the result of a thirty-year-long willful ignorance on our part, one that, especially now, it would have been relatively easy to change.

  45. 45
    Jeff Fecke says:

    @Amp 39 -

    I don’t think it’s at all likely that there will be any conflict, and there’s virtually no chance of a full-scale war. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, of course — and the scenario you lay out is the most likely way it would happen. But you can’t simply decouple Iran from the totality of our foreign policy, and pretend the rest doesn’t matter. Even if we get drawn into, say, bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities (which is the most likely US-Iran conflict possible), we may be able to avoid an all-out conflict. The Saudis would be emphatically in favor of such action, as would the UAE. I’m not saying there would be no blowback, nor am I saying it’s a particularly good idea to do so.

    But with the US completely out of the picture, as would be the case under Pres. Paul, the entire calculus changes. If Israel, and not the US, bombs Iran, the situation becomes far more chaotic. The Saudis can give the US support. They can’t do the same for the Israelis. The US bombing Iranian facilities could be a limited, surgical strike that hits a military target, and while the blowback (in terms of increased terror attacks) could be serious, it wouldn’t be nearly the same as the likely ground war that would erupt in the middle east, one that — sure — we wouldn’t be a part of, but one that would be pretty awful for everyone there.

    Ultimately, the odds of a true, full-out war between Iran and the US is approximately nil, because it would be catastrophic for the US and Iran. Airstrikes alone are far more possible, but that doesn’t mean war — any more than our bombing of Libya in the 1980s led to a war with Libya. And even that, I think, is unlikely, because the US does not want to radicalize Iranian civilians.

    @40 Freemage -

    This x1000. War is big and noisy and obvious, but the US cutting all funding to the UNDP would kill tens of thousands of people, and set back countries for generations. And that is precisely what would happen under Pres. Paul.

  46. 46
    Freemage says:

    Oh, another thing on the Pacific Rim. Currently, we have allies there (Japan, South Korea) who rely on our military presence there. I’m not saying they need us there for the purposes of self-defense; they could certainly afford to build their own armies, and Japan, at least, has got to be capable of building a nuclear bomb, and probably South Korea, as well.

    Which is why we MUST stay involved there. We pull out, and I can guarantee you that Japan will have a ready nuclear presence in short order, and South Korea shortly after that. They’ll do it because North Korea and China are both nuclear powers, and without an American presence, their choices will be limited. Our military acts as a deterrent to proliferation amongst our allies, which in turn keeps everything just a wee bit more civilized. Pull out, and we face increased odds of limited nuclear conflict. So set the odds of an Iranian war against that risk, as well, please.

  47. 47
    mythago says:

    nobody.really @43: Because you don’t believe people who are poor, disabled, disadvantaged, and so on exist outside of the US unless we are shooting at them? Or are you just operating under the fantasy that American approaches to “domestic” issues are hermetically sealed within the borders of the US and never, ever impact anywhere else in the world?

    I can’t see any other reason to assume that a President would apply his reactionary views here and nowhere else. We’ve already seen anti-choice Presidents apply the “gag rule” to family-planning NGOs abroad. An anti-gay president like Paul is not going to expand asylum to allow in LGBTs persecuted in their home countries, or to pressure countries receiving aid from the US to treat women or minority religious groups well, unless those groups happen to be Christian, of course. For that matter, an isolationist like Paul will be very much against any kind of assistance whatsoever to the poor, elderly or disadvantaged of other countries. Nor would he give a dime to ending diseases like malaria (which is very rare in the US) or AIDS (which isn’t, but Americans have access to much better prevention and treatment than the poor of developing countries).

    You know, that wasn’t quite accurate. I can think of a reason you would totally miss the fact that an American president with paleocon social policies might have an impact on the rest of the world: privilege. Why don’t you check yours?

  48. 48
    Myca says:

    I think that it’s important to think about another aspect here … not just “what stuff that I like or dislike does this candidate want to do,” but also, “how likely are they to achieve that?”

    I mean, I think the odds of President Paul doing shitty things to GLBT folks and restricting access to abortion are much better than the odds of President Obama invading Iran. It’s not a simple weighing one against the other.

    —Myca

  49. 49
    mythago says:

    Myca: that’s what I was alluding to in @3. Amp is arguing that the possibility that Obama will initiate war with Iran outweighs the certainty that Paul would do everything he could to implement his reactionary, hateful views. This strikes me, bluntly, as either grandstanding (“I was just making a point about Obama’s shameful move rightward!”) or paranoid, cf the OMG OIL WAR blog post linked elsewhere in the thread.

    “War is not off the table” is hardly a declaration or even a pretty good suspicion that the US would attack Iran, particularly given all of the practical and political limitations that others have outlined quite well.

  50. 50
    David Schraub says:

    “War” is a pretty vague term. The likelihood that Obama will launch an Iraq-style land war with Iran strikes me as miniscule — nothing he’s said or done points in that direction, there’s no stomach for it amongst the citizenry after Iraq, and strategically it’d be a pointless disaster. I’ve heard virtually no chatter that this sort of operation is even in the fringes of the conversation amongst the political mainstream.

    Some sort of airstrike thing, by contrast, is at least within the realm of possibility. But it’s also not the catastrophe that a land invasion would be (indeed, it’s not clearly distinguishable from Libya, except that it probably would lack rebel support but would also have a far narrower mandate to destroy nukes, not overthrow the regime). If it does happen, it’s also frankly far more likely to be a defensible policy choice than a land invasion ever could be. There are circumstances where an airstrike on Iranian military sites wouldn’t be outrageous. I’m not saying we should be all gung-ho for it, I’m just saying unlike a land invasion its not something where essentially every plausible scenario where it might happen in the next 5 years is crazification.

    So if you’re talking about the former, than I think the prospect is far too remote compared to the concrete horror Ron Paul would foist upon the world. If you’re talking about the latter, then even if it comes to fruition it’s still not bad enough to overcome the horrors of a Paul presidency.

  51. 51
    Ampersand says:

    Myca wrote:

    I mean, I think the odds of President Paul doing shitty things to GLBT folks and restricting access to abortion are much better than the odds of President Obama invading Iran. It’s not a simple weighing one against the other.

    You’re right, but that’s not the only factor you have to weigh.

    You have to weigh “what are the odds,” as you say.

    And you also have to weigh “how many people will be killed if this happens.” I’d argue that of all the awful things an American president can do, making war is probably the worst. (Did George Bush get more people killed by being anti-gay or by being pro-war?) What shitty things, specifically, do you think President Paul would do to LGBT people? How do they compare to things like drone attacks in Pakistan, which President Obama would definitely do (i.e., is already doing)?

    And you also have to weigh “how much independent power does the President have.”

    So on the “being antiwar isn’t an important thing for a President” side of the argument, we have “war is unlikely.” On the “being antiwar is an important thing for a President” side, we have that wars consist of deliberately killing people in large numbers, and that the President has virtually no checks or balances to his warmaking powers, whereas in nearly all of the other areas you’re discussing, the judicial and legislative branches are as or often more influential than the executive.

  52. 52
    Ampersand says:

    Sorry that I’m not able to respond to everyone.

    In general, I think people here are FAR to willing to be certain that war would never, ever happen, or that worrying about it is something so ridiculous that it represents (as Mythago put it) either grandstanding or paranoia.

    But nonetheless, although many folks here dismiss the prospect of war far too easily (I suspect that there’s a lot more faith in Obama than Obama has ever earned), I am persuaded that I might be worrying about it more than I should.

    For me, Freemage was particularly persuasive. Although I’m very disturbed by the imperialist implications of the argument — as if the whole world will collapse into war unless the US is there throwing our imperialist weight around — the truth is, the current international order is disturbingly dependent on US power, largely because the US has set it up that way. Although withdrawing from that as much as possible would be a good thing, it would have to be done by someone a great deal more sensitive to the intricacies and dangers than I think Ron Paul is.

    So at this point, if I had to vote between the two, I’d hold my nose and vote for Obama.

    * * *

    Freemage also wrote:

    Paul’s likely evisceration of the EPA (it’s not hard, just appoint the ideological heir to James Watt) would take decades before the harm was fully manifest.

    We survived James Watt, so why can’t we survive his heir? Also, there has to be more to our environmental strategy than keeping any Republican from winning the White House ever, or we’re just plain doomed.

  53. 53
    chingona says:

    We survived James Watt …

    Well, I think Freemage’s point is that not all of us did and not all of us will.

  54. 54
    chingona says:

    I suspect that there’s a lot more faith in Obama than Obama has ever earned.

    I don’t think it’s faith in Obama as anti-war. It’s faith in Obama as not an idiot. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if we ended up bombing suspected nuclear sites, but I just don’t see Obama invading Iran. You would have to be an idiot to invade Iran, and I haven’t seen any indication Obama is dumb. Even on the bombing front, I would worry a lot more about Israel bombing Iran under President Paul than I would about the U.S. bombing Iran under President Obama.

  55. 55
    David Schraub says:

    @54 That’s a really good point. I would not be at all surprised if Israel took a much more aggressive line towards Iran under a Paul administration.

    I also agree with the hegemonic stability theory argument more broadly.

  56. 56
    nobody.really says:

    mythago @ 47: Ouch.

    And good call. Fair enough, a laissez faire president would do less harm, but would also do less good. And it’s easier for privileged people to overlook the harm of the forgone good. The shoe fits, although it doesn’t feel so good at the moment.

    So, as Amp asks, how does the harm of war compare with the harm of forgone good? If I recall correctly, the Lancet studies indicate that the Iraq War resulted in 100,000s of additional deaths. That’s appalling. But by the standards of infectious disease control, it’s rounding error. If you believe that the US plays a role in controlling avian flu or AIDS, and that a President Paul would veto such programs, that’s a pretty tough lack-of-a-pill to swallow.

  57. 57
    chingona says:

    @ 55 … I was going off of Jeff’s argument @ 45, but I think it makes a lot of sense. It seems like there are significant elements within Israel that want to strike Iran and significant elements within the U.S. that have urged them not to. If Paul takes the laissez-faire approach to Israel’s security that he has promised, I can see the internal Israeli argument going much more strongly for a strike.

  58. 58
    mythago says:

    I suspect that there’s a lot more faith in Obama than Obama has ever earned

    *facepalm* Amp, would you kindly listen to what people are saying here, and do the courtesy of assuming that there is a difference between “I believe war is unlikely for X reason” and “I believe war is unlikely because I trust Obama”? Even if you believe they are incorrect?

    Also, re “we survived James Watt”, we can’t assume that every Paul appointee would be as blatantly foolish as Watt. And the effects of a destructive, anti-regulatory policy are not always immediate.

  59. 59
    David Schraub says:

    @57 — also, the simple fact that an Israel that is no longer under America’s security umbrella is an Israel that is more likely to think that it has to look out for itself, and that at the very least will manifest in unpredictable ways — very possibly more aggressive ways.

  60. 60
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    He “ended” the Iraq War in the sense that he followed the withdrawal agreement that Bush had made before Obama took office. (He also escalated the Afghanistan war). Obama got out of Iraq reluctantly and because he had no choice, as far as I can tell.

    I’m amazed that someone pointed this out here. Well done, Amp. President Obama is going to run for re-election using “I ended the war” as one of his accomplishments, but the real story is as you say.

    the truth is, the current international order is disturbingly dependent on US power, largely because the US has set it up that way.

    The current international order is disturbingly dependent on U.S. power because after World War II most European countries infantilized themselves by taking their military budgets and using them to fund social services instead.

    If Israel bombs Iran in an attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran retaliates, that could easily lead to a war that the US would (under President Obama) feel obligated to join on Israel’s side. It’s also possible that the US could bomb Iran to pre-emp Israel bombing Iran.

    Numerous commentors here talk about how disastrous war is and how many thousands of people would die. Certainly this is true. But people then seem to immediately from there jump to the conclusion that war with Iran is thus automatically the wrong thing to do. It seems to me that no one is asking the kind of question that Amp’s note above raises, which is “what happens if we DON’T go to war with Iran?”

    I do not presume the answer to that question. But one of the possible answers is “worse things than if we do go to war with Iran.” How viable that possibility is I don’t know. Richard, who is certainly more knowledgeable about Iran than I am, makes the case that it destroy, not aid, internal opposition to the current regime, and I’ve heard the same from other sources. But how viable it is that the possibility that “worse things would happen if we don’t go to war than if we do” is correct has to be evaluated. President Obama certainly has to, in any case. And I note that there are other things that he campaigned against that he has turned around to embrace. I think Amp is quite right to be skeptical. Although even I would have to hold my nose and vote for Obama (or at least not vote for Ron Paul) if he by some fundamental breakdown of the political process became the nominee of the GOP.

  61. 61
    Sebastian H says:

    If you had asked me 4 years ago, I would have been certain that under Obama we wouldn’t have an assassination policy for US citizens, a governmental right to hold citizens indefinitely without trial and I would have been sure that Gitmo would have been closed. None of these are close calls, all of them would have been well out of my understanding of how Obama would operate considering how he presented himself, and all of them are true.

    Hell, if people had said that BUSH was going to implement the first two policies I would have said they were crazy.

  62. 62
    chingona says:

    “what happens if we DON’T go to war with Iran?”

    I have no idea whatsoever how likely this possibility is, but the obvious Israeli fear is that Iran gets a nuclear bomb and uses it against Israel, with hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of casualties.

    And obviously, going to war means certain death and suffering while waiting to see what happens means potential death and suffering in the future. Just as obviously, it’s easier to be relaxed about the possibility of a nuclear Iran if you don’t live in Tel Aviv.

    If I had to put money on it, the U.S. never exercises any military options against Iran because doing so is just too damn complicated and Iran ends up with the bomb and we all just learn to live, uneasily, with that reality. I also think that under any U.S. administration, Israel remains the most likely party to strike Iran.

  63. 63
    chingona says:

    If you had asked me 4 years ago, I would have been certain that under Obama we wouldn’t have an assassination policy for US citizens, a governmental right to hold citizens indefinitely without trial and I would have been sure that Gitmo would have been closed. None of these are close calls, all of them would have been well out of my understanding of how Obama would operate considering how he presented himself, and all of them are true.

    So, I agree with all of this, with the caveat that the responsibility for not closing Gitmo really lies with Congress, not Obama. I hear this criticism a lot, but I never hear anyone say what he was supposed to do when Congress refused to allow any of the prisoners to be brought to the U.S.

    However, I don’t see how any of those things to make it more likely Obama would start a war with Iran. Again, it’s not about how leftist or pacifist or civil libertarian or awesome Obama is. It’s about the bigger geopolitical and domestic considerations.

  64. 64
    chingona says:

    Amp, in what sense did Obama “reluctantly” get us out of Iraq? So, he didn’t spend any political capital or take any risks to make it happen sooner, but what is your basis for saying that if he had his druthers, we’d still be there?

  65. 65
    Ampersand says:

    Chinoga, to quote the Foreign Policy article lede I linked to:

    The Obama administration is claiming it always intended to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year, in line with the president’s announcement today, but in fact several parts of the administration appeared to try hard to negotiate a deal for thousands of troops to remain — and failed.

  66. 66
    chingona says:

    If “several parts of the administration” negotiated for troops to remain, and they failed, doesn’t that indicate that Obama wanted to get out?

  67. 67
    Guy says:

    My two cents is that Ampersand’s position may be unrealistically optimistic about how reliable Paul would be in avoiding a war with Iran.

    Obama, once he got into office, changed his tune on certain civil liberties, defence, etc.-related matters. Do we really think Paul would be unaffected? It’s not necessary to trust Obama to be “anti-war” to believe he won’t start a war with Iran, you just have to trust him to be minimally rational (i.e. realist). I have small faith in Paul to be consistently rational, so that leaves us trusting to his anti-war principles. What if he decides that, even though he’s anti-war, this is just not where he wants to spend his political capital?

    On gutting social security, restricting abortion, etc., Paul is going to have a major section of the mainstream commentariat supporting and covering for him. It’ll be easy for him to follow that tide and do a fantastic amount of damage. On avoiding war with Iran, if there’s a major provocation of some kind all that pressure is going to be piling in the opposite direction. What if President Paul decides that sticking to his anti-war principles simply isn’t as important to him as re-making America domestically?

    That hardly seems implausible to me. And if that happens, you’ve gambled away all the domestic damage and gotten nothing at all in return.

  68. 68
    Ampersand says:

    No. The hold-up wasn’t in the administration; it was with the Iraqis.

  69. 69
    Freemage says:

    For me, Freemage was particularly persuasive. Although I’m very disturbed by the imperialist implications of the argument — as if the whole world will collapse into war unless the US is there throwing our imperialist weight around — the truth is, the current international order is disturbingly dependent on US power, largely because the US has set it up that way. Although withdrawing from that as much as possible would be a good thing, it would have to be done by someone a great deal more sensitive to the intricacies and dangers than I think Ron Paul is.

    So at this point, if I had to vote between the two, I’d hold my nose and vote for Obama.

    I’m very aware of the dangers of an imperialist attitude, but you’re correct–just wishing it weren’t so isn’t gonna make it happen. Pulling back on American influence overall, and shifting our focus as much as possible to soft power (diplomacy, economic pressure) from hard power (military threat) is important–vital, even–but it’s going to be an incredibly intricate process. Right now, for instance, we’re using soft power to try and keep Uganda from making life for homosexuals within that country even more hellish (as in, going from being merely subject to arrest to being sanctioned targets for mob lynching). Paul would institute a total pull-back of such efforts.

    Freemage also wrote:

    Paul’s likely evisceration of the EPA (it’s not hard, just appoint the ideological heir to James Watt) would take decades before the harm was fully manifest.

    We survived James Watt, so why can’t we survive his heir? Also, there has to be more to our environmental strategy than keeping any Republican from winning the White House ever, or we’re just plain doomed.

    Of course. But bringing in a Republican–at least, a Paul-style Republican–would tank our efforts even further. So we when making these sorts of “what’s better overall” evaluations, a candidate’s environmental stance is a big part of it.

    Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen Obama face a primary challenge this time around, from someone on the Left. It could have created some obligation on his part to make deals with the liberal wing of the party.

    I also am very, very disappointed that the Republican slate is so loony. I firmly believe that one reason for Obama’s style of governance is the lack of serious opposition he’s faced in his campaigns to date. His enemies have conspired to avoid forcing him to take a stand or work for it, and the GOP seems primed to do it one more time.

    ******

    For those not familiar with his pre-Dem Primary history, here’s the run-through:

    Obama was a minor player in Illinois politics prior to the Illinois Senate race for the ‘junior Senator’ seat. He was up against Jack Ryan, and had a lead, but not a huge one. Then some reporters (probably tipped off) discovered that Ryan’s divorce records were sealed–unusual. So reporters asked questions, and Ryan insisted that the seal was there because of content pertaining to his autistic son.

    As it turned out, following a court case and a ruling opened the records, Ryan had actually been trying to keep folks from finding out that his ex, Jeri Ryan (aka “Seven of Nine” from Star Trek: Voyager) had accused him of taking her to sex clubs, and even of trying to get her to get freaky with him in public, berating her to the point of tears.

    So, yeah, THAT campaign imploded with frightening speed. Now, remember, Obama was already ahead, so the notion that another IL GOP candidate was going to step in and beat him was pretty much laughable. And none of the local GOPers were willing to ‘fall on their sword’ and take one for the team. So they carpet-bagged in Alan Freakin’ Keyes from NYC, got him to rent an apartment in-state, and Obama cake-walked into the Senate–the 27% of the vote that Keyes got has since become the measure of the population that is so insane that they can never be reached by reason.

    Then came the Dem Primary. After a brief tussle, we were left with three: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Now, I’ll say this–if it hadn’t been for that particular mix, Edwards would’ve taken the nomination early on. There’s still too much sexism and racism in the country to believe otherwise. But Obama and Clinton both seemed to understand that, so long as they both held in there, they had built-in constituencies that could not be turned against the other. So they both held on, and ultimately it was Edwards who went down, seemingly to try and staunch inquiries into his marital fidelity.

    Once it became Obama and Clinton, it could’ve been a race–except for two drastic mis-cues. First, the Clintons used racially divisive tactics in South Carolina, burning every last bridge they might’ve had in the black community and not getting anything out of it. Second, they tried to stress Hillary’s greater experience. But you could only do that if you counted her time in the White House as the First Lady–and when that got taken into account, the gay community looked at her and said, “So where were you when your husband’s vow to let gays serve in the military got twisted into Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, again?” And her one big effort, health-care reform, was a massive flop. So she deliberately tied herself to a legacy of failure and betrayal of the base–not the way to win a primary.

    And so it came down to McCain/Obama. Now, here was an opponent who could play that “experience” card and mean it. He even had ‘maverick’ cred (largely inflated by a gullible media). So he’s got experience and wisdom on how to avoid the traps of partisanship. Great! Lovely! Wait–who’s that he’s bringing out to serve as his VP? Really? We’re going to put that… idiot one heart attack away from nuclear weapons, serving under the oldest president ever? Not just no, but Hell, No.

    And so Obama never really had to make promises to fire up the base very much–he has ALWAYS just had to be ‘not as bad as the other guy’.

    Which sucks, of course, but ultimately, it’s a result of the GOP being unable to find their ass with both hands and a map.

  70. 70
    Onymous says:

    I realize this has mostly wound down, but frankly:
    I don’t believe for a second that Paul as a bigot and career Republican would actually be any more anti-war than Obama.

  71. 71
    Charles S says:

    Sebastian H,

    You would have been surprised IF the Bush administration had claimed the right to indefinitely detain US citizens? Have you somehow forgotten Jose Padilla, who was held in a military brig as an ‘enemy combatant’ without charges for several years (and tortured into insanity), until the Supreme Court was about to rule on the claimed right to indefinitely detain US citizens?

    It is just and proper to castigate the Obama administration for being worse than the Bush administration in some aspects of our murder, disappearance and torture policies (e.g. massive increase in the murder by drone program), but let’s not whitewash the Bush administration in the process.

  72. 72
    Doug S. says:

    When running against Gore, Bush campaigned that Clinton’s foreign policy was too interventionist, citing the Balkans campaign as something that he would not have done.

  73. 73
    Maia says:

    This seems like a weird hypothetical argument to me. Not least because unless Amp’s planning on moving or the electoral college maths changes significantly, it doesn’t matter who he votes for. Oregon is Democrat and has been since 1988.

    I mean I know I’m particularly sceptical about arguments about which is the lesat worst lizard, and I’m used to a voting system where you can vote for a range of different views. But I don’t quite see the need to do fine calculus of the amount of damage done/power to do it/odds of it happening at the best of times – least of all when you could actually protest vote for someone to the left of Nixon and it wouldn’t effect the outcome.

  74. 74
    Silenced is foo says:

    I always reassure myself with the ideal that most libertarians aren’t racist, sexist pigs… rather they’re callous assholes who just don’t give a shit about racism and sexism and are simply *ignoring* Paul’s attitudes on the subject in exchange for their libertarian fantasyland.

  75. 75
    Bijan Parsia says:

    To follow up on Guy@67 wrote, it seems that Paul is already going a bit wobbly on Iran:

    Most of the arguments against Paul from his fellow Republican candidates have not, however, centered on his more extreme domestic policy positions. Instead, they’ve focused fire on his call for military retrenchment, particularly his calls to stand back from a potential confrontation with Iran. When asked on State Of The Union on CNN, Paul said he’s just as concerned as anyone that Iran would be dangerous with a nuclear weapon, but that the current threats of military action go too far.

    “I would say that we just need to be more cautious,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “I think if we overreact and participate in bombing Iran, we’re looking for a lot more trouble. We went into Iraq carelessly. We don’t need a war in Iran carelessly.”

    Given his track record of honesty wrt the racist newsletters he profited off, I don’t think this bodes well.

    Speaking as someone of Iranian descent who has relative in Iran, I really really really don’t want there to be a war with Iran and I’m glad you don’t either. But I think it’s very naive to think that Paul is going to be any better, esp. if he actual faced the institutional constraints of the presidency. The downside of giving him that credit is that you end up walking near him on all his odious views.

    Paul flirtation only rightly pisses on people who we shouldn’t piss on and does nothing to make war with Iran less likely, even in fantasy.

  76. 76
    Sam L says:

    Just because it sticks in my craw, I would point out to RonF that by “infantilizing” themselves with deflated military budgets, Western Europe has gone without a war between its various countries for going on seventy years now. I’m pretty sure this is unprecedented.

  77. 77
    Robert says:

    For seventy years they’ve been cemented in the orbit of first the world’s premier superpower, then the world’s nuclear hegemon. Had their defense budgets been one pfenig or a quadrillion trillion sextillion lira, the western European countries would have been at peace with one another regardless, and for the same reason: because an intra-European war was not in the interest of the United States.

  78. 78
    Sam L says:

    So you agree with me.

  79. 79
    Lucia says:

    I believe that no matter what Paul says now, that if elected, he would be just a s likely to go to war with Iran as Obama is now. They all say things to get elected that they flip flop on once in office. Reagan promised fiscal responsibility and the budget and debt ballooned, Bush I promised no new taxes, and Obama promised to close Gitmo, provide a public option… well I could go on. I suspect Ron Paul is anti-Semitic, too, as a lot of the original anti Federal Reserve set unfortunately is. Though more main stream people are starting to understand the unconstitutionality and the monstrous expense of the FedRes, some of the old guard are all “Zionist banker conspiracy!”