Thursday, September 06, 2007


In the republican debate yesterday, Ron Paul was nothing less than brilliant. In my opinion, there is absolutely nobody in this country, republican or democrat, who can deliver such cogent and absolutely on-the-mark arguments for national security and against the war in Iraq, arguments which are also informed by a mature understanding of US history, that I find absolutely wanting in every other politician. When Paul was challenged by the weasly and cowardly Chris Wallace who wanted to score cheap points, his reply was thundering, almost prophetic-sounding. And just hear his simple argument about how it is the responsibility of airlines to protect their passengers and prevent 9/11 type attacks, and how delegating it to them rather than the government and allowing their officials to possess guns could have possibly prevented 9/11. Just watch him.

Unfortunately, people in this country are still swayed by rhetoric, and abstract feel-good notions such as "honor" and "freedom", both of which ironically they are rapidly losing. I think that Iraq unfortunately is becoming a big emotional prestige point for parents who have lost their sons and daughters in the failed conflict; they will just not accept that their children died in vain (and that too due to no fault of theirs) and more alarmingly, now keep thinking that the only way their children's sacrifices can be justified is if the US stays in Iraq. They are also misled into thinking, as one bereaved mother was, that the US is actually going to become more safe if they continue fighting there. This is a notion that seriously needs to be dispelled because it is a path straight towards devastation.

Ron Paul is probably the only person who understands this thoroughly and has the guts to say it aloud in public. Given his very clear libertarian stance, I can almost bet that he is also pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage, both of which are fundamentally issues about individual freedom and rights. But given the currents of irrational thought and puritanical nonsense widespread in the nation, it is not surprising that he does not say it publicly. It is the unfortunate destiny of this country that he will almost certainly not be nominated as the republican candidate.

Addendum: As much as I immensely admire Paul's stand on the war, I find his opposition to abortion and gay marriage bizarre and disconcerting (notwithstanding the fact that he may be taking these stances only for pleasing his republican electorate), and I also find him in danger of running afoul of his libertarian principles in these matters. For example, he says that the libertarian approach towards banning abortion is sensible because you are respecting the right of the foetus. Even if we buy this argument (which is tenuous at most for a month old foetus), what about the right of the mother to choose? What does the libertarian ethic say about that? I also don't agree with his absolutist sounding positions on gun control (quite apart from letting airline officials carrying them). As for stem cell research, he cleverly skirts the discussion towards taxpayer dollars. The point is, and I have said this before, I don't agree with a libertarian approach to anything and everything, but in some matters, it hits the nail on the head.

The real problem of course is that there is not a single candidate, Republican or Democrat, who I find ideal to be President. I wish we had technology that could pick the good qualities from each candidate and create a chimerical president.

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Anonymous Ash said...

Yes, I loved Ron Paul's response to Chris Wallace.

Did you notice how belligerent Chris Wallace was throughout the debate? His questions and comments were inflammatory and designed to put the respondent on a defensive tack. Hardly the way to conduct a debate.

P.S. Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback really scare me with their crazy-talk!

2:19 PM  
Blogger David said...

I too am very impressed by Ron Paul. However you are wrong about the abortion issue. He is VERY anti-abortion. He is an OBGYN doctor and has direct experience with babys, moms etc. so I think he has some credibility on this. He bleives that life begins at conception and therefore they have human rights that should be protected. While I disagree I respect his posistion and like all of his views he is remarkably consistent.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Ash: Chris Wallace is a pesky eel. And as you said, he was extremely belligerent and tried to score points with rhetoric. But Paul proved more than a match for him.
Then again, this was Fox and I did not expect the organisers and anchors to be any less obnoxious. The only reason I watched the debate was for Ron Paul, and for sheer entertainment.
I agree with you that the three gentlemen you cited are indeed scary. I honestly don't like a single one of these Repubs at all, except for Paul. I used to relatively like McCain, and although I think he is ineffectual now, I would still prefer him to these others (except Paul of course). Bottom line is; all of them except Paul scare me!

David: I knew that Paul was anti-abortion; I did not really know how anti-abortion. But my point is that his candidacy would absolutely crumble if he becomes pro-abortion, because he is already not toeing the party line with his anti-war views. In fact since he was a doctor, I would really expect him to understand the difference between saving the life of a month old child and a young woman who possibly could not support the child. In my opinion, you would never really know if he is pro-abortion, because he simply cannot say so publicly in this highly polarised nation.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Chetan said...

I too loved the hard hitting way he delivered the message in yesterday's debate. What was more adrenaline boosting was that he delivered it in front of hardcore po-war republican base and won an applause from them, a sort of proverbial belling the cat gesture. He does indeed have the courage to say out aloud that the emperor does not have clothes and indeed that is the sort of man I would like to see as President of the United States.

Although I agreed with most of his foreign policy positions I find his support for allowing airline officials to possess guns along with your approval confounding. There have been multiple instances where the airline staff has suspected innocent men of being terrorist. The last instance I can remember is about a Bohri family who were exchanging mobile phones and who were arrested by airline Marshals. A gun possessed by anyone on a plane is a recipe for disaster according to me.

The 'airlines should take care of its passenger' policy has a lot of flaws inherent with leaving everything to the market. Smaller players in the market will have an incentive to capitalise on short term gains. It is not unrealistic for an airline to start a service with smaller time for security clearance in order to attract customers, thus sacrificing some important security measures in lieu of quick profits coming from travellers in a hurry. I would definitely patronise such an airline, if there were one. Also the federal security at airports helps in better coordination. In case of multiple airlines being targetted by the terrorist attack, it is unrealistic to expect prompt cooperation and transfer of information in such an eventuality. Of course, over a period of successful attacks the market would adapt and the players favoring quicker profits would be hit hard and may shut shop. Trial and error along with a feedback loop would create a much more efficient and tighter security system than any system coming from 'security experts' at Dept of Homeland Security can ever come up with. However, terrorism strikes enough terror in hearts and minds of people for them to wait out till the market evolves such a response.

Also, Paul's positions on disbanding FBI and CIA are ludicrous. With free market forces forcing news agencies to continually cut down foreign correspondents, how is a President going to get the information to take informed decisions. The attacks that were prevented in Germany yesterday and before that at Heathrow airport in London were the handiwork of intelligence agencies. Even if security had been the responsibility of the airlines, none of them could have been prepared for an attack using liquid materials. That's because there were no measures in place before that. Yes, the airlines' security would have improvised after the attacks preventing future ones, but the question again is, whether human lives are a price worth paying for future efficient security and avoiding unnecessary and wasteful public spending.

Another area where Ron Paul does not make sense to me is on abortion issue and the gay marriage one. You said that electoral pressures might have forced him to take those stances. It is certain that on abortion he has always been pro-life. It is not just his political but also his personal view. Take a look at his views published in 2003 regarding the partial abortion ban. It is obvious he is against abortion. Even though I don't agree with his beliefs, I do respect him for being consistent about them rather than flip flopping like Mitt Romney. It is his justifications for opposition to gay marriage and abortion that are a quandary to me.

Anyways, he is a good candidate and would have my vote had I been a primary voter. Also, sorry about not responding for a while regarding the global warming posts. I have been terribly busy with job hunting.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Chetan, thanks for the comment. If Ron Paul is a libertarian and truly and wholly anti-abortion (there are after all a few situations where abortion should not be recommended and may be used by irresponsible citizens to their own selfish ends), then his views are for me quite bizarre. It is a conundrum to me personally, in spite of knowing all about the highly vocal debate in this country, how anyone who truly values individual freedom cannot at least partially be pro-abortion and definitely pro-gay rights. (In my personal opinion, while opposition to abortion may at least be an argument in some cases, opposition to gay marriage is totally off the top and unwarranted)

About the airlines, if we had our ways, nobody would have guns and the world would be a better place. I don't think giving guns to airline officials is the best option. But at this point, the whole deal about nobody carrying a weapon of any sort on a plane has led to some convoluted security procedures. Of course, a US marshal with a gun is usually stationed on a flight, but number of US marshals needed for every flight in the US would naturally be unrealistic. I do agree with the central thesis, that terrorists will likely be deterred if there is some person on the plane who can overcome them if they try something nasty. To be honest, I don't care who that person exactly is, but because private companies are motivated by money, and there is so much money to be made from flying passengers, their sheer greed could lead them to do something useful, and I would think that entrusting security to airlines would at the very least be an interesting and valid experiment. If the government can protect us as well as they can, well and good. I think the bigger implication of what Paul is saying is not just about someone from the airline carrying a gun, but the general principle of the airline being answerable to people about their security. Consider how much care they would take if they knew every moment that passengers can potentially sue them for hundreds of millions for allowing a safety breach. I do agree with the scenarios and problems you cite however, that even airlines can take undue advantage of this power. But like I said before, in my opinion, it could at the very least be a valid experiment and on the table for discussion and debate.

Now, about the CIA. Ron Paul's statements sound extreme, but I am pretty sure that his main point is about the extreme bureaucracy and secrecy deeply rooted in that organisation. As you probably know, a look at the last 50 years of American foreign policy would award a big share of goof ups, inflammatory actions, and anti-democratic activities to the CIA. At one point, the CIA grew even beyond the reach of government like a giant well-fed beast. It is also not surprising that many times the government keeps on creating new agencies to profit from propaganda, not to mention to make money under the table. I think Paul's thrust is to have a minimalist and highly efficient intelligence agency manned by highly capable, non-partisan, and intelligent people, working in close and unbiased collaboration with intelligence agencies from other countries, something that the CIA almost never was. Think of the Israelis. They live in one of the most incendiary parts of the world, yet I haven't heard of them creating so many intelligence agencies. Mossad always seemed to do the job single handedly pretty well (even if one might not agree with the nature of the "job"). Intelligence infrastructure has become pretty grotesque in the US, and I believe that Paul is suggesting that this bureaucratic intelligence beast should be cut down to size. I do agree that saying this in the extreme way that he does does not particularly help though.
So did you get a new job? :)

4:00 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

The other thing is, frankly, one reason I respect Paul so much is that even though I don't agree with some of his views, I really don't find anyone among the Democrats who is so intelligent, full of conviction, and hard hitting (except perhaps Mike Gravel, but he has other problems). Obama's lack of experience unfortunately shows in my opinion, otherwise he would have been a really great choice.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if someone will pick him up as a VP candidate. Maybe a Democrat.

I didn't watch the whole debate, so I really don't know who the person laughing everytime Paul's name was called up, is. Do you know?

7:11 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

You are right...if (and hopefully) the Democrats win, they should name him to a senior post to foster cooperation with the Republicans and chisel out a sound foreign policy plan. He would be fantastic as secretary of state/defense in my opinion, or even as ambassador to the UN.

About the voices, that was pretty ridiculous, and I suspect that the morons at Fox deliberately kept the mics open to capture their laughter only during Paul's answers.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Ash said...

Ashutosh, Patrix noticed something in your post but forgot to comment, so I'm doing the honors.

You used the terms "anti-abortion" and "pro-abortion", which are rather inaccurate. Nobody is advocating abortions, they're advocating choice. I know it's probably just a slip on your part, but terminology in this issue carries a lot of weight!

The pro-lifers have falsely created an illusion that this issue comprises of two extremes. In reality, it is only the pro-lifers who have adopted an extreme position. The pro-choicers are middle-of-the road since they advocate for the woman to choose, either life or abortion.

The pro-lifers demand that every woman who gets pregnant give birth, however there is no one on the "other side" who demands that all pregnant women have abortions. The issue is so simple in my mind, I just cannot comprehend why people oppose individual choice so vehemently!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

You are absolutely right, thanks for reminding! I was of course aware that pro-choice people don't actually advocate abortion, and when I meant "pro-abortion" I meant "pro-those who support a woman's right to choose abortion" but yes, "anti-abortion" makes it sound like they are actually against abortion!

1:42 PM  
Blogger Patrix said...

You might be interested in reading this:

9:30 PM  

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