In short: today, any number of people in the Muslim world are “messing with us,” while the Chinese and Russian governments are setting about doing so even more seriously. They feel safe in doing so. For a generation, the U.S. government has been interfering in other peoples’ business while neglecting our own—making commitments without consideration of what it would take actually to keep them. It has spoken loudly while whittling down America’s stick. We have earned disrespect. Today, nobody takes America seriously. Would-be President Paul has made clear that his America would speak much more softly. Good. But he seems to have given little thought about what kind of stick the U.S. government needs to secure America’s peace as well as about what strokes may be needed to restore respect.
Today, China is building a military reasonably designed to control the western Pacific Rim from land bases. How would President Paul counter that? China has warned that any serious attempt to safeguard the independence of the islands off its coast might lead to the nuclear destruction of American cities. Would President Paul defend America against Chinese missiles, or Russian ones? As Muslim potentates from Palestine to Pakistan consider whether to (send or allow, it matters not) any of their zealots to kill more Americans, what reason would President Paul give them to hold them back? If and when terrorists from country X strike America, what if anything would he do to those in power there? In the meanwhile, what would he do to signal seriousness? Would he continue to subsidize the Palestinian Authority’s nursery of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism?
Paul‘s pronouncements on foreign policy, promising as they do retrenchment from foolish commitments, are faithful to the physician’s maxim: “First, do no harm.” But foreign affairs, as well as medicine, require more than refraining from harm.