Ron Paul, Non-Intervention, and the Broken Egg Problem

Since I started tweeting Libya’s revolution, I’ve been getting lots of questions about Ron Paul. After all, my twitter bio proudly states that I’m a supporter.

Ron Paul ran for President in 1988 and 2008

Comments ran the full gamut from admiration to outrage. Some saw it to mean that I’m pro-liberty, while others were horrified that I would support an “ultraconservative right-wing nut”. Obviously, the well-intentioned Tea Party movement distorted Dr. Paul’s image.

It would be great to introduce Dr. Paul to my Arab & Muslim followers, and I definitely hope to do so at some point in the near future, especially with speculations of a bid for the 2012 presidential elections. In introducing him, I would cite such principled positions as this and this.

But today I’m writing to comment on his non-interventionist stance regarding US involvement in Libya. I have spoken in support of assistance & protection of Libyans. Do I still support Ron Paul, when he’d rather not get involved? And can I call myself a supporter while being pro-intervention?

“No Foreign Intervention”, but no agreement on what constitutes intervention

Allow me to explain Dr. Paul’s position first. He would have two main problems with this – and any – intervention.

The first objection would be a matter of procedure. Being a strict constitutionalist, he believes that a government only has powers mandated by its founding document; and that if you can’t cite the constitution in support of an action, then that action should not be allowed.

Ron Paul would insist that Congress declare war before bombs started falling on Gaddafi’s forces. No doubt, this would extend the time needed to take action, and would make US involvement rather unlikely with the typical Republican-Democrat feuds and tug-of-war.

His second objection would be a matter of principle. As a non-interventionist, he wouldn’t want the US involved in any conflict that doesn’t directly threaten its national security. He is against all military adventures, and against funding and arming foreign nations, be they dictatorships or democracies.

This stance of Ron Paul – that a country should only to war if threatened – is one that I agree with. I also agree with him that this isn’t America’s fight, but that of the Libyans. However, I’d like to add to the picture a hidden dimension which is painfully visible to me as an Arab, but not to my Western friends.

In so doing, I am talking about paradigms & perceptions which are only tangentially related to facts, but more powerful and influential. I’m talking about how average Arabs, given the recent history of their relationships with the West, would tend to see things.

To an Arab, it appears that the United States (or the West in general) tends to break a country through intervention, then admit too late that it’s a “broken egg” that can’t be fixed. They then say it was a mistake breaking it in the first place, and then leave – leaving us with the broken egg.

Bush: “I don’t see it as a broken egg, I see it as a cracked egg”

And so it just appears to Arabs that the US preaches “democratization” through military intervention into our world, forcing its army in like bull into a china store. Hundreds of thousands die, regional conflicts flare, social foundations are shattered, and their army ends up in another quagmire.

A decade later, someone starts talking non-intervention. They pull out, leaving us with the mess. Their rationale would be that it was a mistake to have gone in, and they assume that by leaving, they’ve atoned for that sin. They expect us to be grateful for having left, rather than bitter for all the damage.

That was Iraq. What about Libya? For years, Gaddafi has been armed by the West. His hugs & handshakes with Blair and Berlusconi are all over the ‘net, and it’s no secret that his private brigades are armed & trained by the United States and Britain.

When later, Gaddafi starts using those very weapons against his own people, a voice is heard in the United States saying “no intervention!” Can you see how it sounds to us? Memories from Iraq ring in our heads painfully and vividly.

I have no doubt that Dr. Paul would have taken a clear stand against arming Gaddafi to begin with, much as he took a principled stance against the invasion of Iraq and the funding of Israel. But I also think that “non-intervention” should be balanced with restitution to the victims of previous intervention.

None of us blames the West for what Gaddafi is inflicting upon his people. But it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room – that he’s inflicting it with Western-armed & trained brigades.

The West didn’t create this monster, but they gave him claws and taught him how to use them. Now he’s mauled an entire country. When they have to help us put him down, it’s not intervention. It’s restitution.