The problem, however, is that there is far more to Paul's view than just his opposition to U.S. military adventurism. Paul also believes that the United States should depart from all international organizations and global alliances. This includes not just NATO, but also the United Nations and the World Health Organization (he introduced legislation to this effect as recently as this March). He stridently opposes NAFTA, all free trade agreements, and even U.S. membership in the WTO on the grounds that free trade should be free of government interference, global rule-making, or apparently dispute mechanisms. He is opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants and believes that securing America's borders should be the "top national security priority."
What about foreign aid? Paul wants to end it completely -- with some vague exceptions made for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. He claims that "foreign aid never works to achieve the stated goal of helping the poor of other nations." Finally, there is a darker element to Paul's foreign policy views -- a healthy degree of conspiracy-mongering. He has warned against the so-called NAFTA super-highway and the North American Union, a supposed plan to turn the North American continent into an economic union with a single currency and open borders along the lines of the European Union. Paul has even introduced legislation to prevent this non-event from occurring. He has also claimed that the United Nations "wants to influence our domestic environmental, trade, labor, tax, and gun laws" and that "its global planners fully intend to expand the U.N. into a true world government, complete with taxes, courts, and a standing army."
Sullivan, in endorsing Paul, has said that he does not approve of the candidate's "nuttier policy proposals." But Justin Logan, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, said that while he doesn't agree with everything Paul says, "he's bringing ideas to the table that aren't often heard among Republicans on the campaign trail. He has broadened the debate on foreign policy. Compared to the Bush years, it's like glasnost."
This is often the sort of praise one finds for Paul's foreign policy views. The problem, however, is that a Ron Paul presidency would mean far more than simply an end to foreign wars and the United States playing policeman to the world. In short, he wants to pull up the drawbridge and separate the United States from all official foreign entanglements, not just the military ones. One could certainly make the case that the consequences of such a doctrinaire and unyielding foreign policy vision could do significant long-term damage to the United States. According to Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network, "A foreign policy that lets our trading partners collapse (in Europe); fails to engage with new ones as they are busily building ties with each other (Brazil, Turkey, Korea, Indonesia); and lets new disease incubate in the food we import and pollution concentrate in the winds we breathe will kill citizens and impoverish our national treasury as surely as the wars Paul critiques."
What's more, there is little evidence that the vast majority of Americans actually want to see the United States so dramatically disentangle itself from international affairs. Many of those supporting Paul or saying positive words about his candidacy may not fully comprehend that under a Paul administration it is quite possible that the United States would no longer be a member in good standing at the United Nations, turn to the World Trade Organization to resolve trade disputes, patrol sea lanes that are transit points for U.S. commerce, work with international organizations to fight global diseases or support economic development, and consult with allies in multilateral forums to deal with global challenges. In short, it's not clear that Americans are as prepared as Paul is for the United States to no longer be a global power.
This might be a case where Paul's adherence to ideological purity will limit his larger political impact or even the strength of his foreign policy message. And that's a shame. Perhaps more than at any point in recent American history there is a need and a yearning for a presidential aspirant who espouses a vision of American power that is more modest and restrained then what is being articulated by both Democrats and Republicans. Alas, for all his current yet likely fleeting appeal, it's hard to imagine that in the end Ron Paul is capable of ultimately being that candidate. His candidacy -- and his foreign policy views -- will in the end be a victim of his own political absolutism.