Letter to Glenn Beck

Brother Beck, 

Having recently listened to your recent, excellent radio interview with Ron Paul, and hearing your compatibility with him on issues monetary and domestic, I think it is time to deal with the elephant in the room: foreign policy.

Yes, I admire you for not shouting him down or yelling at him, but instead, respectfully listening when he has appeared on your TV or radio show when his foreign policy views differed significantly from your own.

And yes, many believe the threat of Islamo-fascism is real and cannot be ignored.  Many believe that pre-emptively attacking nations makes us safer, and that sanctions, enhanced interrogation techniques, and military action are necessary tools to keep America safe.  I invite you to consider again not just the assumptions behind this philosophy, but the ramifications as well, consistent with your libertarian, anti-government bias (or at least government skepticism).

I recall your special on global warming, how you boldly took on the mainstream assumptions.  One interesting point was the idea that governments were unable to combat the effects of man-made global warming effectively.  You mentioned how the Kyoto Protocol was and is largely a failure.

This is a frequent theme of your show: skepticism towards the ability of government to get the job done right.  You regularly point out failures, like Walter Reed or the response to Katrina, or your current frustration with economic policies.  With such a consistent skepticism across the board to government intervention, why do you have so much faith in the ability (even the necessity) of the a bureaucratic government to wage a pre-emptive “War on Terror?”  Why should the government-backed “War on Terror” go any more smoothly or effectively than the Kyoto Protocol or gun control laws or any other recent incursion into our liberty?  Put another way, why does the government necessarily have the best solutions to our security from this and other risks?  In other words, why does your healthy, libertarian skepticism not spill over into foreign policy handling as much as it does in economic and domestic realms?  Why is government so trustworthy in matters of foreign policy considering their record?

Rudy Giuliani, in a recent debate, told Ron Paul that the reason terrorists attack us have nothing to do with our foreign policy.  Nothing at all, he said.  Consider this point.  Iran threatens the world with talk of nuclear weapons.  North Korea has a nuclear weapon.  Hugo Chavez called Bush “Satan” at the UN not too long ago.  Don’t these actions affect our foreign policy views, perspectives, and actions towards other countries?  Isn’t it possible, at least, that foreign policy decisions, even by the United States, have a similar effect on other countries, many of whom do not have the Western perspective we do?  Why is it so outlandish to suppose that U.S. foreign policy decisions, even with the best of intentions, may engender hatred or strife, or even help to fan the flames of extremism?  Why is this point not even worth considering? 

Isn’t it possible that one way to lessen the growth of extremism is to eliminate a source of hatred?  In fact, Paul Wolfowitz even admitted as much when he said that our having troops on Saudi soil serves as a motivator for Al Qaeda.  I cannot understand the unwillingness to acknowledge the plausibility of this perspective.  To really keep America safe from terrorism, we must understand the motivations and fears behind the attacks, and they are not as simple as most mainstream Republicans believe.  This is not to blame America, neither its troops nor its citizens, but simply to acknowledge that just as crimes have motives, so too may terrorists.

Another idea is the CIA concept of blowback.  This is really just another way of stating Richard Weaver’s view that “Ideas have consequences,” meaning, of course, unintended negative consequences.  I am sure you have a good idea of what blowback purports to be (or what it is purported to be).  This is another instance where I cannot understand your unwillingness to acknowledge or discuss this idea.  Yes, we may be in a global war on terror.  But isn’t it at least worth considering whether our actions and foreign policy decisions today make things worse in the long run, even in the Middle East?  For instance, Al Qaeda’s presence in Iraq has never been stronger.  Americans have invested hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq, and the bill keeps growing (thus relating this situation to economic woes).  Thousands of American lives, and tens (if not hundreds) of Iraqi lives have been lost.  No weapons of mass destruction have been found to justify this incursion.  With all this cost, and the cost surely to rise higher and higher in blood and treasure, isn’t it at least worth considering whether this was worth it?  Brutal regimes have existed and do still exist, the world over.  We have neither the motivation nor the resources to rid the world of its dictators, one by one (imagine what the dollar would look like then).  Even if we did, how will we guarantee that some even worse monstrosity will not rise up and takes its place?  In short, how can we really have confidence that we are actually safer as a result of the government’s “War on Terror?”

I also invite you to consider the historical or ethical basis for pre-emptive war.  It is extremely difficult to find a true historical analog.  If 9-11 has changed everything, how do we know that we have changed in the right directions?  Is it simply time to toss out the history books?

Perhaps you already have well thought out answers to each of these problems: how to avoid unintended consequences, how to pay for all of this, and how continuing this strategy really makes us safer (and, of course, how we can have confidence that we actually are doing the right thing).  If you do have such answers, I would love to hear them in your next TV show.  Please help me understand your strong and nearly unwavering support for the “War on Terror.”

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Filed under foreign policy, Libertarian, politics, role of government, Ron Paul

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