But our policies definitely had an influence and you talk to the people who committed it and those individuals who would like to do us harm they say yes we didn’t like American bombs to be falling on our country, we don’t like the intervention we do in their nations so to deny this is very dangerous.
— Ron Paul, Face the Nation, November 20, 2011. Responding to Bob Schieffer’s question about what role the U.S. foreign policy played in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Less than twenty-four hours earlier, the New York City Police Department arrested Jose Pimentel, a 27-year-old Dominican-born convert to Islam, who was found with bomb-making materials in his apartment. It is alleged that Pimentel was planning to use those bombs against NYPD police cruisers, post offices as well as returning U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. Pimentel was reportedly a devotee of the American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and had accelerated his plans after al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike in September.
If the allegations against Pimentel can be proven in court then it would be fair to categorize him, in Paul’s words, as an individual who would like to do us harm. It is worth noting that Paul went on to tell Schieffer that our “troops overseas aggravate our enemies, motivate our enemies.” Well, it would appear that Pimentel is just as aggravated and motivated when our troops come home.
For his part, Paul insists that America is not to blame for the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, he does argue that our policymakers and by extension our policies contributed to the attacks such as the presence of our military bases in Saudi Arabia. Well, Osama bin Laden complained about those military bases in his 1996 fatwa against the United States. Is Ron Paul telling us that he is going to let bin Laden dictate our foreign policy from his grave in the North Arabian Sea? The danger inherent in Paul’s argument is that he sends the message to our enemies that they can change our foreign policy through threats and intimidation and our enemies would be only too happy to oblige. This country can ill afford to elect a President who shapes his foreign policy on the whims of Waziristan instead of Washington.
Or let me put it another way. If President Obama deals with world leaders by bowing to them, President Paul might very well fall to his knees. If President Obama’s foreign policy legacy is one of apology, then President Paul’s foreign policy legacy would be one of submission. Whether Ron Paul likes it or not, the United States is the most powerful nation in the world and he would be foolish to accelerate President Obama’s policy of frittering it away.
Ron Paul and President Obama actually possess a great deal in common in foreign policy especially where it concerns Iran. Earlier this month, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Paul how he would persuade Iran not to build a nuclear weapon. He replied, “Well, maybe offering friendship to them. I mean, didn’t we talk to the Soviets, didn’t we talk to the Chinese?” Now consider what Barack Obama told Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes shortly after announced his candidacy for President of the United States in February 2007:
The notion that this administration has that not talking to our enemies is effective punishment is wrong. It flies in the face of our experience during the Cold War. And Ronald Reagan understood that it may be an evil empire, but it’s worthwhile for us to periodically meet to see are there areas of common interest.
What both Obama failed to recognize then and what Paul fails to recognize now is that President Reagan talked with Mikhail Gorbachev, not with Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, or Konstantin Chernenko. Gorbachev was a genuine reformer who brought about glasnost and perestroika. It gave Reagan an opening and he seized it. There is no such opening in Islamic Republic of Iran. The last thing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs want for Iran are openness and restructuring.
As for extending a hand of friendship to Iran, I’m not sure what makes Paul think that Iran would welcome his overtures any more than it did Obama’s. Remember hot dog diplomacy? Back in June 2009, the Obama Administration made an ill-advised attempt for U.S. embassies to invite Iranian diplomats for Fourth of July celebrations. Of course, these invitations were extended prior to the Iranian “elections,” which resulted in massive bloodshed and violence when Iran’s populace disputed the results. When the Obama Administration hesitated to withdraw the invitations, Newt Gingrich said:
He can’t even bring himself to disinvite the Iranians from the Fourth of July party to celebrate a declaration which said all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So we’re going to celebrate the declaration of independence on the Fourth of July with Iranian torturers, murderers and the State Department says itself, the leading state sponsor of terrorism on the planet. I just think when you see an administration that is that weak, he may give Jimmy Carter a renewed reputation for strength.
An embarrassed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rescinded the invitations shortly thereafter. It was probably just as well. Not a single Iranian diplomat accepted the Obama Administration’s invitation.
If Ron Paul should be elected President any overtures he makes to Iran should be to the people, not to the regime. But don’t count on it. Not only would it be interventionist, it would offend and aggravate Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs and motivate them to act against us. And Ron Paul couldn’t have that happen now could he?