When Students for Liberty President Alexander McCobin disagreed with Ron Paul’s foreign policy analysis on Crimea, siding with Rand Paul’s stance, I found myself pulled into a current of online conflict between non-interventionists and those who have condemned Russia’s actions.
McCobin painted Ron Paul as a Putin sympathizer, and I saw holes in his argument. His article also linked to neocon Bradley-Manning-bloodluster James Kirchick’s hit piece, which calls the senior Paul a Putin-supporter. That article, which opened up with a reminder of the old newsletter scandal, accused Ron Paul of “whitewashing Russian aggression” of Russia’s actions in Crimea, and it implied that he’s a sympathizer for the racist confederacy.
Riled up, I joined many others and hit the Twitterverse for some confirmation of my bias.
Go team Paul and the non-interventionists! Let’s show everyone who the real libertarians are — principled, dogmatic, quarrelsome — because that’ll help our movement!
As much as I admire Ron Paul, though — he drew so many young people into the movement that I can now have libertarian friends in real life — some people reacted as if their godhead had been attacked. A libertarian criticizing him appeared akin to spitting a glob of green flu-mucus onto the face of the Dalai Lama. You just don’t do it.
Apparently, whatever critical thought you may have about him, you should push it down, way down, into the depths of your psyche. Shut your eyes tight and sing “You are my Sunshine” over and over until the thought passes.
But wait, amid the cold-war infighting, a well-reasoned and even-tempered essay came to the rescue.
Blind Kung Fu Master Wisdom
Anthony Gregory, our wise Kung Fu Master Po, schooled the heated participants with cool-headed analysis on this pattern that runs within political movements. As he correctly pointed out, a few influential members of the movement take positions at either extreme, and they dominate the discussion, but most of us are somewhere in the middle. We may lean a bit more toward one side or the other, but it doesn’t make sense to say we are part of a particular “camp.”
“Yet today’s Cold War replay is leading people to defriend each other in the name of Manichean struggle. The tendency of people to break ties with others over this will only increase the polarization and erode mutual understanding.”
I took Gregory’s point and thought for a second about McCobin, also a Facebook friend and part of my libertarian social network. Okay then, I concluded: I guess I’d better be nice, lest I imperil my social life and never get invited to another Judd Weiss party.
I even felt sympathy after grumbling about career-minded Republitarians.
Back to the Fight
The Koch faction — which apparently includes Students for Liberty now — called Ron Paul an “extremist” with “outlandish” views on foreign policy.
Paulbots cried “neocon,” but they didn’t seem to know the meaning of the term. Students for Liberty took heat for being ungrateful brats. You were nothing before Ron Paul. He made you.
And my favorite, McCobin’s in bed with the CIA!
And you wonder why the libertarian careerists want to distance themselves from the Ron Paul movement.
Uh … now I’m not even sure I want to be associated. Backing away slowly…
On Those Taking Rand’s Side
It was time for me to look deeper into this issue, and decide for myself.
At the top, Rand is vying for the presidency, and I cannot blame him for having a more conservative foreign policy opinion than his father. He’s talking tough about sanctions to condemn Russia’s actions.
However, Rand is not scaring Putin or anyone else with his tough talk. Further, he will lose anyway, so he might as well stick to true libertarian principles and preach non-intervention.
Unfortunately, that would hinder the liberty political movement. Is it so bad that he’s trying to gain more relevancy by becoming somewhat mainstream? Most of us shrug our shoulders and figure it’s better than nothing.
Considering the net gain, most libertarians would agree that supporting Rand Paul is still pro-liberty. So why are we fighting again?
The irony of the strongly worded back-and-forth is that we’re not as divided as we might appear to be. We all seem to agree that two actions are anti-liberty: (1) Putin’s quest for hemispheric dominance and (2) US military intervention in Eastern Europe.
Yet, we’re behaving like the verbal equivalent of a soccer riot. How ironically collectivist of us.
That is not to say we need to succumb to political correctness. It’s healthy to occasionally engage in discourse on these matters — civil and not-so-civil — especially involving life and death. As libertarians, contrarianism is in our nature: to avoid it would be like asking a cat to not chase the laser pointer’s little red dot.
But I recommend we stay on task and avoid the next step that many people take. That is to fragment our movement even further, such as when people call for a boycott of Students for Liberty.
We regular folks, who don’t work for libertarian institutions, might be tempted to choose a faction. Don’t bother. Their rifts have nothing to do with you and me.
You are an individual. Stay committed to libertarian principles, not the institutions that pay the bills for your favorite political pundits.