January 30, 2012

Army on Campus: Why Do Students Love Ron Paul?

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Ron Paul may not be president, but he is already commander-in-chief of one army — a so-called volunteer army of college-aged students that has thrown its weight behind the Congressman from Texas.

Five hundred young people gave up their winter breaks to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, and there are thousands more founding groups for Ron Paul on campuses throughout the country. In fact, Cornell’s own chapter of “Youth for Ron Paul” boasts more than 1,370 supporters, making it the second largest chapter in the country.

On some level, I understand the appeal: Paul is a candidate who seems genuine in his beliefs — however crazy many of them may be — and who advocates a return to the Constitution and the country’s founding principles.

Appeals for limited government, individual liberty and an end to foreign entanglements are all positions that resonate with young voters who find themselves worried about a swelling national debt and prolonged overseas engagements. And then there is that whole thing about legalizing marijuana, which, to be fair, seems to draw only a small percentage of his supporters.

Upon further reflection, though, the robust support for Ron Paul among college-aged voters remains as disheartening as it is baffling. Congressman Paul has more baggage than a college-bound freshman. Newsletters published under his name are full of anti-Semitic and racist vitriol.

And while Paul supporters have been quick to assert that he did not oversee the contents of the publications that bore his name, such an assertion seems tenuous and, even if true, hardly a relief to those of us who insist a presidential candidate should exhibit sounder judgment.

More substantively, though, Paul’s foreign policy positions exhibit a dangerous moral equivalency and short-sightedness on issues that will undoubtedly shape our generation’s course. His proposal to cut foreign aid would significantly undermine the United States’ influence abroad at a time when this influence is paramount in importance.

The Arab world is in upheaval, and it is precisely the United States’ aid commitments to Egypt that have allowed us to have some semblance of leverage during the transition in that lynchpin of the Middle East. North Korea, the most militarized nation in the world and a nuclear power to boot, is in the hands of an inexperienced 27-year-old. And lest we forget, Iran is marching toward a nuclear bomb. Now is hardly the time to take an isolationist approach.

More disturbing still is Congressman Paul’s striking lack of clarity when discussing foreign policy. He has the gall to liken Osama Bin Laden to a Chinese dissident and to suggest that the United States’ policies abroad are to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks.

He claims that he supported the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, only to then decry Bin Laden’s assassination as an affront to international law. Further, he advocates a “golden rule” approach to foreign policy — treat others as you would like to be treated — that sounds uninformed and juvenile.

Perhaps nowhere is his approach more dangerous than vis-à-vis Iran. Through the funneling of cash and weapons to insurgents, as well as other means of support, Iran is responsible for the deaths of American troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

It has flaunted its nuclear program in the face of the international community’s call for a cessation of such activities. And when not busy testing ballistic missiles or calling for United States allies to be wiped off the map, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and send the global economy into shock.

So what would the golden rule dictate? It wouldn’t suggest implementing sanctions, which, in Paul’s view, might be seen as an “act of war.” And it certainly wouldn’t call for any party to threaten military action — that’s saber rattling.

A golden rule approach would almost certainly allow Iran to succeed in its nuclear quest, unless a President Paul could somehow convince the Iranians to negotiate a settlement.

While Congressman Paul’s insistence that we not run into war is admirable, his views on America’s foreign engagement ultimately project weakness.

In fact, they reflect something of a youthful idealism — that if you just treat others like you would like to be treated everything will work out fine. History has a long record pointing to the contrary, and it is written in the blood and fortunes of countries who have placed undue faith in others.

Perhaps this youthful idealism is what appeals to college-aged voters. I for one am hoping for a sudden dose of old age.

Nathaniel Rosen is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at nrosen@cornellsun.com. Bringing it Home appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Nathaniel Rosen