Juan Cole has the kind of analysis of Ron "Papa Doc" Paul's Old Right isolationism that we rarely see in Paul, Santorum and the Sixth War (on Iran)Informed Comment 08/12/2011. Papa Doc's views are often treated in the press as a quirky instance of a conservative Republican echoing dovish foreign policy views. But Papa Doc and the Old Right isolationists are coming from a radically different perspective:
Ron Paul was representing the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party. It is not exactly isolationist (note the desire for international trade), but opposes the military-industrial complex. As Right anarchists, they want the least government possible, and see government as a distraction for businesses, who succumb to the temptation to use the government to distort the eufunctional free market. In essence, government [in Papa Doc's view] is a scam whereby some companies are seduced by the possibility of manacling the invisible hand that ought to be magically rewarding enterprise and innovation. A significant stream within libertarianism theorizes war as the ultimate in this racket, whereby some companies use government to throw enormous sums to themselves by waging wars abroad and invoking patriotic themes.
Papa Doc delivers a patriotic baby
I think he misses a beat by calling "the desire for international trade" a sign that Papa Doc is "exactly isolationist." The dogma of free market international trade is standard for Old Right isolationists. In their view, the magic of the free market would solve all problems if allowed to operate unrestrained everywhere in the world.
Ron Paul's "peace through trade" approach to geopolitics and skepticism of overbearing imperialism does not have a snowball's chance in hell of becoming the foreign policy of the United States. He represents small-town entrepreneurs who see the wars and their expense as a burden and a block to trade opportunities. They are a significant segment of the Republican Party, but I'd put them at 15% at most.
But a large part of what keeps the Old Right isolationists voting Republican is that their worldview includes other factors which they perceive as more closely identified with the Republican than the Democratic Party: white racism, xenophobia, hostility to government regulations. Papa Doc himself, as Dave Neiwert as reported, has been a major conduit for mainstreaming ideas from the white supremacists and Patriot Militia fringe into the Republican Party. "Tellingly," writes Cole, "Ron Paul calls global climate change a 'hoax.'")
He also quotes Papa Doc as follows. Between Papa Doc's own personal quirks and the ideological hash of Old Right isolationist dogma, it's not entirely coherent:
Just think of what we went through in the Cold War when I was in the Air Force, after I was drafted into the Air Force, all through the Sixties. We were standing up against the Soviets. They had like 30,000 nuclear weapons with intercontinental missiles. Just think of the agitation and the worry about a country that might get a nuclear weapon some day.
... That makes it much worse. Why would that be so strange if the Soviets and the Chinese had nuclear weapons, we tolerated the Soviets. We didn’t attack them. And they were a much greater danger. They were the greatest danger to us in our whole history. But you don't go to war with them.
.... Just think of how many nuclear weapons surround Iran. The Chinese are there. The Indians are there. The Pakistanis are there. The Israelis are there. The United States is there. All these countries ... why wouldn't it be natural if they might want a weapon? Internationally, they might be given more respect. Why should we write people off? In the Fifties, we at least talked to them. At least our leaders and Reagan talked to the Soviets. What's so terribly bad about this? And countries you put sanctions on you are more likely to fight them. I say a policy of peace is free trade, stay out of their internal business, don't get involved in these wars and just bring our troops home.
The Old Right isolationists are hardcore nationalists. They oppose international treaties not exclusively concerned with trade, including nuclear arms control agreements. Like the neoconservatives, they are indifferent to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and oppposed to the kind of international agreements and mutual treaty commitments that are the only way to control proliferation.