Ron Paul gains support in second GOP debate

For those who doubted that Rep. Ron Paul was a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, the debate Tuesday night in South Carolina put all doubts to rest. Paul stirred up a firestorm of controversy for suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security made national security even more inefficient after September 11 than before, and especially for his assertion that U.S. foreign policy over the past several decades contributed to the rise of Islamic terrorism.

But viewers at home responded, putting Ron Paul in second place in FOX’s own tamper-proof viewer poll.

As opposed to the largely conservative FOX viewers, MSNBC’s interactive post-debate poll, with more moderate viewers, puts Ron Paul squarely at the top of the heap among that network’s viewers.

And his assertions are not without merit.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office reported (PDF) that DHS “lacks a comprehensive integration strategy with overall goals, a timeline, appropriate responsibility and accountability determinations, and a dedicated team to support its efforts.” DHS still doesn’t have a plan to “deal with its many management challenges . . . could have serious consequences for our homeland security.”

Paul said during the debate that we had all the dots to put together the 9/11 plot and stop the attackers, but the bureaucracy was too inefficient to connect the dots. So in response, the government created even more inefficient bureaucracy.

Indeed, sharing of intelligence even between federal agencies, let alone with state and local agencies, still hasn’t improved that much since 9/11. Another GAO audit (PDF) last week found that the Homeland Security Information Network, meant to share intelligence with state and local officials, is doing a poor job and is largely redundant, since states and localities have already set up information-sharing networks, which DHS has failed to plug into. We’re little closer to being able to connect the dots, and all we have is a new “giant bureaucracy” eating up billions of taxpayer dollars to show for it.

That’s right, instead of real security, we’ve gotten real incompetence.

Citing the Central Intelligence Agency’s “blowback” principle, Paul explained that U.S. intervention in Middle Eastern affairs over the past several decades contributed to anti-American sentiment and helped create enemies, some of whom are today’s terrorists. This didn’t go over too well with Rudy Giuliani, who seems to know little about U.S. foreign policy for someone who supposedly led his city through the worst international terrorist attack in U.S. history.

“They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. … We’ve been in the Middle East,” Paul said in explaining his opposition to going to war in Iraq. “Right now, we’re building an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting.

“They are delighted that we’re over there because Usama bin Laden has said, ‘I’m glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.’ They have already now since that time they’ve killed 3,400 of our men and I don’t think it was necessary,” he continued.

“That’s really an extraordinary statement,” Giuliani said, interrupting FOX News panelist Wendell Goler. “That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I have ever heard that before and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11. I would ask the congressman withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.” — FOX News

It goes back far before Desert Storm, as Paul pointed out, citing Reagan sending the Marines into Lebanon in 1983, saying “I will never turn tail and run,” and then pulling them back out after realizing just how “irrational” they are over there.

The only people who really reacted negatively to this were the handpicked debate audience, who applauded Giuliani for his ridiculous outburst and poor understanding of just what it is we’re up against.

While I rarely write about it, I follow the war in Iraq and other U.S. counterterrorism activities very closely. Ronald Reagan was right when he called them “irrational,” and so is Ron Paul. Indulge me for a moment while I quote from possibly the greatest military strategist of all time:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Sound familiar? The reason we’re suffering so badly in Iraq is that we’ve failed to know and truly understand our enemy. We failed in 1967, we failed in 1983, we failed in 2001, and we have failed today. The party line is that the Islamic jihadists hate us and our freedom and want to establish a global Islamic caliphate, dominating the world under Sharia law. Some people in this country claim that every Muslim wants this. (This is kind of like saying that the Church of Scientology represents all of Christendom.) The reality is quite a bit more complex than that.

Speaking of which, it’s probably more accurate to think of Al Qaeda and their associated jihadists as a religious cult. This is, after all, exactly how they act. We already know how to deal with religious cults, and it doesn’t involve long, protracted wars in the desert halfway around the world.

One last thing Ron Paul has been at pains to point out is that it’s left-leaning Democrats who have gotten us into the vast majority of conflicts in the last century, and conservative Republicans who have gotten us out of the vast majority of them. We must certainly be ready to defend ourselves from those who would attack us and have attacked us. If I’m around when somebody starts shooting people in a shopping mall, he’s getting two to the chest and one to the head. But we should not be picking fights, especially with people we don’t understand. We should instead open commerce and trade and let other countries sort out their own problems. That’s been the American way since the beginning, and it’s about time conservatives started being conservative again.

I’m apparently not the only person who thinks so; Ron Paul gained 25% of the vote in FOX’s more secure viewer poll of largely conservative viewers, coming in just behind Mitt Romney at 29% and far ahead of Guiliani at 19%. Supposed first tier candidate John McCain has fallen to the back of the pack with the rest of the second-tier candidates. It’s going to be much more difficult for the mainstream media to keep up their blissful, deliberate ignorance now.