In recent days the Weekly Standard and Washington Free Beacon have brought to light a now-scrubbed recommended reading list for students that had resided on Sen. Rand Paul’s website. Why the focus on a book list, and why was the book list scrubbed?
The answer to the second question could lie in the answer to the first: the foreign policy recommendations in the reading list take a variety of controversial stances, suggesting that the U.S. is to blame for the rise of Islamic supremacism in the Middle East, that the “Israeli Lobby” controls U.S. foreign policy to America’s great detriment, and other potentially toxic assertions consistent with views of many on the progressive left and even Al Qaeda’s rhetoric itself.
Writing in the Weekly Standard, David Adesnik argues:
The foreign policy section of the list consists entirely of works that blame the United States for the rise of Islamic extremism while offering solutions that verge on isolationism. Most of the books also express a sharp hostility toward Israel and toward those who believe that U.S. foreign policy should serve the cause of human freedom.
Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon asserts:
While most of the recommended titles focus on economic policy, the list also included books that claim the ‘Israel Lobby’ controls U.S. foreign policy, call for the United States to cut ties with the Jewish state, and argue that support for Israel is anti-Christian and anti-American.
Both parallel the perspective reflected in some controversial past clips of Sen. Paul, for example arguing that U.S. aggression contributed to World War II and that Dick Cheney supported the Iraq War for the benefit of Halliburton.
So what are the controversial titles in question?
The foreign policy titles on on the recommended reading list consist of: Ron Paul’s “A Foreign Policy of Freedom,” Andrew J. Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War,” Chalmers Johnson’s “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire,” Michael Scheuer’s “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror” and Patrick J. Buchanan’s “Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency.”
Adesnik quotes from Ron Paul’s “A Foreign Policy of Freedom”:
‘Our policy is designed to promote the military-industrial complex and world government,’ he asserted in the late 1990s. ‘Every week we must find a foreign infidel to slay, and, of course, keep the military-industrial complex humming,’ he noted, adding that ‘no one has the foggiest notion whether Kofi Annan or Bill Clinton is in charge of our foreign policy.’ The elder Paul often repeats the canard that Osama bin Laden was America’s ‘close ally’ to whom we gave ‘financial assistance, weapons and training.’ For Ron Paul, the ultimate cause of terrorism is precisely what Osama bin Laden says it is: ‘The U.S. defiles Islam with military bases on holy land in Saudi Arabia, its initiation of war against Iraq, with 12 years of persistent bombing, and its dollars and weapons being used against the Palestinians.’
Of Buchanan’s book, Adesnik quotes the commentator and recent Blaze Books interviewee:
‘America’s huge footprint on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia led straight to 9/11. The terrorists were over here because we were over there. Terrorism is the price of empire.’ Whereas Ron Paul condemns George Bush’s ‘Christian-Zionist-oil crusade,’ Buchanan explains that ‘the Beltway Likud was plotting and propagandizing for war on Iraq long before 9/11.’The distinctive trait of this clique is that it sees ‘U.S. and Israeli interests as identical.’
Adesnik notes that Bacevich admits in the forward to his book that despite being a conservative, “my [foreign policy] views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left.”
According to Adesnik the themes and tenor of the foreign policy recommendations on the list are further reflected in those books referenced by former CIA officer Michael Scheuer and author Chalmers Johnson.
Of the former he writes:
Scheuer attributes the rise of al Qaeda to anti-Islamic policies of the past. ‘The United States is hated across the Islamic world because of specific U.S. government policies and actions,’ Scheuer says. ‘I think it is fair to conclude,” he writes, “that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.’ If Washington does not want to fight an endless war against Islam, it must remove its military forces from the Arabian Peninsula, sever its ties to ‘apostate, corrupt’ governments in the Middle East, and cease all pressure on Arab oil producers to keep oil prices low. Scheuer also asks (rhetorically), ‘Do we totally support Israel because it is essential to our security, or because of habit, the prowess of Israel’s American lobbyists and spies, the half-true mantra that Israel is a democracy . . . and a misplaced sense of guilt over the Holocaust?’
And of the latter he writes:
Chalmers Johnson stands out among Senator Paul’s favorite authors for his unadulterated moral relativism and thoroughgoing left-wing politics. In Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, he observes that the 9/11 attacks ‘employ[ed] the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders, whose innocence is, of course, no different from that of the civilians killed by American bombs in Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.’ He asserts there is no meaningful difference between the Soviet empire and the United States’ network of alliances. Johnson’s commitment to that false analogy is so complete that he can write, ‘By the 1990s Japan was the world’s second-richest country, but with a government remarkably similar to that of the former East Germany.’ Apparently, all that’s missing is a wall around Tokyo to keep its citizens from escaping to the West.
Alana Goodman also surveys these works, citing ADL criticism of both Pat Buchanan’s and Michael Scheuer’s books, and including some additional controversial quotes like Scheuer’s assertion that:
U.S. support for Israel could be explained by ‘habit, the prowess of Israel’s American lobbyists and spies, the half-true mantra that Israel is a democracy … and a misplaced sense of guilt over the Holocaust.’
Scheuer also described Israel as a ‘faraway, theocracy-in-all-but-name of only about six million people that ultimately controls the extent and even the occurrence of an important portion of political discourse and national security debate [in the United States].’”
Adesnik ultimately concludes that while one can only read so much into a reading list, Sen. Paul’s foreign policy views make him unfit to be president:
… [I]t would be patently unfair to hold a compiler responsible for every word in every book on a list of recommended reading. Yet Rand Paul should be held responsible for the core message that is repeated again and again by each of his recommended works on foreign policy. According to the New York Times, Paul’s ‘skepticism of military intervention’ has made him the target of ‘powerful elements of the Republican base who have undertaken a campaign to portray Mr. Paul as dangerously misguided.’ While conservative voters may not agree with the Times editorial board on what constitutes being misguided, that adjective seems appropriate for the indoctrination of young minds with the belief that American perfidy is responsible for the mass murder of 9/11 and the continuing loss of innocent lives to al Qaeda and its associates. That misguided notion is already popular on campus. It does not need an advocate in the White House.
It bears noting that Adesnik has been heavily critical of Paul in the past (here and here for example), and himself previously worked as a Foreign Policy and National Security Staff Member in Sen. John McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign — he of the “wacko birds” comment for which he later apologized.
As such, Adesnik’s challenge to Paul — which comes in the wake of a shot fired across Paul’s bow by Texas Governor Rick Perry – may be representative of the type of criticism that he is likely to receive from the GOP establishment and other swaths of the Republican Party as he moves towards 2016.
For his part, with respect to the anti-Israel charges against Paul, the senator has taken a publicly pro-Israel stance in recent months.
In April, Paul sponsored the Stand With Israel Act, under which the U.S. would end aid to the Palestinian government until they agree to a ceasefire and recognize Israel’s right to exist. Writing in National Review recently in defense of his legislation, he attacked President Obama over his calls for Israeli restraint with respect to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens that in part precipitated the recent battle in Gaza, stating:
How many times must Israel hear this call [for restraint]? Children are murdered — please show restraint. Cafés and buses are bombed — please show restraint. Towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets — please show restraint while you bury your dead once again.
I think it is clear by now: Israel has shown remarkable restraint. It possesses a military with clear superiority over that of its Palestinian neighbors, yet it does not respond to threat after threat, provocation after provocation, with the type of force that would decisively end their conflict.
But sometimes restraint can work against you. Sometimes you just have to say, enough is enough.
And Paul has been working hard to build inroads with the Jewish and pro-Israeli community more generally as he gears up for a potential 2016 presidential run.
Following up on Adesnik and Goodman’s reporting, we reached out to Sen. Paul’s press office with the following questions regarding the reading list:
1. Who was responsible for compiling the reading list?
2. Why was the reading list pulled from the senator’s website?
3. Does the press office have any comment on the Weekly Standard article dated July 21, or the related Free Beacon article dated July 17?
We have not yet received a response.