Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“It angers me to see mobs burning our flags and chanting ‘death to Americans’,” Rand Paul, who’s now running for president, is recently quoted as saying. “Until we name the enemy, we cannot win the war. The enemy is radical Islam. You cannot get around that.”

He’s halfway there.

The current president will not even call Iran an enemy – much less radical Islam itself. It says something for Senator Paul that he’s willing to say it.

The last president, although a Republican, was little better. Immediately after 9/11 he paid a tribute to Islam, insisting – practically on the ashes of Ground Zero – that it was a religion of peace.

Obama opposed Bush’s foreign policy for the wrong reasons. To Obama, it was wrong and vengeful for the United States to wage a war against an enemy. America, according to Obama, is arrogant and imperialistic, and had no right to retaliate for 9/11 – particularly against Islam, which Obama appears to view in even more benevolent terms than Bush did.

Actually, Bush’s ill-conceived and ultimately unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were mistaken, but not because they were assertions of self-defense, which progressive types see as arrogance. These wars were mistaken because Bush explicitly stated that their purpose was to liberate the Iraqi and Afghani people (and he meant it). Did they want to be liberated? If so, liberated from what? From a particular regime – such as Saddam Hussein’s, or the Taliban? Or from oppression, in favor of liberty, self-responsibility and private property?

And who says it was the United States’ obligation to liberate these countries anyway?

The years since have proven what we should have known all along: You cannot force people to want to be free if they don’t wish – or know how – to be free.

This happened after the fall of Soviet Communism. The Soviet Union did not turn into a democratic republic, nor even a Western European-style socialist democracy. Instead, contemporary Russia has morphed into a potentially very threatening fascist dictatorship, ruled by Vladimir Putin. The Russians did not comprehend what freedom was, and probably did not really want it. Their gripe with the Soviet Socialist republic was that it never delivered the utopia it promised; their objection was never with the promises of the utopia itself.

Ditto for much of the Middle East, even if the utopia in question has to do with Allah and Sharia law rather than Marxist rule by the working class.

At least Rand Paul gets that ideology is the problem here. That makes it significantly less likely he’d launch a war in order to rescue people from themselves, as George W. Bush did and probably any similar Republican will attempt again.

As he also stated: “Without question we must be strong. Without question we must defend ourselves. I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable and unencumbered by nation-building. I envision a national defense that promotes, as Reagan put it, peace through strength.”

But, unlike Obama and the other progressives, he’s unwilling to pretend that we’re not at war with radical Islam – when we most definitely are. Why? Because radical Islam is at war with us. Who’s “us”? Anyone who doesn’t believe in and practice Islam. We have to respond, because they give us no other choice.

The solution in foreign policy is, ironically, the same as the solution with the economy. Get the government out of the business of rescuing people from themselves. Government’s job is to protect people from violence, at home or abroad (and fraud at home). That’s it, and that’s more than enough for any government to handle.

George W. Bush believed in “do-gooding” abroad as well as at home. He racked up the national debt and federal spending as never before, squandering soldiers’ limbs and lives … for what? Despite Obama’s disagreements with Bush on Iraq, on this fundamental principle Bush and Obama agreed. The purpose of government, both men assumed, is selfless service to others. They differed on the specific means for enforcing service, but selfless service is our only purpose for existing, and it’s the central reason for having a government.

Most people feel compelled to applaud this idea of selfless service whenever a politician promotes it. Yet in actual practice, government – in a democratic country – is paid for by the people, or at least by those who pay taxes. So when you applaud a Bush or an Obama who says, “Selfless service is the ideal,” they’re talking about you – assuming you’re a self-supporting, productive person, as I suspect most people still attempt to be.

I don’t know how deep or consistent Rand Paul’s views go. This is the closest I have yet heard to anything intelligible on the subject of Iran, ISIS and Islam. Frankly, I don’t trust anyone running for president because I have to wonder what’s wrong with him or her for wanting to lead what has become such a rotten and corrupt government establishment. Anything short of taking that establishment apart – defunding it program by program – will not get my attention. As for the military, we do need a strong and well-funded military. Otherwise, militant Islam or any other force for evil and violence will proceed to run right over us.

Anyone who wishes to be President in such corrupt times must be regarded with suspicion. More than that, do the American people themselves want to be liberated? Or do they want both their freedom and the ability of politicians to curb the freedom of others (paying for programs) when it’s convenient?

Nobody deserves the benefit of the doubt any longer, not in politics, in my view. I do know that we still have the fading remnants of a Constitution and a limited government. For how much longer we don’t really know. The fact that most of us take it for granted, or seem so clueless about what freedom requires, is disturbing and dangerous. It’s not rational to give up hope, but it’s also realistic to face the fact we cannot continue on our present course and expect the U.S. to remain the country it has largely been.

At least Rand Paul, so far, has this much right.

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Dr Michael Hurd

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.