Two thoughts, really.
First, the combative tone of my last post was probably counterproductive. The substance of what I was getting at was right, but I was so overwhelmingly irritated by Kevin Drum’s approach that I think I buried that substance. Maybe I even buried it all the way down in the comments.
Second, via Ta-Nehisi Coates (again), here’s Robert Wright on a possible real and lasting contribution of Paul’s rhetoric on American discussions of foreign policy: an emphasis on seeing things through non-American eyes:
It doesn’t lie in the substance of his foreign policy views (which I’m largely but not wholly in sympathy with) but in the way he explains them. Paul routinely performs a simple thought experiment: He tries to imagine how the world looks to people other than Americans.
This is such a radical departure from the prevailing American mindset that some of Paul’s critics see it as more evidence of his weirdness. A video montage meant to discredit him shows him taking the perspective of Iran. After observing that Israel and America and China have nukes, he asks about Iranians, “Why wouldn’t it be natural that they’d want a weapon? Internationally they’d be given more respect.”
Can somebody explain to me why this is such a crazy conjecture about Iranian motivation? Wouldn’t it be reasonable for Iranian leaders, having seen what happened to nukeless Saddam Hussein and nukeless Muammar Qaddafi, to conclude that maybe having a nuclear weapon would get them more respectful treatment?
…I’ve long thought that the biggest single problem in the world is the failure of “moral imagination”–the inability or unwillingness of people to see things from the perspective of people in circumstances different from their own. Especially incendiary is the failure to extend moral imagination across national, religious, or ethnic borders.
If a lack of moral imagination is indeed the core problem with America’s foreign policy, and Ron Paul is unique among presidential candidates in trying to fight it, I think you have to say he’s doing something great, notwithstanding the many non-great and opposite-of-great things about him (and notwithstanding the fact that he has in the past failed to extend moral imagination across all possible borders).
I think that’s right. Obviously, I would be better off extending some moral imagination to Kevin Drum. And I think even if we ended up making the same policy decisions, our country would be vastly better off engaging in the acts of moral imagination Wright is talking about.