How unfortunate that Alexander McCobin, president of Students for Liberty (SFL), decided to write an attack piece on Ron Paul's non-interventionism while echoing neocon warmongering over the recent referendum held in Crimea. It seems quite a strange move for an organization founded to capitalize on Ron Paul's groundbreaking 2008 run for the presidency, which brought in masses of young people electrified by Dr. Paul's message of peace and prosperity.
Why would McCobin want to alienate rank and file Students for Liberty members, who overwhelmingly support Ron Paul? It's not smart to alienate your base. No wonder his organization quickly took to Twitter to back down from his screed, explaining that, "This is just a statement by individuals -- SFL doesn't have an official stance on foreign policy."
What is particularly ironic about McCobin's lecture to Ron Paul on Crimea is that his bill of particulars is so riddled with analytical and factual errors that it actually argues quite eloquently for the opposite of what was intended. In other words his deeply flawed battle cry actually makes Dr. Paul's case for non-interventionism. If you do not understand what is going on overseas, you should refrain from telling the people there what to do.
So what about McCobin's assertion that Ron Paul "gets it wrong" on Crimea?
First, he condemns Dr. Paul's view that anyone or any group should have the right to secede from any other group with which they seek to disassociate. This is a problem for McCobin's brand of libertarianism? Besides being enshrined in international law, one would assume it is basic libertarian thinking that forced association is antithetical to liberty.
He then flatly asserts that, "Crimea was annexed by Russian military force at gunpoint." But he provides no evidence for his very conclusive assertion. Perhaps he is unaware that Russia and Ukraine had a treaty whereby 25,000 Russian troops were allowed basing rights on Crimea. How can you annex and invade a territory in which you are already legally present? What does he mean?
Does he claim that Russia exceeded this number of allowable troops? No one else has suggested this, not even the Ukrainians. Is he saying the Russians used violence to force the vote to go Russia's way? Again, without evidence this is mighty thin. We know what an invasion looks like -- it's called shock and awe and it happened eleven years ago this month, in the US illegal invasion of Iraq. It happened fifteen years ago this month over the skies of Serbia, another illegal US attack.
If it had happened earlier this month in Crimea would we not have video? Everyone has cell phones these days.
Surely if the referendum had been taken at gunpoint we would have seen evidence of those on the receiving end. Or does the writer wish us to believe that the Russian military rounded up more than 80 percent of the population and forced 93% of those to vote in favor of joining Russia without having to shoot a single Crimean? That sounds like a pretty wild conspiracy theory.
Perhaps McCobin is simply unfamiliar with what an election at gunpoint actually looks like. As a long-time election monitor in places like civil war-torn Albania (1997), violent Montenegro (1998), and elsewhere, I can attest to the fact that elections at gunpoint produce casualties. Often many casualties.
Moving on, he claimed the vote was a "farce" because the turnout was suspiciously high and presumably too many people were in favor of splitting from Ukraine. However, the historical record demonstrates that in similar votes dealing with issues of sovereignty and identiity, the outcome is actually quite similar. No red flags here. But he seemed so sure...
It was also a farce, he was certain, because "the referendum gave Crimeans only two choices — join Russia now or later." That may have been his reading of the referendum but was that really the case?
The actual questions were rather more different than he claims. It is true that the status quo was not offered as an option, but voters did face two quite different choices:
1) “Are you in favour of unifying Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?”
2) “Are you in favour of restoring the 1992 constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?”
And incidentally there was a third, unwritten, option: stay home. Although admittedly there appears to have been no minimum threshold for legitimacy, a turnout of far below 50% would have sent a strong message of opposition to the process. Even if there had been some ballot box stuffing, we have failed to see the kind of massive fraud that even a limited observer mission would have uncovered were this the case. There were 135 international observers and over a thousand local ones, surely something beyond minor glitches would have been noticed.
McCobin decries those who are "blaming the West for the Ukrainian crisis," but does he deny US meddling in Ukraine's affairs? Does he deny the evidence that the US had been pushing regime change in Ukraine for years? Did he miss the Nuland/Pyatt phone call? Did he miss McCain in the streets offering US support to those whose intent was the overthrow of a legally-elected government.
Did he not bother to look at the millions of dollars the US government spent to stage the Orange Revolution 2.0?
Finally, he writes:
Putin’s government is one of the least free in the world and is clearly the aggressor in Crimea.
The link he provides above is more telling than he may realize: it is to the US government funded and CIA-connected Freedom House, which until not long ago had been run by former CIA director and arch-neocon James Woolsey -- who now runs the hyper-neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Does McCobin really trust their judgment? And if so, what does it say about his?
He finishes with a final mistake, referring to:
...the Yanukovych regime that shot and tortured its own citizens on the streets of Kyiv.
Well we have known for weeks, thanks to another intercepted telephone call, that the mysterious snipers had fired on both demonstrators and policemen, apparently to foment chaos and provide a provocation for the violent coup that followed. The Estonian foreign minister told EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that his investigation in Kiev led him to conclude that it must have been the opposition that hired the snipers to discredit the Yanukovich government.
So much for that argument.
McCobin implies that Dr. Paul's non-interventionism is motivated somehow by "sympathy" for Russia. But it is an old neocon trick to defame opponents of war and intervention by claiming they are "supporters" of the designated US enemy of the day. When Dr. Paul opposed the US attack on Iraq, he was derided as an "apologist" for Saddam Hussein. Likewise with Libya, he was "pro-Gaddafi."
What the neocons will never admit -- it must cause them too much pain -- is that Dr. Paul was right to oppose the calls to war then, just as he is right to oppose the call to war now. The neocons argued that a few bombs would turn Iraq and Libya and Syria, etc. into model democracies. How is that working out?
Recognizing that the US foreign policy of endless meddling and intervention has consequences overseas does not mark one a sympathizer of a foreign regime. It is basic logic.
Speaking of regime sympathizers, the president of the Students for Liberty is also a member of Young Voices Advocates, an organization that has been honored by the US government's chief regime change factory, the National Endowment for Democracy. Young Voices returns the favor, proudly announcing that, "The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), like Young Voices, looks for ways to empower and celebrate young people who are making an impact on their world." Joining McCobin at Young Voices is Fred Roeder, SFL's marketing and communications director. Roeder is actually the Director of Young Voices.
Imagine the disappointment when the rank and file of the Students for Liberty find out that their leadership attacks Ron Paul, embraces neocon warmongering rhetoric, and is in bed with NED!
There is good news for these liberty-minded young people, however.
We at the Ron Paul Institute invite all liberty-minded students and young people to vote with their feet. We welcome the exodus of peace and prosperity-minded SFL members and will provide a happy home at the Ron Paul Institute. We are in the process of designing programs to incorporate such people into our mission of promoting Ron Paul's philosophy of civil liberty protection at home and non-interventionism overseas and we would love to have your input and participation. Drop us a line.