Charlie Hebdo Massacre

What Both Pauls Got Wrong About the Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Ron Paul's blowback didn't cause the attack and Rand Paul's war on immigration won't cure it.

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Charlie Hebdo
@bibiweb / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The coldblooded killing of the Charlie Hebdo staff by Islamist assassins in Paris has become a political Rorschach onto which people are projecting their own pet political causes. Take, for instance, the Pauls.

Former congressman and erstwhile presidential candidate Ron Paul offers a completely off-base analysis of the root cause of the episode. It is blowback for Western foreign policy adventurism, the libertarian-leaning Texan claims. Meanwhile, his son—Kentucky senator and 2016 presidential aspirant Rand Paul—proposes a totally wrongheaded solution: The West needs to rethink immigration from Muslim countries.

Neither one is doing his avowed commitment to the cause of freedom any good.

Ron Paul rose to political prominence by making opposition to the West's foreign policy interventionism his signature issue. So within days of the attack, he was off flogging this hobbyhorse, declaring—after obligatory condemnations—that the Hedbo attack was "retaliation" for French interventionism.

"France has been a target for many, many years, because they've been involved in foreign affairs in Libya…and they've been involved in Algeria," he averred. "I put blame on bad policy that we don't fully understand…the people who are objecting to the foreign policy that we pursue…see us as attacking them, and killing innocent people."

This flies in the face of the declared motives of the attackers. The journalists—whom the assassins identified by name before summarily executing them—were not agents of French foreign policy. Their sin was that they violated an Islamic injunction against drawing pictures of the prophet—and in unflattering ways to boot.

Ron Paul is right that wars have unintended consequences, including the radicalization of local populations forced to live in the crosshairs. There are many good reasons to stop the West's foreign policy adventurism. But it's delusional to think that a tamer foreign policy would by itself deter Hebdo-style attacks. Iranian clerics, after all, issued their death fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989—nearly a quarter century before the West announced its (misguided) war on terrorism.

Nor should such religious violence come as any surprise given that convincing believers to use peaceful protests to stop provocateurs is something that took the West several centuries to accomplish. Indeed, until 1925, England was imprisoning rationalists and atheists under its blasphemy laws. Had Andres Serrano tried to exhibit Piss Christ—his picture showing a crucifix submerged in a jar of his urine—then, he might well have triggered a murderous rampage. Nor are violent tendencies confined to monotheistic religions. Even Hindus in a modern-day democracy like India routinely resort to violence to avenge real and imaginary religious insults. Death threats by Hindu fanatics drove Muslim painter M.F. Husain into exile in 2006 after he portrayed Hindu deities in the nude. And just this month, they burnt theaters screening PK, a movie lampooning blind faith in scripture-wielding gurus.

It might be politically incorrect to say this, but the truth is that many cultures are simply not as far along in their journey toward the Enlightenment as the West. And until they catch up, such clashes will continue.

What the West needs to do until then is stay firm and set an example for the world by giving maximal space to its own people to exercise their freedom of religion—which France doesn't do given its prohibition on wearing burqas and other religious symbols in public places—as well as the freedom to blaspheme—which France also truncates through a plethora of laws making religious insults a hate crime. If Ron Paul wants to do something to advance the cause of freedom, he should be protesting such laws—not simplistically attributing every cultural clash to Western foreign policy.

But if the elder Dr. Paul is misdiagnosing the sickness, the younger Dr. Paul is botching the cure.

Rand Paul went on the Hannity radio show after the attack and declared that Western countries have to secure their borders so that every Muslim who wishes to immigrate "shouldn't have an open door to come." As he did after the Boston bombing, Paul singled out the student visa program as particularly problematic, although neither of the Tsarnaev brothers had used it. Most disturbingly, however, he laughed at those who worried about tarring all Muslims with a terrorist brush as "totally deaf and dumb."

Ascribing collective guilt for the actions of a few villains would be troubling coming from any political figure—but it is especially so from someone trying to position himself as a champion of individual rights and civil liberties.

For starters, no immigrant—let alone from Muslim countries—has an open door to any Western country. Despite France's long history of colonizing Muslim nations such as Algeria and Morocco, only 8 percent of its population is Muslim (America's is 2 percent)—proof that Muslim immigration is already heavily restricted. Also, the attackers in Hebdo were Muslims—but not immigrants. They were actually born in France to Muslim émigrés who had no known history of radicalism. No immigration policy can detect how the unborn children of immigrants would turn out.

If Paul wants to use restrictionism to fight Islamic extremism, he'd have to use a pretty extreme kind that slams the door completely on the Muslim world. This means denying Muslims not just opportunities to study—but also travel—in the West lest they enter the country through tourist visas and then not leave, something that some of the 9/11 hijackers did, as Paul constantly reminds us. But of course, not all Muslims live in the Arab world. They also reside in Asian countries such as India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which means that travel from these nations would also have to be restricted.

This kind of bunker mentality would only deepen geopolitical hatreds, a recipe for making the West less safe and less free. Why? Because it would involve giving Western governments vast new powers to control the border in order to maintain the right mix of religions. 

Rand Paul is trying to distinguish himself from his Republican buddies by exposing the draconian nature of the twin wars on drugs and terrorism—especially the injustice and discrimination they've unleashed on minorities. He should be the last one setting the stage for a war on immigration. 

If he and his dad want to promote the cause of freedom, they'll need to pick the right fights and talk about them with more nuance than either one exhibited in the wake of the awful Paris killings.

This column originally appeared in The Week where Ms. Dalmia's archive can be viewed here.

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  1. I’m not hearing a lot of solutions on how to drag these cultures into modernity.

    1. You mean acquiescence and capitulation aren’t working??

      Shocked I am. Shocked.

    2. PS Also, RACIST for “these cultures”.

      CisshitlordpatriarchalculturehegemonHAYT much, Fist?

    3. For staters, we should recognize that our stupidity in foreign policy is antagonizing them and giving them a REASON to attack us. (Ron Paul’s observation.)

      Second, we should recognize that inviting them into our countries gives them the opportunity to strike (The Rand Paul observation).

      The solution is to slam the door on them. Hard. Close the borders. Let them fester in a stew of their own making as they have for the past 1000 years. The West will find itself quickly forgotten as the primitives in the backward land of Mohammed return to killing each other.

  2. For starters, no immigrant?let alone from Muslim countries?has an open door to any Western country. Despite France’s long history of colonizing Muslim nations such as Algeria and Morocco, only 8 percent of its population is Muslim (America’s is 2 percent)?proof that Muslim immigration is already heavily restricted.

    Umm…no, that isn’t anything close to “proof”.

    1. Forget it, Camping. It’s Shikha-town.

    2. It’s a shame they stopped colonizing. It would have been far better for Algeria and Morocco to become more Westernized then for France to become more Islamicized.

    3. Followed by this chestnut:

      the attackers in Hebdo were Muslims?but not immigrants. They were actually born in France to Muslim ?migr?s who had no known history of radicalism. No immigration policy can detect how the unborn children of immigrants would turn out.

      Yes, the Amish immigrants have been restless of late.

      Less flippantly, is this supposed to be on the “plus” side of the ledger? If anything, it implies that the problem is multigenerational and that there are even more negative externalities tied up in French Muslim immigration than merely those involving the individual immigrating.

      1. And there is some surprising evidence that shows the second and 3rd generation Muslim immigrants are more fundamentalist in their interpretation of Islam than their parents are.

        Pew Research (2007): 26% of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified.
        35% of young Muslims in Britain believe suicide bombings are justified (24% overall).
        42% of young Muslims in France believe suicide bombings are justified (35% overall).
        22% of young Muslims in Germany believe suicide bombings are justified.(13% overall).
        29% of young Muslims in Spain believe suicide bombings are justified.(25% overall).
        http://pewresearch.org/assets/…..df#page=60

        The link has some charts that differentiate over 30 and under 30 opinions.

      2. No immigration policy can detect how the unborn children of immigrants would turn out.

        Policy doesn’t predict anything. Predictions are (or should be) based on facts, not normative prescriptions.

        And the facts appear to me that the Muslim immigrant community, for whatever reason, isn’t integrating into European society and is actually throwing off a non-zero number of murderous barbarian fanatics.

        The policy question is, what to do about this fact? Do we want to reduce the number of murderous barbarian fanatics in our country? If the answer is yes, then your policy should be actions that are likely to achieve that goal.

        Over long time periods, of course, that policy can be to better integrate the immigrant Muslims. If you would like to reduce the number of murderous barbarian fanatics a little quicker than one or two generations from now, then perhaps reducing immigration is a rational option.

    4. The fact that every person from Algeria isn’t currently living in France proves it’s not easy to move there.

  3. Rather than turn our societies upside down accommodating immigrants most people don’t want anyway, how about just not having the immigrants?

    Nah. Too simple.

    1. Is there any nation’s population that actually supports open border immigration?

      1. The nation of guilty self-loathing white people who feel that they owe the rest of the world some cultural suicide.

      2. Does any nation’s population support free markets?

        1. Sure. Lots of people support free markets for themselves. Just not for other people.

          The problem with immigration is that you can’t have immigrants just for those other people. They are immigrants for you, as well.

          1. The problem with immigration is that you can’t have immigrants just for those other people. They are immigrants for you, as well.

            But do away with discrimination laws, public accommodation laws and other violations of freedom of association, then no one aside from the host property owners would be potentially burdened. Basically with voluntary association in place, the negative externalities of immigration are either non-existent or a matter of compensation owed by the host property owner.

  4. Islam has a problem and Muslims must solve it. In the meantime, we are being forced to choose between freedom and security.

  5. Two Shikhas in one morning? Is tomorrow the Chapman/Richman double feature?

  6. However small the villainous proportion of Muslim society is, the proven fact remains that no small proportion of Muslim society supports (and therefore perpetuates) those villains. We don’t owe any immigrants our hospitality by default.

    We can all agree that immigrants don’t have a right to enter your private property uninvited. We should be able to also agree, that if anyone has ownership rights to public property, it’s the tax payers and expropriated property owners who are forcibly financing that public property. The existence of public property does not create a free-for-all entry way and arguing that it does, is arguing that expropriated public property is the legitimate domain of all mankind.

  7. Suppose the following rule, in principle, were applied to immigration from Islamic countries:

    Islamic immigration should not be entirely suspended, but there should be a two prong test wherein a prospective immigrant should 1) have a highly compelling reason to allow immigration and 2) to establish that the person immigrating will be a good fit for the majority Western culture he is immigrating to. Example: the Farsi translators we promised visas to should be allowed to immigrate, as 1) they have a valuable skillset and are likely to be murdered by their compatriots if they stay in-country, and 2) their ability to work alongside personnel makes it likely that they will integrate better than the average Muslim.

    What, besides the usual libertarian shibboleths about an open border, would be unreasonable about such a rule?

    1. What, besides the usual libertarian shibboleths about an open border, would be unreasonable about such a rule?

      “Open borders” aren’t as libertarian compliant as it’s proponents would have you believe. As open borders require either the non-respect of private property rights and/or the admission that expropriated and loot financed public property is the rightful domain of anyone and everyone, instead of tax payers and those whose property was stolen to begin with.

      1. As open borders require either the non-respect of private property rights and/or the admission that expropriated and loot financed public property is the rightful domain of anyone and everyone, instead of tax payers and those whose property was stolen to begin with.

        No, they don’t. Open borders does not imply forcing property owners to allow others to cross their property. But it does imply allowing them to grant others the right to cross their property, just as a free society does.

        1. No, they don’t. Open borders does not imply forcing property owners to allow others to cross their property. But it does imply allowing them to grant others the right to cross their property, just as a free society does.

          You don’t need open border policy to grant people the right to cross your property. A free society doesn’t imply that anyone and everyone has a right to cross your property. Just as in a free society there would be no legitimate public property. Unrestricted immigration in a free society actually would be restricted, by the will of property owners.

          1. You don’t need open border policy to grant people the right to cross your property.

            Yeah, that whole Border Patrol thing is just a myth then.

            1. Insofar as the border patrol interferes with exercise of your property rights, you may lay those transgressions at the state’s doorstep.

              1. Okay, Captain Obvious.

                1. Ad Hominem doesn’t prove whatever point you’re trying to make, unless you don’t have a point at all that is.

                  1. My point is you didn’t disagree with me at all.

                    1. So, you don’t actually agree that the Border Patrol interferes with private property rights?

                    2. The state itself is the antithesis of property rights. The border patrol is an extension of it. But you also need to recognize that the state has grossly eroded property rights and taken upon itself to seize property for public use. The point is that there is no ‘right to immigrate’ either by violating private property or by using public property (since it is itself a violation of property rights). How can a natural ‘right to immigrate’ exist on the basis of illegitimate public property?

                      Thus immigration policy is undoubtedly unjust, but it’s the least unjust given the practical circumstance of injustice the state has imposed.

        2. Easements are an abrogation of strictly-defined property rights.

          I can accept that they are a reasonable abrogation among people of good faith.

          “Good faith” in this case means “same faith” — not in the sense of creed nor denomination, but in the sense of a shared set of values.

          This is an example of what Free Society is talking about — easements are a sort of public property right taken from private citizens, and it is the right of those who contributed to this property to restrict it or amend it, over those who are merely making use of this public pathway.

          To put it even more crassly, if the idea of reciprocity has any value then I should be able to use my right to easements to cut across Mecca or the Temple Mount — and until that happens, I don’t feel any need to indulge Muslims with a non-existent right to easements (which is more rightly construed as a privilege).

          1. I didn’t say anything about easements. If I own a ranch on the Mexican border, I have the right to allow others to cross it. Period.

            1. I misread you, then.

              In that case, your point will be relevant as soon as we reach Mt. Theoryland. In the current scenario, where public property comprises most of the US-Mexico border and easements are a reality of life for property owners, there is no reason to believe that open borders approximates the results or the will of those who are maintaining said public property or easements.

            2. I didn’t say anything about easements. If I own a ranch on the Mexican border, I have the right to allow others to cross it. Period.

              Yes you do. However by the same principle that fully allows you to put ‘Period’ at the end of that statement also means that the theft of private property to make way for public property is wholly illegitimate and thus public rules made for the use of that public property are similarly illegitimate.

              As long as property rights are not considered inviolable, open borders amounts forced association, forced accommodation, extortion and theft.

              Imagine the state stripped you of your right to defend your backyard and maintained that it would monopolize the making of rules and enforcement those rules pertaining to your backyard. Then they shirk their illegitimate duty altogether and your yard is turned into a commons for all of humanity, anyone who moves into that yard; you will be forced to accept. There’s your open border.

              1. public rules made for the use of that public property are similarly illegitimate

                Okay, then nobody can legitimately use public property.

                1. Okay, then nobody can legitimately use public property.

                  Those from whom it was stolen and whom are forced to finance.

                  It’s like saying that no one can legitimately use a stolen TV. When in fact, the legitimate owners are the only ones who can say who can legitimately use the stolen TV. The matter of fact violation of that right of ownership does not confer any rights on the trespassers whose use could only be described as ill-begotten privilege.

                  1. Okay, so you can cross the 0.00002% part of the sidewalk you own then. Basically, leaving your house is trespassing.

                    1. Okay, so you can cross the 0.00002% part of the sidewalk you own then. Basically, leaving your house is trespassing.

                      For a guy calling others “captain obvious” it’s funny that you’re just describing the status quo. I didn’t say that I have a moral obligation to curl up and die because the state seizes property and turns it over to public use. No more than a person who opposes agriculture subsidies has an obligation to starve themselves or grow their own food.

                      We’re talking about principles of justice, something that open borders without secure property rights, doesn’t have to support it.

                    2. I didn’t say that I have a moral obligation to curl up and die because the state seizes property and turns it over to public use.

                      So why are you allowed to cross others’ illegitimately stolen property, but other aren’t?

                    3. What claim does an immigrant have to said public property? Was it stolen from them? Were they taxed to pay for it? Were they residing in the area and forced to exclusively use the monopolized transportation networks?

                    4. Again the point is that if access to your property is collectivized by the state via eminent domain, public accommodation laws, discrimination laws et cetera, then it’s best that rules be as reflective of the property owners desires as possible. Naturally a forcibly collectivized system of such broad property rule-making is extremely sub-optimal, but not as much as having collectivized rule-makers who have abdicated their rule making responsibility altogether.

                      In a truly free society, immigration wouldn’t be a political (i.e. involuntarily collectivized) issue at all.

                    5. I should be able to hire whoever I want, from wherever I want, to work in my monocle factory.
                      To you who would stop me I say “Fuck off, slaver.”

                    6. I should be able to hire whoever I want, from wherever I want, to work in my monocle factory.
                      To you who would stop me I say “Fuck off, slaver.”

                      Yeah you should.

                    7. So you’d have no problem with me hiring an ace Yemeni monocle-polisher and flying him in from Sana’a to my factory tomorrow? Ok, then. We’re on the same page.

                    8. So you’d have no problem with me hiring an ace Yemeni monocle-polisher and flying him in from Sana’a to my factory tomorrow? Ok, then. We’re on the same page.

                      Absolutely! That Yemeni is there by your invitation as a property owner or in the sub-optimal case of a collectivized arbiter of property rights, by your invitation as a citizen and property owner.

            3. If I own a ranch on the Mexican border, I have the right to allow others to cross it.

              The problem is that the border with Mexico isn’t just your personal private border. Unless you want to do away with sovereignty and the nation-state altogether (which is fine if you do, but let us know), that is also a national border that the nation-state has some say over.

              Its like an HOA, in a way. If my lot is on the border of the HOA, and the HOA requires that all vehicles come in through the gate, I don’t have the right to build a new entrance on my property.

              1. I don’t remember signing that HOA.

                1. Which makes sense since it’s a safe bet you don’t own property in a purely hypothetical HOA 😉

                2. You were born into it, and inherited the house.

                  Try to focus on the point, which is that maybe private landowners don’t, in fact, have complete control over all their boundaries.

                  1. Try to focus on the point, which is that maybe private landowners don’t, in fact, have complete control over all their boundaries.

                    That control is determined by either contract and/or the degree to which that control would interfere with the property rights of others.

          2. Easements are an abrogation of strictly-defined property rights.
            I can accept that they are a reasonable abrogation among people of good faith.

            Easements are not necessarily a deviation from valid property rights, they’re an integral part when not forced into being by statute or otherwise politically. They are valid when implemented voluntarily, or even by precedents set in a free common law court that one employs to protect one’s property.

            This is an example of what Free Society is talking about — easements are a sort of public property right taken from private citizens, and it is the right of those who contributed to this property to restrict it or amend it, over those who are merely making use of this public pathway.

            I agree, though to be specific about it I might call that a ‘public easement’.

      2. hose whose property was stolen to begin with.

        Are you referring to the Injuns?

        1. It wasn’t all stolen, and as far as someone can prove that they individually are the legitimate owner of a given piece of property, then they are the legitimate owner. Where it cannot be definitively proven, the property should remain with the current possessor. The burden of proof rests entirely with the claimant.

  8. Ron Paul’s blowback didn’t cause the attack

    And Ms. Dalmia knows this because They Hate Us For Our Pornographic Cartoons!?

    This flies in the face of the declared motives of the attackers. The journalists ? whom the assassins identified by name before summarily executing them ? were not agents of French foreign policy.

    Neither were those killed on 9/11. Or the ones killed in Madrid in 2004. Or those killed in London in 2005.

    Ms. Dalmia is attempting to render the concept of blowback meaningless by inventing a sine qua non that was not required before.

    But it’s delusional to think that a tamer foreign policy would by itself deter Hebdo-style attacks.

    The attackers were bank-rolled by al-Qaeda. al-Qaeda IS the direct result of Western adventurism in the Middle East. Maybe a tamer [whatever that means] foreign policy would not stop lone-wolf attacks by crazies (nothing anybody could do can stop such attacks except the imposition of a tyrannical police state) but a non-interventionist foreign policy would mean NO al-Qaeda and thus not the attack on Charlie Hebdo by trained assassins.

    1. Those silly brown people. They never done anything for their own reasons, only in reaction to what Westerners do.

      1. Those silly brown people. They never done anything for their own reasons, only in reaction to what Westerners do.

        Well to their credit, blowback is at least more rational than the alternative. I happen to think this isn’t just a case of poking a bear, it’s a case of poking a bear with a particular set of beliefs that make him more prone to reacting poorly when being poked.

      2. Re: R C Dean,

        Those silly brown people. They never done anything for their own reasons

        You don’t think there’s rationality behind blowback, RC?

        Didn’t those silly colonists act upon things the British did to them?

        1. You don’t think there’s rationality behind blowback, RC?

          At the margins?

          Sure.

          But Islam has always been violent and expansionary (broadly speaking). Pointing to “blowback” as if recent Western actions have dragged Islam out if its thousand-year pacifist slumber is, well, incomplete at best.

          And in the case of the Hebdo killings, really, really misleading. These people were out to kill Jews and cartoonists. Does anyone really believe this was mainly retaliation for French foreign policy? Or perhaps it aligns a little better with other beliefs that the killers and their death cult hold?

    2. Dalmia cannot render the concept of blowvack meaningless. Blowback already is meaningless. It is simply the egregiously foolish Precautionary Principle.

      1. Re: Mickey Rat,

        Dalmia cannot render the concept of blowvack meaningless. Blowback already is meaningless. It is simply the egregiously foolish Precautionary Principle.

        Blowback is a post facto explanation. How can it be a precautionary principle?

        You’re making shit up, MR.

        1. As a guide to future action it is the Precautionary Principle, and as an explanation, it is a “so what?”

          A nation cannot let the representatives of other nations and ideologies be free to do violence on its citizens because of past policies which may or may not have been the best or least the least bad option.

  9. If Ron Paul wants to do something to advance the cause of freedom, he should be protesting such laws [hate-speech laws] ? not simplistically attributing every cultural clash to Western foreign policy.

    *Ahem* *Ahem*

    You were sayin’?

  10. If he and his dad want to promote the cause of freedom, they’ll need to pick the right fights[…]

    And finally the reason behind this false outrage is unveiled: You see, the Pauls are still not the right kind of libertarians.

  11. “I fear X, so until Libertopia, we can’t X.”
    Jesus.

    1. If you and every property owner under the same monopoly of property rule-makers wants those same immigration rules, or non-rules, great.

      Just don’t claim that your policy preference is based on a non-existent ‘right to immigrate’. There is no such thing as a right predicated on A)the violation of private property and B) the use the public property that came into being by violating private property.

  12. The Shikha method:

    Feel your conclusions.
    torture reality to match your conclusions.
    Fall asleep mumbling: I get paid for this?
    Rinse. Repeat.

  13. Ah, the nation-state! Is there any rationalization it can’t help us make?

    1. My friend’s mother makes $61 an hour on the internet . She has been without a job for ten months but last month her pay was $15622 just working on the internet for a few hours.
      over here. ???????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  14. “This flies in the face of the declared motives of the attackers.”

    This is correct for the Charlie Hebdo attack. But as Sheldon Richman pointed out in these pages a few days ago, the statements of Coulibaly (a killer involved in a subsequent attack, not the Charlie Hebdo killings) do support the blowback theory.
    https://reason.com/archives/201…..st-eenmies

  15. Actually, Ron Paul is precisely correct.

    How can anyone think that the west killing hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and (coming soon) Syria would endear us to Muslims? Or fail to provide motivation to attack those in the west?

    France simply has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in a western country. That’s many more opportunities to embed radicalized Muslims in the target area. Face it, the Charlie Hebdo killers didn’t have near the barriers to a French target that an Iraqi would have to a target in the US. So while the general rage is against western foreign policy (and widespread killing of muslims), the local, immediate, most-irritating-target-of-the-day might easily have been a publication that had long mocked islam.

    Which is the easier target? A French publisher? The head of the French government? The French military? Where can a couple whack-jobs who want to make a point get he biggest impact with the least resources and effort?

    Contrary to Reason’s expressed support of a policy of throwing borders open to rapists, murderers, those who wish to exploit social safety nets, freeloaders, con men, the diseased, the mentally unstable, the aggressors… Rand Paul posits a far more reasonable immigration policy.

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