A series of recent polls suggest that Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has emerged as a real threat to win in Iowa, despite his controversial foreign policy views. One survey, by Public Policy Polling, finds him within one point of front-runner Newt Gingrich.
Aside from his normal hodgepodge of libertarian and anti-war supporters, there's evidence suggesting some conservatives are now pulling for Paul in Iowa for broader strategic reasons.
Redstate's Erick Erickson, a conservative with foreign policy views diametrically opposed to Paul's, nonetheless said recently that he was hoping for a Paul victory in Iowa, in part to drag out the GOP primary.
Dean Clancy, vice president of FreedomWorks, tweeted last week that, "Now is the time for all good tea partiers to come to the aid of Ron Paul in Iowa. Even if not that into him."
There is no question that a Paul victory would rattle Washington's GOP establishment. But a Paul victory in Iowa would also help mainstream his noxious foreign policy views -- particularly on Israel.
To be clear, some conservatives hold the principled belief that being in favor of limited government at home should also extend to supporting a more restrained role for America abroad. As such, it isn't fair to automatically brand somebody who describes himself as non-interventionist as being hostile toward Israel. And so whenever Paul is criticized for being anti-Israel, his defenders attempt to argue that critics are unfairly conflating the two.
But the reality is that on numerous occasions, Paul has crossed the line from merely saying America should stay out of all conflicts, to actively attacking Israel and taking the Palestinians' side -- even when the non-interventionists should theoretically remain silent.
Nearly three years ago, Israel launched a counterattack on Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who had been firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. In early January 2009, Paul released a web video in which he charged that Israel was launching a "pre-emptive war," that Palestinians were living in a "concentration camp" and that they merely had "a few small missiles."
He then repeated this claim on Press TV -- the state-owned propaganda channel of Iran's Islamist government. "To me, I look at it like a concentration camp, and people are making homemade bombs," he said of the situation in Gaza, adding sarcastically, "like they're they aggressors?"
Not only did Paul inaccurately portray Israel as the aggressor, and ignore the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, but he also played into the global propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel. Israel's enemies think that Jews have exploited global sympathy for the Holocaust, so they routinely liken Israelis to Nazis with phrases like "concentration camp." That isn't an isolated instance of Paul employing the term.
He also used it in 2010, when the Israeli navy blocked a flotilla funded by a group with terrorist ties as it attempted to break the blockade of Gaza -- a blockade designed to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza terrorists. Nine of the "activists" aboard one ship were killed in the act of attacking the Israeli commandos who intercepted them -- an event well documented on video. In response, Paul again condemned Israel, reiterating his claim that Palestinians were living in "concentration camps" in Gaza.
If Paul won Iowa, his elevated status, at a minimum, would give more credibility to his foreign policy views. It could also allow global propaganda outlets to boast that a leading contender for the U.S. presidency thinks Gaza is a "concentration camp," and argued that the raid that killed Osama bin Laden violated international law. And that's just for starters.
Those who want Paul to win Iowa merely to "send a message" should realize that a Paul victory won't send the message that they hope it will.
Philip Klein is senior editorial writer for The Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com.