By introducing moral imagination to the foreign-policy conversation, the Republican candidate is doing the nation an important service.
A dispute has broken out among fans of Ron Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy about whether he's a strategic liability. Paul, says Kevin Drum, is such a "toxic, far-right, crackpot messenger" that "the only thing he's accomplishing is to make non-interventionism even more of a fringe view in American politics than it already is."
It's certainly true that Paul's hawkish critics are using his weirder ideas and checkered past to try and make non-interventionism synonymous with creepiness. But, whatever their success, Paul is making one contribution to the foreign policy debate that could have enduring value.
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."