Introduction: Daniel McAdams is Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity ad co-host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report. He served as foreign affairs advisor to US Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) from 2001 until Dr. Paul's retirement at the end of 2012. From 1993-1999 he worked as a journalist based in Budapest, Hungary, including as editorial page editor of the Budapest Sun. He also served as special rapporteur for the British Helsinki Human Rights Group while based in Europe, monitoring human rights and elections on the ground in various contentious states, including Albania during the 1996-1998 civil unrest, Montenegro, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, and Slovakia. He was a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow (1998-2000) and an American Swiss Foundation "Young Leader" (2006). He can be reached on Twitter or at dlmcadams (at) gmail.com.
Anthony Wile: Hello. Thanks for taking time to speak to us.
Daniel McAdams: Thank you. I have been a Daily Bell reader for years and what a thrill to be interviewed by the publication!
Anthony Wile: Thank you. That's a very kind compliment. You are executive director of the Ron Paul Institute. Give us a sense of the scope and priorities of the Institute? How is it doing? Is outreach going well?
Daniel McAdams: We came up with the concept around the time Dr. Paul called us all in to his congressional office in the midst of his last presidential run to inform us that he was retiring from Congress. It was a dramatic moment for all of us on his Washington staff, as we had worked together for more than a decade through some of the most difficult times. There was definitely the feeling of us being contra mundi on the Hill.
The idea of the Institute was to continue Dr. Paul's outreach and education in the areas of foreign policy and civil liberties, with a special focus on how a peaceful foreign policy leads to real prosperity. "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship," as it was said. Similarly, we felt it was important to shine the light on the nexus between the financial interests of the global elites and the promotion of war and destruction. Thus we criticize the Federal Reserve as the chief banker of the war machine.
We knew we could not compete financially with the big Beltway think tanks, whose budgets overflow with the profits of the military-industrial complex. But it is also true that it only takes a few motivated people to really make a difference. So we set out to make the case for uncompromising non-interventionism. Unlike the Beltway thinkers, we never wanted to serve up tedious policy prescriptions to PhD.'s or "global chessboard" geopolitical bloviators. We put together a top-notch "beyond Left/Right" board of advisors, drawn largely from the group of guest speakers at Dr. Paul's famous Thursday policy lunches held in his congressional office.
The Institute's intended audience is the millions worldwide who have had their eyes opened to non-interventionism and the importance of protecting civil liberties by Dr. Paul's 40 years in public life, and particularly those who saw the light through his last two presidential campaigns. Of course we also want to reach the many who are on the verge of having their eyes opened! Our audience is the informed and interested average reader – preferably one with a sense of humor and appreciation for a bit of sarcasm here and there.
The current centerpiece of the Institute's outreach efforts is our increasingly influential website, on which we feature Dr. Paul's regular weekly column, the original writings of myself and my colleague Adam Dick, and a highly-curated collection of the best writing available drawing heavily from the work of our board members and associates. Our aim is to create a highly readable product that is thought-provoking, slightly edgy, and oftentimes cheeky especially when poking fun at the neocons. We have passed 110,000 Facebook followers and I am fascinated by the lively and well-informed debate among our readers when we post our articles there. Our original work is regularly republished by hundreds of news websites around the world. I appear regularly on television and radio programs worldwide, and I speak at various conferences and events.
We are the publisher of Ron Paul's new book, which is in its final stage of preparation for release this spring. This is to be his first book dealing with foreign policy and war since 2007 and his first book since he retired from Congress in 2013. It is a great book and people are going to be very surprised by it!
We also will launch a couple of programs as we begin our third year in operation. First planned is a unique kind of fellowship program for young communicators. We would like to help train the next generation of critical thinkers in writing about foreign policy and civil liberties for our kind of audience.
Anthony Wile: Give us some background on your relationship with Ron Paul. How did you first come to know him? What is it in particular that has led you to work with him some 14 years now?
Daniel McAdams: I first came to hear the name "Ron Paul" as I was sitting in my apartment in Budapest, Hungary at the end of the 1990s while the US was gearing up for war on Serbia. I had discovered Antiwar.com and Justin Raimondo's writing through a then-popular conservative discussion website and I noticed Antiwar.com kept posting remarkably insightful columns on the Balkans by a US Congressman called Ron Paul. At the time I was making regular trips to the Balkans, writing about the impending disaster of US intervention there. I was amazed that someone back in the US really "got it" and from then on I always hoped to at least let him know how much I appreciated his work.
I had not given a great deal of thought to the concept of non-interventionism and in fact I had a fellowship at the time to do a book on how the US needed to start supporting the "good guys" overseas instead of the "reformed" commies that Clinton had been backing. It was through reading Dr. Paul and the other greats like Lew Rockwell and his group that I came to understand that the only logical solution to the problem of the post-Cold War era was to embrace non-interventionism as the guiding principle of US foreign policy. Nothing else made sense. So…I kind of wasted a year writing book! But of course it was not a waste at all, as I discovered the practicality of the non-interventionist perspective. It was not really theoretical to me. I came to realize that not only was it impossible for the US, thousands of miles away, to accurately pick the "good guys" to support overseas, it was immoral for them to attempt to do so.
Anthony Wile: You recently moved your family and the Institute to Texas so you could office closer to Dr. Paul?
Daniel McAdams: Well, because we were never going to be a think tank in the Washington, D.C. sense of the word, it made very little sense to waste our time and very limited resources trying to influence those whose vested interests were in maintaining the US empire. It made much sense to decamp to where we could work more closely with Dr. Paul, operate more cheaply, and better connect with our intended audience.
Anthony Wile: Give us a sense of the priorities of the Institute. With all the issues that need addressing these days, what's most important, from the Institute's perspective?
Daniel McAdams: There are numerous organizations that call themselves "antiwar" and many of them legitimately so. But opposing war once it has started is akin to buckling your seat belt after an auto accident. It's too late! I view our number one priority to be fighting war propaganda. Calling out the lies of the neocons and a lapdog mainstream media that walks lock-step with the US regime, regardless of which party is in power. That is also where you are in the bulls-eye of the war-promoters. And it's always the same. When Dr. Paul strongly opposed the war on Iraq – and especially the propaganda that lied us into that war – he was called an apologist for Saddam. These days when we point out that the US government has yet to show any evidence of the massive Russian invasion of Ukraine they claim took place over the past year, we are called "Putin's mouthpiece." You will notice that the war-promoters always seek to personalize their propaganda. It is always about Saddam and Gaddafi and Assad and Putin. They rely on creating a single demon upon which we are supposed to focus our daily two minutes of hate. Worst of all, so far it works.
Anthony Wile: How did you become involved in the freedom movement generally? What made you go to work with Ron Paul initially?
Daniel McAdams: I am slightly wary of what are called "movements." Too often they can devolve into restricting doctrines and even cultish tendencies. I prefer to focus on the principles and the issues. There are plenty of young people these days who are interested in Dr. Paul's ideas. That is absolutely terrific and encouraging. But in my opinion, many of them need to read more and concentrate less on being "activists." That is why we formed the Institute: to help ground the energy and activism in real knowledge of the issues. Nothing wins a debate better than a deep understanding of the current facts and also the antecedents.
My work with Dr. Paul began almost by accident. When I returned from Europe at the end of 1999, I was finally able to deliver to one of Dr. Paul's staffers my message of thanks for all the excellent articles Dr. Paul had written about US policy in the Balkans. I was moping around Washington without work after being dismissed from a very unsuited think-tank job (long story) when out of a blue came a call from that very same Ron Paul staffer asking whether by chance I was looking for work! He had been planning to leave the office and he wanted to find a suitable possible replacement before he announced his intentions to Dr. Paul. It was a life-changing moment, to say the least.
Anthony Wile: Give us some background into your own education and work before joining Dr. Paul.
Daniel McAdams: Well, ha ha, I was an English major at UC Berkeley in 1988. I had no idea what to do with that! It was a time of economic recession and so I did the absolutely logical thing in such circumstances: I went to graduate school! The only useful thing that came out of that for me was an internship in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which taught me how to condense three weeks of reading classified and unclassified material into three sentences in the Secretary of State's Morning Intelligence Summary. Brevity and clarity.
Anthony Wile: You worked in eastern Europe. Tell us about that.
Daniel McAdams: While working on my masters in international relations in 1992 I had an offer to go to Budapest and help the local Gallup office set up a think tank to study the sociological aspects of the regime change in Hungary and eastern Europe. I was doing my thesis on the system change in Hungary so I thought it would be a good idea to break from academia and really get a feel for what was happening on the ground.
So along with my eager wife we left San Francisco for Budapest, where we remained for seven years. Faced with the realization that the Gallup job was more or less a farce and that I did not yet want to go home, I luckily landed a position as editorial page editor of the Budapest Sun, which was then owned by the current military writer for USA Today, Jim Michaels. Jim was a great friend and mentor and he helped me bridge the gap between my former academic writing and the real world of writing for real people.
Eventually I was invited to work with a group of Oxford intellectuals in the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, where I began traveling chiefly to the Balkans to monitor elections and political unrest. I was there for what I consider one of the prototype US-led regime change operations, in Albania in 1996. In my somewhat naïve state I was astonished that the US government was overthrowing a genuinely anti-communist and free-market leader, Sali Berisha, in favor of the barely reformed and still very thuggish former communist party. Surely there must be some mistake, I was convinced. Soon I realized that the US supported the "reformed" communists in east Europe not because they were secretly pro-commie, but rather because they sought above all control over these places. The communists were highly skilled in subverting their own national interests to the desires of a strong foreign power – and in getting rich in the process. Nationalists like Berisha, and Vladimir Meciar in Slovakia at the time, were simply not reliable for the US. Once I asked Berisha why he thought the US turned on him. He demurred slightly, but mentioned that he refused a US demand to use Albanian territory as a secret listening station for the unraveling situation in what was once Yugoslavia. He did not want to get involved in the affairs of other countries in the region. To the US, that was simply unacceptable.
As Albania fell apart with US assistance, I became aware that the US funded "NGOs" like the International Republican Institute were not at all as advertised back home. When the leader of the anti-communist opposition was murdered in broad daylight by a communist hit team, the IRI country representative told me in his office that he was glad the guy was murdered because he was too radically anti-communist. I realized then that the National Endowment for Democracy and the various cut-out groups it funds like IRI were actually enemies rather than champions of freedom and liberty.
Ironically, we were constantly attacked by the other Helsinki groups because we were the only one not funded by governments! According to them, only a government-funded human rights group could legitimately monitor the human rights actions of the governments that fund them! The "official" election monitoring organizations like the OSCE usually wrote their election report before the election had even taken place. They demanded openness from the governments they monitored but they would not even allow a legitimately credentialed monitoring organization like the British Helsinki Group to attend their briefings because we wrote critical things about their conclusions. This corruption contributed strongly to my transformation into a non-interventionist.
Anthony Wile: You seem to have an affinity for supporting the progress of places like Ukraine. Do you have a familial connection – or is it a kind of professional preoccupation?
Daniel McAdams: I did have an academic interest in the region when I was in grad school, but working in Congress later required me to quickly get up to speed on wherever there was a trouble spot. So through the years I have focused on Iraq, Syria, Africa, and elsewhere. In Ukraine now there is the important matter of the possibility of a major world conflict breaking out. That does tend to focus the mind!
Anthony Wile: What's going on in Ukraine concerning the present crisis? Can you give us some background?
Daniel McAdams: The US has been meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs since at least the early 2000s and the Orange Revolution, which was covertly and overtly funded and supported by the US government. As with all the enterprises of the neocons and interventionists it quickly came a cropper, with the population voting back in the fellow that the US had helped depose as soon as they next had the opportunity to do so. That fellow, Yanukovych, was finally dispensed with in the US-backed coup last February. The promised stability, democracy, and prosperity has, as in other US interventionist projects, come up somewhat short. The Libyans were supposed to have experienced nirvana once US and French planes bombed the country back to the stone age. Ditto the Syrians after US Ambassador Robert Ford set the regime change mechanism in motion. And the glorious Arab Spring? Ask the Yemenis and Tunisians how it's all working out.
Anthony Wile: Why is the West so determined to destabilize Ukraine, in your view?
Daniel McAdams: Destabilization is the effect more than the intent, I think. But as with most foreign policy actions there is a confluence of influences. Certainly the US oligarchs cannot wait to get their hands on Ukraine's potential natural resource riches. We all know about vice president Biden's son's eager leap into the fray. And there is nothing like snapping up millions of acres of enormously productive farmland in a country whose economy has been obliterated. Of course the military-industrial complex has its own interests, as both NATO expansion and conflicts produce new customers whose purchases can be safely guaranteed by the US taxpayer. And the neocons who dominate both political parties are endlessly pursuing the Wolfowitz doctrine that no potential rival to US hegemony can be allowed to emerge. The plan is to encircle Russia and ultimately overthrow what they view as a non-cooperative regime. It is like little Albania writ large – demand total obedience. They are intoxicated by what they believe are their prior successful regime changes, and encouraged to pick off ever-larger targets. But of course their work is all coming apart. Even Serbia has seen recent protests against the government's obsequiousness toward the US and EU.
Anthony Wile: Is this an ongoing program? Could it end up in a military confrontation directly with Russia?
Daniel McAdams: The danger is great. Led by neocons like Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Anthony Blinken, Susan Rice and so on, with the participation of foreign assets like NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the US is determined to push Russia beyond its already-stated red-line. A quick review of recent NATO military exercises right on the Russian border lends evidence to the view that they are actually hoping to provoke a conflict. And the propagandized population, where the mainstream media is compliant beyond Pravda proportions, is convinced that Putin is a madman who must be stopped.
Anthony Wile: What's your opinion of Putin?
Daniel McAdams: He is a foreign politician. I am not a Russian citizen. And I am not crazy about any politician. To the extent he is a brake on the designs of the neocons for world domination, which I believe will lead to economic ruin and tyranny for my country, I suppose I welcome those perhaps unintended consequences. The same with the late Hugo Chavez, whose socialist policies I obviously did not endorse. But when he challenged US intervention in his country and the region – even standing up to a US-sponsored coup against him – he was even if inadvertently helping those of us who advocate peace and commerce rather than embargoes and war. We cannot afford a world empire and the pursuit of empire abroad historically goes hand-in-hand with lurching tyranny at home. A look at the state post-9/11 civil liberties in the US shows in what direction we are heading.
Anthony Wile: Is Ukraine going to divide into two separate entities?
Daniel McAdams: That is not for us to decide. In principle, secession is a commendable pursuit. Our country was founded on secession. The Founders decided that they no longer wanted to be governed by the British crown so they seceded. If a group of people 6,000 miles away decide they want to be governed by a different group of people than they had been previously, it is hard to see why that is of any concern to the United States. But this hubristic idea that we are the one indispensable nation leads Americans to endlessly ask themselves and each other, "what are we going to do about…?" Plus the breaking up of large entities into smaller entities often leads to more freedom through more accountability. The ancient Catholic principle of subsidiarity was supposed to be at the core of the European experiment, but they seem to have abandoned that concept rather quickly.
Anthony Wile: What about other countries in the area? Are things getting better or worse?
Daniel McAdams: There is a growing unrest particularly among central European countries who have relied on trade with Russia or on import of Russian gas. In Hungary particularly the US and EU are looking to isolate and likely eventually undermine the government of Viktor Orban. Orban had the gall to strike a deal with the Russians to upgrade a nuclear power plant without permission from Brussels and he stuck it to the international banksters. Likewise, the Czech Republic's Zemen is thought to be unreliable due to his insufficient enthusiasm toward sanctions on Russia. Europe is Germany and Germany seems to be having a nervous breakdown, smacked around by an abusive spouse in Washington but unsure where to go for shelter.
Anthony Wile: Russia is constantly accused of lying about its troops and about the "war." Is it?
Daniel McAdams: I am certainly prepared to believe claims of a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine – they say more than 15,000 with the normal accompanying equipment. But because we have all lived through 2002 and the "mobile chemical labs" and "mushroom cloud" lies, it seems a safe course to hold out for some proof. How hard can it be in the age of the high-definition satellite to produce conclusive evidence of such a massive Russian invasion? It is very interesting to, on one hand hear the harrowing claim of Victoria Nuland in the Senate that the Crimeans are living through a "reign of terror" under Russian rule, while at the same time reading in such mainstream journals as Forbes that a June Gallup poll found that some 83 percent of Crimeans of all ethnicities thought the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legitimate. Asked whether life would be better for them after joining Russia, more than 73 percent said it would. And when a German poll asked whether the population agreed with the Russian "annexation" of Crimea 82 percent said "yes." We are supposed to believe this is a "reign of terror"? Or that perhaps Gallup or the Germans are in the pay of Putin?
Ultimately it is of little concern to the United States if Russia is taking an interest in the spreading chaos next door. Do the neocons want us to believe the US would not take an interest if the Chinese overthrew the Mexican government and were holding massive military exercises in Tijuana?
Anthony Wile: What are the plans for the Institute in the near future? Is foreign policy going to become a larger concern?
Daniel McAdams: We hope to expand our outreach this coming year to include small seminars, conferences, and eventually a foreign policy summer school modeled on the Mises Institute's summer program in Austrian economics. But I believe our focus will remain to a large degree on producing the kinds of analysis and perspective you will find nowhere else. The neoconservatives have attacked us relentlessly, which I take as a badge of pride. The Washington Free Beacon, founded by Bill Kristol, has a regular panic attack about the Ron Paul Institute's activities. This year we have been linked on the Drudge Report two or three times, which has greatly expanded our reach. I plan to keep growing our readership.
Anthony Wile: How about yourself? Other plans? Additional personal or professional outreach?
Daniel McAdams: Lately I have been involved with helping Dr. Paul set up his Ron Paul Liberty Report. He is no longer associated with the Voices of Liberty and is working on launching his own regular Internet television program closer in line with his perspectives and drawing from our rich circle of brilliant friends and associates worldwide.
Anthony Wile: How can people get involved with the Institute?
Daniel McAdams: I very much hope people will visit our website regularly at RonPaulInstitute.org. From there you can locate us on Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Paul is known for his frugality and if anyone is so kind as to provide us with financial support I can assure them it will be spent very carefully. We are a project of Dr. Paul's FREE Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, so donations are tax deductible.
Anthony Wile: Any other points you'd like to make?
Daniel McAdams: Thank you so much for including me in your excellent interview series and best wishes.
Anthony Wile: Thanks for your time.