Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Response to Ron Paul: Line-by-line (Part One)

In Ron Paul: Line-by-Line (Part One), Jason Steck asks a number of questions about Ron Paul's views on foreign policy. Below, I respond to these questions by quoting Paul directly.

Before I start, though, a question for Jason: You refer to Paul as an isolationist. Wikipedia defines isolationism as "a foreign policy which combines a non-interventionist military policy and a political policy of economic nationalism (protectionism)." Is this how you are using the word, and if so, what is the basis for your claim that Paul supports a policy of economic protectionism?

Now, on to Jason's questions.

[Paul states that the Middle East] "is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. We must have new leadership in the White House to ensure this never happens again." How does he propose to ensure "this never happens again"?

By "this", he is referring to wars that has cost many American lives while making our country less secure. Paul believes that if Congress itself must explicitly declare war (rather than giving the President the authority to do as he sees fit), then we will be less likely to send our troops to war under these kinds of circumstances. Furthermore, a non-interventionist foreign policy and respect for gun rights would lessen the perceived need for these kinds of wars. In A Foreign Policy for Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Paul wrote, "A non-interventionist foreign policy would go a long way toward preventing 9/11 type attacks. A renewed respect for gun ownership and responsibility for defending one's property would provide additional protection against potential terrorists."

Also, see Paul's recent interview with Steve Gill, in which he addresses the following questions:
  • Under what circumstances do you think it is appropriate for military action by the U.S. government to be instituted outside our borders?
  • How do you fit that in a situation where we don't really have states acting?
  • As president, would you allow Iran to get nuclear weapons?

What does he think of the war in Afghanistan?

He voted for it, and supported the original intention to go after Bin Laden. He believes that we lost sight of this objective. In Iran: The Next Neocon Target, Paul wrote: "Since 2001 we have spent over $300 billion, and occupied two Muslim nations--Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re poorer but certainly not safer for it. We invaded Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden, the ring leader behind 9/11. This effort has been virtually abandoned. Even though the Taliban was removed from power in Afghanistan, most of the country is now occupied and controlled by warlords who manage a drug trade bigger than ever before. Removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan actually served the interests of Iran, the Taliban’s arch enemy, more than our own."

What alternatives does he propose for combating the threat posed by al-Qaeda?

Paul believes, along with experts such as Michael Scheuer (the CIA's Bin Laden expert) and the 9/11 Commission, that "our foreign policy has a very great deal to do with their willingness and desire to commit suicide terrorism." Withdrawing our troops from the region would make us much less likely to be a target of groups like al-Qaeda. Now, one can argue that we need to have troops over there, but we should at least acknowledge the consequences to our liberty and safety here at home, rather than dismissing any association between our foreign policy and terrorism as "unpatriotic" or "blaming America", as many do.

Paul's argument about having the troops "defend America" also begs the question of defense against what?

Defense against attacks against us at home. In U.S. Armed Forces Should Protect American Soil, Paul wrote: "The President has promised that his administration will use every available resource to fight the war on terrorism. Yet our most potent resource, the U.S. military, is spread far too thin around the world to adequately protect us from growing terrorist hostilities and the possibility of a full-scale war. The sober reality is that on September 11th millions of foreigners abroad were better protected by American armed forces than were our own citizens at home. In fact, on that fateful morning we had tens of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars in weapons deployed worldwide- all standing by helplessly while our citizens were savagely attacked in New York and Washington. It is beyond frustrating to consider that there are literally dozens of places around the globe where an unauthorized commercial jet straying off course would have been confronted by American fighters, yet the New York skyline and even the Pentagon were left almost completely unprotected. The American people have a right to know, for example, why the Iraq-Kuwait border, the DMZ between North and South Korea, and the skies over Serbia were better defended that morning than our own cities, borders, and skies."

Given that military action against the Barbary pirates was taken in the absence of a "declaration of war" at a time during which many of the Founders were still around, Paul's purism on this point does not appear to have been shared by the authors of the document he is citing as an authority.

On this, see Thomas Woods' Presidential War Powers:
Another incident frequently cited on behalf of a general presidential power to deploy American forces and commence hostilities involves Jefferson's policy toward the Barbary states, which demanded protection money from governments whose ships sailed the Mediterranean. Immediately prior to Jefferson's inauguration in 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that "shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct." It was to this instruction and authority that Jefferson appealed when he ordered American ships to the Mediterranean. In the event of a declaration of war on the United States by the Barbary powers, these ships were to "protect our commerce & chastise their insolence — by sinking, burning or destroying their ships & Vessels wherever you shall find them."

In late 1801, the pasha of Tripoli did declare war on the U.S. Jefferson sent a small force to the area to protect American ships and citizens against potential aggression, but insisted that he was "unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense"; Congress alone could authorize "measures of offense also." Thus Jefferson told Congress: "I communicate [to you] all material information on this subject, that in the exercise of this important function confided by the Constitution to the Legislature exclusively their judgment may form itself on a knowledge and consideration of every circumstance of weight."

Jefferson consistently deferred to Congress in his dealings with the Barbary pirates. "Recent studies by the Justice Department and statements made during congressional debate," Fisher writes, "imply that Jefferson took military measures against the Barbary powers without seeking the approval or authority of Congress. In fact, in at least ten statutes, Congress explicitly authorized military action by Presidents Jefferson and Madison. Congress passed legislation in 1802 to authorize the President to equip armed vessels to protect commerce and seamen in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and adjoining seas. The statute authorized American ships to seize vessels belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, with the captured property distributed to those who brought the vessels into port. Additional legislation in 1804 gave explicit support for 'warlike operations against the regency of Tripoli, or any other of the Barbary powers.'"
Is Paul suggesting that the U.S. should have taken no interest in Soviet expansionism during the Cold War?

No military interest. Furthermore, Paul believes that our interventionist foreign policy was a root cause of this conflict. In The Law of Opposites, Paul wrote: "Our entry into World War I helped lead us into World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War."

Was it none of our business when the USSR subjugated hundreds of millions and murdered millions?

I think Paul would agree that we should not send our troops abroad for "humanitarian" reasons, but individuals should be free to enter into such conflicts at their own risk. In A Foreign Policy for Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Paul wrote: "The Logan Act would be repealed, thus allowing maximum freedom of our citizens to volunteer to support their war of choice. This would help diminish the enthusiasm for wars the proponents have used to justify our world policies and diminish the perceived need for a military draft."

More to the point, is it Paul's intention as President to turn America's back on the sources of suffering and chaos in the world?

Not at all. Far from turning our back, Paul believes we should be a beacon to the world. In the July NH GOP debate, he said, "We have a lot of goodness in this country. And we should promote it, but never through the barrel of a gun. We should do it by setting good standards, motivating people and have them want to emulate us."

It is unclear exactly how a Paul presidency would promote "open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy" while dramatically pulling out of existing U.S. engagements and commitments all over the world. What friends will want to trust a United States government that so drastically was cutting off ties and support?

It's possible to have free trade without entanglements and commitments. Furthermore, a policy of non-intervention can be very trustworthy: people seem to trust Switzerland just fine. In A Foreign Policy for Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Paul wrote: "Countries like Switzerland and Sweden who promote neutrality and non-intervention have benefited for the most part by remaining secure and free of war over the centuries. Non-intervention consumes a lot less of the nation's wealth- and with less wars, a higher standard of living for all citizens results. But this, of course, is not attractive to the military-industrial complex, which enjoys a higher standard of living at the expense of the taxpayer when a policy of intervention and constant war preparation is carried out."

Would Paul pull out of NATO in addition to the United Nations?

I don't know about that, but he has stated that NATO "should be disbanded, the sooner the better."

Would Paul terminate all support for Israel?

Yes, both financial and military. In A Foreign Policy for Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, Paul wrote: "All foreign aid would be discontinued. Most evidence shows that this money rarely helps the poor, but instead solidifies power in the hands of dictators. There's no moral argument that can justify taxing poor people in this country to help rich people in poor countries. Much of the foreign aid, when spent, is channeled back to weapons manufacturers and other special interests in the United States who are the strong promoters of these foreign-aid expenditures. Yet it's all done in the name of humanitarian causes."

In Can We Achieve Peace in the Middle East, Paul writes: "It is time to challenge the notion that it is our job to broker peace in the Middle East and every other troubled region across the globe. America can and should use every diplomatic means at our disposal to end the violence in the West Bank, but we should draw the line at any further entanglement."