“I Like The Founding Fathers -Except for their foreign policy.”
Understanding Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy
People are under the impression that Ron Paul is an isolationist because he wants to bring our troops home from the 130 countries were we have them and he wants to stop going into countries like Somalia, Kosovo, Libya, Georgia, Iraq, Uganda, the Philippines… to “spread democracy”. A policy of non-interventionism is not by any means isolationism. Japan was an isolationist nation until Commodore Matthew Perry sailed a fleet of U.S. ships into the Bay of Tokyo with four war ships and demanded that Japan trade with the West. Ron Paul does not want to seclude America from the rest of the world, he wants America to operate our foreign policy according to the Constitution and follow the advice of the founding fathers.
I personally believe that America should strive to follow principles in all we do and not be so inclined to cave to the temptations of political smooth talk or our emotional responses to current happenings. Give this some thought: We borrow and spend our way into trillions of dollars worth of debt, sacrificing the lives of America’s youth so we can intervene in Libya, Kosovo, Somalia and even Iraq to “protect” and “liberate” civilians but then we turn a blind eye to similar dynamics in Rwanda, Darfur and even Yemen because we consider that nation an ally in the war on terror. How can anybody look at that foreign policy and still come to the conclusion that we are using principles to guide our actions? At what point will we realize that we should institute guiding principles instead of relying on emotional or otherwise unprincipled responses to pull us around the global maze. If you were to ask me, I would say let’s follow the Constitution and seek the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
All of our Founding Fathers had an opinion on foreign policy but in my humble opinion, the best words on the issue came from our second President, John Adams. In looking ahead at what future generations of wise men would say about American, Adams wrote,
"If wise and learned philosophers of the elder world…. Should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: …She has uniformly spoken among them …the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights; …she has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles through which she clings as to the last vital drop that visits the heart."
Much like Adams says, we have been a standard bearer of freedom and liberty in the world but unfortunately we have not abstained from intervening in the concerns of others. Today, many Americans have a much different perspective of our role in the world.
America spends billions of dollars every year doling out money in the form of foreign aid and it doesn’t do anything to secure the liberty of the American people. America is also the only member of the United Nations that currently pays the maximum amount in annual dues to the U.N. and the U.N. still continues to work against our interest at every turn. I won’t even mention that the U.N. has no respect for our Republic. What happened to following the Constitution and the wisdom of the founders when it comes to foreign policy? America has no moral obligation to spend tax dollars and our troops’ lives on anything but the security of our own liberty and property. Adams continues,
"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all… She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication [meaning to dissolve political connections… [The] fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force… She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit…"
Does this sound like anyone from the Democrat or Republican party today? President Obama bombs Yemen, sends troops into Libya and Uganda. President Clinton committed American lives and money to Kosovo, Somalia etc.… President Bush sent troops to the countries of Georgia, Iraq, and Afghanistan etc.…. America is currently using tax dollars and borrowed money from China to fund troops in about 130 countries around the world, while at the same time our border is still wide open and our national debt is now on its way to 16 trillion dollars. Our Founding Fathers advised us to respect the sovereignty of other nations in spite of how much we might disagree with them. John Adams warned us against becoming a nation determined to exercise force as a means of influence but rather he counseled us to cling to the virtues of liberty in order to fuel the self-determination of others around the world that they might pursue the agenda of freedom. Can we really have confidence that others have grasped the concept of freedom when we implement policy from the barrel of a gun? Is it really consistent with the principles of liberty to force someone to accept a political ideology that they either do not want or are not mentally or even emotionally prepared for?
Obviously John Adams believed in a non-interventionist foreign policy; he didn’t think it was our place to police the world or use military force to “spread democracy.” If we commit ourselves to the habit of dictating policies to other nations, haven’t we failed to heed Adams warning of becoming the “dictatress of the world?” Ask yourself how our intervention in Somalia did anything to protect Americans’ liberty and property. How is being a member of the U.N., who uses our money to carry out liberty-stealing policies all over the world, any different from just stealing people’s liberty ourselves?
The more I read the more I am convinced that our Founders were ready to trade with anyone and everyone but they were not ready to assume a position of entanglement unless our security and liberty depended on it. John Adams wasn’t alone. George Washington, the Father of our country, was a strict non-interventionist. In fact, Washington had a great deal to say about how careful we should be with our foreign policy when he wrote,
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible…. Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of Europe ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?"
George Washington, the great general that lead us to independence and then served two terms as our first President, strongly advised the American people to have little to do with involving ourselves in the affairs of other nations. In this particular paragraph, he is specific about warning us against involving ourselves with European politics but still encouraging commerce. Washington continues,
"A passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils… against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizen) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful woes of Republican Government… The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop."
If we would start to adhere to the advice of George Washington, our tax dollars would immediately begin to serve our immediate interest again and our men and women in uniform would come home. There will always be evil in the world, but our Founding Fathers were surely the wisest and best to encourage us to not extend our jurisdiction beyond the interest of the security of our liberty. Now we must ask ourselves this one important question: Was George Washington wrong?
It is very disappointing to me to stand shoulder to shoulder with conservatives who are adamant about following the Constitution but as soon as the issue of war comes up they dismiss the Constitution as being inconvenient to the times we live in; the same excuse liberals use for taking away your 2nd Amendment rights, etc. In the 2008 presidential debates, the MSNBC moderator asked the candidates what would justify their use of military force to wage war with Iran. Mitt Romney’s answer was that his lawyers would help him decide if he should wage war. Ron Paul stood out in stark contrast to ALL other candidates when he said,
“This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me, why don’t we just open up the Constitution and read it, you’re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war …”
Congressman Paul elaborated on the powers of the President when faced with an imminent threat rather than the escalation of force which traditionally leads to war, specifically stating that the President has power at all times to use the military to defend such imminent threats.
But what does the Constitution say? Article I Section 8 of the Constitution states Congress has the power to declare war, indicating that if we go to war, it is because Congress declared it. The problem with our current wars is that there was no formal declaration. There was no mission statement and no way to know when we had achieved absolute victory. This is just one reason why there is all this talk about a timetable to have the troops out of Iraq as though we’re planning a road trip to Disneyland. This is also why our troops have to fight bureaucrats for proper rules of engagement that will allow them to actually fight; instead, they’re told not to return fire into a mosque so we can appear sensitive to the feelings of our enemies.
George Washington never considered the thought of using the military to make war without a declaration by Congress. Washington is probably the one man in American history who could have singlehandedly overthrown the new government and made himself king with hardly any dissent but he was still humble enough to acknowledge the authority of the Constitution. Washington once wrote of this issue,
"The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."
The President does not have the Constitutional authority to engage in war against another nation without direct orders from Congress. In a message to Congress in 1805, our third President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote,
"Considering that Congress alone is Constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force in any degree which could be avoided."
Please keep in mind that Ron Paul has made it clear that he understands that there is a difference between authorizing military action for defensive operations and actually going to war with another country.
In 1973, Congress created the War Powers Resolution which requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. One problem with this is that once troops are committed, it is hard to just pull them out of action. Once the President does ask Congress to fund his little war, Congress will do it because most of them are spineless politicians, concerned more about what it would look like to their constituents if they voted to not fund the President’s operation than actually following the Constitution.
By not following the Constitution, we have allowed so much war-making authority to be granted to the President, something our Founders vehemently warned against. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, James Madison, wrote,
"The Constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature."
In 1787, another of our Founding Fathers, James Wilson, said of the issue,
"This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large..."
One of the latest examples of a breach in Constitutional restraints happened quite recently. May 20, 2011 marked the 60th day of US combat in Libya, but the deadline arrived without President Obama seeking specific authorization from the US Congress. President Obama, however, notified Congress that no authorization was needed, since the US leadership was transferred to NATO. See how this works? We stop using the Constitution, the President commits our men and women to war and then passes them off to the command of foreigners with your tax dollars and he does it all by himself. People get upset when we are taxed without representation but today, the President will send your 18-year-old son into gunfire without asking Congress or the Constitution for permission. If by some chance your son doesn’t make it home, the President will send you a letter that he never actually wrote and give you your son’s medals in a box. So now ask yourself this: Is the President right to have his way with our troops? Or is Ron Paul right to follow the Constitution and the advice of the founders when it comes to foreign policy and engaging in war?
Our Founding Fathers intended for war making powers to remain in Congress because they understood better than anyone else that war is a serious commitment that will either change the lives of thousands or end the lives of thousands altogether and therefore the people must have a say in the commitment. It is Congress that provides the voice of the people with the most direct route to the ear of the federal government. If it is the American people who are going to make the sacrifice, then a war commitment should be left entirely up to the will of the people.
In order to join the military, our men and women have to take an oath to the Constitution, at which point they are issued body armor and rifles because the oath they took is that important. Isn’t it entirely reasonable then to demand that our President be held accountable and not wage war without a constitutional declaration?
After the signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin told his fellow signers, "Gentlemen, we must now hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately." The point is this: Our Founding Fathers signed their name to the Declaration of Independence and then sent it to King George III to basically say, "If you get through our troops, you know who to come for!" Our Founding Fathers had something that is seriously lacking in Washington D.C. today; it’s called CHARACTER and because of that lack of character, our troops have become political leverage. Who is to blame? We are. Many conservatives have decided that it is more important to be pro-war than it is to be pro-constitution.
The next time one of our Navy SEALs, Marines or Army Rangers is court-martialed and imprisoned for doing what we asked them to do, just remember that it could have been avoided if our U.S. Congressman would have demanded that we handle things the way the Constitution prescribes. The federal government is becoming less accountable as the Constitution continues to be dismissed as “inconvenient,” even by those who espouse to be conservatives.
Even if the Constitution needs a foreign policy fix, then let’s amend it according to Article V.
It seems to me that Ron Paul is the only one who is following the advice of our Founding Fathers on this issue but don’t ask yourself if Ron Paul is wrong. Ask yourself if you think Washington, Adams and Jefferson are wrong. Ask yourself if you think the Constitution is wrong.
An Afterthought: Cutting Defense Spending IS NOT THE SAME AS Cutting Defense
One of the biggest arguments I get for why we need our military everywhere is that the world is just so globalized we have to pretty much be all over the place. Really? Have you seen the Air Force Reserve commercials lately? They go something like this,
“Hi, my name is Mary Smith and last weekend I flew a reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan… I’m a hair stylist the rest of the month but thanks to the Air Force, I can take pictures and drop bombs without ever leaving Las Vegas!”
Our own military recruiting commercials are testifying every day on national television that we do not need to be half the places we are actually sending people and even for those places that we are sending troops there is still plenty of pork to cut from defense. For example, when I left active duty in 2003, the Marine Corps was in the process of phasing out most of the cooks and base security and replacing them with civilian contractors. So here is what it looks like to you, the tax payer: an 18-year-old Marine volunteered to cook for $800 a month but we are firing him and replacing him with a civilian contractor to cook for five times that amount. Sounds like a good idea. They are doing the same thing with base security overseas. Does anybody really think it is a good idea to spend more money just so we can use the local people to protect us from the local people when our troops are overseas? We can cut defense spending by cutting this nonsense out of the budget.
Here is a plan to cut defense spending and increase preparedness for our military: Let’s start bringing our troops home from overseas bases and put them on the borders to the North and the South so they can train for every climate and terrain while at the same time deploying security patrols to stop the illegal immigration problem as well as the problems we are having with human trafficking etc… We wouldn’t need to spend the money on a fence; we wouldn’t need to hire overseas contractors, and our troops would still be the best trained in the world.
How do you feel about the $1.2 TRILLION debt we are in to cover the cost of wars that Congress didn’t even declare? It is hard to make the argument that we are against unconstitutional spending – unless it’s for an unconstitutional war.
After reading Congressman Paul's articles and books and hearing him speak, I can say with confidence that his general message is simply to adhere to the Consitution and the advice of the Founders. If we did, maybe we could get a handle on security at a fraction of the cost of what we’re spending now.