Short version of a Ron Paul style foreign policy:
1. It is the founder’s view of foreign policy: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” – Jefferson Bottom line – Entanglement and intervention in foreign affairs leads to obligations we do not want.
2. A strong national defense means: If you punch me in the face, I’m going to punch back. This means having a prepared military. However, a strong national defense does NOT mean our military should be used for world policing and nation building. Policing and nation building is NOT national defense. Two separate concepts.
3. We should only use our military through constitutionally approve means: Congress is constitutionally required to declare wars. No declaration, no war.
4. End all foreign aid: It’s costly and ineffective. Of note – no exceptions to the rule. No foreign aid for any country.
5. Help Israel by giving them their sovereignty: Stop telling them what to do and funding their enemies. We do them great harm by intervening in their affairs. We make it much harder for them to defend their own nation. They are more than capable of taking care of themselves, if we would stop restricting them. We are acting in our interest, not theirs.
6. Expansive and global use of the military is financially unsustainable: US military forces in over 130 countries with engagement in multiple wars is impossible to maintain from a purely fiscal standpoint.
7. “Blowback” that comes after military intervention causes many of our problems. Stop getting involved in other countries affairs, and we end the blowback – which means, for every action, there is a reaction. Our interventions do not occur in a vacuum. Stop the cycle of intervention and retaliation.
8. We are using old tactics on new “enemies,” so it doesn’t work. “Terrorists” are not a traditional enemy, so bases across the world are not an effective means to dealing with them.
9. Nation building, occupation and proactive military engagement by definition are anti-liberty. It is not our job as a nation to impose our will, way of life or culture onto anyone else for any reason.
10. We expect nations of the world to respect our sovereignty, so why would we not respect theirs? Imagine if other nations insisted on having troops on US soil – how would we feel about their presence? People and sovereign nations should be free to handle their affairs without foreign intervention.
Here is a more robust clarification on America’s role in the world according to Ron Paul style foreign policy
With Ron Paul running for President, comments from many who consider themselves “conservatives” have been things like – I love his domestic and economic policies, but I don’t agree with his positions on foreign policy, so I just can’t support him.
So, I ask myself why? What defines these positions?
Why do I differ with any individual on these issues when I agree with them on a great many others? For that matter, how are Dr. Paul’s positions on these matters not considered truly “conservative”?
I’ll seek to clarify a Ron Paul style foreign policy with a brief summary on America’s role in the world – why a non-interventionist foreign policy is better for the American people from every possible standpoint – security, preventing loss of American lives, economic impact and preservation of personal liberty for all Americans.
This blog does not address an extremely important point which may make all of my philosophical arguments null and void. To engage in military conflict on foreign soil, by Constitutional requirement, the US Congress must vote to approve a formal and specific declaration of war (just like Roosevelt requested in WW2 after Pearl Harbor). This is separate and distinct from funding the running defense department needs and appropriations.
Specific conflicts with foreign enemies require a declaration of war. From this perspective, Dr. Paul is very clear to say – even when war is absolutely justified, we must follow the Constitutional requirement to declare war before engaging in conflicts with foreign countries. That simple stop gap was very important to the founders as they knew how serious the decision to go to war should be, and therefore required consent of the people via the US Congress. But, that’s for a whole other blog.
I hope you enjoy this blog about America’s role in the world, and if you want to see some of these same conclusions on foreign policy in video form explained by military and CIA veterans, check out the video below. You’ll learn how these concepts of a non-interventionist foreign policy are vital to preserving liberty for all Americans. VIDEO HERE!
Foreign aid is pretty easy to explain from this perspective: We are broke and can’t afford it, and it is ineffective in terms of results. On both accounts – it’s bad policy.
Here is an excerpt from Dr. Ron Paul’s 2011 CPAC speech discussing foreign aid:
“Some people want to argue about that and say we have a moral responsibility to spread our goodness around the world and it’s our obligation to do this. But let me tell you, fiscal conservatives should look at this carefully, how much did we invest in that dictator over the past 30 years? $70 billion we invested in Egypt. And guess what? The government is crumbling and the people are upset, not only with their government by they’re upset with us for propping up that puppet dictator for all those years. Now to add insult to injury, where do you think the money went? To a Swiss bank account! That family, the Mubarak family had 40, 50, 60 billion dollars – nobody knows – stashed away in other countries, of your money, that is true.
Then you know, it used to be the conservatives were against foreign aid. I’m still against foreign aid – for everybody. Now I was saying that I used to describe foreign aid: “Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country.” And there can’t be a better example of that than what we did with Egypt. We took money from you, made people poor, it contributed to our debt, billions and billions of dollars, and all we get is chaos from it and instability. There’s nothing wrong with what the founders talked about. They talked about having friendships and trade and getting along with people and staying out of entangling alliances and the internal affairs of foreign nations when it’s none of our business.”
I agree with Dr.Paul’s summary. Abuse of foreign aid is the case with the vast majority of developing countries – they embezzle and steal from their people and corrupt leaders make themselves rich. Lose-lose situation. But, let’s say that the money was actually getting to the people. Why would we want to institute a global welfare system? Doesn’t work in the US. We see the effects of generational welfare in urban communities. Is that what we want for the world – dependence on someone else besides themselves to get by? I think not. Once again, lose-lose situation.
In the case of non-developing countries like European nations – they don’t need the money. In these instances, we are trying to buy our friends and create dependence on the US. Is your friend really your friend if you have to pay them to be you friend? Obviously not. In the case of European nations, if your systems work so great, why do you need assistance from the US? Viva la socialism! Stand on your own. Embrace your own collectivist mindset and be done with us. It is not our role to be aiding foreign countries.
Some words on Israel. Israel can remain a friend and partner in commerce without our monetary or military aid. They are one of the highest educated and fastest growing economies in the world. They are creative and industrious all without the help of the US.
But even more than that – we are Israel’s biggest problem. We put handcuffs on them telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. We prevent them from defending themselves when we undermine their sovereignty and fund their enemies. Yes, it’s true – we provide more than twice the amount of foreign aid to countries surrounding Israel than we do to Israel.
We should cut foreign aid to all those countries, and stop preventing Israel from defending themselves. We are doing them great harm with our current policies. If we’d just stay out of their business, they’d be much better off.
Also related to foreign aid, people say the US is “rich,” and has a responsibility to give. That makes no sense on the grounds of the statement nor the veiled intent. Individuals are rich. The government shouldn’t even be holding property and money except with the expressed purpose of being stewards for the tax payers for constitutionally defined reasons. The US government is not “rich.” It is not an independent possessor of wealth, and for the love of god – its breaking itself and all the US citizens right now anyway. That line of thinking does not work. It embraces of view of collectivist wealth and property. It’s anti-private property, and should be denounced on its face.
Bottom line – foreign aid is a matter of common sense. We shouldn’t define foreign policy around any nation except our own and this includes foreign aid. Money can’t fix anyone’s problems. It’s a lesson we know all too well at home, so let’s not attempt to use money as a fix to other nation’s problems. Trade, commerce and a mutual desire to prosper are much better long term benefits in foreign relationships. And, that is a win-win!
The constitution codified the federal government’s ability to provide for the common defense of our Republic. When legitimately threatened and attacked, and we are from time to time, we rightfully possess the ability to defend ourselves. This is just like our constitutionally codified ability to bear arms. We must possess the ability to protect ourselves and families from harm. Not too many would argue these conclusions.
But, this does not mean we need to have troops in over 130 countries. Pre-emptive use of our military, playing police around the world, nation building for other countries and serving as the military and protectorate for other countries have nothing to do with national defense. These uses of our military have catastrophic implications. Some reasons provided below:
We have a completely unsustainable foreign policy from a purely financial point of view. Spending over ¾ of a TRILLION dollars each year on the military cannot be done, so we have to look at our foreign policy and common defense from a perspective of financial sustainability and fiscal responsibility. If we aren’t financially solvent as a country – our common defense is destroyed anyway.
In Europe’s case, we are wasting amazing amounts of money. Why do I say this? They use our military to fund their socialism. Basically they outsource their defense needs to the US and save the money they would have spent on their own defense to perpetuate socialist policies in their own countries, which would have failed even sooner (though, they are still failing right now) without our help in propping them up.
In the US, we are just stupid enough to be trying both at the same time right now – socialism and expansive military policy. I seem to recall another nation who fell with this same formula…mmmmm …oh, that’s right, the Soviet Union, but that’s another blog. European nations should be cut off and start providing for their own defense. Germany, Italy, Britain, etc – they do not need our military installations to protect them.
We cannot and should not be in the position to be the world’s military. It is 100% unsustainable, and this is a non-partisan and purely mathematical fact. It’s not “unpatriotic” to say we can’t continue military growth at our current pace. It’s merely common sense. There isn’t enough money to do so. Is anyone questioning that fact?
To provide just a tiny sampling of how expansive the military has become- we have 11 fully operational naval carrier fleets around the world with two more underway. The rest of the world combined has – zero.
Common defense of our Republic does not mean police and protector for every country in the world. Sovereign nations must protect themselves. Foreign aid and intervention are not a recipe for peace, but instead, a recipe for resentment. People resent dependence on anyone for their existence or protection, because with dependence comes influence. The hand that gives is the hand that guides, so as well intentioned as military intervention or bases of operation in various countries may seem, help and assistance quickly turn to governmental influence out of necessity rather than desire.
Would we like that in the US? Would we like someone using military influence in the US (with bases and troops in our country) to affect the direction of our nation? As well intended as these military installations and expenditures in other countries are – they do not achieve the desired outcomes. Sovereign nations must stand on their own, and the mutual desire for them to succeed should come to fruition through shared commerce, not military influence or dependency.
Our military presence in foreign countries is a bad investment, and has cost us dearly for some time. By our military continuing to give much more than we can afford, we are adding to our own fiscal problems and merely propping up nations who have become dependent on us for their military needs.
This is not the free market at work. It is the equivalent of big government and master planning using the military as an economic tool like the federal reserve or corporate subsidies. Like the market, “world peace” can’t possibly be managed or controlled from a top down approach, so save the resources, and let the free market thrive. Peace and prosperity can be long lasting when done through mutually beneficial commerce rather than military might…and, lest we forget – it’s also much more cost effective.
2. Military intervention around the world has not worked.
In fact, it has made things worse. How many times have we intervened only to have it blow up in our face? The CIA calls it “blowback.”
Example: we went into Kuwait in the first Gulf War under Bush 1 to protect Japanese and other foreign countries’ oil and economic interests. There is no doubt at all that Iraq and Hussein weren’t any kind of direct threat to the US. So, in the name of “global economic interests” we set up shop in Saudi Arabia and launched the first Gulf War. Everything is great. Hussein’s butt is kicked. Let’s celebrate, right? Wrong.
Osama Bin Laden is angered by the US and “infidels” setting up in the “Holy Land” (Saudi Arabia) for this war, so in his declaring a Jihad on the US – he cites as a primary reason – you guessed it – our invasion of the holy land as infidels. In ultimate irony, years before –the United States arming and training of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan lead to the Taliban gaining power and giving radical Islam a new base of operations they didn’t previously have.
Now of course Bin Laden is totally nuts and there is nothing we can do to change who he is, but we gave him an outlet, a scapegoat if you will, to rally thousands of radicals to his side and develop the Al Qaeda network. All because in two key instances, we intervened in Afghanistan and Kuwait. That’s blowback.
By the way – our intervention and support in the toppling of Iran’s leaders, provided the creation of the world’s other top state sponsor of terrorism. Yet another example of blowback.
So in the 2 dominant homes for radical Islam and state sponsored terrorism (Iran and Afghanistan) – the problems wouldn’t have existed without US intervention. The US didn’t develop the mindset, but through our actions – we provided the means and motivation to rally Jihadists to a cause – destroying the infidels in the West.
Great job, huh? It’s only cost thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. Is that anyone’s definition of successful foreign policy?
I’ll give you a definition for insanity: it’s doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. That basically summarizes our late 20th and 21st century foreign policy to date. Would anyone in their personal life continue doing the same thing over and over again without changes if it wasn’t working? How about in business? Of course not. So, why does the US government do this on issues that affect the whole world?
Back onto the cost thing for a moment, our roles in Iraq and Afghanistan have become 100% nation building with never ending costs. In Iraq, I don’t know that we ever had a direction, but with regards to Afghanistan, we’ve really lost our way. If the goal was to prevent future terrorist attacks on the US, you achieve tactical victory through crushing their desire to remain as state sponsors of terror. Once you have slapped them upside the head (as was appropriate, because the Taliban facilitated Al Qaeda’s role in the 9/11 attack), you leave. It is not our responsibility to nation build. But, with tactical precision we accomplish the same goal – saying very clearly – don’t mess with us or else. As long as that threat remains credible, we are providing for our common defense.
Because if you believe (as I believe), you can’t stop crazy people (jihadists) from killing themselves and others for a ridiculous cause, then nation building doesn’t help a bit. All we should do is provide a tone and example that state sponsored terrorism against the US will not be tolerated. You can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things, but you can position yourself to prevent states from engaging us because we assure their destruction – kind of a Reagan approach to state sponsors of terrorism without a nuclear arms races. The threat ensures deterrence, not the nation building.
This isn’t pacifism or isolationism. It’s common sense. Don’t engage in unsustainable plans with no measurable success. A projection of peace through strength comes from the credibility to carry out a tactical strike – not long term occupation or nation building.
3. We are no longer fighting a traditional “enemy,” therefore traditional tactics aren’t appropriate.
If you rank the top threats to the US, and therefore justified as necessary to maintaining a common defense – who or what is on that list?
Many say that “terrorism” represents a legitimate threat to the US. Not even considering the origins of the jihad (as I explained above, we helped create this problem), but simply looking at the direction it has taken – we are definitely hated by some in radical Islam. This is not by all Muslims, not by definition of their faith, and not by their existence as a culture or class of people, but we must admit there are a small percentage of murderers in Islam who are committed to a culture of death.
If you accept that premise, is the appropriate course for engagement and the common defense of our Republic military installations throughout the world?
Ever hear of a band of terrorists invading a country? Ever hear of a group of terrorists waging a traditional war in traditional methods with traditional combatants? Nope. It’s because that doesn’t happen. So how does a cold-war style shield of military installations placed throughout the world successfully deter an enemy who doesn’t care about traditional engagement? How does this provide for our common defense? Well, of course it doesn’t.
Terrorist acts have been committed for years – well before 9/11, and the existence of US military bases throughout the world did absolutely nothing, not a thing, to prevent those attacks. That foreign policy was designed for the SovietUnion. It was also post WW2, where we were intertwined in European and Asian affairs through war and already in the respective areas. How that played out is a whole other conversation, but I’m merely making the point that the Soviet Union and “terrorism” are two completely different types of strategic engagements. You can’t fight one in the way you fight the other – makes absolutely no sense.
Bottom line – military installations throughout the world are not an effective deterrence to terrorist threats, therefore our entire military/foreign policy is flawed by design.
So let’s turn our thoughts to actual traditional states who could engage in the traditional combat I outlined above. First let’s look at a state like Syria, said to be a state sponsor of terrorist activity. If we engage in action when attacked, like we did in Afghanistan to hit the Taliban, and prove credibility and therefore deterrence – that’s about all we can do to negate their potential and theoretical desires to harm the US. We can give them assurance of destruction for such a move, and we maintain ourselves as a credible threat. This is all humoring the idea that some mysterious number of evil countries are plotting schemes against the US – again, a whole other blog, but I’ll leave it there.
If they are a sovereign nation, which they are, and they engage in direct action against the US as a sovereign nation– we have every right to defend ourselves through an open (and Constitutional) declaration of war to protect ourselves.
However, I think everyone would agree this is a highly unlikely scenario as we haven’t seen it happen yet. The more likely scenario is that a state like this is soft on terrorists in their country. Problematic, of course, but the threat of complete annihilation is still the deterrent to prevent their engagement, and they should know, as already stated – you mess with us, and there is a consequence.
As stated before, this is far more effective and sustainable than preemptively invading every country thought to support terrorists. In fact – for fans of Ronald Reagan, doesn’t that sound familiar? He once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict through peaceful means.”
Reagan never engaged in massive military intervention and sustained military ground wars. Yes, there is a discussion to be had on his use of CIA and special forces in a number of places like Afghanistan and Central American countries, but that’s for another time and blog. Still – I think it’s pretty clear he sought to avoid full scale wars by threat of retribution, not through direct engagement.
Back to the nature of terrorists for a moment – huge armaments and multi-billion dollar tools don’t protect us from them. Military installations throughout the world don’t protect us from them. However the proof and credible willpower to use force as necessary does protect us from state sponsored terrorism, but will still do nothing against individual acts of terror.
As for media dubbed threats from China or other nations, that’s probably best addressed in another blog, but here are some very simple thoughts on China. Where is their incentive to engage us militarily?
Unlike the former Soviet Union, they are practically dependent on success in the US economy for their entire well-being. Should we have the massive amount of debt with them that we have? No, of course not. But, once again – they have every incentive for us not to fail and have no desire to take us to war, all because of economic benefit – their profit and prosperity motive if you will. They are a pretty good example of how partnerships through commerce bring about peace much easier than military intervention. Yes, I am oversimplifying for the sake of staying on topic, but the point is still valid.
Some argue that a world hegemon is important for general world peace, and looking back at world history, it’s a great conversation. But, I would argue that in this age of global commerce and trade, coupled with information and technology – economic freedom is far more effective than military hegemony at achieving peace.
And, let me be clear – we don’t need a one world government or world currency to accomplish that goal. We merely need sovereign nations engaged in a willing exchange of good and services through actual free trade that benefit all parties involved. Not a world bank, not an IMF, not any of that stuff – of course, real money is also important, not the Fed controlled fiat US dollar on which the world is currently far too dependent. Complex fixes needed – yes. But, military intervention needed for those fixes – no, I don’t think so.
As for dealing with individual cells of terrorists who aren’t state sponsored, but are instead independently committed to death – no traditional military intervention can stop an idiot from becoming a murderer. This was proven true on one of our own military bases in the US when Major Hasan went crazy and shot people. Was there anything that could have prevented him or many like him from doing this? Of course not.
Macro-level foreign policy can’t protect the US from individual acts of terror, so how is ineffective foreign policy through traditional means keeping us “safe.” Well – it’s not. Scrap it, and change how we operate around the world. The US government should stop using a nefarious, mysterious and undefinable “enemy” to scare everyone into thinking only an increasingly and expansive military and police state is acceptable as means for “national defense” and “homeland security.” Horse crap!
Let’s have a scheduled draw down of troops throughout the world, being very conscious of the vacuum that will be created. This is a legitimate reality that must be addressed, so we can’t just bring every person home tomorrow. We ignorantly created messes, so these must be managed withdrawals– but extremely quick withdrawals nonetheless. We must let nation’s stand on their own. Which brings me to the next point.
4. Nation building, occupation and proactive military engagement by definition are anti-liberty.
It is not our job as a nation to impose our will, way of life or culture onto anyone else for any reason. Democracy flourishes when people have a desire for it to exist. But, no one can “force” democracy upon anyone else. It is not our place to force our belief system on anyone.
What if another nation decided to invade the US because they thought we weren’t tough enough on child molesters? Is the fact that our justice system isn’t tough enough on horribly grotesque behavior justification for another country to attack our nation? Who is worse than a child molester? Who does more harm to another person than a child molester? There are thousands of these despicable individuals in the US doing harm to the most helpless of individuals every day. What could be worse?
But, I think you would agree it’s not appropriate that we could be invaded because another country feels the US isn’t tough enough on child molestation, despite its obviously horrible effects. It is also not appropriate to invade a nation even if they are allowing horrible activity, like terrorist organizing in their midst or a way of life we don’t like. It’s not appropriate because they are a sovereign nation, just like us.
If you want to stay with the example of more traditional threats from military, political and economic systems, rather than terrorism – then let’s remember that the fall of the Soviet Union was not through direct military intervention either. Neither proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam nor Afghanistan did anything to insure the failure of the Soviet Union. Communism is a flawed and ultimately self-destructive system not requiring direct engagement. It merely required a credible threat on our part to provide for our common defense and letting it fail on its own. Collectivism is its own worst enemy and never works.
No countries are perfect, including the US. But at what point are we justified in invading a sovereign nation because we don’t like the way they handle or even support horrible people? In practically every country in the world, there are small groups of people plotting to do something very horrible to someone else in their own country every day. Do we tell each of these nations, I’m sorry you aren’t doing enough to keep the world “safe,” so we are coming into your country to set up shop and “fix” the problem. Would that be right?
Where is the regard for their sovereignty? We expect that respect for our sovereignty, so why would we not respect theirs?
We don’t have to like the way other countries do things, and we don’t have to agree with their systems. But, at what point is dedicating ourselves to being the savior of the world appropriate or even possible? Obviously, I believe it’s neither.
Liberty minded people know – we have no right to harm another person, unless we are defending ourselves from their aggression. With regards to nations, if they aren’t the aggressor and we have no need to defend ourselves – stay out of their business because we have no right to get involved. This is no different than our everyday lives, and a very common sense approach to domestic policy. Why would individual principles of personal and economic liberty not be applied to US foreign policy? Do we believe in liberty or not? I hope so. It works because it’s the right philosophy for life – the philosophy of liberty.
If looking at the intent of the founders, and the intent of creating a new Republic in the manner which the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution outline – do you see any semblance of nation building or world policing?
The founders were very opposed to foreign entanglements and interventions. They had significant desire to stay out of the world’s problems – to the point where Jefferson said, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
If you recall the very young United States first use of military outside of US borders – it was the Barbary pirates raiding US trade ships. Jefferson sent the US military to make a strong statement. They kicked butt and came home. They did not stay to nation build in the staging country for the pirate’s activities. They left having accomplished their tactical objective and establishing themselves as a credible threat.
This is the type of military/foreign policy that steers clear of intervention unless absolutely needed, and it is incredibly consistent with the sole purpose of our government as designed by the founders – to protect the rights and property of individuals.
As an additional example of this in daily life – we can look at Christianity or most any major religion. Christianity contains a strong moral system and principled commitment to values, obviously good things. But, can you force anyone to become a Christian? Of course not. And if you could, should you? Both Christian philosophy and natural law intersect quite well when addressing this issue – free will is the all important factor. It’s about liberty – the freedom to choose.
Imposing systems or beliefs on people definitionally inhibits liberty, and without the freedom to choose – no governance system or culture is worth its while. That was the spark that ignited the American Revolution, and was later codified in the US Constitution. A government’s purpose should be to protect the liberty of its citizens. It doesn’t grant rights, and should only be responsible for protecting them.
So, America’s role in the world is not to salvage the future of every nation and create a democratic utopia for the planet. Our job is to protect the rights and property of individuals across the Republic, and promote a foreign and economic policy which adds to the prosperity for all who choose to willingly participate. This type of policy does not require the US being the world’s leader through force, but instead the world’s leader through prosperity.
“It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargos on countries and peoples across the globe and who chose to use force overseas to promote democracy. A counterproductive approach that actually leads the US to be more resented and more isolated in the world.” – Dr. Ron Paul
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