Archive for May, 2007

Here’s Ron Paul earlier today on CNN. He makes some very good points (e.g. it’s congress, not the president, who declares war or does not declare war), but his answers to the questions about interventionism reminded me of my doubts about his foreign policy. I still think his foreign policy is better than anyone else’s in the race, but I’m not sure about his stance that the U.S. should only declare war if our national security is directly threatened.

This is an issue I’ve gone back and forth on. Here’s what I’ve wrestled with:

  1. The only legitimate use of force is for defense. Ever. In the middle of a war, sometimes you need to go on the offensive and attack an enemy in a battle; but the war itself is only just if it’s for defense.
  2. This means that any “pre-emptive strike,” no matter how intimidating a nation’s forces are, even if they have nuclear weapons, is wrong. Doesn’t this principle make the world a more dangerous place for us? In some ways, yes: if we never strike first, there’s always a chance we’ll be taken off guard. But consider the alternative: if pre-emptive strikes are internationally recognized as allowable, then any nation can attack any other on the grounds that they feel threatened. Iran could attack the U.S. because we have nuclear weapons and people in our government have called for an attack on Iran. Besides that, it’s simply morally wrong to attack someone who has not attacked you. Period.
  3. But what if one nation other than the U.S. attacks another nation other than the U.S.? This is where it gets tricky. There are a few points to consider:
    a. Perhaps the primary argument against defending another country from attack is that it is not what our soldiers      signed up to do. And it is completely legitimate for a soldier to sign up for the U.S. military from a love for defending his country and not want to get involved in other areas.
    b. On the other hand, there are certain times when it is clear that one country invading another is completely in the wrong, and it seems that in these situations there should be some kind of military response from the international community.
    c. Still, these situations are hardly ever completely clear. More often than not, war is over a “disputed” territory; and even if we favor one side over the other, I’m leery of the idea that U.S. soldiers should be asked to fight in any conflict that they might disagree with, particularly if it has little to do with defending the U.S.
  4. So what’s the solution? Does the U.S. have an obligation to step in and defend weak nations against attack from stronger nations? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t want to write it off simply because it doesn’t serve our interest. I suppose it’s ludicrous to think you could have “optional” wars, where soldiers don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, but that would at least make it so soldiers who signed up to defend the U.S. wouldn’t have to fight for something they weren’t willing to die for. The only other solution I can think of would be an international “police force” sort of army that people sign up for – but the dangers of this are fairly obvious, aside from the fact that it would be hard to recruit people who would rather police the world than defend their own country, and the fact that it would be impossible to pay for without asking for tax money from many countries.
  5. So, in conclusion, I guess I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul – I really haven’t made up my own mind on the issue yet. There is just something that strikes me as wrong about having the most powerful military in the world stand by as one country flagrantly violates the sovereignty of another. I can’t think of an easy solution, but I think there must be a better one than to ignore anything other than a direct attack on the U.S.

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Ron Paul

I posted these entries on livejournal earlier.  I’m posting them here now.  Enjoy.

12:30 am Ron Paul

So, I watched the Republican debates earlier tonight, but I missed what might have been the most important part (at least from my point of view).  Luckily, the post-show talked about it over and over again, and then I found it on youtube.  What I missed was Ron Paul, who is basically a libertarian, saying that our foreign policy and our actions in the middle east were partly responsible for 9/11.  Giuliani immediately jumped on this and demanded a retraction, which the crowd cheered (and the crowd cheered only one or two other times during the debate).  Here’s the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk334TbliaY.

Right now I’m really, really frustrated.  I’m partly frustrated because I wish Ron Paul had said something like, “Listen, there’s no excuse for terrorism, and 9/11 was obviously a terrible, terrible thing; all I’m saying is that our presence in the Arab world is something cited time and again by Al Quaeda as the reasons for attacks on Americans.”  I think he meant that, but it did come across a little like he was saying we deserved it, and of course that was twisted and spun to make him sound like an anti-American demon.

And that’s what really bothers me.  That someone cannot even speak the truth about this issue without being implicity accused of hating America and loving terrorists.  I’ve read the Al Qaeda manifestos, I’ve asked Greg Rose what they object to about America, I’ve studied it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Ron Paul is right: Islamist terrorists attacked us and continue to target Americans because they occupy Arab lands and support governments that they hate.  Now, whether we should support those governments is another issue; but the very clear facts are that all the calls for “jihad” against Americans list their involvement in Arab affairs as the primary reason.

Ron Paul had some really good things to say in his post-debate interview; I’ll put up a link to it as soon as I can find it on youtube.  I don’t agree with him on everything, but Ron Paul seems to be the only candidate in the race whose understanding of foreign affairs is remotely based on reality.  He’ll get my vote in the primary.

 1:24 am Ron Paul: Post-Debate Interview
Here’s the interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEZO7MPxJIs.  I think he expresses his position more clearly here.

Like I said in the last post, I do disagree with him about some things.  For example, his comment about us being in “their” holy land is partly true and partly not: the Saudi government allowed the U.S. to build bases there, and so the U.S. wasn’t forcing itself on Saudi Arabia any more than the Saudi government does.  As much as Islamists would like Saudi Arabia to be under their control, it isn’t, and that’s a good thing.

But we still shouldn’t be building bases and trying to prop up regimes that we think may be friendly to us.  Maybe in extreme circumstances when it was obvious that international law had been broken – when one country is attacking another, for example, as with Iraq and Kuwait – it’s ok for us to send troops; but beyond these cases I don’t think we have any right to try to run the governments of other nations.  Again, I think I disagree with Ron Paul on this – I think he might say we should NEVER get in any war other than to defend ourselves – but his position is much, much closer to mine than any of the other candidates.

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