By Jodi Sanger-Weaver
Throughout Ron Paul’s May 4 speech at University of California, San Diego’s Warren Mall, his non-interventionist foreign policy was emphasized as he related it to current global events. His notion of liberty and non-intervention spans all the way from domestic issues, such as the recent abuses by the DEA on UCSD student Daniel Chong, to foreign policy, such as the dangers of the neoconservative notion that the United States has a responsibility to protect civil liberties of people around the world. Paul argued that the United States should not be in the business of telling other countries what to do, and we should focus instead on protecting the civil liberties of people here in America – civil liberties that Paul believes are being threatened by an increasingly powerful federal government.
Non-interventionism is an American policy that can be cited all the way back to the founding fathers. George Washington’s comments in his farewell address warned against the dangers of foreign intervention:
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens), 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 foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.”
In recent years, especially since 9/11 and the consequent War on Terror waged by former President George W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama, the concept of non-intervention has been discarded and replaced by a concept of preemptive war. Paul emphasized that this type of mentality is dangerous and only makes our nation more vulnerable:
“…this whole notion that we can make the world safe for democracy, and now it has been translated into this neo-conservatism, that they feel morally obligated that we must use force to spread our goodness because we are an exceptional nation. If we are an exceptional nation and set a good standard, yes, then maybe they’ll emulate us. But we’re not very exceptional if we think we can intimidate people and believe in preemptive wars and starting wars that we can’t even finish.”
Paul was obviously attacking the unpopular war in Iraq. Not many people would disagree that going to war in Iraq was a poor choice, and the notion of non-interventionism in this case is readily embraced. However, Paul would also argue that the United States should not get involved in such cases as the blind Chinese man claiming asylum in the United States after apparent abuses of his civil liberties in his home nation. The question of whether or not we have an obligation to intervene in Syria is yet another controversial scenario in which non-interventionism seems to ignore the plight of people in need. However, Paul holds true to his libertarian principles in that the United States only makes more enemies by trying to police the world:
“Now we’ve taken it upon ourselves to say the war on terrorism is global and we have the authority and responsibility to look at every square inch of this country and the world and we have the capability of hitting any postage stamp spot to kill the bad people… sometimes we miss, sometimes the kids get killed, sometimes innocent bystanders get killed. You don’t build friendships that way. We are more vulnerable and less secure because of that type of foreign policy than if we followed one of friendship and trade with countries.”
Continuing in this vein, Paul also provides evidence for why the United States should learn from the mistakes of its preemptive war in Iraq and not be so preoccupied with Iran as a result. Speaking about the dangerous situation the United States faced during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Paul emphasized that even in that volatile situation there was no nuclear exchange:
“Here today we are intimidated by a third world country that has no army of source, no navy, no air force, no intercontinental ballistic missiles, no nuclear weapons and we are ready to go to war because someday, some place they might get a nuclear weapon. And yet we stood the Soviets down. I would say that we shouldn’t be so easily intimidated.”
This type of thinking is in sharp contrast to the traditional neoconservative ideas of security prevalent within the GOP and the current Democratic administration, earning Paul a reputation for having “wacky” ideas. However, these ideas are not new and seem to be grounded in principles of friendly interaction with other countries as a means to security, prosperity, and the maintenance of liberty. Rejected by the GOP and by liberal Democrats, perhaps Paul should be given more credit for his consistency, adherence to the Constitution, and refusal to mold his platform in order to fit neatly into either the Republican or Democratic camp. If nothing else, his proposed foreign policy is consistent and backed by historical evidence. Whether elected or not, Paul’s platform is one that should be given serious consideration for our future interactions with other states, especially considering the diplomatic messes of the past few administrations, Republican and Democrat alike.
Photo Courtesy of Jodi Sanger-Weaver