My last post chronicled how I changed from being a dyed-in-the-wool Republican to an Independent who supports Ron Paul for president. In this post and the next one, I’ll be writing about some of Ron Paul’s positions that seem most misunderstood or misrepresented: foreign policy
The narrative of foreign policy options during the last two decades or so has not been whether we should be engaged in multiple conflicts around the globe simultaneously, but how many can we finance at the same time? Whether Democrat or Republican in office or the majority party there seems to be full, functional agreement on the use of military force around the world. From the MAD arms race of the 60s-80s we now stand at a place where the United States spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined (see video at the end of this post). Truth be told, we are spending much less on defense then we are on offense.
Foreign policy biblically, I believe, does fall under the realm of responsibility of the national government, and in our country the president has a major role. In meeting with heads of state, appointing the secretary of state and various ambassadors the president’s goal should be, through these appointees, to put America’s best foot forward to the world. It is a justifiably important discussion and rightly belongs front and center of debates.
No single area of Ron Paul’s political stances is more misunderstood than his foreign policy. He is commonly described as an isolationist, which is factually incorrect. An isolationist chooses not to be engaged on any level, to withdraw into one’s own borders, cut off trade and refuse communication with the rest of the world. Paul’s stance is that of non-intervention which is a different animal.
Do the stories of Somalia, Yugoslavia, Lybia, Lebanon or China, Albania or Iran ring a bell? Those actions all started as interventions in problematic areas and resulted in the loss of many lives, some American some not. In some cases we overthrew one freely elected president and installed a friendly dictator only to turn around years later and support an opponent of his. (Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been involved in around six dozen military or covert operations under the auspice of interventions. For a list from 1945-1999 see here.)
Depending on the year, the United States has between 700 and 900 military installations around the world, and those are just the ones that the Pentagon will acknowledge publicly. The number of CIA shadow bases around the world is unknown. What is known is we have spent nearly a trillion dollars over the last 10 years supporting the multiple wars in which we are now engaged while running up a national debt of $15T. This is utterly unsustainable.
What is incredible about this is that Americans do not seem to put 2 and 2 together on this. We are rightfully furious about the past several years of unrestrained borrowing and spending, yet are not willing to cut back on our sprawling military adventures. There is a reason why Ron Paul receives more donations from active military personnel than all other Republican candidates combined.
What Ron Paul sees and articulates pretty clearly is 1) we have no business policing the world, 2) we have no money to police the world, 3) the world does not appreciate our police state. It really is not appreciated when we tell people, “We want you to experience democracy so bad we are willing to kill you to give it to you.”
What Paul also understands that no other candidate will acknowledge is this: if the shoe were on the other foot we would respond both negatively and violently. If Chinese soldiers were occupying Alaska, would we stand idly by? Or, for a more historical perspective, when England’s grand king attempted to impose his will on our ancestors while they were still British subjects, did they stand idly by? On the contrary, so vehement was their complaint it became known as The American Revolution.
Exporting democracy is neither a biblical nor a constitutional imperative. Since it is not, I do not get why so many Christians feel compelled to support a war-machine.
Early in 2011 I was traveling in Russia. In one of their large, university cities I dined with an English speaking student who was born into one of the 42 ethnic minorities in China. His family remained there as he studied in Russia. We asked, “How is the United States perceived in your home town?” He answered in a way unfathomable to most Americans: “We are afraid that America might come attack China.”
Our reputation matters, and continual warmongering damages our reputation internationally. When Jesus said, “There will be wars and rumors of wars,” I do not think He intended it to be the Neo-con foreign policy handbook. It is time Christians understand something: When the government of the United States makes America look bad internationally, it affects the ability and perceptions of Americans who are on mission with God. Warmongering can create for American Christian missionaries a constant need to explain the actions of the government when they want to be fielding questions about God’s kingdom. As a Christ follower I will no longer support the actions of worldly kings who perpetuate actions designed to expand an earthly empire at the expense of the gospel. Ron Paul’s non-interventionist stance on foreign policy will restore American to a place of peace and protection of our own land that the founders must have envisioned when assembling the constitution.
(I am aware that not all internationals feel this way and that many around the world still–rightfully so–see America as the land of hope and opportunity. I love America. It’s our government that frustrates me.)
In his book, The Revolution: A Manifesto (available below), Ron Paul notes about former Republican Senator Robert Taft:
War, Taft perceived, was the enemy of constitution, liberty, economic security, and the cake of custom. . . . Though he was no theoretical pacifist, he insisted that every other possibility must be exhausted before resort to military action. War would make the American President a virtual dictator, diminish the constitutional powers of Congress, contract civil liberties, injure the habitual self-reliance and self-government of the American people, distort the economy, sink the federal government in debt, break in upon private and public morality. Emphasis mine.
Can any seriously suggest that this is not precisely what we see happening, and can anyone seriously suggest this is not what Ron Paul argues against with every opportunity?
No discussion of American foreign policy could be full without considering our relationship to and support of Israel.
As our closest ally in the middle east, Israel, stands alone as a democracy in an ocean of kings, princes, queens and Sharia Law. Since 1948 we have stood with them, have sold them bazillions of dollars in weaponry and given many billions more. A strain of conservative Christians remain convinced that without our support of Israel God will “remove His hand of blessing from America.” For years I was taught that the “last days” would be inaugurated when Russia (Gog and Magog of the book of Ezekiel) plowed through the countries in between to take over Israel.
The point of this is not to argue theology, but to argue that there is more than one way to “support” Israel. From the U.S. budget more money goes to Israel’s sworn enemies every year than to Israel. Honestly: What kind of support is that? That is not robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s paying Paul to leave Peter alone, while pressuring Peter not to act is his own best interests since we give him money, too. A Ron Paul presidency would mean that the U.S. government would not longer be keeping countries on the teet of the American tax dollar, and that Israel would continue to buy the arms she needs if she even needs them. I have not seen a biblical argument yet that “supporting Israel” has anything to do with foreign aid.
Below is a grassroots ad created to explain just a fraction of Ron Paul’s foreign policy. It’s about 13 minutes long, but features a bit of history, the present and some insight from recently discharged military personnel. If you’ve thought about Ron Paul, but wondered about his “unique” or “naive” foreign policy, this might help you see another side.
[If the video doesn’t load, click here.]