Now that presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) has moved past Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) in the polls, Paul will continue to be a target of conservative hawks for his foreign policy of non-interventionism. Although he has been prophetic on nearly every domestic issue, it is his foreign policy message that is the most important aspect of his campaign.
In the last Republican presidential debate, Paul argued that Iran is not a threat to the U.S., that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is completely rational, and that we should talk and trade with the Iranians. This drew predictably angry responses from the conservative hawks in the media, dismissing Paul as naive and “nuts on parade.”
Never mind the National Intelligence Estimates concerning Iran’s nuclear program, how strictly it abides by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that it hasn’t invaded anyone in centuries, that it is surrounded by the U.S. military on both sides, or the costs — both financial and in terms of lives — that a U.S. war with Iran would entail. These factors are rarely, if ever, discussed by those who would advocate a U.S. intervention.
In a piece for The American Spectator, conservative columnist Jeffrey Lord attacked Paul’s assertions that the Founders were non-interventionists who favored a commercial republic over an imperial one. George Washington invaded Canada during the Revolutionary War, Lord points out, and Thomas Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to North Africa to fight Islamic pirates. Libertarian heavyweights Thomas Woods and Kevin Gutzman quickly responded, arguing that these interventions were defensive and just applications of military force.
Whether Lord is right concerning the Founders’ foreign policies is fairly inconsequential. Yes, Paul and many libertarians like myself put the Founders on perhaps too high of a pedestal, but the only thing the interventions of Jefferson and Washington prove is the old axiom that power corrupts even the most principled statesman.
What is really relevant is the effect a foreign policy of empire, preventive war, and global policing has on a country. War effects the health of the state and brings loss of civil liberties, taxes, inflation to finance it, casualties, a decrease in security and safety, distortions in the free market, and massive increases in the size and scope of government.
This is precisely why the strength of Paul’s campaign comes from his devotion to the cause of peace, the idea that wars should only be fought in self-defense and with clear and definable objectives. Free markets, free trade, diplomacy, and armed neutrality is the foreign policy of a constitutional republic that leads by the humility and strength of a good example. As Frederic Bastiat famously said, “if goods don’t cross borders, then soldiers will.”
Of all of the issues plaguing America, a sane foreign policy and an end to $1.2 trillion budgets for empire strike at the heart of the battle for the soul of the Republic. Foreign policy is also, as Paul points out, the area over which a president has the most control over. For this reason alone — even if one disagrees with his other policy positions — a Paul presidency is needed now more than ever.