A Foreign Policy of Freedom
Ron Paul was first elected to congress in 1976. He went on to serve on the banking committee for four consecutive terms until 1984. He also served on the Gold Commission in the early eighties, and it is during this time that he realized that economic and monetary policy was closely intertwined with foreign policy and war. He felt that the economic future was in danger since both politicians and economists did not have a clear idea of the prevailing circumstances. His primary concern was economic policy, but he was also vocal in his push for individual liberty, private property and free markets. During Reagan's presidency, Paul came to realize that American foreign policy was not primarily driven by national security concerns, but by special interests backed by both sides of the political divide.
He started to speak strongly on foreign policy even though most times he found himself a lonely voice on this endeavor. His single vote against most foreign policy issues was a statement of his strong convictions. Paul urged the nation to respect the constitution and follow the ideals of the founding fathers by keeping off the affairs of other nations as long as they did not affect the national security interests of the United States. Even during his 12- year absence from congress between 1985- 1997 Ron Paul kept speaking out on foreign policy. He spoke against the gulf war in 1991 and feels that the current situation in Iraq is just a continuation of that ill-thought policy. Paul sees the new world order of political globalization instead of free trade and markets as a threat to sovereignty of nations. This ideology favors only those with politically connected special interests while the rest risk sanctions and tariffs. Paul sees this as a threat to prosperity, liberty. sovereignty and peace.
The book is divided into chapters each covering a year that Paul spent in congress up to 1996, and his speeches contributing to the hot issues of the day. Chapter seven covers the period he was out of congress, clearly showing that he never lost his drive to make the country adopt a better foreign policy framework. The book essentially chronicles Paul's opposition to foreign policy intervention, which he feels has continually failed in the long run. He passionately advocates for nonintervention as was envisaged by the founding fathers. He blames the thirst for political power as the main reason driving interventionist policies. Involvement in overseas affairs brings rich financial rewards to influential people back home in the U.S., and as such, they make it their business to push through such interventionist policies. Politicians have also cleverly sold the war agenda as a show of patriotism.
Americans have been led to believe that all these costly interventions are part of defending the motherland, even when it is clear that the U.S. itself is not in any danger at all. The nation is always whipped up to frenzy in supporting wars, and those opposing these ideas risk being labeled as unpatriotic. The unwanted results of foreign intervention usually manifest much later after the war. Case point is the entry into the First World War contributed to the Second World War and the subsequent Cold War. The CIA's meddling in Iranian politics led to the rise of the Islamic State. The government also uses fear as a powerful tool to support its involvement in wars overseas. The people have been made to believe that they are in constant danger of attack, sometimes from some despots half way across the world who don't pose any real danger. Terrorists attack America primarily due to its actions abroad, yet the public is made to believe they are under attack due to their freedom and prosperity.
The government never admits to making a mistake for going to war, no matter how costly and deadly it gets. On many occasions, the U.S. has funded and armed both sides of a conflict. What possibly could be the reason to get involved in a war in which the U.S. is fighting on both sides? Sometimes erstwhile enemies turn into enemies and end up using America's weapons to kill American soldiers. America was once a major ally, financier and weapons supplier to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Ron Paul also refuses to accept the notion that economic sanctions and blockades are an alternative to warfare. He says that the targets rarely buckle; instead they become bitter and sometimes resort to terrorist tactics to get their way. It is the common citizens on the ground who suffer when international trade is interrupted by sanctions and embargoes meant to for dictators. The foreign intervention policies are no longer about protecting the country, but securing huge profits from warfare.
American troops are increasingly being used to secure private capital abroad, like oil and other natural resources. The author strongly feels that adopting the principle of preemptive war would be a big mistake. For the U.S. to arrogantly arrogate itself the right to invade other countries, ostensibly to prevent future threats to the U.S., is taking this war-mongering too far. America has gone on to use the argument of moral superiority to justify its use of force all over the world, with little or no regard to the sentiments of their victims. It seems the U.S. is not satisfied with world domination, the government has taken its aggression to space. Former U.S. president George W. Bush unilaterally declared that in future, the U.S. will determine which countries are allowed in space and which ones are not.
The author raises many pertinent issues which need to be tackled properly. It is true that the United States has involved itself into unnecessary wars that have cost the country heavily. Many troops have been killed fighting for a cause that they clearly did not understand. The cost of war is huge. The government spends billions of taxpayers' money to finance these wars. These wars most often drag longer than expected leading to waste of public funds that would otherwise be used for better projects, not to mention the rising casualty count. The people who benefit most are the big defense contractors whose profit actually depends on wars. In the end the government is taking money from poor Americans and using it to further enrich wealthy politically connected individuals. America also seems to be racking up more enemies than allies as it continues with its flawed foreign policy.
Countries which get attacked usually become more destabilized and it takes them decades to even recover. War displaces huge populations and leads to major humanitarian crises. The people who get attacked develop a strong hatred and resentment towards America and its citizens. They resort to terrorism and thus become a real security threat. Anyway the author seems to propose some radical ideas that cannot offer solutions required. The suggestion that every country in the world, including the U.S., should be militarily neutral like Switzerland is impractical. The world is full of bullish dictators who would invade others and cause mayhem. The United States cannot look the other way when war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed against innocent civilians in other countries. There is need to intervene in genuine cases, but restraint must be exercised when it comes to invading other countries under the guise of preemptive strikes.
With great power comes great responsibility, and the United States being the only superpower in the world has a responsibility in ensuring world peace and stability. This should be the main objective of American foreign policy. The policy should be designed to protect American citizens and interests in a manner beneficial to common Americans. War should not be turned into a business for wealthy businessmen with strong political connections. Taxpayers' money should not be channeled into military campaigns borne out of political greed and misguided expansionist tendencies. There is need for more transparency in defense budgeting and contracting. The unrealistic goals of policing the world and outer space should be dropped. It seems like such pragmatic measures will not arise from politicians, but by spiraling military spending. Excessive military spending led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and will most probably bring down North Korea. America is putting itself into a situation in which it will be forced to spend heavily on its military budget, much to the detriment of other sectors of the economy.
The use of patriotism as an excuse to fuel war propaganda must be stopped. Opposing unnecessary wars does not make one unpatriotic; in fact it shows one's concern for the greater good of his or her country. The government should also stop spreading unnecessary fear amongst its citizens to hoodwink them into supporting unnecessary wars in distant lands. Instead, the government ought to concentrate on offering real protection on American soil in order to truly protect the motherland. Ron Paul and other like-minded Americans should not be dismissed or ridiculed for speaking out even if theirs is a minority opinion. Instead we should listen to their voices of reason and incorporate them into coming up with a foreign policy that leaves Americans truly protected while at the same time earns us friends abroad.