Sunday, September 09, 2007

An Undeclared, Informal War on Ron Paul's Foreign Policy

No war should ever be fought without a declaration of war voted upon by the Congress, as required by the Constitution.- Ron Paul, on his website under war and foreign policy

Much bellyaching has been made as to "undeclared" wars and the Constitutionality of said wars. Most of the articles I've come across point to the Korean War as the beginning of undeclared wars, with leaders citing Article II, section II of the Constitution, which refers to the President as the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States", as justification for the President to initiate foreign wars without formal declaration. Critics say this is a gross misinterpretation of the provision allowed the President. They often cite Alexander Hamilton as having stated that the President would have "the direction of war when authorized" by Congress, after a formal declaration of war.

Thomas Jefferson, when he was President, also said that he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”

Interesting, considering Thomas Jefferson waged an undeclared war against Islamic corsairs and state-sponsored piracy. He did so enthusiastically, without bothering to seek Congressional approval. The first presidential flip-flop?

Just as in debates about "Separation of Church and State", I'm sure you can cherry-pick and find all sorts of "gotcha" quotes by the Founding Fathers that (especially when taken out of context) appear to support one's arguments.

The Constitution is one of the most brilliant documents ever written. But as brilliant and revered as the Founding Fathers are, they are not gods, the Constitution is not holy scripture, and Ron Paul is most certainly not their prophet.

When one speaks about departures from "original intent"....that happened almost right away; and certainly happened far before the Korean War. The isolationist/non-interventionist belief Ron Paul has of America is of a romanticized, quixotic past that never existed. We've been intervening, and we've been doing it for a very long, long time. Military campaigns waged without a formal authorized declaration by Congress is not a modern transgression of Constitutional requirements.

Congress has other ways of giving approval, other than formal declarations. This happens anytime Congress appropriates funding.

There have been only five declared wars by Congress. Yet our Presidents since the time of Thomas Jefferson have engaged in at least 12-17+ undeclared wars (depending on how you count them), with some of them having been vitally important to America's self-interest.

Other examples of the distant past (excerpt from Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace:
Woodrow Wilson, for instance, ordered the marines to land in Veracruz in 1914 before the Senate had finished debating the matter. The Philippine War, too, broke out before the Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris annexing the archipelago. Congress has generally voted a declaration of war only in the event of hostilities with another major industrialized power and sometimes not even then; witness the quasi-war with France in 1798-1800. Military operations in Third World nations have seldom been seen to require a formal declaration of war.
One of Ron Paul's stock analogies goes along the lines of the following quote by him:
Can you imagine what it would be like if parts of the United States were occupied by a foreign power, if China was building military bases the size of the Vatican in Kansas? People would be up in arms!
His analogy is horribly flawed. With Iraq, the U.S. is not a hostile power. Neither are we a hostile, imperialistic force in ANY country we are in. Germany and Japan benefited greatly from our "occupation", and continue to do so. They are able to save money on military expenditure because they piggyback and rely upon us, as allies, to protect them. It was in our best interest to help their countries, and in helping to build France back up as a consequential country on the world stage. Really, after the 2nd War, France was nothing. But we needed to help our European allies recover and become strong again, in light of the Stalinist threat.

I'll also add to here, a comment Scott Malensek left in response to a RPer (who listed "150" countries, probably because RP himself mentions "130"):
the US has forces in a lot of countries, and in almost all cases as guests and at the request of those countries even to the benefit and request of their citizens. Too often paranoid politicos see the presence of US forces in 150 countries as imperialistic, but in places like Ramstein, or the UK, or Canada, or perhaps 130+ other countries, those troops are awfully welcome and help protect those people. American forces aren't invading 150 countries, or terrorizing them, or even hurting them-quite the opposite. In fact, I'm not even sure the 150 country claim is accurate, and it certainly isn't accurate to portray an image that the US is alone or even in a small group of countries that have forces in other nations (see also nations that contribute to UN peacekeeping etc).
More in a new post from Scott at FA.

Maybe RP's watched Red Dawn one too many times; but analogizing a China takeover of the U.S. to what our forces are accomplishing over in Iraq or elsewhere in the world is just logic-impaired.

Furthermore, historically, it is quite the norm for us to turn our warriors into social workers, as an occupying force. As Max Boot writes,
Soldiers follow orders, and presidents have often found it convenient or necessary to order the armed services to perform functions far removed from conventional warfare. Throughout U.S. history, marines at home and abroad have found themselves providing disaster relief, quelling riots, even guarding mail trains. Soldiers also have often acted as colonial administrators- in the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Veracruz, to say nothing of post-World War II Germany and Japan or the post-Civil War South.

In fact occupation duty is generally necessary after a big war in order to impose the victor's will on the vanquished. If ground forces win a battle and go home, as the Powell Doctrine advocates and as actually happened in the Gulf War, the fruits of victory are likely to wither on the vine. Only boots on the ground can guarantee a lasting peace.
Boot goes on to point out (page 345-347 of The Savage Wars of Peace) how pacification campaigns and occupation of many third world countries made life better
Many of these interventions also delivered tangible benefits to the occupied peoples. Although American imperial rule was subject to its fare share of abuses, U.S. administrators, whether civilian or military, often provided the most honest and efficient government these territories had ever seen. Haiti offers a particularly dramatic example. The 1920s, spent under marine occupation, saw one of the most peaceful and prosperous decades in the country's long and troubled history.
Where we have been most successful with lasting impact, are in those places where we kept our forces for a long period of time.

What does all this have to do with America's national security interests? If you cannot see it, then you are more than likely an isolationist; and being an RPer, one who demands we draw a distinction between an isolationist, and a non-interventionist.

And what is the price of non-intervention?

Stalin was testing...probing America's will and reach during the Cold War; what if we had sent a clear message to the Kremlin, that America was practicing a non-interventionist policy by allowing communism to spread to other countries? Would the world be safer today? Subsequently (because the answer would be a resounding "NO!"), would we be safer? No.

In 1939, what if Franklin Roosevelt did not find a way to provide military aid to Britain and France against the rise of Adolf Hitler? Our late intervention in the war....did it make America safer? Is it in America's best interest, not to practice an interventionist policy to help protect our allies? The very fact that we trade and do commerce with foreign nations, entangles us.

If one were to practice Paulian non-interventionism in one's personal life, you would stand neutral or turn aside, not lifting a finger, while your girlfriend got mugged. After all, you wouldn't want to experience blowback from the mugger's wrath, and have him mug you as well.
The Price of Nonintervention

In considering whether, based on the lessons of the past, we should undertake small wars in the future, we ought to remember not only the price of a botched intervention- Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia- but also the price of not intervening, or not intervening with sufficient determination. Two examples come to mind: Nicaragua and Russia.

In the former case, President Coolidge in 1925 withdrew from Managua the legation guard of 100 marines that had helped preserve stability for 13 years. Within a few months, Nicaragua was once again embroiled in revolution, and many more marines returned for a much longer stay.

In revolutionary Russia, Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George missed a prime opportunity in 1918-1919 to help topple the nascent Bolshevik regime. There is reason to believe that with slightly more Western help the Whites could have won the civil war- and in all likelihood changed the course of twentieth-century history immeasurably for the better. These examples are worth balancing against the Vietnam analogies that inevitably, tiresomely pop up whenever the dispatch of American forces overseas is contemplated.

Chapter 15 Pax Americana, pg 346 The Savage Wars of Peace, by Max Boot
This RPer, at least has a well-reasoned constructive critique of Ron Paul's "bring the troops home immediately" from everywhere, attitude:
I have serious reservations about the foreign policies Dr. Paul espouses. I do believe in non-interventionism in principle, but I do not believe that a nation's foreign policies should be changed drastically in a very short period of time, and this is the impression I get of what Dr. Paul would have the US do if he became president. If the United States withdraws from South Korea and gives China a carte blanche to invade Taiwan, as Dr. Paul has suggested it do, that will cause a serious disruption in the world and decline of US's economic strength. Even if the policy to get involved in East Asia was wrong to begin with, the US has made commitments to that region and has to live with the consequences of its commitments. Trillions of US investment dollars have flowed into Taiwan and South Korea as a result of the understanding that the US would protect by force any armed invasion of those countries by socialist nations. To change course and withdraw that guarantee of support is a betrayal of the highest magnitude and I believe cannot be justified in any way. Besides Taiwan and South Korea, China itself could nationalize trillions of dollars worth of American assets if it perceives that the US will no longer militarily respond to such a move. I'm not suggesting that if Ron Paul becomes president, then the next day China will nationalize all industries. What I do believe though is that if a policy of non-interventionism takes effect, China will probably take over Taiwan, and eventually, North Korea will take over South Korea. With a strengthened military and economic position, I very much believe China would then feel confident in nationalizing foreign owned assets in its country. The strategic landscape will be significantly altered to China's advantage and Americans will lose hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars in assets they have invested in that country. This scenario is absolutely intolerable and must be avoided at all costs.
We live in an age where America can no longer enjoy the protections of two oceans, as it once did. Although the Constitution is our compass and the North Star by which we may steer this nation, we must not be so inflexible as to not adapt to a world that our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen us living in. America's self-interest of free trade and commerce must extend to helping to protect the welfare and safety of our friends and allies. Evil regimes must be stopped beyond our waters edge.

A nation's first duty is within its borders, but it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the people that shape the destiny of mankind. - Theodore Roosevelt

Originally posted at
Flopping Aces

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have serious doubts against some of your arguments:
- If Wilson did not intervene in Europe and americans did not create the Fed, there would be probably not so hard great depression (or there might have been no depression), the middle class would not be wiped, there would have been no Hitler and Europe would be probably strong enough to resist temptations of USSR. So I don't think the 'Hitler' argument is a good one because it is very reasonable that the Hitler problem in itself is a result of interventionis policy. Nobody says that change to non-interventionism doesn not have short-term problems because of the results of previous interventionism. I think even RP mentiond Wilson as one of the first ones who started this interventionism policy.
- How decides if US is hostile or friendly power? You are NOT imperialistic force in any country? I had a chance to talk with a guy from Panama, read some things about how CIA intervened in south america... do you support financing dictators?
- Two bads don't make good. That the constitution was not always upheld does not excuse anybody to ignore it.
- That US soldiers are not hurting anybody is a LIE. If you said that they are "mostly" not hurting anyone, it might be right. Or do you believe that US killed NO innocent person in Iraq?
- You should ask if the policy is good for USA. Every action has it's costs. If you police the world, you will bankrupt the country (which is already happening). Do you think that it is good for the US citizens, or even for the world, having totally bankrupt country with perfectly armed forces around the world? It seems to me that this is exactly a recipe for a World-war III, not a peace solution.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 2:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

Thanks for this post, Wordsmith. It's an excellent analysis of Ron Paul and why most Republicans won't be voting for him. So much so that I left a link to this post on a friend's blog who is pushing for Ron Paul. His name is Robert and I hope he drops by. I doubt if it will change his mind, but it may give him food for thought. At any rate, it explains why Republicans aren't crazy about Ron Paul.

Have a great weekend! :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007 5:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article, Wordsmith.

I'm a big RP fan primarily because he stands on highly profound principles. I'm a firm believer in Liberty, small government and "minding your own business". This, I suppose, is the big draw for Ron Paul. You make some valid arguments but, in the end, they are based on the fact that WE are pushing OUR way of life on OTHERS. Now, our way of life is pretty damned good, but how about leading by example? How about NOT shoving our beliefs down others' throats?

I do realize that these are rather simplistic views and that there are always reasons to take alternate paths, but the fact is that you have to have some sort of moral compass otherwise you morph into something that is driven by ego and greed - that's what we have today.

We need to step back, grab hold of the Constitution and lead by example.

When Ron Paul says that we were attacked on 9/11 because of our foreign policy I believe it. I believe that, regardless of what we think our policies reasons are, the people in other countries perceive us as aggressors. Seriously, if you thought YOUR freedoms and way of life were being dictated by another country don't you think you'd be a little pissed? Wars have started that way!

Regarding Iraq as an "undeclared" war, I'd say "What's new?". Our government has moved soooooo far away from it's origins that Congress, the President and the Courts have ALL overstepped their bounds 1000 times over.

As a Conservative, how in your right mind could you propagate our government in the direction it's been going? Moving to a Socialist state while loosing freedom after freedom can only lead to BAD things happening. We must stop the insanity now, before it's too late (if it isn't too late already).

Ron Paul, regardless of his individual positions, is like a glimmer of hope in an abysmal landscape. It's the MESSAGE, not the positions, that draw people in.

We NEED a Ron Paul. Not want, NEED!

Sunday, September 09, 2007 6:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 6:54:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Great post, Wordsmith. Those so in support of RP's silly world view, naive really, come to comment anonymously. Those believing the U.S. is a big bad bully are in both parties. Isolationism will not be a national security strategy in the real world. Teddy Roosevelt had it exactly right.

And the standard argument, we're losing all our rights? Which ones specifically? CIA Director Hayden this past week gave a speech stating we must have the Patriot Act renewed, those provisions set to expire in February, and that the safegauards put in place have kept us from another attack. We will never be completely safe but this administration gets it. We can't just wish it all away. We can't just 'come home' and think everything will be just fine. We were not at war on 9/11.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 7:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need Ron Paul, like a chicken needs tits.

I noticed the Paulistinians again tend to stray from truth and complete text. Sheesh!


Sunday, September 09, 2007 7:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, my last comment wasn't very detailed. I had some things to do. I'll try and restate:

I got wind of your post through Gayle. She said this had some good arguments against Paul. However- and don't get me wrong, it was well written and researched- the entire post seems to be based on one logical fallacy. 'We've done it before so it's okay.'

It's easy to see the illogicality in such an argument. For instance, we've had slavery before. So it was okay right?

Neither you nor I would ever think that. So just because it happened before, doesn't give us the right to do it again.

So is it with foreign policy. Ron Paul states, quite clearly, undeclared wars lead to problems. And he's right. We've invaded Iraq, and now, suddenly, the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon. Is it because the Iranians hate our freedoms?

Psh. It's because George Bush blatantly told them he was going to attack, calling them part of the "Axis of Evil." So they did what anyone would do, built up weapons.

Meanwhile, the party of small-government (supposedly) takes our privacy rights, takes more power, to keep us "safe."

But I ask, what is more dangerous, a terrorist, or the government? And I answer, the government is the more dangerous of the two. A terrorist is held accountable, and condemned. The government, when it commits a crime, is protected under the law and praised in the name of safety.

I'll take my chances with the terrorists. I don't want my phone tapped. I don't want to spend a trillion dollars on a war which had little to do with 9/11. All I want is the government off my back, and that's why Ron Paul gets my vote in 2008.

Honestly, I don't know why any real Republican wouldn't vote for Paul. He simply argues what Reagan argued after Lebanon, and what Bush proposed to do if elected. Has eight years dulled the Republican memory that much? Bush was a non-interventionist candidate. Ron Paul is the same. So I'll give him my vote like I would have given Bush mine in 2000. Only thing is, Ron Paul might actually keep his promises.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 7:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Karen, I respect your opinion, but citing the CIA director as proof we aren't losing our rights doesn't make much sense. They're the ones taking them!

Which rights you ask? How about the right to privacy. Warrantless wiretaps are just a little Orwellien don't you think?

Sunday, September 09, 2007 7:22:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Crap....I'm being bombarded and occupied left and right by the Paulistas (Here and at FA).

Thank you.

Robert M. and the two anons (not you skul), you've earned thoughtful responses for your thoughtful comments. I'll try to address them as soon as I can. The occupation of FA and S from the A by the RP supporters has me busy (as well as getting ready for work).

Sunday, September 09, 2007 8:11:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Gayle and karen, thanks for the visit. Glad you are enjoying the string of RP posts. I might be done, after this one. Time to move on from the bit of fun I had, and focus on the 9/11 anniversary coming up, and 9/15.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 8:13:00 AM  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Foreign policy ? Paul has no foreign policy. If he had his way we would be a total isolationist nation whi did not get involved with anything that was not within our own borders.

Sometimes I think this guy only sees THOSE borders a the , "lower 48, " and that US policy should not move outside of that!

Stick a fork in him he's done!

Hey congrats, you picked up my Pauliac annonymous from my Thursday Thompson postings.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

You're welcome, Wordsmith. Since I'm taking a bit of time off from blogging (as I stated on today's post), I'd appreciate an e-mail when you've answered Robert's comment more thoroughly as you said you would. I'm interested in seeing it.

Regarding the Paulistas, you did say you wanted them to visit you! :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


It's like I'm engaged on two fronts. Mostly responding to the Ronulans over at FA.

I'll get around over here, soon.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

The arpees are at it again Word. I didn't get through the first comment before I spotted one of the most grievous misstatements I've seen in quite sometime.

...there would have been no Hitler and Europe would be probably strong enough to resist temptations of USSR... No need to make comment on that it stands alone for it's total lack of perspective.

Although most Republicans and conservatives agree that we should reduce the size of government and spending. Overspending Republicans lost the last congressional elections for that very reason. Having arpees run our foreign policies would be a total disaster.

Robert M says...So just because it happened before, doesn't give us the right to do it again.

It's not the case "it just happened before", you are mistaken. Since the very beginning of the nation the authors of the Constitution and those that participated in it's passage at the Convention self realized they could not be isolationists after just a short period of actually being a country and quickly gave up the idea they could be isolationists. Jefferson tried it while he was President with a two year trade embargo (nothing in or out) and it was a miserable failure. There is no tradition of isolationism in the US foreign policy there never was and there never has been and you arpees are perpetrating a complete fraud.

You may wonder why I am so adamant against frauds like those of Ron Paul. I was around and a member of all those conspiracy groups that believed black helicopters all the conspiracy theories. I found out it's just another money making scheme to keep people in constant state of panic about the government so they'll become members of these conspiracy organizations. It's all crap and Ron Paul is now their Pied Piper.

It got to the point for some they attacked their own country and I knew people at that time that cheered and relished the fact that Timothy Mc Veigh attacked a government installation. I had enough of your conspiracy BS and I had enough of hating my own government and decide to change things from within the party and soon after we won control of congress to keep Bill Clinton at bay and on the defensive. That was the right way of doing things.

Arpees are a mixed bag of right wing America haters, conspiracy theorists, anti semitic, white supremacist nut jobs trying to hijack the name "conservative" because they used up all their good will from the American people when Timothy McVeigh drove that truck into Oklahoma City and left it to kill innocent people. There were no Jews working with the FBI to bring the United Nations into the country with black helicopters. There were arpee type nut jobs applauding afterward though.

Ron Paul belongs on the Libertarian ticket he is neither a conservative or Republican for all the reasons stated above.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

That's all I'm going to say about those nutjobs Word. I've had my fill of those people.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 2:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...there would have been no Hitler and Europe would be probably strong enough to resist temptations of USSR... No need to make comment on that it stands alone for it's total lack of perspective.

I know it is hard to change opinion on some things you are sure of...but think for a while about the conditions in Germany after the hyperinflation and their problems paying the Versailles treaty reparation. There would be probably no hyperinflation and no reparations if USA did not intervene. Either Germany or Austria would have won, or there would have been kind of compromise. In either case the level of liberty in both countries was quite high.

Do you think that total collapse of economy and mass unemployment does not make people vote extremists promising bright future? BTW: Road to Serfdom from Hayek is a very instructive literature.

RP is not ISOLATIONIST. And there is absolutely no provision in constitution for being isolationist. It's you how is twisting RP position now.

RP stated clearly in one interview that he does not believe 9/11 was a conspiracy.

But on the other hand: I do not think RP would try to stop anyone to finance his own army to help people in problems outside of US. If you want to help people e.g. in Iraq - sure, no problem. Do it with your money, not with the money of other people.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 5:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great job you did here on this blog.
I loved the cartoones you posted.

Good luck


Saturday, September 15, 2007 11:56:00 AM  

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