Ron Paul’s Common Sense

He’s wrong on many things, but when it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties, the GOP Congressman sounds the right notes.

Leonard C. Goodman

Dressed in orange prisoner uniforms, students and other activists demonstrate against the Guantanamo Bay detention center on August 17, 2011, in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It is worth listening to the GOP primary debates to hear Ron Paul give an honest assessment of our foreign policy. At the February 22 debate in Mesa, Ariz., Paul made an eloquent case against our endless wars.

Paul understands that our current foreign policy, developed by neocons who have never been near a battlefield, could not survive an honest debate.

First, he made the moral case: I believe in the Christian just war theory,” Paul said. Preventative wars are aggressive wars.” Then he made the economic case:”We’ve spent $4 trillion of debt in the last 10 years to get bogged down in the Middle East,” reminding the conservative audience that the Soviet empire was bankrupted by its military adventures. Lastly, Paul made the constitutional argument, begging the other candidates who are beating the drums for another war with Iran to do it the constitutional way: Ask the people and ask the Congress for a declaration of war.”

Paul understands that our current foreign policy, developed by neocons who have never been near a battlefield, could not survive an honest debate. Paul observes, There’s no authority in our Constitution that we can just willy-nilly drop bombs on anybody that we want.” And he recognizes that our bombing is doing the opposite of what we say we want to do. For every one you kill, you probably create 10 new people who hate our guts and would like to do us harm.”

In The Nation, Jeremy Scahill reports that our counterterrorism” policies, supported by every candidate except Paul, are backfiring in Yemen. Our strategy there is familiar: Kill Islamic extremists with drone and air strikes, arm and train local counterterrorism” units, and prop up an unpopular ruler who claims to be an ally in our fight against radical Islam.

The results in Yemen are also familiar – and predictable. The counter-terror squads we trained are killing the regime’s political enemies. Our drone and missile strikes are killing scores of civilians, terrorizing women and children, and littering the streets with unexploded cluster bombs. The mounting rage against U.S. policies and our support for the regime is driving more Yemeni citizens into the arms of the extremists.

On the domestic front, it is true that Paul’s strict reading of the 10th Amendment, which limits the federal government to the powers delegated to [it] by the Constitution,” threatens the few federal programs that actually help ordinary people. Paul believes that the great federal anti-poverty programs of the New Deal and Great Society eras are unconstitutional. That is not my view. I believe the opposite – that we should go further and have a national healthcare system like most of the modern world. But Paul has been very clear that he does not seek to end these successful programs as long as there are people depending on them. I would cut all this militarism and not cut people off from Medicare,” he says.

I disagree with Paul’s reading of the Constitution, but I think he is correct that unless we downsize our federal government, we are headed for a complete economic collapse. Our national government is $16 trillion in debt and currently borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar it spends. We are nearing a tipping point where our debt will be unsustainable and creditors will start making real demands, like in Greece. And as Paul points out, if we cut this overseas spending” we might be able to save anti-poverty programs.

Beginning with George W. Bush and continuing with President Barack Obama, the plan for dealing with the coming financial crisis has been to borrow and print more money to give to the banks, hoping to keep them happy until the next election. Because of the Federal Reserve audit pushed primarily by Paul, we now know that between December 2007 and July 2010 the Fed secretly issued $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans to the banks, a bailout twenty-times bigger than TARP.

I refuse to continue supporting corporate Democrats who pay lip service to anti-poverty programs and then undermine them by protecting the profits of thieving bankers and war profiteers. The Democratic Party now lacks the visionary, principled leaders who passed Social Security and Medicare. Even if I don’t always like where he is, I know exactly where Paul stands – an increasingly rare quality in both major political parties.

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Leonard Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer and Adjunct Professor of Law at DePaul University.
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