Ron Paul's Wise Foreign Policy

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Much has
been written about Ron Paul’s Congressional record. Unlike many
of his colleagues in Congress, he has been particularly serious
about the oath he has taken each time he’s beaten challengers —
sent by both the Republican and Democrat parties — in both districts
he’s represented. He has been consistent in voting for and introducing
measures which uphold the principles of the constitution he’s sworn
— 10 times now — to uphold.

While Dr. Paul
has sometimes mentioned it, I don’t think his introduction of two
bills in particular can be stressed enough. The bills, had they
been adopted and passed, might have allowed the U.S. to avoid the
disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq and more than likely would have
by now resulted in the capture of Osama bin Laden; perhaps achieving
some measure of justice for those affected by the attacks of September
11, 2001, sparing nearly 50,000 wounded and 3,100 dead U.S. soldiers.

I am referring
to the Air
Piracy and Reprisal Act of 2001
and the September
11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001

Some background
on the use of Letters of Marque and Reprisal:

From the early
17th to nearly the end of the 19th century, piracy was a lucrative
and popular business (crime pays). A nation’s shipping over the
high seas was its health if it had any natural resources to exploit.
Navies were formed not necessarily to defend borders or implement
first strikes, as 20th century navies have been used, but to protect
oceanic trade routes. In those days even naval vessels were not
immune to acts of piracy. During war, it was common for nations
to grant letters of Marque and Reprisal to privateers. These were
private citizens given license to steal from foreign vessels flying
the flag of enemy nations, merchant vessels from their enemy’s shores
and/or pirate vessels. Privateers were essentially state-sanctioned
pirates though their employ was for the purpose of exacting revenge
against nations which had violated the laws of nations or the laws
of war. Most nations recognized letters of Marque and would therefore
give safe passage to ships whose Captains could produce valid letters
(and were not at war with them). What ships and goods these privateers
recovered were to be brought back to maritime courts. The property
was held in escrow, allowing owners time and opportunity to reclaim
captured property and the State to tax the privateer some portion
of the unclaimed goods he kept. This made privateering almost as
lucrative as piracy. Robert Morris, the first millionaire in the
American colonies, and George Washington both owned privateer ships.

privateers were used in conjunction with war operations. However,
they were quite useful in tracking down rogues who could not be
tied to any particular nation-state’s official conduct. Our founders
thought Letters of Marque useful enough to include Congressional
authority To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal,
and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water in Article
1 Section 8 of the constitution.

As with many
bills that Dr. Paul introduces which seek counsel from the constitution,
the two bills in question were ignored by the rest of the Congress
as well as the Executive. The Marque and Reprisal act would have,
if passed out of Congress, given the President the authority to
issue letters of Marque and use funds from the forty billion dollar
discretionary fund authorized by Congress on September 14, 2001,
as bounty. Critics claimed that letters of Marque were anachronistic
and that the April 16, 1856 Declaration
of Paris
ended the practice. However, the U.S. never signed
the declaration and is not therefore bound by it. As to the “anachronistic”
nature letters of Marque represent, this is easily dispatched.

Let’s roll
back in time to see what happens when very few in Washington want
to take the Constitution seriously. On October 7, 2001, the first
bombing sorties were executed against Afghan targets. It wasn’t
until 2002 that the first American and British troops arrived, a
full 3 months after 9/11. During those months, the U.S. mainstream
media broadcast government’s theories about who was responsible
— OBL did it (in spite of his denial)
— and therefore we were going to send our boys over there to get
him. We gave Osama bin Laden a 3 month head start by broadcasting,
military intentions. Osama apparently fled to Pakistan, our ally,
with plenty of time to spare.

Now imagine
what might have happened had anyone in Washington, aside from Ron
Paul, been serious about either bringing to justice those who were
allegedly responsible for the attacks or upholding the constitution.

The refusal
to use the military, with or without a declaration from Congress,
would have eliminated any known timetable. No plans, no leaks, no
warning. In the 18th century, news traveled but it didn’t travel
fast by comparison to today’s standards. Even a full-scale war could
have been planned and leaked without an enemy overseas discovering
the plan until just before the troops arrived. A three-month lag
in modern times is a veritable eternity to make preparations or

It should be
noted that the Afghanistan government was ready to extradite bin
Laden if the Bush Administration would have provided them with evidence
showing he was responsible for the attacks. So in reality, neither
war nor privateers were absolutely necessary in order to bring Osama
bin Laden to justice. One might argue that providing such evidence
would expose certain intelligence assets but it would be a bit absurd
to think that the then-current intelligence practices and sources
were worth much; they didn’t prevent the attacks from occurring.
What’s a burned intelligence source to an operation which demonstrated
such total and complete failure?

Assuming that
there was enough intelligence to implicate bin Laden, and protecting
sources was a real concern, letters of Marque could have proven
very useful. Unlike news of a planned military attack, news that
Letters of Marque were being issued would provide no benefit to
the perpetrators. All the guilty parties would know is that they
were wanted and that any number of intelligence and mercenary forces
would be competing for large bounties. There would be no knowledge
broadcast about when these bounty hunters would arrive, their identities
or even how they might operate. It would be highly unlikely that
privateers would announce their presence by wearing uniforms bearing
U.S. insignia, riding in noisy tanks or large, smoke-belching troop

Osama’s choice
of Pakistan as a safe haven was brilliant. Because Pakistan is an
ally, the U.S. government cannot afford to use military force inside
Pakistan without potentially ruining its relationship there and/or
provoking her to forge an alliance with Iraqi insurgents, Iran,
or worse, provoking a nuclear retaliation against U.S. bases in
the region. It was this Administration’s insistence on using a military
response which allowed bin Laden this option — or, more accurately,
allowed his move into Pakistan to be an effective deterrent to his

A private mercenary
group or individual could slip into Pakistan (or any other country)
without causing an international crisis even if discovered by local
authorities. Pervez Musharraf, just like other leaders in that region
has to be careful. He can’t condone foreign military forces acting
inside his borders but he could probably direct his internal police
agencies, intelligence agencies and military to recognize letters
of Marque without raising any eyebrows. Furthermore, it may not
be necessary for terrorist leaders to be captured to render their
threats moot. If the privateer is able to lift various supplies
and items valuable to a terrorist operation, such as arms, computers
and communications equipment, that organization could be rendered
incapable of carrying out significant operations. A letter of Marque
is not, after all, a license to kill. Maybe the privateer doesn’t
even leave the U.S. Maybe he is an extraordinarily good hacker,
able to gather enough information to transfer funds directly from
a terrorist organization’s bank accounts. There are many possibilities
which would render total chaos to terrorist organizations without
resorting to cold-blooded murder or kidnapping (or all-out war).

And that is
the beauty of the privateer in cases like terrorism and piracy.
The tactics are not left to bloviating politicians or career military
generals seeking favor from their CIC. Their employ also doesn’t
require 10 billion dollars a week. The privateer doesn't even see
a dime unless and until he has accomplished something. All risk
is borne by the privateer. Money left over in the original discretionary
fund might have been used to conduct a public trial for the perpetrators

Lastly, and
perhaps most importantly, avoidance of a full-scale military operation
would minimize the risk that innocent civilians would be victims
of "collateral damage." Privateers were historically subject
to civil and criminal actions should they overstep their bounds
or unjustifiably cause damage to life or property. The Acts that
Ron Paul drafted would have required any privateer to put up his
own bond. In the event of mistaken identity, accidents or criminal
acts, innocent victims would have solid recourse and the American
taxpayers would not have to foot the bill or suffer the ill-will
directed at them because their government acted irresponsibly and
with impunity.

Rather than
being the antiquated oddity often asserted, Letters of Marque and
Reprisal would have been a far superior, creative and modern response
to the attacks of 9/11 than was a full-scale military operation.
Tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan have paid the price
with their lives and property and still the alleged perpetrator
of the 9/11 attacks remains at large. Once again the ideas of the
“experts” fail miserably yet we are asked to reward this failure
by voting for “top tier” candidates who merely offer more of the

Those who compete
with Ron Paul for the Presidency show that they are not serious
about bringing justice to the families affected by the attacks,
or, if they even acknowledge that there is the slightest desire
for justice, are either proposing solutions which would create more
terrorists (Bomb
) or in all likelihood would result in war
with Pakistan.

Ron Paul is
the only candidate who truly respects the Constitution, your liberties
and the liberties of innocent people in other nations. Ron Paul
has shown that he has wisdom and sound judgment when it comes to
foreign affairs and has acted in accordance with his principles
and the rule of law. Perhaps this is because he is one of the few
running who have served in the military or perhaps it is because
he considers it important to read and understand the constitution
he swore to uphold. Either way, he’s really the only qualified candidate
for President in the race. The rest should spend more time reading
and less time inventing new ways to commit our soldiers to die overseas
and our children to foot the bill.

7, 2007

Fisk [send him mail] is
a 44-year-old software developer and entrepreneur. He is married,
has 3 children and resides in Austin, TX.

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