Ron Paul and the MSNBC Debate


During the recent MSNBC Republican presidential debate, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul made three profound points on U.S. foreign policy that the American people would be wise to heed. Needless to say, Paul’s three points, being libertarian in nature, aren’t likely to be favorably received within the Washington, D.C., establishment, especially among lobbyists for the military-industrial complex. Perhaps that is why, despite Paul’s first-place finish in post-debate polls conducted by MSNBC,, and C-SPAN — or maybe because of those results — the Washington Post used its lead editorial on Tuesday to specifically question Paul’s participation in the rest of the Republican presidential debates.

The first point was that the Iraq War violated the traditional American policy of foreign nonintervention that characterized our nation through most of the first 125 years of its existence. What Paul was referring to was summed up in the speech that John Quincy Adams delivered to Congress on the 50th anniversary of the Fourth of July: that America does not “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” and that, if America were ever to embrace such a policy, the “fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force” and she would become “the dictatress of the world.”

What better example of the validity of Adams’s admonition than President Bush’s war on Iraq? On his own initiative and without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, President Bush sent the nation into war against Iraq in an attempt to destroy the monster known as Saddam Hussein. In the process, the United States has become a brutal occupying power that has brought not liberty but rather death, destruction, torture, mayhem, and civil war to the Iraqi people. Moreover, with its long-time foreign policy of embargoes, sanctions, regime-change operations, kidnappings, rendition, torture, detentions, invasions, occupations, and overseas prisons, in the eyes of many people around the world, the United States has indeed become “the dictatress of the world.”

The second point that Paul mentioned was with respect to the declaration-of-war requirement in the Constitution. Recognizing the historical propensity of rulers, especially ones with standing armies at their disposal, to start wars on their own initiative, the Framers separated the power to wage war from the power to declare war. The idea was that if the president failed to secure a declaration of war from Congress, he would be precluded from waging the war, no matter how vital he thought it was.

Unfortunately, that constitutional requirement has long been ignored despite the fact that the Constitution has never been amended to eliminate it. It goes without saying that if President Bush had gone to Congress to seek a declaration of war against Iraq, it is entirely possible that Congress would have pierced through his WMD rationale for the war and denied him a declaration of war, thereby enabling the nation to avoid the quagmire in which it now finds itself.

The third point that Paul made was with respect to government spending. Asked whether he supported a repeal of the income tax, he did not hesitate to respond in the affirmative, but he did not leave it there. He pointed out that it is impossible to reduce or eliminate income taxes without reducing or eliminating the programs that the tax revenues are funding, e.g., the U.S. government’s pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy, of which the invasion and occupation of Iraq have been just one part. Many years ago, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman made the same point when he stated that the true cost of government was not the tax burden but rather the level of government spending.

A related point that Paul emphasized during the debate was the insidious tax known as inflation, a process by which public officials simply print the money to fund their programs, and which ultimately is reflected in rising prices. The beauty of inflation, from the standpoint of public officials, is that most people don’t realize that federal spending is the culprit behind rising prices. Thus, when the price of commodities such as oil and gas begin to rise, people just assume that it is because of greedy people in the private sector rather than because of federal spending on the rebuilding of Iraq and other federal programs.