Ron Paul's Wise Foreign Policy


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.

Typically, 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, literally, 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 flee.

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 carriers.

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 capture.

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 captured.

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 same.

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 Mecca!) 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.

August 7, 2007