More than any other candidate, Ron Paul, an Air Force veteran, stands alone for his outspoken, Libertarian-guided foreign-policy beliefs that the United States has gone too far, acts like an empire about to go bankrupt, and is making more enemies in the world than friends.
Paul doesn’t duck answering hard questions about America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, making his disdain for them and most foreign entanglements the centerpiece of his platform. He insists that despite his consistent arguments for Washington to scale back national-security efforts--and the budget--he is not an isolationist. Rather, he considers himself a realist with an eye on the budget and the Constitution.
GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW. The Afghanistan war, he said in a debate, “hasn't helped us and hasn't helped anybody in the Middle East.” When Obama announced the first withdrawal phase of 10,000 U.S. troops this year, Paul called for an immediate end to the war, saying, “Turn that country back to the Afghans and let them deal with it [because] there is nothing for us to be gained.”
Paul has questioned the entire justification for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, noting that few of the 9/11 hijackers had real connections to Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden. More accurately, he says, the hijackers were an international band of terrorists from other countries who trained in Europe.
"WE HAVE DELIVERED IRAQ TO THE IRANIANS." When President Obama said he would end the war this year, Paul said, “I have long said that we should simply declare victory and come home. It should not have taken us nearly a decade to do so.” Although he opposed the war, like many U.S. military activities abroad, Paul criticized the outcome as either botched or inevitably anti-American. Now, nearly 17,000 private contractors will take the place of U.S. soldiers but with less accountability, he argues. “My greatest fear, however, is that this troop withdrawal from Iraq will simply pave the way for more endless, wasteful, needless wars,” he writes on his website.
LEAVE IRAN ALONE. Paul has been decidedly anti-hawk against Iran, blaming the U.S. for “starting” the standoff in a 1953 coup and suffering blowback since the 1979 revolution. “It’s been going on and on because we just plain don’t mind our own business,” he said in an August debate in Iowa. Paul says that the rhetoric against Iran is baseless “war propaganda” like the rationale heard to justify the Iraq invasion. He doubts just how much of a threat that country, even with nuclear arms, really poses to the region, where nuclear weapons already exist. Paul said in an August debate in Iowa that the international effort to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons makes tensions worse, placing himself firmly at odds with the Obama and Bush administrations. He argues it is natural that Iran, surrounded by nuclear-armed states, would want its own arsenal. And if the U.S. “tolerated” the Soviet Union and thousands of nuclear weapons but never went to war, he suggested, the U.S. should do the same with Iran. Paul told Fox News’ Chris Wallace last Sunday that he would end sanctions because he deems them an act of war. Characterizations of Iran as a threat, he said, were “blown out of proportion.”
WALK AWAY FROM THE ARAB SPRING. Here, Paul’s Libertarian perspectives produce one of his harshest foreign-policy positions: leave the Arab Spring alone. “I don’t think we have any authority to get involved,” he argued bluntly, on CNN in June. “We don’t have constitutional authority. We don’t have congressional authority. We don’t have the money to do it. We don’t know all the details. We shouldn’t be picking sides in civil wars.” Paul applauded the downfall of Muammar el-Qaddafi, as he did Saddam Hussein, but frequently criticizes how and why those missions were accomplished. He called the administration’s unilateral use of force, and later arguments to Congress against needing an act of war, “a remarkable act of chutzpah.” The U.S. has botched the outcomes of dictator-toppling in the Middle East, he maintains, predicting that Muslim extremist elements have a better chance of taking power than democratic reformers. Paul refused to answer a question asking whether he would support ousting Syria’s Bashar Assad because it was his “personal” opinion.
GET UNBIASED ON ISRAEL. On Israel, Paul is sharply removed from the rest of the candidate pool, which often advocates its undying, hawkish support. Paul, ever the Libertarian, says that the U.S. should become as neutral as possible in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, end aid for both sides, and avoid getting into “a fight that we do not have the wisdom to figure out.” Being pro-Israel, he argues, equates to being “hostile” toward Arabs. “Only a political class harboring the illusion it can run the world obsesses over the aspirations of a tiny population on a tiny piece of land thousands of miles away,” he writes.
NO GUNS OR BUTTER. In an interview this week, Paul said, “I don't want to send any money or weapons to anybody.” He was referring to Arab countries and Israel, but the principle applies writ large. Paul has said that the U.S. shouldn’t “steal” taxpayer money and give it to dictatorships, including Turkey, which is a NATO member with a robust democracy. In the days after the Osama bin Laden raid, Paul blasted Pakistan as “traitors” for dealing with China and stringing the U.S. along.
DRONES HURT; SEND TERRORISTS TO COURT; CLOSE GITMO. Paul harshly condemned the U.S. drone strikes that killed two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, as “assassination” by “a secret government committee not subject to congressional oversight or judicial review.” He called it “an outrage and a criminal act carried out by the president and his administration.” He has also blasted CIA secret prisons as “authoritarian” and advocates trying all terrorists in court, asking “why are we afraid?” Decidedly separated from the Republican base in these views, Paul takes a Golden Rule approach and warns that even Americans could someday face harsh treatment or lose habeas corpus rights. In short, drone strikes do more harm than good, he says. “For every one you kill, you create 10 new ones who hate our guts and want to do us harm.” In previous GOP debates, Paul was booed for such comments.
HOW TO DEFEAT MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS? LEGALIZE IT. In 2010, Ron Paul equated the Mexican drug-cartel wars to Americans’ Prohibition-era mobster violence under Al Capone. “The best way to fight violent drug cartels,” he writes on his website, “would be to pull the rug out from under their profits by bringing these transactions into the sunlight.” Paul, however, warns the Obama administration will use intervention in Mexico as another way to “expand government.”
OPEN TRADE WITH CHINA. Paul opposes trade agreements, sanctions, and blockades, advocating for trade with Cuba and China. “I don’t like trade agreements,” he says. “I just like low tariffs.”
Rodney Hawkins contributed