Ron Paul’s “Constitutional” Foreign Policy
- 11 March 2012 by Author 0 Comments
Ron Paul’s “Constitutional” Foreign Policy
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 03/11/12
The Constitution is the foundational codex for our legal and governmental system. Built into its relatively succinct 4,500 words is an elaborate system of checks and balances designed to prevent any one of the three branches of government from gaining supremacy over the others. The powers of the government are enumerated for each branch, and what powers are not enumerated, “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
The Constitution has clearly become increasingly inconsequential to the ruling class in Washington over the past several decades as the limitations to the federal government by that document are progressively disregarded for political expediency. The Constitution should be respected as an inviolable founding document. This, in essence, is the message of Ron Paul, with which I totally concur.
However, there’s an aspect of Paul’s interpretation that begs further examination as it relates to foreign affairs. Paul would have us believe that isolationism, a policy of retraction and seclusion of one’s country from others, is a constitutional requisite. Most of his speeches about our national defense and security sound like they could’ve been written by the issues committee at Code Pink. Even his official website addressing foreign policy utilizes nearly the entire allotted space explaining “blowback,” the notion that we created the justification for Islamic extremist’s Jihad against us by “having boots” in Saudi Arabia, where the holy sites of Mecca and Medina are located.
While our presence on the peninsula may have provided an excuse for the fundamentalist jihad against western culture and democracy, it certainly wasn’t the cause for it. For that we must look at least as far back as the 1940s and the influence of the prolific Islamic author Sayyid Qutb, who later became the figurative head of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb was writing scathing and vitriolic letters about American decadence written from his university dorm room in Greely, CO, later published in Egypt.
We could go back even further to find the roots of Islamic extremism in the 18th century and the influential teachings of the fundamentalist reformer and theologian Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, for whom Wahhabism is named. Although denied by Islamic apologists, Wahhabism, or Salafism, seems to be the common thread running through most of the anti-American, anti-western civilization extremist groups like Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Aside from the “blowback” issue, Paul’s “constitutional” basis for foreign policy correctly cites Congress’ role in declaring war. He maintains that although the president serves as the Commander in Chief of the military, that the exercise of that role should be ultimately controlled and directed by Congress. And that’s fundamentally true, but it doesn’t equate to isolationism.
Article II Section 2 of the Constitution clearly specifies that the president and the executive branch take the lead on foreign relations negotiating treaties and appointing ambassadors with Senate ratification. Article I Section 8 enumerates the authority of Congress, including Section 8.11, the power to declare war.
This seems to be the tenet most focused on by Paul, that only Congress can declare war. Congress has only passed a “Declaration of War” five times in our history. But they have authorized war by resolution or by funding at least 19 times. The Supreme Court logically ruled in 2003 that congressional action supporting bellicose activity is the equivalent of declaring war.
Ron Paul supporters point to the Founding Fathers who spoke in their personal writings against “entangling alliances.” Clearly they were opposed to war. After all, who isn’t? Ideally, there would never be cause for conflict. But reality seldom converges with the ideal, so they built into our founding document the ability to declare war, without proscribing under what conditions it may be done.
The Founding Fathers’ actions speak perhaps even louder than their words. Exercising diplomacy, Thomas Jefferson negotiated his way out of hostilities with Morocco over piracy of American commercial ships. Unable to do the same with Algeria, Jefferson sought, and obtained, Senate approval for the First Barbary War against those 18th century terrorists. No “War Declaration” was passed, yet congress gave him funding and authorized the use of force for the protection of American interests. John Adams and George Washington concurred with the action.
Although some claim Paul’s isolationism is the policy of the Founders and the Constitution, there is ample evidence to the contrary. Facing the reality of exogenous threats, the Founders opted for reality in dealing with those threats rather than adhering to the ideal. One can claim a preference for isolationism, a foreign policy perhaps best characterized by an ostrich, but such a preference is not based on even a literal interpretation of the Constitution.
So while it may sound good to say, “Ron Paul’s foreign policy is the founding father’s policy,” in reality, it clearly is not.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.