by Jim Davies, 11/1/2011
I've been looking forward to examining Ron Paul's campaign web page on National Defense, for I'd heard he was hot to promise to close all 135 foreign bases and decisively to terminate the current mid-East wars, and both of those reforms would greatly enhance the time we must wait while a the process of ending the curse of government continues. As with his other pages we have reviewed in recent days, it has a great deal of merit. Even so, I'd hoped for more.
It begins by saying that "defense is the single most important responsibility the Constitution entrusts to the federal government" and yes, it was so entrusted and it is certainly very important. Ron Paul seems to endorse that delegation, however, instead of remarking how absurd it is. A free society will face even fewer unprovoked threats to its existence than America does today, but if any need for large scale force it perceived, it will be furnished by the market under contract. Merely handing responsibility to the FedGov without meaningful limits on either waging war or collecting the funds needed to wage it is just plain silly and blatantly socialistic.
However, unlike all his rivals, Ron Paul does observe that such threats as may exist today result from a foreign policy run amok. "Far from defeating the enemy, our current [foreign] policies provide incentive for more to take up arms against us" he writes, and although that infuriates the warmongers in D.C., he's precisely right. If successive US governments had not persisted over six decades in favoring the State of Israel over Palestine, for example, no fanatical Muslim murderers would have had any motive to execute the attacks of 9/11. I wish Paul's "Defense" page had spelled out that example. It would have helped undergird his argument that today's military establishment is offending, not defending.
The campaign page does not explicitly promise to close all those foreign bases, although as Commander in Chief President Paul could certainly do so. Several phrases suggest he might (eg, "Acting as the worlds policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harms way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis") but to have made it crisp and clear would have been more honest and incidentally would have won him the huge support of those on the political Left who are undertandably disenchanted with Obama's broken promises.
His ten promises include several of merit. For example he would "Avoid long and expensive land wars" and apply "intelligence" towards "legitimate threats" instead of "innocent Americans" via the "Patriot Act." All good stuff, though short on specifics. "Abolish the [TSA]" - amen to that! "End the nation-building that is draining troop morale..." Indeed; but that's the closest he comes to promising to bring home - on the next ship! - all troops now in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fairness, they may all be home anyway before he takes office, but he could have made clear that if they aren't, he will complete the job molto pronto.
So far, then, the Pauline defense doctrine is just good enough to qualify as a valuable contribution to helping prepare for a free society. Unlike all rivals, he sees that foreign policy is the source of all such foreign hostility as exists, but doesn't draw the obvious and explicit conclusion that therefore a FAR smaller and less costly military would amply suffice for America's actual defense needs.
This degree of merit is reduced, unfortunately, by Paul's confusion of national defense with "securing borders." That might (or might not!) be true if America were like Rhinegold, surrounded by large and powerful enemies, but it's not. Mexico's military is a bad joke, and neither Mexico nor Canada have made any threats to invade the US of which I'm aware. Rather, the "security" referenced here has to do with the flow of immigrants, and while I'll deal with that subject when we come to his separate web page on the subject in a few days' time, here let me observe that (a) immigrants come in order to offer their labor, not as a military invading force and (b) the United States has 7,458 miles of border plus 12,479 miles of coast, so if some hostile foreign interest were to sneak in to perform violent mischief, there is nothing at all that government can do about it, consistent with its mission to be "frugal" as well as wise. The only effective defense option is a policy of not giving foreigners reason to do us harm.
I've published a number of essays about Defense and the Warfare State, and wish Ron Paul had given them more attention before formulating this platform plank. He has a good deal of it right - again, far more than his rivals - but falls somewhat short of doing a properly adequate job..