Ron Paul Would Be Worse For Civil Liberties And Peace Than Obama
By all accounts, Barack Obama is a nice guy. He’s a good father, a good husband, a family man. To hear his supporters tell the story, he really is a liberal in his very heart who has just been constrained by the circumstances. Maybe that’s all true. Let’s, again, stipulate it. It still remains the case that he governs like a mass-murdering sociopath. He kills brown people on the other side of planet because he feels like it. He thinks there is nothing particularly problematic about ordering the execution of American citizens without a trial. And, lest we forget, he is responsible for more deportations than any other president. Ever. If salvation requires faith and good works, this is a man who will burn in hell.
I like and respect Ryan a lot. But this is a profoundly wrong statement. Profoundly. As is his belief that a Ron Paul Presidency would be better for peace or civil liberties.
A qualified defense of Obama
First, let me make a qualified defense of Obama’s foreign policy, and that defense is simply this – it is the most constrained of the past 50 years.
- He respected Iraq’s sovereignty by pulling troops out of Iraq according to the terms of the SOFA. That’s a big deal. He had no small amount of political pressure on him to keep troops in Iraq longer. He didn’t.
- He has accelerated action against al-Qaeda and its allies, as part of his duty to execute the laws of the United States. Please do recall that the Congress of the United States (including Representative Ron Paul) authorized action against al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization that, you may recall, has committed several acts of terrorism against the United States. He has been successful in this endeavor, and strives to the best of his ability to enlist allies in this cause. In so doing, he has pretty much broken the back of the organization and taken out Osama bin Laden. He’s done so in a restrained, targeted way. Has it been perfect? Not at all. Do I have criticisms of some of the ways he’s chosen to fight this conflict? I absolutely do. Have their been civilian casualties in this war that could have been avoided? Almost certainly.
But that’s a far cry from killing “brown people on the other side of planet because he feels like it.” And unless Ryan is advocating that we take no further action against al-Qaeda operations at all, there’s no way to avoid this. People who shouldn’t die will die. That’s awful. It should be assiduously avoided. But Obama’s actions have not been sociopathic, and saying otherwise is a lie.
- He successfully managed a NATO action that assisted Libyan revolutionaries into toppling their dictator. Without a single boot on the ground or attempt at post-war occupation. Do I think he should have? No. Do I wish he’d sought the consent of Congress? Yes, absolutely I do. But as someone who reads a lot of history, I admire the restraint in his actions – we did pretty much what was necessary to accomplish the mission and not a whit more.
- There have been other good things, too. Dealing with Somali pirates. Rebuilding relationships with Europe. Strengthening our ties and support for international law and the United Nations. Improving trade agreements, etc.
Is Barack Obama’s foreign policy my preferred foreign policy? No. Is it the best I could expect from Obama’s campaigning, the will of the American people, and the political realities on the ground? Um, yeah – it pretty much is. He could be a lot worse. He really, really could. Ignoring Obama’s restraint is a mistake in judging what he’s done. Ignoring that reality is what it is and not what we want to be in our dreams.
Second, let me say that I, for the most part, agree that the government should not target U.S. citizens for assassinations. But I also recognize that in an age where stateless, quasi-militant groups that wage war on governments exist, lines can get fuzzy. The law has not caught up to the facts on the ground yet, and Obama has to deal with a Congress that wouldn’t even let him close down Gitmo because they were terrified of the prospect that we might remand prisoners to SuperMax federal penitentiaries. That doesn’t do anything to reassure me that any rational law is going to be passed on these complicated issues anytime soon. Obama made a call about people who’ve associated themselves with the enemies of the United States. I vehemently disagree with that call – but again, calling those actions sociopathic is a step too far. It ignores the complicated ethical considerations of the situation, the politics of it, and the security issues. It’s not a black and white issue. It’s muddy and messy and gray.
Third, on deportations. I think that it’s completely unfair to complain that the executive is doing his job. I don’t like our immigration laws. I fully support a path to legality and citizenship for illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. But that’s not the law. Obama’s job is to enforce the law. The law says that people who violate certain immigration laws get deported. So lets give credit where credit is due: yes, Obama has increased deportations, but just a few months ago, he instituted new rules to focus on deporting criminals and dismissing deportation cases against “those illegal immigrants who pose little threat to public safety.” That’s a pretty damn good thing for him to do to preserve the law while still acting humanely.
How Ron Paul Will Devastate Peace and Civil Liberties
Now, against this – let’s take Ron Paul at his word when it comes to his foreign policy and other policies, along with the reality and politics on the ground. When we do that, I would contend that Ron Paul would make things worse, not better, for these issues.
Let’s start with immigration – Paul is well to the right on immigration, and very much in line with a large contingent of Republican political leaders. I’m operating on the assumption that President Paul is elected in a way where Republicans keep the House and take the Senate back. So I’m assuming that he’ll get the immigration policies he wants. That means more border security, no “amnesty”, and an end to birthright citizenship. (The latter requires a Constitutional amendment, which he probably won’t get. But a law to that effect might get tied up in the courts for awhile.)
More border security means more guards at the border. More fences. More drones. Ron Paul has also repeatedly stated that he wants to “bring the troops home” to patrol the Mexican border. So now border patrol will be militarized under a Paul Administration. Which means that there will almost certainly be, under a Paul presidency, the killing of “brown people on
the other this side of planet.”
No “amnesty” will mean more deportations. A lot more. There are lots of Republicans who want more enforcement of immigration laws and mass deportations. And while Paul has said that he believes that deporting all of them is impossible, given the political pressures, I can’t imagine him vetoing a law that stepped up enforcement and deportation efforts. He also opposes regulations to punish businesses for hiring illegal immigrants – which would make it more likely for illegal immigrants to be exploited by businesses.
Sure, while in the abstract and on paper, this doesn’t necessarily mean more civil liberties abuses, that’s not how it will work in practice. In practice, this anti-immigration stance will empower the Joe Arpaios of the world. And sure, on paper Ron Paul opposes the Arizona “papers please!” law. But in practice his pro-federalism policies, and his belief that the 14th Amendment incorporation doctrine is wrong, means that there won’t be any Federal challenges to those laws.
(And all of that doesn’t even touch his primary immigration policy – getting rid of the welfare state in its entirety.)
Okay, so that’s the disaster of his immigration policy. What about his foreign policy? Let’s not forget that Ron Paul doesn’t just want to bring the troops home. He wants to pull the United States out of all international organizations and as many treaties as possible. He wants the U.S. out of the United Nations. Out of NATO. Out of the WTO. Out of the ICJ. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he opposes the Vienna Convention.
In other words, he wants the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world to reverse its 200+ year tradition of strengthening international law as a means to settle disputes between nations without resorting to war. I’ll be the first to admit that the system of international law is weak and imperfect. But it’s a damn sight better than the alternative. The Founding Fathers didn’t put, in the Constitution, the provision that treaties trump Congressional statutes for nothing. They’re important for the wheels of diplomacy to keep turning. Pulling the United States out of so many international organizations will no doubt cause quite a few to collapse. What’s going to replace it? My guess would be a whole bunch of tightly bound alliances that will inevitably conflict with one another, increasing the potential for huge conflicts to erupt. Conflicts that will, if history is any guide, inevitably pull the United States in eventually. (see World War, First)
A non-interventionist foreign policy for the United States that does not rest on the bedrock of international cooperation and a policy of strengthening international law will fail. Utterly. It will turn nations against each other, and against us.
In short, the policies that Paul wants to fight for are going to end terribly for the United States.
And I haven’t even started on the Constitutional crises that will erupt from Paul’s promises to abrogate the role of the executive in faithfully executing the law when it comes to a number of issues. Actually, virtually all of his issues.
Not to mention the fact that virtually every move that Ron Paul tries to make will likely end in political disaster. This is due to the fact that he’s a lousy politician and a lousy manager. The Ron Paul Newsletters are a testament to this, as is the fact that in over two decades in Congress, he has introduced over 600 bills.
In all that time, four have gone to a vote. Only one has passed.
With that track record, it’s not tough to figure out that a Paul Administration would be a debacle on a number of levels.