Here’s Ron Paul earlier today on CNN. He makes some very good points (e.g. it’s congress, not the president, who declares war or does not declare war), but his answers to the questions about interventionism reminded me of my doubts about his foreign policy. I still think his foreign policy is better than anyone else’s in the race, but I’m not sure about his stance that the U.S. should only declare war if our national security is directly threatened.
This is an issue I’ve gone back and forth on. Here’s what I’ve wrestled with:
- The only legitimate use of force is for defense. Ever. In the middle of a war, sometimes you need to go on the offensive and attack an enemy in a battle; but the war itself is only just if it’s for defense.
- This means that any “pre-emptive strike,” no matter how intimidating a nation’s forces are, even if they have nuclear weapons, is wrong. Doesn’t this principle make the world a more dangerous place for us? In some ways, yes: if we never strike first, there’s always a chance we’ll be taken off guard. But consider the alternative: if pre-emptive strikes are internationally recognized as allowable, then any nation can attack any other on the grounds that they feel threatened. Iran could attack the U.S. because we have nuclear weapons and people in our government have called for an attack on Iran. Besides that, it’s simply morally wrong to attack someone who has not attacked you. Period.
- But what if one nation other than the U.S. attacks another nation other than the U.S.? This is where it gets tricky. There are a few points to consider:
a. Perhaps the primary argument against defending another country from attack is that it is not what our soldiers signed up to do. And it is completely legitimate for a soldier to sign up for the U.S. military from a love for defending his country and not want to get involved in other areas.
b. On the other hand, there are certain times when it is clear that one country invading another is completely in the wrong, and it seems that in these situations there should be some kind of military response from the international community.
c. Still, these situations are hardly ever completely clear. More often than not, war is over a “disputed” territory; and even if we favor one side over the other, I’m leery of the idea that U.S. soldiers should be asked to fight in any conflict that they might disagree with, particularly if it has little to do with defending the U.S.
- So what’s the solution? Does the U.S. have an obligation to step in and defend weak nations against attack from stronger nations? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t want to write it off simply because it doesn’t serve our interest. I suppose it’s ludicrous to think you could have “optional” wars, where soldiers don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, but that would at least make it so soldiers who signed up to defend the U.S. wouldn’t have to fight for something they weren’t willing to die for. The only other solution I can think of would be an international “police force” sort of army that people sign up for – but the dangers of this are fairly obvious, aside from the fact that it would be hard to recruit people who would rather police the world than defend their own country, and the fact that it would be impossible to pay for without asking for tax money from many countries.
- So, in conclusion, I guess I don’t necessarily disagree with Paul – I really haven’t made up my own mind on the issue yet. There is just something that strikes me as wrong about having the most powerful military in the world stand by as one country flagrantly violates the sovereignty of another. I can’t think of an easy solution, but I think there must be a better one than to ignore anything other than a direct attack on the U.S.