I disagree with Ron Paul on almost everything. Almost.
His views on government [he basically says it should have virtually no role in our lives], the “free” market, the environment, the economy, states’ rights, a woman’s right to control her own body, healthcare in general [and Medicare in specific], and most social issues, would make him a very bad choice for President of the United States [which I’m not sure he actually believes in, either.] I could never vote for the man, and I have apocalyptic visions of what American could become if he were in the White House. But when he starts talking about war—specifically, America’s most recent wars—I find myself secretly cheering. And, apparently, I’m not the only person who calls herself progressive who reacts this way.
To demonstrate what I’m talking about, I’ve assembled a collection of Paul’s pronouncements on America’s wars. He’s wrong for the White House, but on this one issue, he seems to have it right, and he’s been pushing back against America’s wrong-headed wars for many years. Unfortunately, politicians who speak out in this way—like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich—are generally portrayed as unpatriotic and as kooks and wackos. I wish others on all points along the political spectrum had the courage to say these things:
This whole idea that was encapsulated with the last administration that “we endorse preventive war, pre-emptive war; we go to war to prevent somebody from attacking us,” that is endless war—and for casual reasons, without declaration. I think that is so dangerous. We should have a defense; we should defend our country. But when you talk about bases because we might need an offensive war, I consider that absolutely un-American. [Fox News, June 22, 2011]
You’ve heard the war propaganda that is liable to lead us into a sixth war. And I worry about that position. Iran is a threat because they have some militants there. But believe me, they’re all around the world and they’re not a whole lot different than others. Iran does not have an air force that can come here. They can’t even make enough gasoline for themselves. And here we are building this case up, just like we did in Iraq–build up the war propaganda. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq. And [Bush claimed Iraq] had nuclear weapons and we had to go in. I’m sure you supported that war, as well. It’s time we quit this. It’s trillions of dollars we’re spending on these wars. [Iowa Straw Poll Republican Debate, August 11, 2011]
… I wouldn’t wait for my generals. I’m the commander in chief. I make the decisions. I tell the generals what to do. I’d bring them home as quickly as possible. And I would get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn’t start a war in Libya. I’d quit bombing Yemen. And I’d quit bombing Pakistan. Our national security is not enhanced by our presence over there. We have no purpose there. We should learn the lessons of history. The longer we’re there, the worse things are and the more danger we’re in, because our presence there is not making friends. [Republican debate, June 13, 2011]
The war in Iraq was one of the most ill considered, poorly planned and just plain unnecessary military conflicts in American history, and I opposed it from the beginning. [The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul, April 1, 2008]
It should be harder to promote war, especially when there are so many regrets in the end. In the last 60 years, the American people have had little to say over decisions to wage war. We have allowed a succession of presidents and the U.N. to decide when and if we go to war, without an express congressional declaration as the Constitution mandates. Since 1945, our country has been involved in over 70 active or covert foreign engagements. On numerous occasions we have provided weapons and funds to both sides in a conflict. It is not unusual for our so-called allies to turn on us and use these weapons against American troops. In recent decades we have been both allies and enemies of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and the Islamists in Iran. And where has it gotten us? The endless costs resulting from our foolish policies, in human lives, injuries, tax dollars, inflation, and deficits, will burden generations to come. For civilization to advance, we must reduce the number of wars fought. [A Foreign Policy of Freedom, Ron Paul, 2007]
Was the Iraq war a good idea and worth the price? It was a very bad idea, and it wasn’t worth it. The al Qaeda wasn’t there then; they’re there now. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Had nothing to do with 9/11. There was no aggression. This decision on policy was made in 1998 because they called for the removal of Saddam Hussein. It wasn’t worth it, and it’s a sad story because we started that war and we should never be a country that starts war needlessly. [Republican debate, Boca Raton, FL, 2008]
For civilization to advance, we must reduce the number of wars fought. Two conditions must be met if we hope to achieve this. First, all military (and covert paramilitary) personnel worldwide must refuse to initiate offensive wars beyond their borders This must become a matter of personal honor for every individual. Second, the true nature of war must be laid bare, and the glorification must end. Instead of promoting war heroes with parades and medals for wars not fought in the true defense of our country, we should more honestly contemplate the real results of war: death, destruction, horrible wounds, civilian casualties, economic costs, and the loss of liberty at home. The neoconservative belief that war is inherently patriotic, beneficial, manly, and necessary for human progress must be debunked. These war promoters never send themselves or their own children off to fight. Their hero, Machiavelli, must be buried once and for all. [A Foreign Policy of Freedom, Ron Paul, 2007]
If, by some chance, Ron Paul wins the Republican presidential nomination, it won’t be because of his views on war. But whoever wins the 2012 presidential election would be very wise to appoint Ron Paul to the cabinet as Secretary of Peace.