Ron Paul is the former U.S. Representative for Texas’s 14th congressional district. Previously, he served on the House Banking Committee.
We’re looking at 2013; we’re living in an era of limited spending. What do you see as the biggest threats towards the U.S. in the coming year and how should we gauge those?
Well, when I think about this issue, I think the most important thing we should pay attention to is the situational difference between military spending and defense spending. There’s a lot of money being spent in the military, and I think about Eisenhower’s warning about the Military Industrial Complex. So you can spend a lot of money and not get more defense. As a matter of fact you can spend a lot of money in militarism and getting involved too much, and actually your defense is made worse. So I would like to see the policies change, spend less money, get less involved. I believe we can help our fiscal problems and at the same time, have a stronger national defense.
And as far as specific threats to the United States – how would you rank them and where those dollars should be allotted?
I think the most serious threat is internal, from our fiscal irresponsibility, and this was actually a goal of Bin Laden. He wanted to see us get bogged down in the Middle East and bankrupt ourselves, and it looks like he’s done a pretty good job, we’re doing it to ourselves, so that’s our greatest threat. Nobody’s going to invade us, nobody’s going to launch missiles at us. I was in the military during the Cold War in the 60s and the Soviets put missiles in Cuba, 30,000 nuclear missiles, and we didn’t have to go to war for that.
And here today we can concoct all these horrendous fears of why we have to do this and that and have troops all around the world, and be in 140 countries and have 900 bases. We’re just looking for trouble and bankrupting ourselves, that’s why I emphasize policies; we need to change our foreign policy.
What about asymmetrical threats? The 9/11 anniversary was yesterday. Is terrorism still a problem for the U.S.?
I think so, it’s happening all the time because our people are still being killed; but once 9/11 occurred Al-Qaeda was so happy; ‘They’re going to put their troops in our land and it’s going to be much easier to kill Americans.’ We’ve lost about 8,500 Americans since 9/11 overseas, considering the contractors. So 44,000 have been injured. So the terrorists are still killing us; but as far as the chances of being killed by a terrorist in our country because of our strong defenses and our preparations, it’s virtually nill.
You’re more likely to be killed by a mistake by an American policeman than by a terrorist. And you’re much more likely to be killed by friendly fire in these battles that we’re fighting over there than by a terrorist in this country. So we have to put that into perspective.
And what about cyber security? Is that something you’re concerned about?
Yes, and that is very complicated because I personally don’t understand all that’s happening. But I also have great faith and confidence in people that know the technology, instead of sacrificing any liberties in regard to the Internet and our websites; we shouldn’t use security as a reason why we have to have more government control. I have confidence that the people who know a lot about computers and the Internet can build in their own security, and they do.
There are a lot of protections that are built into our system, but of course it is something, and of course the friendlier you are with people, the less likely they are to be using cyber attacks on us. We don’t worry and sit around worrying about the Canadians doing any thing to us. So I think we need more friendships with them. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a much better situation that we have with China now than when I was in high school and the Korean War was going on and we were killing each other. I advocate trade and friendship and trying to talk to people; and diminish whether it’s war or cyber security problem we have; I think that’s a much better approach.
Do you think the new defense posture, prioritizing China, the so called pivot to Asia, is that misplaced?
I think once again we over blow things, and there’s a lot of China bashing that I don’t think helps at all. China isn’t made up of angels, nor are we. I mean, we criticize their violations of civil liberties; and here we have embarked on secret prisons, arresting people with the military, and we have embarked on secret prisons and not having trials, and rejecting Habeas Corpus. So we have a lot of problems ourselves. So when it comes to currency fighting, between China, we deliberately weaken our currency constantly. So we can’t just blame China for keeping the currency weaker than it should be, we want to have the right to print reserve currency in the world, keep it weak, so to hopefully enhance exports, which never works; the whole process doesn’t works.
So I believe in sound currencies rather than the manipulations of currencies. So I’d like to see a lot less bashing of anybody and everybody in regards to our problems; deal with our problems, try to set standards, and try to get people to want to emulate us.
So do you think the U.S. has a special role to provide global stability in terms of security?
Sure, by minding our own business, that’s the best way to provide security and peace, is not throwing our weight around. Just think of the chaos we have in the Middle East, because we’ve been on every side of every government, and every overthrow, always trying to control things; people get angry at us. So the instability in the Middle East is greatly contributed to by us and by our being there. So we support dictators like Mubarak, then we support dictators who overthrow him, and now people we supported now attack us, it goes on and on.
At the same time, we give them a lot of money, so at the same time we’re overthrowing their governments, we’re pouring in there, besides we’re broke, and this whole process is coming to an end for financial reasons.
Are there any circumstances under which you think the U.S. should intervene in another country?
Not unless our national security is threatened, if they attack us we should. But no, to get involved just because we’re motivated by some humanitarian instinct that we’re going in there and supposed to settle this civil war and bring about peace, no. That brings about more war and splits off factions. So we’ve been doing too much of it, and that’s why we’re in so much trouble, and I would say very rarely. But, we have a process that we have totally ignored that would sort out when and what to do; that is use the constitution to decide when, and have the Congress voting on it, and that means there would be a lot less…Today we have given power to the president to fight pre-emptive war, to start a war. And he says, well the president now says, “Oh well, I can get permission from NATO, like they did in Libya, or get permission from the United Nations, totally rejecting the people and the voters of this country not having them have any input at all through their members in Congress. This is the reason we fought a revolution, why it is explicit in the Congress that the executive branch, the king, can’t wage war. It’s only through permission of the legislature that we should be going to war.
Do you think that a nuclear armed Iran posses a threat to the U.S.?
No, no way. They don’t have missiles, they don’t have a bunk. We spend more time and energy and money and punishment of Iran on a theoretical bomb that doesn’t exist. And there’s no proof whatsoever according to the UN or the CIA that they’re on the verge of it. The only enrichment they’ve had has been for peaceful purposes, and yet we’re putting on these strong sanctions, we’re on the verge of precipitating outright hostilities to Iran. I mean – they’re a third world nation. They don’t have missiles, they don’t have bombs; and if they did they likelihood of them committing suicide – and yes everyone says the cultures different over there-but the Ayatollahs don’t commit suicide. They’re not the ones that go around blowing themselves up. So that is not a threat.
The greatest threat is us getting involved when we shouldn’t be, as far back as 1953, when we over threw an elected government in Iran and ushered in the age of Islamic control in Iran with the overthrow in 1979. So there tends to be strong evidence of the blowback and of our intervention causing a great deal of harm to us.
Do we have an obligation to protect Israel from the nuclear threat of Iran?
No more than we do anybody else, I mean, they’re our friends, and we have a lot friends and they should be treated equally. But I don’t think we should subsidize them, or encourage them, or say that no matter what they do, if they get involved in a war, we should tell them not to or shouldn’t promise that we’ll bail them out. That’s an over commitment that just expands war. So yes, we should be friends with all nations, but I think this subtle promise is sort of like moral hazard in economics. People are more likely to do something if they know America’s behind us, no matter what we do, they’ll come to our rescue.
That’s sort of what happens in the financial market: No matter what we do and how much risk we have, we’re always going to get bailed out. So there’s a moral hazard in foreign policy that I think exists in various countries where we overly commit, assumptions are made there. We’ll be available anytime they need us.
Is it possible the Eurozone crisis could have a negative impact on the American economy, should we be concerned about that?
Yes, but I think it’s both ways. What happens here affects Europe, what happens here affects China, and what happens in Europe affects us. It is a global economy, and we’re involved more than anyone else because we have been privileged to issue a fiat reserve currency since 1971. We get to print as much money as we want, the world is being more or less pressured into taking our money; we can buy our oil, we can buy our goods and services from China. So it’s very, very much involved.
But if there’s a collapse in the Euro and problems in Europe, as is happening in Greece and about to happen in Spain. Yes it has a lot effect on us, because we stand ready, once again, with this moral hazard independency that will bail out everyone. So if there is a crisis, we will bail out our banks, we’re involved over there and indirectly we might buy their debt and prop that system up, which ultimately is horrendous to the actual American people because as you print money and bail out people, you devalue our dollar. And that’s why the average person suffers because they suffer the cost increases; they’re the ones that lose the job. It is a consequence of us assuming this role that we have to bail out people militarily as well as financially. So what happens in Europe is very important; but it’s often a consequence of bad policies here.
Are there good policies we can make to assist our friends and allies in Europe?
Yeah, mind our own business and follow the Constitution. That doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves. It means that we have a sound economy, a sound currency; we have a foreign policy where we would be respected. And if we practice free trade and talk to people, and I always resented the statement “nothing is off the table” when it comes to foreign policy, except diplomacy. I think if we want to hear the good news, it’s available to us, and we have neglected it. So, if we announce tomorrow exactly what we’re going to do and do these good things, I think the markets would respond, the dollar would respond, the economy would respond. But we would have to allow mistakes to be liquidated. That is, bankruptcy should be allowed to occur and not bailed out. Otherwise, when you bail out you just perpetuate the problems we had.