Examining presidential nominee Ron Paul's foreign and economic policies

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Ron Paul holds much sway with young conservatives and libertarians. However, once put into context, some of his stances become unrealistic. In this two-part series, I will examine his foreign and economic policies.
I will begin with the most lambasted: foreign policy. Paul believes the military is overstretched, and that foreign aid should be discontinued.
I partially agree with him on the former point. In the long term, it makes little sense to constantly embroil oneself in conflicted regions such as the Middle East.
However, American military aid currently props up governments that produce and ship the petroleum upon which our entire economy depends.
Indeed, we only receive a small percentage of our oil from the Middle East, but the resource is a global commodity. Even localized destabilization in key areas such as Saudi Arabia could sharply increase oil futures by as much as 50 percent overnight, resulting in global economic crisis.
The American economy would take many years to rebase itself upon alternative energy sources, even if domestic oil sites and the shale fracking industry were deregulated.
In the meantime, many chemicals and technologies would become prohibitively expensive. Our transportation infrastructure might collapse.
If this country wishes to become energy-independent, it must do so gradually.
The taxing of carbon emissions will force the market to develop new, sustainable energy sources, while allowing time for the labor force and manufacturing sector to readjust.
By steadily acclimatizing to the new environment, a spike in structural unemployment will be avoided.
A second problem with Paul’s foreign policy involves Iraq and Afghanistan. The complete removal of aid from these states would most likely condemn them to civil war.
I’m not being paternalistic, I’m being realistic.
The people within these borders must not be left without aid.
Their lack of American citizenship does not absolve the United States of a moral duty to help establish the foundation for a functioning state.
I am not suggesting that our military drop democracy from bombers.
Nor am I calling for a renewed occupation. I’m glad our troops are coming home.
But invading and vacating a country without even helping to finance necessary security and economic infrastructures is not simply irresponsible, it is inhumane.
Even minimal, smartly distributed aid can provide a medium-term anchor upon which a native government can take control.
For example, America should continue to help train domestic security forces.
The delicate transitions of power in these two countries are in critical phases. If America pulls all foreign aid now, much evidence points towards a dark outcome in both.
The task of government-building is formidable, often tainted by fraud and corruption, but the conflict-ridden alternative is worse.
As for the fiscal cost of the wars, I personally have few moral qualms about slightly reducing domestic government benefits to compensate for the small aid budget (1% of federal spending) which allows civilians to survive in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Again, aid brings with it many problems, but in this case, the benefits are greater than the costs.
The total elimination of foreign aid is unjustified. As is the case with American energy independence, Middle Eastern development must be dealt with slowly and steadily.
And I needn’t even mention how many lives medical aid saves in other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa.
Ron Paul makes some accurate observations about the current state of international policy.
However, his responses are often over-the-top and unrealistic. His reforms come at great and avoidable costs, both at home and abroad.
I support pulling America’s hands out of certain foreign affairs, but I’d rather do so smartly, not impulsively.
The United States is the most powerful and possibly the most interconnected country in the world. That position brings with it innumerable benefits and costs, many of which Paul does not seem to recognize.

Comments or questions about this column can be emailed to sean.r.kennedy@live.mercer.edu

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