Ron Paul's Faith in Basic Human Decency and the Power of Ideas
Ron Paul is a man of faith. His faith shines through every page of his new book, Swords into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity .
The title itself, based on a Biblical verse, evinces his religious faith, which greatly strengthens his steadfast opposition to war.
But what most pervades the book is Dr. Paul’s faith in humanity: his belief that mankind is naturally inclined to peace and averse to war. He devotes an entire chapter of his book to “Our Peaceful Nature.” And, he gives no credence to platitudes about “the inevitability of war,” largely because of this faith in man’s basically peaceful predisposition.
This is no blind faith, but a thoroughly informed one.
Dr. Paul sees humanity’s true nature bursting through artificial restraints in the many incidents throughout history of soldiers defying their commanders and choosing to show mercy, kindness, and even conviviality toward their fellow men on the other side of the battle lines. For example, he movingly relates the story of “The Christmas Truce.”
“World War I was only a few months old. The hate that automatically grows on both sides as the violence increases was not at a fever pitch on that very special and different Christmas Eve. That growth in hate came later, once it was clear that many of those soldiers on both sides who were involved in the truce that exceptional night were wrong in their belief that the war would end quickly. The dramatic and spontaneous truce that Christmas Eve spawned by the wishes of young German, British, French, and Belgian soldiers reveals the true nature of most human beings forced into wars that have no meaning.” [Emphasis added here and throughout.]
Dr. Paul also sees humanity’s natural revulsion against fratricide in the epidemic of “moral injury” among American veterans. Their devastating psychological problems cannot be fully explained by the terrors of personal combat. The specter of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will even visit drone pilots in their safe, air-conditioned control rooms, and haunt them at home ever after. As Dr. Paul put it:
“It is now known that the “sterile” nature of this type of killing of innocents does not prevent the problem of PTSD.” (…)
Drone operators do suffer with PTSD and suicidal thoughts in spite of the fact that they are located thousands of miles from their targets. The real guilt of many is not felt immediately, and it can take years for it to end in suicide.”
Dr. Paul tells of the tragic consequences:
“Today, with 22 American military veterans committing suicide each day, it’s impossible to claim any victory from our decades of misadventure in the wars that our leaders have dragged us into. (…) Not being able to morally justify our wars contributes significantly to the suffering of our veterans.”
A major indicator of our peaceful nature is the fact that governments have to work so hard to overcome it in order to wage their wars. Indeed, according to Dr. Paul, government manipulation of the masses is the chief reason why man, in spite of his peaceful and sociable inclination, has been beset by so many wars throughout his history.
Indeed, governments are as predisposed toward war as individuals outside of government are predisposed against it. As Dr. Paul writes:
“By their very nature governments are opposed to peaceful resolution.”
This is because war nourishes the power and prestige of government, as official warmongers are fully aware:
“The authoritarians are mainly concerned with their power. They know well what Randolph Bourne revealed in his essay ‘The State’: ‘War is the health of the State.’”
To overcome their subjects’ natural reluctance to go to war, governments must resort to lying, fear-mongering, and jingoistic propaganda to make them feel direly threatened by a foreign foe. Only after this is accomplished do the people accept that the times are so desperate as to call for war, that most desperate of measures. As Dr. Paul writes:
“Certain conditions must exist for the people to be persuaded to support a war that challenges their natural instincts. (…)
The war propagandists must instill fear and get the people to demand that the government make them safe. (…)
For the authoritarians to convince the people that war is necessary to provide safety, the authoritarians present a common enemy whose defeat requires the people to sacrifice respect for their natural right to their lives and liberty. (…)
Though the people are naturally opposed to offensive wars, their support eventually comes as a consequence of the persistent, daily barrage of lies about dangers we face and calls for patriotic loyalty to the warmongering leadership.”
Dr. Paul concludes:
“The common people of all nations have always preferred peace, harmony, and prosperity over war. War propaganda, however, can overwhelm the natural inclination to seek peace.”
Governments tell countless lies to deceive the public into war. Dr. Paul and his Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity debunk such lies in real time every day in columns and on the Ron Paul Liberty Report show.
But in this book, Dr. Paul undercuts all such lesser lies at once and in advance by dismantling the one big lie upon which they depend: the falsehood that war makes us any safer in any case. He shows how, even if all the government’s horror stories about foreign bogeymen were true, war would still do nothing to effectively address those threats or enhance our security. To the contrary, it only endangers us.
Dr. Paul describes how “War is death and suffering,” discusses “The peril of entangling alliances” versus the benefits reaped by “Swiss neutrality,” and once again explains the principle of “Blowback,” as he has done for millions ever since his famous 2007 exchange with Rudolph Giuliani. He warns that, thanks to recent US foreign policy, for many around the world:
“It’s no longer a complaint about the “Ugly American.” Instead the “Ruthless American” is blaming others for acts of terrorism yet engaging constantly in the same.”
In an indictment of President Obama’s allegedly “smarter” and “more targeted” foreign policy, Dr. Paul argues that drone warfare does nothing to alleviate blowback, and if anything exacerbates it. Furthermore, Obama will not be able to tiptoe around blowback with his constant recourse to covert foreign intervention.
“Pretending to keep our hands clean by providing ‘secret’ assistance to various warring factions and limiting our military involvement by using drones will not serve the cause of peace even if such actions are less noticeable and not condemned by the American people. The victims of this policy know exactly where the money and arms come from.”
Dr. Paul relates scholarly work demonstrating that it is foreign occupation, and not religious fervor, that chiefly motivates suicide terrorism. And he argues that economic sanctions are counter-productive, in part because:
“…an opposed nation’s political leaders can often rally domestic support by blaming sanctions for people’s troubles.”
Some warmongers even contend that war not only makes us safer, but richer too. This is the other big lie that Ron Paul dismantles, devoting two whole chapters to explaining how war destroys, and does not create, wealth. He also shows how governments use central banking and unsound money to surreptitiously finance their wars.
Ron Paul warns that America’s rampant and profligate foreign policy, “will become a major contributing factor one day to a financial crisis associated with a national bankruptcy.” But he sees a silver lining in that dark cloud:
“This crisis may provide a historic opportunity to witness the failure of the current system built on bad ideas and to advance a replacement consistent with the cause of liberty.”
But such a rebound could only happen if the educational groundwork has already been laid.
“Yet, educational efforts that appear to yield no policy changes for years on end can set the groundwork for quick changes in times of chaos and distress. Patience, convictions, and vigilance are required.”
Ron Paul does not put forth elections and officeholders as the vehicles for such changes. Far from it, he writes that:
“The people who desire peace and prosperity must accept the fact that government and the politicians never deliver peace or prosperity.”
The heroes Ron Paul recognizes in the short run are not politicians, but educators and whistleblowers. He specifically cites Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
As for the long run, Ron Paul takes a splendidly radical stand for civil disobedience, calling for an eventual:
…refusal to participate in government crimes through the military and tax system with full realization of the risks of practicing civil disobedience since government will not go away quietly;
“If limiting government power by constitutional restraints doesn’t work, and if trying to influence elections to keep evil people out of office doesn’t work, what is left? Some would argue nothing. But, in reality the people can go on strike and refuse to finance or to fight in wars that have no legitimacy.
“Let the authoritarian politicians do little by themselves plus deny them any funds or bodies with which to fight.”
“Massive peaceful civil disobedience against government-initiated violence cannot be stopped once this “idea whose time has come” spreads worldwide like a giant brushfire.
If the authoritarians continue to abuse power in spite of constitutional and moral limits, the only recourse left is for the people to go on strike and refuse to sanction the wars and thefts. Deny the dictators your money and your bodies. If enough people do this, the time will come when the dictators’ power will dissipate. [NOTE: As he makes clear on his chapter on “dictators,” he means by this term all anti-liberty legislators, bureaucrats, and other office holders.]
Ron Paul closes his book with stirring optimism:
The more this is a worldwide movement the better. It may be radical, and it may have never been tried. Yet, there’s no reason to believe that mankind and civilization cannot advance in our political understanding. It worked in science; there it changed the world. There’s every reason to believe that a philosophy that strips government of all its arbitrary power will provide the world with its best chance for achieving peace and prosperity with AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME.”
Ron Paul’s Swords into Plowshares is a principled yet practical, realistic yet radical, message of peace and hope. For a generation afflicted by an empire that has declared the whole world a battlefield, it is just what the doctor ordered.
It is also a very personal book written from the heart by a plainspoken, but highly learned and deeply moral man. Due not only to his religious convictions, but also his abiding faith in both basic human decency and the power of ideas, he shares the optimism of Isaiah, who prophesied that one day, the people of the world:
“…will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.”
Join Ron Paul at the Mises Institute’s celebration of his 80th birthday this Saturday in Lake Jackson, Texas. Registration is only $20. This is your chance to thank the world’s foremost champion of peace and wish him a happy birthday on a very special occasion. I hope to see you there!
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