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September 9, 2006

The Law of Opposites


by Rep. Ron Paul

Everyone is aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Most members of Congress understand that government actions can have unintended consequences, yet few quit voting for government "solutions" – always hoping there won't be any particular unintended consequences this time. They keep hoping there will be less harmful complications from the "solution" that they currently support. Economics teaches that for every government action to solve an economic problem, others are created. The same unwanted results occur with foreign policy meddling.

The Law of Opposites is just a variation of the Law of Unintended Consequences. When we attempt to achieve a certain goal – like, "make the world safe for democracy," a grandiose scheme of World War I – one can be sure the world will become less safe and less democratic regardless of the motivation.

The 1st World War was sold to the American people as the war to end all wars. Instead, history shows it was the war that caused the 20th century to be the most war-torn century in history. Our entry into World War I helped lead us into World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Even our current crisis in the Middle East can be traced to the great wars of the 20th century. Though tens of millions of deaths are associated with these wars, we haven't learned a thing.

We went into Korea by direction of the United Nations, not a congressional declaration of war, to unify Korea. And yet that war ensured that Korea remains divided to this day; our troops are still there. South Korea today is much more willing to reconcile differences with North Korea, and yet we obstruct such efforts. It doesn't make much sense.

We went into Vietnam and involved ourselves unnecessarily in a civil war to bring peace and harmony to that country. We lost 60,000 troops and spent hundreds of billions of dollars, yet failed to achieve victory. Ironically, since losing in Vietnam we now have a better relationship with them than ever. We now trade, invest, travel, and communicate with a unified, western-leaning country that is catching on rather quickly to capitalist ways. This policy, not military confrontation, is exactly what the Constitution permits and the Founders encouraged in our relationship with others.

This policy should apply to both friends and perceived enemies. Diplomacy and trade can accomplish goals that military intervention cannot – and they certainly are less costly.

In both instances – Korea and Vietnam – neither country attacked us, and neither country posed a threat to our security. In neither case did we declare war. All of the fighting and killing was based on lies, miscalculations, and the failure to abide by constitutional restraint with regards to war.

When goals are couched in terms of humanitarianism, sincere or not, the results are inevitably bad. Foreign interventionism requires the use of force. First, the funds needed to pursue a particular policy require that taxes be forcibly imposed on the American people, either directly or indirectly through inflation. Picking sides in foreign countries only increases the chances of antagonism toward us. Too often foreign economic and military support means impoverishing the poor in America and enhancing the rich ruling classes in poor countries. When sanctions are used against one undesirable regime, it squelches resistance to the very regimes we're trying to undermine. Forty years of sanctions against Castro have left him in power, and fomented continued hatred and blame from the Cuban people directed at us. Trade with Cuba likely would have accomplished the opposite, as it has in Vietnam, China, and even in the Eastern Bloc nations of the old Soviet empire.

We spend billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Colombia to curtail drug production. No evidence exists that it helps. In fact, drug production and corruption have increased. We close our eyes to it because the reasons we're in Colombia and Afghanistan are denied.

Obviously, we are not putting forth the full effort required to capture Osama bin Laden. Instead, our occupation of Afghanistan further inflames the Muslim radicals that came of age with their fierce resistance to the Soviet occupation of a Muslim country. Our occupation merely serves as a recruiting device for al-Qaeda, which has promised retaliation for our presence in their country. We learned nothing after first allying ourselves with Osama bin Laden when he applied this same logic toward the Soviets. The net result of our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been to miss capturing bin Laden, assist al-Qaeda's recruitment, stimulate more drug production, lose hundreds of American lives, and allow spending billions of American taxpayer dollars with no end in sight.

Bankruptcy seems to be the only way we will reconsider the foolishness of this type of occupation. It's time for us to wake up.

Our policy toward Iran for the past 50 years is every bit as disconcerting. It makes no sense unless one concedes that our government is manipulated by those who seek physical control over the vast oil riches of the Middle East and egged on by Israel's desires.

We have attacked the sovereignty of Iran on two occasions, and are in the process of threatening her for the third time. In 1953, the U.S. and British overthrew the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the Shah. His brutal regime lasted over 25 years, and ended with the Ayatollah taking power in 1979. Our support for the Shah incited the radicalization of the Shi'ite Clerics in Iran, resulting in the hostage takeover.

In the 1980s we provided weapons – including poisonous gas – to Saddam Hussein as we supported his invasion of Iran. These events are not forgotten by the Iranians, who see us once again looking for another confrontation with them. We insist that the UN ignore the guarantees under the NPT that grant countries like Iran the right to enrich uranium. The pressure on the UN and the threats we cast toward Iran are quite harmful to the cause of peace. They are entirely unnecessary and serve no useful purpose. Our policy toward Iran is much more likely to result in her getting a nuclear weapon than prevent it.

Our own effort at democratizing Iran has resulted instead in radicalizing a population whose instincts are to like Americans and our economic system. Our meddling these past 50 years has only served to alienate and unify the entire country against us.

Though our officials only see Iran as an enemy, as does Israel, our policies in the Middle East these past 5 years have done wonders to strengthen Iran's political and military position in the region. We have totally ignored serious overtures by the Iranians to negotiate with us before hostilities broke out in Iraq in 2003. Both immediately after 9/11, and especially at the time of our invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran, partially out of fear and realism, honestly sought reconciliation and offered to help the U.S. in its battle against al-Qaeda. They were rebuked outright. Now Iran is negotiating from a much stronger position, principally as a result of our overall Middle East policy.

We accommodated Iran by severely weakening the Taliban in Afghanistan on Iran's eastern borders. On Iran's western borders we helped the Iranians by eliminating their arch enemy, Saddam Hussein. Our invasion in Iraq and the resulting chaos have inadvertently delivered up a large portion of Iraq to the Iranians, as the majority Shi'ites in Iraq ally themselves with Iranians.

The U.S./Israeli plan to hit Hezbollah in Lebanon before taking on Iran militarily has totally backfired. Now Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, has been made stronger than ever with the military failure to rout Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. Before the U.S./Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah was supported by 20% of the population, now it's revered by 80%. A democratic election in Lebanon cannot now serve the interest of the U.S. or Israel. It would only support the cause of radical clerics in Iran.

Demanding an election in Palestinian Gaza resulted in enhancing the power of Hamas. The U.S. And Israel promptly rejected the results. So much for our support for democratically elected government.

Our support for dictatorial Arab leaders is a thorn in the side of the large Muslim population in the Middle East, and one of the main reasons Osama bin Laden declared war against us. We talk of democracy and self-determination, but the masses of people in the Middle East see through our hypocrisy when we support the Sunni secular dictators in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan and at one time, Saddam Hussein.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s the CIA spent over $4 billion on a program called "Operation Cyclone." This was our contribution to setting up training schools in Pakistan and elsewhere, including the U.S. itself, to teach "sabotage skills." The purpose was to use these individuals in fighting our enemies in the Middle East, including the Soviets. But as one could predict, this effort has come back to haunt us, as our radical ally Osama bin Laden turned his fury against us after routing the Soviets. It is estimated that over 12,000 fighters were trained in the camps we set up in Afghanistan. They were taught how to make bombs, carry out sabotage, and use guerilla war tactics. And now we're on the receiving end of this U.S. financed program – hardly a good investment.

It's difficult to understand why our policy makers aren't more cautious in their efforts to police the world, once it's realized how unsuccessful we have been. It seems they always hope that next time our efforts won't come flying back in our face.

Our failed efforts in Iraq continue to drain our resources, costing us dearly both in lives lost and dollars spent. And there's no end in sight. No consideration is given for rejecting our obsession with a worldwide military presence, which rarely if ever directly enhances our security. A much stronger case can be made that our policy of protecting our worldwide interests actually does the opposite by making us weaker, alienating our allies, inciting more hatred, and provoking our enemies. The more we have interfered in the Middle East in the last 50 years, the greater the danger has become for an attack on us. The notion that Arab/Muslim radicals are motivated to attack us because of our freedoms and prosperity, and not our unwelcome presence in their countries, is dangerous and silly.

We were told we needed to go into Iraq because our old ally, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction – yet no weapons of mass destruction were found.

We were told we needed to occupy Iraq to remove al-Qaeda, yet al-Qaeda was nowhere to be found and now it's admitted it had nothing to do with 9/11. Yet today, Iraq is infested with al-Qaeda – achieving exactly the opposite of what we sought to do.

We were told that we needed to secure "our oil" to protect our economy and to pay for our invasion and occupation. Instead, the opposite has resulted: Oil production is down, oil prices are up, and no oil profits have been used to pay the bills.

We were told that a regime change in Iraq would help us in our long-time fight with Iran, yet everything we have done in Iraq has served the interests of Iran.

We're being told in a threatening and intimidating fashion that, "If America were to pull out before Iraq could defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous." I'm convinced that the Law of Opposites could well apply here. Going into Iraq we know produced exactly the opposite results of what was predicted: Leaving also likely will have results opposite of those we're being frightened with. Certainly leaving Vietnam at the height of the Cold War did not result in the disaster predicted by the advocates of the Domino Theory – an inevitable Communist takeover of the entire Far East.

We're constantly being told that we cannot abandon Iraq and we are obligated to stay forever if necessary. This admonition is similar to a rallying cry from a determined religious missionary bent on proselytizing to the world with a particular religious message. Conceding that leaving may not be a panacea for Iraqi tranquility, this assumption ignores two things. One, our preemptive war ignited the Iraqi civil war, and two, abandoning the Iraqi people is not the question. The real question is whether or not we should abandon the American people by forcing them to pay for an undeclared war with huge economic and human costs, while placing our national security in greater jeopardy by ignoring our borders and serious problems here at home.

In our attempt to make Iraq a better place, we did great harm to Iraqi Christians. Before our invasion in 2003 there were approximately 1.2 million living in Iraq. Since then over half have been forced to leave due to persecution and violence. Many escaped to Syria. With the neocons wanting to attack Syria, how long will they be safe there? The answer to the question, "Aren't we better off without Saddam Hussein," is not an automatic yes for Iraqi Christians.

We've been told for decades that our policy of militarism and preemption in the Middle East is designed to provide security for Israel. Yet a very strong case can be made that Israel is more vulnerable than ever, with moderate Muslims being challenged by a growing majority of Islamic radicals. As the vincibility of the American and Israeli military becomes common knowledge, Israel's security is diminished and world opinion turns against her, especially after the failed efforts to remove the Hezbollah threat.

We were told that attacking and eliminating Hezbollah was required to diminish the Iranian threat against Israel. The results again were the opposite. This failed effort has only emboldened Iran.

The lack of success of conventional warfare – the U.S. In Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the U.S. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel in Lebanon – should awaken our policy makers to our failure in war and diplomacy. Yet all we propose are bigger bombs and more military force for occupation, rather than working to understand an entirely new generation of modern warfare.

Many reasons are given for our preemptive wars and military approach for spreading the American message of freedom and prosperity, which is an obvious impossibility. Our vital interests are always cited for justification, and it's inferred that those who do not support our militancy are unpatriotic. Yet the opposite is actually the case: Wise resistance to one's own government doing bad things requires a love of country, devotion to idealism, and respect for the Rule of Law.

In attempting to build an artificial and unwelcome Iraqi military, the harder we try, the more money we spend, and the more lives we lose, the stronger the real armies of Iraq become: the Sunni insurgency, the Badr Brigade, the Sadr Mahdi Army, and the Kurdish militia.

The Kurds have already taken a bold step in this direction by hoisting a Kurdish flag and removing the Iraqi flag – a virtual declaration of independence. Natural local forces are winning out over outside political forces.

We're looking in all the wrong places for an Iraqi army to bring stability to that country. The people have spoken and these troops that represent large segments of the population need no training. It's not a lack of training, weapons, or money that hinders our efforts to create a new superior Iraqi military. It's the lack of inspiration and support for such an endeavor that is missing. Developing borders and separating the various factions, which our policy explicitly prohibits, is the basic flaw in our plan for a forced, unified, western-style democracy for Iraq. Allowing self-determination for different regions is the only way to erase the artificial nature of Iraq – an Iraq designed by western outsiders nearly 80 years ago. It's our obsession with control of the oil in the region, and imposing our will on the Middle East, and accommodating the demands of Israel that is the problem. And the American people are finally getting sick and tired of their sacrifices. It's time to stop the bleeding.

Instead we continue to hear the constant agitation for us to confront the Iranians with military action. Reasons to attack Iran make no more sense than our foolish preemptive war against Iraq. Fictitious charges and imaginary dangers are used to frighten the American people into accepting an attack on Iran. First it may only be sanctions, but later it will be bombs and possible ground troops if the neocons have their way. Many of the chicken-hawk neoconservative advisors to the administration are highly critical of our current policy because it's not aggressive enough. They want more troops in Iraq, they want to attack Syria and Iran, and escalate the conflict in Lebanon.

We have a troop shortage, morale is low, and our military equipment is in bad shape, yet the neocons would not hesitate to spend, borrow, inflate, and reinstate the draft to continue their grandiose schemes in remaking the entire Middle East. Obviously a victory of this sort is not available, no matter what effort is made or how much money is spent.

Logic would tell us there's no way we will contemplate taking on Iran at this time. But logic did not prevail with our Iraq policy, and look at the mess we have there. Besides, both sides, the neocon extremists and the radical Islamists, are driven by religious fervor. Both are convinced that God is on their side.

Both sides of the war in the Middle East are driven by religious beliefs of omnipotence. Both sides endorse an eschatological theory regarding the forthcoming end of time. Both anticipate the return of God personified and as promised to each. Both sides are driven by a conviction of perfect knowledge regarding the Creator, and though we supposedly worship the same God, each sees the other side as completely wrong and blasphemous. The religiously driven Middle East war condemns tolerance of the other's view. Advocates of restraint and the use of diplomacy are ridiculed as appeasers, and equivalent to supporting Nazism and considered un-American and un-Christian.

I find it amazing that we in this country seem determined to completely separate religious expression and the state, even to the detriment of the 1st Amendment. Yet we can say little about how Christian and Jewish religious beliefs greatly influences our policies in the Middle East. It should be the other way around. Religious expression, according to the 1st Amendment, cannot be regulated anywhere by Congress or the federal courts. But deeply held theological beliefs should never dictate our foreign policy. Being falsely accused of anti-Semitism and being a supporter of radical fascism is not an enviable position for any politician. Most realize it's best to be quiet and support our Middle East involvement.

Believing we have perfect knowledge of God's will, and believing government can manage our lives and world affairs, have caused a great deal of problems for man over the ages. When these two elements are combined they become especially dangerous. Liberty, by contrast, removes power from government and allows total freedom of choice in pursuing one's religious beliefs. The only solution to controlling political violence is to prohibit the use of force to pursue religious goals and reject government authority to mold the behavior of individuals.

Both are enamored with the so-called benefit that chaos offers to those promoting revolutionary changes. Both sides in situations like this always underestimate the determination of the opposition, and ignore the law of unintended consequences. They never consider that these policies might backfire.

Declaring war against Islamic fascism or terrorism is vague and meaningless. This enemy we're fighting at the expense of our own liberties is purposely indefinable. Therefore the government will exercise wartime powers indefinitely. We've been fully warned to expect a long, long war.

The Islamic fascists are almost impossible to identify and cannot be targeted by our conventional weapons. Those who threaten us essentially are unarmed and stateless. Comparing them to Nazi Germany, a huge military power, is ridiculous. Labeling them as a unified force is a mistake. It's critical that we figure out why a growing number of Muslims are radicalized to the point of committing suicide terrorism against us. Our presence in their countries represents a failed policy that makes us less safe, not more.

These guerrilla warriors do not threaten us with tanks, gunboats, fighter planes, missiles, or nuclear weapons, nor do they have a history of aggression against the United States. Our enemy's credibility depends instead on the popular goal of ending our occupation of their country.

We must not forget that the 9/11 terrorists came principally from Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, or Syria. Iran has never in modern times invaded her neighbors, yet we worry obsessively that she may develop a nuclear weapon someday. Never mind that a radicalized Pakistan has nuclear weapons; our friend Musharraf won't lift a finger against bin Laden, who most likely is hiding there. Our only defense against this emerging nuclear threat has been to use, and threaten to use, weapons that do not meet the needs of this new and different enemy.

Since resistance against the Iraq war is building here at home, hopefully it won't be too long before we abandon our grandiose scheme to rule the entire Middle East through intimidation and military confrontation.

Economic law eventually will prevail. Runaway military and entitlement spending cannot be sustained. We can tax the private economy only so much, and borrowing from foreigners is limited by the total foreign debt and our current account deficit. It will be difficult to continue this spending spree without significantly higher interest rates and further devaluation of the dollar. This all spells more trouble for our economy and certainly higher inflation. Our industrial base is shattered and our borders remain open to those who exploit our reeling entitlement system.

Economic realities will prevail, regardless of the enthusiasm by most members of Congress for a continued expansion of the welfare state and support for our dangerously aggressive foreign policy. The welfare/warfare state will come to an end when the dollar fails and the money simply runs out.

The overriding goal should then be to rescue our constitutional liberties, which have been steadily eroded by those who claim that sacrificing civil liberties is required and legitimate in times of war – even the undeclared and vague war we're currently fighting.

A real solution to our problems will require a better understanding of, and greater dedication to, free markets and private property rights. It can't be done without restoring a sound, asset-backed currency. If we hope to restore any measure of constitutional government, we must abandon the policy of policing the world and keeping troops in every corner of the earth. Our liberties and our prosperity depend on it.


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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