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Posts tagged Higher law

A Higher Law than the Constitution

Ron Paul is perfectly capable of making sharp and incisive moral arguments against the foolishness, and the destructiveness, of U.S. imperialism, whether in the form of the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq or in the form of proposed new slaughters in Iran or North Korea. He has done so many times in the past, both in writing and in speeches, and he deserves praise where he is in the right, as he usually is. But he has also spent quite a bit of time explaining his position in terms of the separation of powers between the President and the Congress, as established in the U.S. Constitution. In response to questions about foreign policy, he has repeatedly argued, first, that current U.S. foreign policy is both foolish and evil, but also, second, that if he became President, he would go to war when, and only when, Congress duly passed a formal declaration of war. See for example the exchange in GT 2007-09-06: Marching orders, and his remarks on attacking North Korea or Iran in his recent interview with Tim Russert.

So here is my open question for Ron Paul, and for the anti-war libertarians who support his candidacy. Suppose that Ron Paul were elected President and publicly declared his intent to put his fundamentalist reading of the Constitution into practice. Suppose also that Congress continues to be what it currently is — a bunch of mad dog world bombers, on the one hand, and a gang of opportunistic doughfaces who go along to get along, on the other. It’s perfectly likely that at some point in the upcoming years, Congress might pass a declaration of war in the name of bogus national interests in order to spread the slaughter into Iran or North Korea. At this point, President Ron Paul has two options:

  1. He can fulfill his Constitutionally-enumerated role as commander-in-chief of the military, and prosecute the imperial war that Congress has ordered him to prosecute; or

  2. He can refuse to fulfill his Constitutionally-enumerated role, by sitting on his hands and refusing to prosecute the war in any way even though Congress has declared it, on the grounds that there is a higher law than the Constitution, and that under the circumstances, following government law would require him to do something that no honest and decent man can do.

In case (1), Ron Paul would willingly make himself the instrument of death and slaughter in the name of a paper rag whose virtues, if it ever had any, must depend entirely on whatever capacity it has for safeguarding, rather than destroying, the life and liberty of innocent people. In case (2), Ron Paul would be taking a powerful moral stand against aggressive war; but in so doing he would have to give up entirely on his palaver about declared wars and strict construction of the Constitution. Which would he be willing to do? I am genuinely unsure myself, based on his statements and actions thus far, and I wonder what others think.

(Interview link courtesy of Austro-Athenian Empire 2007-12-24.)

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