“I think things could have been done somewhat differently,” Paul said this week. “I would suggest the way they got Khalid [Sheikh] Mohammed. We went and cooperated with Pakistan. They arrested him, actually, and turned him over to us, and he’s been in prison. Why can’t we work with the government?”
Asked by WHO Radio’s Simon Conway whether he would have given the go-ahead to kill bin Laden if it meant entering another country, Paul shot back that it “absolutely was not necessary.”
“I don’t think it was necessary, no. It absolutely was not necessary,” Paul said during his Tuesday comments. “I think respect for the rule of law and world law and international law. What if he’d been in a hotel in London? We wanted to keep it secret, so would we have sent the airplane, you know the helicopters in to London, because they were afraid the information would get out?”
Actually, there are conflicting reports about the possibility that the United States did have Pakistan’s permission to get bin Laden on our own if we got a bead on him. Now, your guess is as good as mine as to who’s telling the truth, but something tells me that getting the details straight wouldn’t change Paul’s opinion. Either way, one wonders if Paul has ever stopped to consider the fact that bin Laden spent six years in a sizeable compound built in a town dominated by the Pakistani Army, and wonder how that little detail could have possibly escaped the Pakistanis’ notice.
Ed Morrissey succinctly explains what should be obvious to a veteran congressman who’s been active in foreign policy debates for years:
For one thing, had we found him holed up in London, we would have been able to trust the British intelligence service to cooperate. MI-5 didn’t spend more than a decade helping to build up the Taliban and playing footsie with radical Islamists the way Pakistan’s ISI did, primarily as a bulwark against India. Moreover, as Paul should know, we tried trusting Pakistan once before on an opportunity to target bin Laden when Bill Clinton had a chance to target his compound. The ISI warned bin Laden, and to paraphrase President George Bush, we wound up sending a $10 million rocket into a ten-dollar tent to hit a camel’s butt.
Paul also implies that it would have been preferable to take bin Laden alive. While a live bin Laden could conceivably have been a valuable intelligence source, our experience with how to prosecute Zacarias Moussaoui and Khalid Sheik Mohammed suggest that the question of how to try the terror kingpin would have been an even bigger circus. Nor is the fact that we killed him worth losing sleep over morally—serving lethal justice to the planet’s worst evildoers sends a message to the world about what we will and won’t tolerate. And whether or not he was armed when the SEALs took him down is irrelevant; would we really want our soldiers to have risked the possibility that bin Laden had been wearing a bomb vest, or had booby-trapped the room?
Lastly, I’d like to draw Paulestinians’ attention to the bit about respect for “world law and international law” (we can skip the “rule of law” at home for now, since we already know he doesn’t respect that). I’ll be the first to agree that America shouldn’t simply disregard foreign laws whenever we’d like, but the extreme degree to which Paul takes it here goes way beyond responsible caution and into blind, unconditional deference, without regard for practical necessity or whether or not a particular nation is a good-faith actor. This brand of “non-interventionism” is hardly the sort of prudence championed by true conservatives and libertarians; it’s an internationalist submission of the United States’ interests and foreign policy to the interests of friend and foe alike, and as such is much more at home on the Left.
If that’s what you’re looking for in a presidential candidate, that’s one thing. But can we please dispense with the nonsense that Ron Paul is some sort of infallible arbiter of “true” conservatism?