May 13, 2014

Putting words in Ron Paul’s mouth

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Adam Dick writes at The Ron Paul Institute:

Rare published an article today titled, “Ron Paul had the best plan to save the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls.” That is intriguing. What is Paul’s plan? If you read the article, you find out that it is the article’s author W. James Antle III—not Paul—who has the supposed best plan.

After mentioning Paul’s US House of Representatives bill HR 3037 from October of 2001 that would have authorized issuing letters of marque and reprisal targeted in response to attacks in the United States a month earlier, Antle opines that the marque and reprisal approach “may be more appropriate to the situation in Nigeria” even though Antle concedes Boko Haram does not even “directly threaten U.S. vital interests.” Stepping things up, Antle promotes the US government also use marque and reprisal against other groups around the world as well.

This is important. Letters of Marque and Reprisal are a great alternative to addressing real problems instead of pursuing a imperious foreign policy of recklessness.  Rather than respond to the 2001 terrorist attacks by declaring war on two countries that had nothing to do with the attack, a Constitutional alternative should have been Ron Paul’s suggestion in HR 3037 as mentioned above.

But this does not mean that the Letters of M&R should be taken up whenever there is a problem in the world.  Just because Ron Paul advocated their use in 2001 given the circumstances, does not mean that Paul would suggest their use every time an excuse is needed to intervene overseas.  The Letters should be used in the case of a real threat to the people of the United States, not the threat of people around the world.  Antle makes a fundamental mistake by applying Paul’s suggestion from 13 years ago to the present day. But this is not Ron Paul’s plan.

(All this of course is not to mention the very realistic fact that it was US government foreign intervention which gave motivation to terrorists in the first place.  But, given the circumstances, the Letters were definitely a better approach than decade long wars which have accomplished nothing.)

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to
  • Patrick T. McWilliams

    1. I admit to being previously unaware of this option.
    2. I think it’s awesome.
    3. Why wouldn’t LoM&R be a good idea in the case of Boko Haram? From a personal liberty point of view, if I, as a private individual, want to go mount a rescue effort for some kidnapped girls overseas, should the government be able to stop me?

    • cjayengel

      It is awesome.

      LoM&R are government licenses to go solve a problem in another jurisdiction relating to the safety of the people under the issuing government. So as for the second question of point 3, if you wanted to go do that, there would be no legal problem. It just wouldn’t be sanctioned and funded by the government and thus you would take on the full risk. Therefore it wouldn’t technically be a LoM&R.

      Regarding the first question of point 3, the LoM&R cannot be used because the kidnapped girls were not Americans. They were Nigerians. The US government cannot issue these letters because there is no American threat.

      Honestly, as Kony2012 turned out to be a scam to lead the US into an African intervention, my bet is that this is similar. Its one of those situations that makes you look like a monster if you want to wait it out. Meanwhile, McCain ready to send in the troops: