Venue: Joint Hearing on Afghanistan
Mr. Speaker: The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Paul.
Ron Paul: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome the panel today. I wished I could promise you an eloquent statement where I could convert all of you to a non-interventionist foreign policy and a policy where we’re not nation building, but I don’t think I can promise you that. I wished I could come up with some profound questions for the panel so that I could point out the inconsistencies not of the current foreign policy, but of the foreign policy that has been going on for quite a few decades. But all I can think about are some terms that come to mind that I’ve learned all the way back in the 1960s when I was serving as a military officer, an air force officer for 5 years. And I come up with thoughts like “quagmire”, “perpetual war for perpetual peace”, “war is the health of the state”, “war is a racket”, “truth is the first casualty of war”. And I think there is some profoundness to that and I had them plagiarized and those are not my thoughts. But today, we’re in a mess and we’re trying to figure out how to deal with it. We’ve had a war going on for 8 years. I think it has a lot to do with the way we get into the wars and then we try to justify why we’re there later on. One thing that almost all debates are prefaced by is, “Don’t come off as an extremist”. Can we have a military victory? Have 500,000 troops, go in there and win, like we used to? No, that’s off base.
But, you want to just come home? No, that’s not allowed. We have to have this balancing act which guarantees the politicizing of the war. This is why we end up with court martials and arguments that are justified. We end up with military tribunals and secret prisons because we’re not precise of what our goals are and why we’re involved. And I think that that is the biggest problem that we have. And what we need to do, I think, is try to be more precise about why we go into war.
Now the question I have for the panel, and I hope each and every one of you can answer this question, is. I would like to know whether or not you endorse the Bush doctrine. Ironically, last night a speech was given which truly was eloquent, but it was given in the same place that the former president gave a speech in 2002 and emphasized a profound, dramatic change in our attitude toward the world. And it is recognized now as the Bush doctrine. I think it’s maybe one of the most important events in our history when it comes down to foreign policy.
So, each and every one of you, do you endorse the Bush doctrine of preventive war, or do you reject it?
Robert Gates: I think that the term “preventive war” is a very important one because it differentiates from preemptive war. A preemptive war, in my view, is one where you know you’re about to be attacked and you strike first. My personal view is that the standard for intelligence and for confidence for preventive war is an extraordinarily high one. And there are very, very few instances where I think it is justified. If the experience of the last 8 years has taught us anything it is to reaffirm the historic lesson that war is inherently unpredictable.
Ron Paul: Could I get the answers from the other two.
Hillary Clinton: Well Congressman, I think that Secretary Gates draws an important distinction. There are times when it is appropriate for a country to protect itself from what it knows would be a devastating attack. But that standard should be so high and obviously we didn’t see that standard met in the last 8 years. But let me just add that is not the situation in Afghanistan. We were attacked from Afghanistan, so even if the doctrine is or is not an appropriate one, it is not applicable to this situation before us.
Ron Paul: We were never attacked by an Afghani.
Hillary Clinton: That’s not true. Al Qaida was embedded in Afghan society, it was given safe haven by Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership and they were given a chance to turn over Al-Qaida and Bin Laden before we attacked them. And they refused.
Mr. Speaker: Time of the gentleman has expired.