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Mediterranean Quarterly 14.1 (2003) 6-24

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Trading Freedom for Security:
Drifting toward a Police State

Ron Paul

Most Americans believe we live in dangerous times, and I must agree. In this essay, I want to discuss how I see those dangers and what Congress ought to do about them. Of course, the Monday-morning quarterbacks are now explaining, with political overtones, what we should have done to prevent the 11 September tragedy. Unfortunately, in doing so, foreign policy changes are never considered. I have, for more than two decades, been severely critical of our post-World War II foreign policy. I have perceived it to be not in our best interest and have believed that it presented a serious danger to our security. For the record, in January of 2000 I stated the following on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Our commercial interests and foreign policy are no longer separate. . . . [A]s bad as it is that average Americans are forced to subsidize such a system, we additionally are placed in greater danger because of our arrogant policy of bombing nations that do not submit to our wishes. This generates hatred directed toward America . . . and exposes us to a greater threat of terrorism, since this is the only vehicle our victims can use to retaliate against a powerful military state. . . . [T]he cost in terms of lost liberties and unnecessary exposure to terrorism is difficult to assess, but in time, it will become apparent to all of us that foreign interventionism is of no benefit to American citizens, but instead is a threat to our liberties.

Again, let me state that I made these statements on the House floor in January 2000. Unfortunately, my greatest fears and warnings have been [End Page 6] borne out. I believe my concerns are as relevant today as they were then. We should move with caution in this post-11 September period so we do not make our problems worse overseas while further undermining our liberties at home.

So far, our post-11 September policies have challenged the rule of law here at home, and our efforts against al Qaeda have essentially come up empty handed. As best we can tell now, instead of being in one place, the members of al Qaeda are scattered around the world, with more of them in allied Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Our efforts to find our enemies have put the Central Intelligence Agency in eighty different countries. The question that we must answer some day is whether we can catch enemies faster than we make new ones. So far it appears we are losing.

As evidence mounts that we have achieved little in reducing the terrorist threat, more diversionary tactics are being used. The big one is to blame Saddam Hussein for everything and initiate a major war against Iraq, which will only generate even more hatred toward America from the Muslim world.

As important as the international issues are, however, I am particularly concerned about their domestic consequences. My subject is whether America is drifting toward becoming a police state. I'm sure the large majority of Americans would answer this in the negative. Most would associate military patrols, martial law, and summary executions with a police state, something obviously not present in our everyday activities. However, those with knowledge of Ruby Ridge, Mount Carmel, and other such incidents may have a different opinion.

The principal tool for sustaining a police state, even the most militant, is always economic control and punishment by denying disobedient citizens such things as jobs or places to live and by levying fines and imprisonment. The military is more often used in the transition phase to a totalitarian state. Maintenance for long periods is usually accomplished through economic controls on commercial transactions, the use of all property, and political dissent. Peaceful control through these efforts can be achieved without storm troopers on our street corners.

Terror and fear are used to achieve complacency and obedience, especially when citizens are deluded into believing they are still a free...


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