Ron Paul Unplugged

John Stossel interviews Ron Paul in an exclusive.


Dec. 11, 2007 — -- Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is the only Republican presidential candidate who says we need to get our troops out of Iraq now, and that we never should have invaded Iraq at all.

The United States should not be the "world's policeman," said Paul.

"It's OK for us to have a responsibility, personally, to help other people … [but] to go around the world and spread democracy and spread our goodness, no. I think it doesn't work … too many unintended consequences, and, to spread our goodness overseas, it usually requires force.

"We're spreading our goodness in Iraq, [and] we can't do that without dropping bombs on them and killing a lot of people."

I pointed out to him that many people say, "If we don't attack the enemy over there, then they'll attack us here." Paul argued that the opposite is true, that America having bases overseas is what inspires hatred against the United States, especially American bases in areas that many Muslims view as holy.

He also said he doesn't view suicide terrorism as a solely religious issue.

"The country that has the most suicide terrorism is Sri Lanka, and it's not a Muslim issue. … The two most radical Islamic countries in the world, Iran and Sudan, do not commit suicide terrorism, so that is not the litmus test; the litmus test is whether they interpret, or we are actually occupying a territory that they resent, [and] in the case of Saudi Arabia, that was holy land for them.

"If China were to do the same thing to us, and they were here, and they had troops in our land, and they said they were going to protect their oil … we would resent it, we'd probably do some shooting," he said.

As far as the threat of Middle Eastern countries acquiring nuclear weapons, Paul said, "It's the lack of diplomacy that is the greatest threat, not the weapons themselves."

I asked him if war is ever justifiable. "Sure," he said. "If you're attacked, you have a right and an obligation to defend our country, and the Constitution is very clear on that. … I do not believe there is ever a moral justification to start the war."

By that reasoning, he said, World War II was justifiable, because the United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. The Korean War? "Totally unjustified," he said. The Vietnam War? "A horror," he said. And the Gulf War in Iraq? "A border dispute," he said. "Not our business."

He said he voted for the authority to invade Afghanistan after Sept. 11, because we were pursuing those who had attacked us. However, he has been unhappy with what's happened since then.

"We neglected to pursue Osama bin Laden." And voting for the authority to invade Afghanistan "did not mean that they had the authority to occupy and try to transform Afghanistan."

When I pointed out that many say the surge in Iraq is now succeeding, Paul called that view "propaganda," and said he receives more donations from active military personnel than any other presidential candidate, because those soldiers "see it more from [his] viewpoint."

If elected, Paul would work to pull American troops not just out of the Middle East but out of Korea, Germany and the 100 other countries where American troops are currently stationed.

"Under the Constitution, we don't have the authority to put troops in foreign countries, willy-nilly, when we're not at war … [and] we can't afford it anymore — we're going broke. We're on the verge of doing what all great empires have done in the past — spread themselves too far wide around the world."

What about sending our military forces to prevent genocide and terrible human suffering? "I think it's a tragedy, and we can have a moral statement, but you can't use force of arms to invade other countries to make them better people. Our job is to make us a better people."

We always say at the end of "20/20" that "we're in touch, so you be in touch." Your being in touch by sending e-mails is what created this interview. So, thank you. Be sure to check back at all this week for more of my interview with Ron Paul.

Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss the Iraq War and the policy of U.S. intervention by clicking here.

Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss what government should — and shouldn't do, by clicking here.

Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss drugs, prostitution and gay marriage by clicking here.

Sign up for John Stossel's weekly e-mail by clicking here, and you can read all of Stossel's latest reports anytime, all the time, on his Web site.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events