Published for The Washington Post, January 2, 2012

Rep. Ron Paul is in a dead heat with Mitt Romney for first place in the Iowa caucuses. If he does pull out a win on Tuesday, Iowa Republicans will have chosen as their commander in chief a man who says it was wrong to kill Osama bin Laden.

In a recent interview with a Des Moines radio station, Paul not only came out against killing bin Laden but gave a remarkable reason for his opposition: The operation that took out the man responsible for the massacre of nearly 3,000 people in our midst, he said, showed no “respect for the rule of law, international law.” International law? Back in 2002, Paul wrote in a column that “America must either remain a constitutional republic or submit to international law, because it cannot do both.” I guess it is goodbye constitutional republic since Paul now claims that international law constrains us from killing the man behind the most brazen attack on our country since Pearl Harbor — the man who, as we learned from documents recovered from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,was actively plotting another attack to exceed the magnitude of 9/11. Since when do libertarians acknowledge the power of supranational law to prevent a sovereign United States from defending itself against foreign aggressors?

Not only does Paul oppose the killing of bin Laden, he opposes the drone campaign that has taken out more than 60 al-Qaeda leaders since 2008 — including the strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the man behind the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. As he put it in a June debate, as president “I’d quit bombing Yemen, I’d quit bombing Pakistan.”

Paul has clearly tapped into a growing sentiment among some conservatives to bring our troops home. But do Iowa Republicans really believe that we should not have killed Osama bin Laden? Or that that the United States does not have the authority under international law to take out al-Qaeda leaders planning attacks on our country? If so, then, by all means, they should vote for Ron Paul.

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