The one “dove” among the current presidential contenders has been the libertarian, tea-party favorite Republican Senator Rand Paul. A few weeks ago, he published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that criticized both the Democrats and his fellow Republicans for their “interventionist” foreign policies. He said that those who wanted to intervene against the Assad regime in Syria would have been helping ISIS, which was originally one of the rebel factions that they wanted to help. He says that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the “hawkish members of my own party” lack both foresight and hindsight. And yet, Senator Paul is now saying that America must respond to the atrocities of ISIS by using force against them. After the jump, read from both his op-ed piece on Syria and his latest pronouncements against ISIS.
You Randians, libertarians, and non-interventionists, does this change your view of him? Or do you agree?
To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State. We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn’t get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS.
This is not to say the U.S. should ally with Assad. But we should recognize how regime change in Syria could have helped and emboldened the Islamic State, and recognize that those now calling for war against ISIS are still calling for arms to factions allied with ISIS in the Syrian civil war. We should realize that the interventionists are calling for Islamic rebels to win in Syria and for the same Islamic rebels to lose in Iraq. While no one in the West supports Assad, replacing him with ISIS would be a disaster.
Our Middle Eastern policy is unhinged, flailing about to see who to act against next, with little thought to the consequences. This is not a foreign policy.
Those who say we should have done more to arm the Syrian rebel groups have it backward. Mrs. Clinton was also eager to shoot first in Syria before asking some important questions. Her successor John Kerry was no better, calling the failure to strike Syria a “Munich moment.”
Some now speculate Mr. Kerry and the administration might have to walk back or at least mute their critiques of Assad in the interest of defeating the Islamic State.
A reasonable degree of foresight should be a prerequisite for holding high office. So should basic hindsight. This administration has neither.
But the same is true of hawkish members of my own party. Some said it would be “catastrophic” if we failed to strike Syria. What they were advocating for then—striking down Assad’s regime—would have made our current situation even worse, as it would have eliminated the only regional counterweight to the ISIS threat.
From Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor:
Has Rand Paul morphed into a hawk?
That’s the question now that the junior GOP senator from Kentucky, long known for anti-interventionist views, has blasted the Obama administration for inaction in the wake of atrocities carried out by the brutal Islamic State.
Over the weekend, Senator Paul said in a speech that if he was president he’d have asked for congressional authorization to “destroy ISIS militarily.” (The IS is sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.) He repeated this assertion on Thursday in an op-ed on the subject for Time Magazine.
“If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS,” writes Paul.
If nothing else, this proves Paul is pretty much certain to run for president in 2016. His relatively dovish foreign-policy views have long been seen as perhaps his biggest handicap in Republican primaries. Some pundits have gone so far as to leave him off their lists of serious contenders because they judge his anti-interventionist philosophy to be too far out of the mainstream of his party’s thinking.
Now Paul seems to be using the IS crisis as a means to rebrand himself as not entirely his father Ron Paul’s son. When he ran for the White House Rep. Ron Paul railed against what he saw as the waste of US resources on foreign adventurism.
Rand is distancing himself from dad’s isolationistic words.
“I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist,” writes Paul in Time.
So what is he? According to his recent statements, he’s a Ronald Reagan-like peace-through-strength conservative, who sees war as a last resort but knows sometimes the US has to fight if vital interests are threatened.
See also Mollie Hemingway’s take on the question, Why Calling Rand Paul an Isolationist Is and Was Stupid, The Federalist.