FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Rand Paul’s dangerously wrong and dangerous foreign policy
There is a spat going on between Texas Governor Rick Perry and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The latest round has been set off by Governor Perry’s op-ed in the Washington Post headlined Isolationist policies make the threat of terrorism even greater:
As a veteran, and as a governor who has supported Texas National Guard deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I can understand the emotions behind isolationism. Many people are tired of war, and the urge to pull back is a natural, human reaction. Unfortunately, we live in a world where isolationist policies would only endanger our national security even further.
That’s why it’s disheartening to hear fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), suggest that our nation should ignore what’s happening in Iraq. The main problem with this argument is that it means ignoring the profound threat that the group now calling itself the Islamic State poses to the United States and the world.
In the Islamic State, which came to prominence in Syria and now controls ample territory, weapons and cash in both that country and Iraq, the world is confronting an even more radicalized version of Islamic extremism than al-Qaeda. This group is well-trained, technologically sophisticated and adept at recruitment, with thousands of people with European passports fighting on its side, as well as some Americans.
This represents a real threat to our national security — to which Paul seems curiously blind — because any of these passport carriers can simply buy a plane ticket and show up in the United States without even a visa. It’s particularly chilling when you consider that one American has alreadycarried out a suicide bombing and a terrorist-trained European allegedly killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Governor Perry is correct. Rand Paul has said that the radical Islamic caliphate now being created in Iraq and Syria is no big deal:
Their first objective isn’t getting to the United States, their first objective would be getting to Baghdad.”
This is exactly the same stupidity that created 9/11. Al Qaeda’s first objective was not getting to the United States. Their first objective was setting up a safe haven where they could train and plan operations. We shouldn’t be concerned about their first objective, we need to focus on their final objective.
Paul’s rejoinder, in Politico, was the predictable amalgam of non sequiturs, dishonesty, and misrepresentations that have become Rand Paul’s stock in trade.
First and foremost, he never repudiates his stated view that an ISIS enclave comprising parts of Iraq and Syria is a bad thing. This is critical because it reveals Paul as a shallow poseur who is desperately afraid of offending the morons on his nutty dad’s mailing list and shutting down the gravy train.
In fact, some of Perry’s solutions for the current chaos in Iraq aren’t much different from what I’ve proposed, something he fails to mention. His solutions also aren’t much different from President Barack Obama’s, something he also fails to mention. Because interestingly enough, there aren’t that many good choices right now in dealing with this situation in Iraq.
Just to be clear, Perry and Paul agree but Perry is wrong. This is just sophistry. What is at issue is not near term actions but a worldview. Rand Paul’s worldview sees America with a moat around it. Airplanes have not been invented. We have no interests overseas. People won’t bother us if we just pull down our trousers and insert our heads. This America has not existed since before the Barbary Wars.
The next step in any Rand Paul foreign policy statement is accusing those who can see the bright yellow Pooh Bears festooning Paul’s brand new clothes is to accuse them of advocating the use of US ground forces. In Paul’s world there are only two possible positions: a reasonable one (oddly enough the one he advocates) and thermonuclear Armageddon.
Unlike Perry, I oppose sending American troops back into Iraq. After a decade of the United States training the Iraq’s military, when confronted by the enemy, the Iraqis dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms and hid. Our soldiers’ hard work and sacrifice should be worth more than that. Our military is too good for that.
I ask Governor Perry: How many Americans should send their sons or daughters to die for a foreign country — a nation the Iraqis won’t defend for themselves? How many Texan mothers and fathers will Governor Perry ask to send their children to fight in Iraq?
Note that Perry has not advocated sending troops to Iraq in response to the current crisis. Paul, dishonestly, draws on a Perry statement from 2012 – that his preference would have been that US ground troops had remained in Iraq—and applies it to the current situation.
Let’s be clear. Where Ron Paul is a crank and a huckster and therefore unlikely to do little more than edit racist newsletters and fleece the low-intellect crowd of their hard earned cash, Rand Paul is an intellectual lightweight, a poseur, and in position to potentially do more damage to the United States than Barack Obama.
Sit back, strap yourself in, and let’s take a short, vertigo generating, spin through Rand Paul’s vision
I’ll quote at length from my colleague Caleb Howe’s story at therightscoop.com:
“There are times when sanctions have made it worse. I mean, there are times .. leading up to World War II we cut off trade with Japan. That probably caused Japan to react angrily. We also had a blockade on Germany after World War I, which may have encouraged them … some of their anger.”
Rubin spoke with David David Adesnik of the American Enterprise Institute about Paul’s remarks:
After viewing the video, he tells Right Turn, “Blaming the U.S. for Pearl Harbor is a long-standing isolationist habit that reflects tremendous historical illiteracy. Sen. Paul is very poorly informed if he thinks U.S. sanctions ‘probably caused Japan to react angrily.’” He explains, “The U.S. cut off oil supplies to Japan in August 1941, long after Japan had launched its atrocity-laden war against China in 1937. The evidence is conclusive that Japan was determined to dominate all of East Asia. Believing that the U.S. would not stand by passively if it overran Thailand, Singapore, Malaya and the East Indies, Japan launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.”
From my own post on the vapidity of Paul’s multiple positions on Crimea:
“Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea,” Paul said on Tuesday, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Paul, however, said those recommendations (by Senator McCain—ed note) are misguided, given the culture and history shared by Ukraine and Russia, and the damage such gestures could cause to U.S.-Russian relations.
“The Ukraine has a long history of either being part of the Soviet Union or within that sphere,” he said. “I don’t think it behooves us to tell the Ukraine what to do. I’m not excited about saying ‘hey, let’s put the Ukraine in NATO’ to rub Russia’s nose in it.”
Paul is against using a containment strategy against Iran, even if it becomes nuclear.
And, of course, Paul keeps up this utterly ridiculous façade of comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan. This, like accusing his opponents of wanting to send American troops everywhere, is another standard feature of any Rand Paul foreign policy statement:
This is where many in my own party, similar to Perry, get it so wrong regarding Ronald Reagan’s doctrine of “peace through strength.” Strength does not always mean war. Reagan ended the Cold War without going to war with Russia. He achieved a relative peace with the Soviet Union—the greatest existential threat to the United States in our history—through strong diplomacy and moral leadership.
Reagan had no easy options either. But he did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. Some of Reagan’s Republican champions today praise his rhetoric but forget his actions. Reagan was stern, but he wasn’t stupid. Reagan hated war, particularly the specter of nuclear war. Unlike his more hawkish critics—and there were many—Reagan was always thoughtful and cautious.
This is just Martian history. Paul seems to forget our intervention in Lebanon and our invasion of Grenada. He glides over our active and controversial involvement in both Nicaragua and El Salvador and the arms deal with Iran that nearly ended his presidency. He forgets the brutal proxy wars we fought in Angola, Mozambique, Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia. He ignores us “tweaking” Libya in the Gulf of Sidra. There is no evidence that a pantywaist like Paul would have ever pushed forward with SDI or deployed the Pershing II missiles to Europe despite widespread fear and angst on the part of our allies. Can anyone seriously say they can visualize a man who blames his own nation for Pearl Harbor and can’t see the dangerous potential of an al-Qaeda caliphate standing at the Brandenburg Gate demanding Gorbachev tear down The Wall?
While a lot of what Paul espouses is the dangerous isolationist claptrap pushed by Lindbergh and other “America Firsters” as a way of keeping the US from stopping Nazi Germany, Ben Domench, RedState founder and editor of The Transom, says this about the dust-up:
And third, it seems to me that Paul is walking into a rather obvious political trap here which his team doesn’t appear to recognize. The danger in a Republican presidential primary is not to be tagged as an isolationist (it actually plays to Paul’s advantage to run with that attack, because of the rhetorical pivot it allows – does opposition to nation-building make one an isolationist?). No, the real danger for Paul is to be tagged as no different from an Obama-Kerry liberal. He is vulnerable on this count, and will likely remain so absent a change in his approach which does not appear to be in the offing.
He is completely right. There is no difference between Paul’s distrust of American power and influence and the run of the mill progressive. He kneejerk reaction is to see America as the cause of problems, be it Pearl Harbor or “tweaking” Russia. His strategic vision is myopic and his ability to defend it nil. The man is simply not competent to be even a candidate for president.
You can hear in all this a note of the blame-America-first libertarianism embraced by some Paulite thinkers and writers. Rand Paul himself is more circumspect. After the Japan comments surfaced, one of Paul’s advisers put out a statement in support of World War II, which usually goes without saying. Paul quickly toughened up his rhetoric on Russia as Putin’s Crimea invasion unfolded.
Paul likes to calls his foreign policy “realism,” but his record on Russia suggests the label is inapt. Last year, he thought what was wrong with President Barack Obama’s Syria policy was that we weren’t engaging the Russians enough. Earlier this year, he held out the Syria chemical-weapons deal — a humiliation for the United States that secured Bashar Assad in power — as a model for future diplomacy. He thought the Russians were a partner for peace, right on the cusp of their launching a war.