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Rand Paul: ISIS hawk in isolationist body?

Rand Paul: ISIS hawk in isolationist body?

“I am neither an isolationist nor an interventionist.”

Yesterday, we wrote about Senator Paul’s apparent departure from isolationism.  Last night, the Kentucky Senator chatted with Sean Hannity about his foreign policy stance:

“I’ve been trying to say that for the last four years of public life that I’m I’m neither an isolationist nor an interventionist. I’m someone who believes in the Constitution and believes America should have a strong national defense and believes that we should defend ourselves. But when we do it, we should do it the way the Constitution intended. That’s the President should come before Congress and make the case for war.”

“There’s a big difference between that and between doing it unilaterally. And I think the example of Libya, with both Hillary’s support and President Obama’s support shows all the unintended consequences when they around the Constitution.”

I don’t disagree we should respect Constitutional channels, but objectively speaking, this is just political posturing and an attempt to define his position as diametrically opposed to that of both Mrs. Clinton and the administration. Which is smart. But his argument seems to hinge on the fact that we would not be in this nightmare of a foreign policy situation had President Obama gone to Congress. Perhaps he’s right. He continued:

“If I had been president, I would’ve called a joint session of Congress this August, brought everybody back from recess and said, “This is what why ISIS is a threat to the country. This is why I want to act, but I want to do it in a Constitutional manner. And I want the entire American public to come together, to galvanize support and say, you know what? This is something we can’t take.””

Buried in his suggestions was the observation that we might still have the upper hand had President Obama treated these groups (like ISIS) as a threat as opposed to emboldening them and their allies. Small point to be sure, but certainly helps to bolster Paul’s argument that Congressional approval and an actual declaration of war would’ve prevented this our current middle eastern predicament.

The Hoover Institute has a great read on the dangerousness of libertarian isolationism and further explores Paul’s argument that intervention lead to the the uprising of ISIS.

Senator Paul has been against the use of military force for a long time. Over the summer, he wrote an article entitled “America Shouldn’t Choose Sides in Iraq’s Civil War,” for the pages of the Wall Street Journal arguing that ISIS did not threaten vital American interests. Just this past week, he doubled down on this position, again in the Journal, arguing that the past interventions of the United States in the Middle East have abetted the rise of ISIS.

His argument for this novel proposition is that the United States should not have sought to degrade Bashar Assad’s regime because that effort only paved the way for the rise of ISIS against whom Assad, bad as he is, is now the major countervailing force. Unfortunately, this causal chain is filled with missing links. The United States could have, and should have, supported the moderate opposition to Assad by providing it with material assistance, and, if necessary, air support, so that it could have been a credible threat against Assad, after the President said Assad had to go over three years ago. The refusal to get involved allowed Assad to tackle the moderates first in the hope that the United States would give him a pass to tackle ISIS, or, better still, even assist him in its demise, as we might well have to do….

It is instructive to ask why it is that committed libertarians like Paul make such disastrous judgments on these life and death issues. In part it is because libertarians often have the illusion of certainty in political affairs that is congenial to the logical libertarian mind. This mindset has led to their fundamental misapprehension of the justified use of force in international affairs. The applicable principles did not evolve in a vacuum, but are derived from parallel rules surrounding self-defense for ordinary people living in a state of nature. Libertarian theory has always permitted the use and threat of force, including deadly force if need be, to defend one’s self, one’s property, and one’s friends….

Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker had this to say:

I confess to being agnostic, at the moment, on Rand Paul. While I am leaning increasingly in libertarian direction myself, I am worried by what appears to me to be an underweighting of nature of the security threats we face, even as I, too, chafe at the surveillance state that has been created as a supposed remedy to the terror threat (as compared to, say, identifying without apology the nature of the Islamic threat we face and a focus on Islam as a risk factor in assessing security concerns. Calling violent jihad a “perversion of a Great Religion” ignores a lot of history of Islamic conquest and amounts to wishful thinking).

Senator Paul has a way to go before he convinces me he has awoken to the severe security threats we face from Islam, and from other aggressive powers, such as Russia and China, for that matter. But I cannot write him off completely, if only because he has demonstrated an appeal to nontraditional GOP voters, such as students at UC Berkeley.

The GOP absolutely has to have a champion who can enlarge the tent, if only because the electorate has been (and continues to be) deliberately engineered in the direction of people dependent on government checks and therefore willing voters for high taxes that they don’t pay in order to fund their receipt of money earned by other people. We have perhaps one or two more presidential election cycles and naturalization ceremonies before we have a permanent majority of dependents, and we need to win over the younger generation who have been so badly betrayed by the president they overwhelmingly voted for.

The ball in now in Rand Paul’s court. I hope he will expand on his views of national security.

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PersonFromPorlock | September 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

The Constitution doesn’t say anything about the president asking for war, it just says Congress has the power to declare it. It appears to me that regardless of what the president does, the ball is in Congress’s court.

All this talk and comment, and there is a lot of it here there and everywhere, seems to assume the US is the only actor in a political, economic, and military vacuum. But there are many powerful forces at work in the middle east, not the least our old friends the Saudis, and their friends Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey, all of the Sunni persuasion. Then there is the religious, economic, and military center of the Shia world Iran who will not allow 100s of millions of Shias to go gently into that good night. If the US thinks it can wallow into an incipient major religious war and get in between the Sunnis and Shia it should think carefully. Then there are the various Jihadis who we have been fighting and losing to for more than a decade. Are we better off now vs. the world’s jihadis than we were ten years ago? Then throw Russia and China into this tar baby mix. There are some estimates that there are 150 million Muslims who actively support militant jihad. 7% of the French support ISIS. Are progressive Democrat America, a demoralized and shrinking US military, an estranged and effete American nomenklatura, and pajama boy ready for this fight? Ten years of recent history says no.

“The time is not far off in the Middle East, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. In 2005, he was named as secretary general of the Saudi National Security Council. He was director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014.

    I think you have some of your logic wrong.

    My reading of the situation is that Saudi Arabia is totally against ISIS. They seem to be working with UAE, Jordan and Egypt.

    However, you are correct to name both Turkey and Qatar, and in particular Qatar who seems to be the ones funding ISIS.

Some of our foreign threat could be eliminated by expanding legal immigration. This would allow us to at least have and idea of who we are letting in the country, and would have the side benefit of slowing down the flood of gawd knows who coming across our borders. This would make it easier to actually patrol and keep out those that don’t belong.

    Nope. Thats the same old “expand now and we’ll enforce later. No really we will” tripe I fell for once in the 80s and again in the 90s. Not falling for it a 3rd time – its the reason I left the GOP.

      Shane in reply to Fen. | September 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      I never said enforce later, so let me clarify. Only accept applications for citizenship from people in other countries, through their embassies as we do now for legal immigration. The difference being is we accept more of those applications. Deport those here that are found to be here illegally.

      This process will create a strange effect of having people traveling the other way at the border. Beef up security along the border. As time goes on and more people come here legally, then the only ones that come here illegally will be the ones that have something to hide, arrest and/or deport those people. This will slow down how much Border Security has to deal with allowing them to be more effective in what they are doing i.e. keeping the borders secure. That is what I am saying.

    wow, proof of life after death.
    Ted Kennedy posting from hell on your very own blog Professor, quite a feat.

Rand Paul, and others like him, is not an “isolationist” as so many would like to paint him. “Isolationist” suggests the traits of “pacifism” and “disengaged,” and, I believe, is meant to be derogatory. However, Paul is a “non-interventionist,” a person who does not believe in US intervention unless US interests and security are plainly and articulably at stake. There is no “departure from isolationism” because he was never an isolationist, and when viewed as a non-interventionist, his statements concerning the Islamic State are not surprising.

    Ragspierre in reply to DaveGinOly. | September 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    ***Paul is a “non-interventionist,” a person who does not believe in US intervention unless US interests and security are plainly and articulably at stake.***

    So, Paul is just like Pres. Bush.


      NeoConScum in reply to Ragspierre. | September 6, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      Huh, indeed, Rags. ((-:
      Little Rand ain’t worth one molecule of George W. Bush’s tough, resolute, lead-from-the-front hide.

      The Twit truly gives me a rash. He and Poppy Paul have Defense and Foreign Policy views depressingly similar to ohhhhhhhhhh…Senator HOW Warren’s of Mass.

As with any other politician, Paul is for anything that get’s him elected.