Advocating for foreign intervention is not something you usually hear from libertarian poster children like Senator Paul. And yet, that seems to be what he’s preaching. From WaPo:
“If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress,” Paul told the AP. “I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”
Good. Someone should have a plan to deal with those monsters. But as WaPo points out, Paul is supposed to be the only non-interventionist in the bunch of potential 2016 contenders.
Compare Paul’s statement to the rest of the pack of GOP potential candidates, as compiled by WaPo:
Chris Christie: “”The ISIS situation is one that deserves a really detailed answer, which I’m not going to give you while walking down the boardwalk and taking selfies.”
Marco Rubio: “If we do not act now to assist our Iraqi partners and moderate Syrians who oppose ISIL, as well as utilize our own forces to directly target ISIL’s leadership, the result will be more suffering and tragedy for our people.”
Paul Ryan: ““What we need to have is a strategy to finish them off, to defeat ISIS. Not contain them, not to react, but to fundamentally finish them off.”
Ted Cruz: Said that the Islamic State is “mocking America” and “we ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age.”
Mike Huckabee: “[Obama] needs to be calling leaders of Arab states. We have got to demand of the Saudis and the people of Qatar and the UAE, look, this is your part of the world, it’s blown up in your face. We’re not going to shed American blood for what you guys ought to be helping us to contain and eradicate. You either get in the game or we’re done with you. That’s the kind of leadership we need to be exercising.”
National Review caught up with one of Senator Paul’s foreign policy advisors who had this to say:
Richard Burt, one of Rand Paul’s foreign policy advisers, says that the senator’s call to destroy the Islamic State is not merely a matter of political opportunity; he explains that it reflects the senator’s broader views about America’s role in the world. When I spoke with Burt, who served as ambassador to West Germany during Ronald Reagan’s second term, he was working with Paul’s team on an op-ed on the ISIS threat.
Paul, Burt says, “understands that the United States is a global power and that there are occasions where the United States has to use military force.”
“I think this is all based on an approach to foreign policy that thinks in terms of American interests,” he says. “The thing that makes ISIS a particularly serious challenge is that we do have interests” in the Middle East – in a thriving Kurdish minority and in ensuring the success of a stable Iraqi government including the strong ties that we’ve built up with the Kurds” and in an successful Iraqi government that integrates the country’s Sunni minority.
Burt tacitly suggests that what differentiates Paul from the neoconservatives who shaped policy at the top echelons of the Bush is his belief that the use of force should be “selective” and that leaders should think through the consequences of using force and have a strategy for bringing it to an end.
Though less idealistic that George W. Bush’s call to end tyranny in our time, Paul is embracing the conventional foreign policy stance of the pre-Bush era.
His latest comments are something of an about face. In a June interview, he told me that President Obama’s contention that the Islamic State might establish safe havens in Iraq from which it could launch attacks on the United States was “a bit of a stretch” and said of the group, “Their first objective isn’t getting to the United States, their first objective would be getting to Baghdad.”
Asked about those remarks, Burt says, “I don’t think two months ago any of us really had a clear understanding of the momentum this group had.”
Many Paul devotees and those who self-identify as libertarian (not all, no blanket generalizations here) take pride in being the only contingent on the right that’s adamantly anti-war.
How will the non-interventionists respond to Paul’s hawkishness? I don’t see a scenario where the Senator is excommunicated from the libertarian label, but expect Paul’s base to justify his comments, creating a new foreign policy caveat in modern libertarianism.
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