Rand Paul stakes out his foreign policy Realpolitik on ISIS

Rand Paul stakes out his foreign policy Realpolitik on ISIS

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Senator Rand Paul / Photo: Gage Skidmore, used under Flickr Creative Commons license
Senator Rand Paul / Photo: Gage Skidmore, used under Flickr Creative Commons license

WASHINGTON, September 6, 2014 — Rand Paul’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal sums up his analysis of how the menace of the Islamic State developed, and clearly declares that it must be dealt with:

The Islamic State represents a threat that should be taken seriously. But we should also recall how recent foreign-policy decisions have helped these extremists so that we don’t make the same mistake of potentially aiding our enemies again.

The Christian Science Monitor wonders, “Has Rand Paul become a Hawk?” and outlines his pre-existing image:

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.

Has Rand Paul crashed the Old Hawk’s Club? Paul himself doesn’t think he’s become one. Instead, he presents a new iteration of Realpolitik for the 21st century. Paul writes in a Time magazine editorial:

Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally.

Paul takes aim at the Obama administration — really at the President himself — when outlining the failures of the White House in taking measures to stop the Islamic State in its tracks:

If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS. I would have called Congress back into session — even during recess. This is what President Obama should have done. He should have been prepared with a strategic vision, a plan for victory and extricating ourselves. He should have asked for authorization for military action and would have, no doubt, received it.

Paul notes the irony of the King of Saudi Arabia issuing a warning about the threat of ISIS to Europe and the United States, when it is commonly known that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various other Arab states worked in conjunction with the U.S. to nurture the metamorphosis of al Qaeda into the Islamic State:

Important partners such as Turkey, a NATO ally, Israel, and Jordan face an immediate threat, and unchecked growth endangers Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries such as Qatar, and even Europe. Several potential partners — notably, the Turks, Qataris, and Saudis — have been reckless in their financial support of ISIS, which must cease immediately.

Paul echoes this column’s conclusions on our supporting role with ISIS when he observes:

Three years after President Obama waged war in Libya without Congressional approval, Libya is a sanctuary and safe haven for training and arms for terrorists from Northern Africa to Syria. Our deserted Embassy in Tripoli is controlled by militants. Jihadists today swim in our embassy pool.

Syria, likewise, has become a jihadist wonderland. In Syria, Obama’s plan just one year ago — and apparently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s desire — was to aid rebels against Assad, despite the fact that many of these groups are al-Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated. Until we acknowledge that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria allowed ISIS a safe haven, no amount of military might will extricate us from a flawed foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Obama’s decisions — from disengaging diplomatically in Iraq and the region and fomenting chaos in Libya and Syria — leave few good options. A more realistic and effective foreign policy would protect the vital interests of the nation without the unrealistic notion of nation-building.

No question that this is another area in which Senator Paul is positioning himself to declare for a run at the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination, and is doing so in a way that distinguishes himself with respect to foreign policy, from the other likely contenders in the pack. In doing so, he seems to correctly observe that the American voter finds the growth and atrocities of the Islamic State very disturbing, but on the other hand, isn’t ready to write a blank check for more unfocused and widespread military engagement on multiple fronts.


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