Rand Paul Reax: 'bizarre,' 'one of the major foreign policy speeches of this still young century,' Just Like His Father, Not Enough Like His Father, etc.


Rand Paul's big foreign policy speech at Heritage yesterday (read it here; follow-up here) has drawn a lot of interesting and disparate reaction. Here's a sampling:

Washington Post political columnist Dana Milbank says that "Rand Paul is more like his father after all":

[T]he only military intervention Paul explicitly supported in his speech was attacking al-Qaeda in Afghanistan — a conflict even his father voted to authorize. Later, in a conference call with reporters, I asked Paul whether there was any other military intervention in the past 30 or 40 years he would have supported. That left a wide range of possibilities — Vietnam, Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq, Libya — but he declined to name one.

The apple, it would appear, doesn't fall far from the tree. […]

In his call with reporters later, he returned to a tone that sounded more isolationist — or, as modern isolationists call themselves, non-interventionists. "We supported a concept of radical jihad against the Soviets, and it came back to bite us," he said. "Some people argue keeping the shah in power ultimately came back to bite us." Calling for the United States to "be more hesitant," he argued that in Syria "we shouldn't be arming one side or the other." […]

If this makes Rand Paul a foreign policy realist, so's his old man.

Antiwar.com's John Glaser, on the other hand, says "Paul tried to advocate a foreign policy of restraint, but couched it in the rhetoric of interventionists":

Paul suggested the United States reapply its Cold War strategies of engagement, aggression, and containment to the 21st century's version of a Soviet threat: "Radical Islam."

But does America really face such an overarching threat? […]

Few Americans will be persuaded of non-intervention if they are constantly reminded of minor, indirect threats through the oversimplified rhetoric of politicians.

The Washington Free Beacon quotes a bunch of neoconservatives calling Sen. Paul naive:

Danielle Pletka, vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Paul's speech failed to address the actual debates among foreign policy experts.

"I respect the thoughtful tone and the enthusiastic research that went into the senator's speech," said Pletka. "Unfortunately, the restraint that he calls for in addressing the challenges of the day is directed toward straw men. Who has suggested we invade Iran? Or Syria? Or anywhere else?"

The speech may have also set back Paul's outreach to the pro-Israel community.

One senior official at a prominent D.C. Jewish organization called it "frankly bizarre" and "outside the bipartisan political and policy consensus." […]

"From looking at Sen. Paul's speech, we're not quite talking about the same ideas of containment," [said Lee] Smith[, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies].  "What containment means for him is the same as what it means for the most of the commentariat and probably most of the Obama administration. 'Containment' just means anything but the use of military force."

More reaction after the jump.

The American Conservative's Daniel Larison declares himself "puzzled" at Paul's discussion of radical Islam:

Referring to "radical Islam" as if it were a unified movement or cause obscures the different goals of varying jihadist groups, and it potentially leads to the error of lumping together all Islamist groups regardless of their goals and methods. This can lead to confusing statements, such as one that Sen. Paul makes a little later: "Though at times stateless, radical Islam is also supported by radicalized nations such as Iran." The Iranian regime supports specific Islamist proxies, but it can't be said to support a generic "radical Islam." Iran doesn't sponsor the jihadist groups most responsible for security threats to the U.S. and Europe. If the goal is avoid making the mistake of early Cold War anticommunists, who interpreted containment doctrine far too broadly, it's important to distinguish jihadist groups from one another according to the political objectives of each one. It's also important to distinguish between jihadists' theoretically global ambitions and their normally very limited means. Containment implies opposition to some form of expansionism, but in this case there is no expansionism to be contained.

More from Jennifer Rubin ("the speech is based on a giant fallacy"), Ralph Z. Hallow ("this may go down as one of the major foreign policy speeches of this still young century"), Aaron Blake ("the difference between Rand Paul and his father is that Rand is taking care to massage his message of limited intervention and show Republicans how it fits into their existing worldview"), Jews 4 Rand Paul ("well thought out and had a lot of food for thought"), and David Freedlander ("I'm not my dad!").