Rand Paul Continues Attempt to Block Chuck Hagel for Defense Vote: Does This Make Him an Interventionist?


This morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted no on cloture on the Chuck Hagel appointment for Secretary of Defense–meaning he's voting to continue to block a vote on the nomination. Paul was in the minority of a 71-27 vote, and the actual vote on Hagel's nomination might happen as early as this afternoon.

A portion of the old Ron Paul-supporting conservative/libertarian non-intervention foreign policy intelligentsia believed very passionately that Sen. Paul should have supported Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary all the way, not tried to block him. Paul said as recently as yesterday that he wasn't sure whether he would actually vote for Hagel's nomination when the vote comes up, and that he generally respects the president's ability to pick his cabinet, as Politico reported.

Some of the reasons why a portion of the anti-intervention right is peeved at Paul over this, as expressed by Daniel Larison at the American Conservative, here and here. To sum up those objections to Paul's obstructionism on Hagel: Roughly, since Hagel is opposed by those who seem to want a more interventionist U.S. presence in the Middle East (for his supposedly being insufficiently passionate about fighting for Israel, and for later on having doubts about the Iraq War he at first supported), Paul needs to support him to prove his bonafides.

This belief that Paul needs to unambiguously be for Hagel to prove he will be a decent foreign policy voice seems to go beyond any firm belief that Hagel as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration will actually be an effective noninterventionist. That he will be is questionable, as Ed Krayewski blogged here at Hit and Run.

The belief that Rand Paul must support Hagel seems rooted rather in a sort of team-politics belief that being for Hagel unequivocally shows you can't be pushed around by the larger politico-cultural forces of interventionism. Paul, to this reading, won't satisfy such critics if he misses any chance to wage politico-cultural war against anyone seen as for interventionism, whether or not the action has a substantive connection to any real bad actions in the world, from a non-interventionist perspective.

For his part, Paul says he thinks the more important thing he's doing is obstructing John Brennan for CIA, over his thoughts on domestic drones, as discussed in Daily Caller and Business Insider.

My earlier blogging on Paul and Hagel. Recall that Paul's stated reasons for opposition have nothing to do with Hagel being insufficiently raring to fight in the Middle East–they were a belief that he's been insufficiently transparent about possible appearance-of-impropriety issues of who he'd taken money from in his career.

Deciding that one of the few Republicans making a concerted effort to talk about containment rather than war as a strategy to deal with any threats from a nuclear Iran or radical Islam (the anti-interventionists mad at Paul would rather he talk about how there really isn't any such threat at all) is now a villain over a Hagel cloture vote strikes me as premature. This cloture vote is not a simple vote for or against intervention; treating it as such may well underestimate how good a foreign policy Senator (or eventual presidential candidate) Rand Paul will be.

UPDATE: And Paul did indeed end up voting to confirm Hagel as Secretary of Defense.