Rand Paul vs. the "Forever War"

The Republican senator takes aim at modern conservative orthodoxy.


The cruelest thing about politics is that it occasionally gets your hopes up. Sometimes, just when you've almost concluded that the best D.C. has to offer is ringside seats at the latest legislative catastrophe, you get an unexpected outbreak of political courage and common sense.

So it was a cruel trick Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), played last Wednesday with his 13-hour filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan. For a not-so-brief moment, it seemed possible to restore "normalcy" and bring an end to endless war.

The immediate subject of Paul's marathon session—whether the administration could legally execute an American citizen on American soil via flying kill-bot—is, admittedly, an unlikely scenario. Still, I had to laugh when, amid the filibuster, I saw a blog post from the Obamaphilic Center for American Progress, breathlessly warning that the "Number of Radical Anti-Government Groups 'Reached an All-Time High' in 2012." Homeland Security isn't serious enough about fighting "patriot" groups, who fear federal policies "aimed at taking away American freedoms." So send in the drones, already!

But Paul devoted considerable time to a more pressing issue: the increasingly tenuous legal authority for our ever-expanding war on terror. More than a decade after Sept. 11, the legal basis for that war is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001, empowering the president to go after those responsible for that atrocity and anyone who "harbored" them.

As Paul noted, "they take that authorization of use of force to mean pretty much anything." We need a serious debate, he said, about "whether that use or authorization of force is open-ended, forever."

Indeed, on the morning of Paul's filibuster, The Washington Post's front page blared: "Administration debates stretching 9/11 law to go after new al-Qaeda offshoots." Actually, they've already stretched it beyond recognition.

As Paul pointed out Wednesday, counterterror mission creep has led to "war in Yemen, Somalia, Mali. It is a war in unlimited places" against increasingly marginal groups that didn't exist on Sept. 11. In Mali, the Post reported, "unarmed U.S. Reapers scour the deserts… to search for so-called patterns of life—communications and movements deemed by the U.S. to be telltale signs of militant activity." The targeting information we've passed on has "led to nearly 60 French airstrikes in the past week alone."

Paul raised the possibility of "blowback" from the "inadvertent killing of civilians"—nearly 200 children in Pakistan alone, for example.

After Paul's filibuster, self-styled "serious conservatives" rose to chastise him. Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), who at a 2007 campaign appearance sang "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann," said, "I don't think what happened yesterday is helpful to the American people."

David Frum, author of such conservative classics as the George W. Bush hagiography The Right Man and (with Richard Perle) An End to Evil, insisted that sober, responsible conservatives shouldn't "stand with Rand."

But Paul's concerns echo an older, wiser tradition in American conservatism. In 1967, Russell Kirk praised the late Sen. Robert A. Taft for insisting that war had to be a last resort, threatening as it did to "make the American President a virtual dictator, diminish the constitutional powers of Congress, contract civil liberties, injure the habitual self-reliance and self-government of the American people, distort the economy, sink the federal government in debt, [and erode] public morality."

Does any of that sound familiar?

Sen. Paul has done Republicans—and the Republic—a great service by reminding us that there's nothing conservative about perpetual war.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.

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  1. Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse

    For an institute named Cato…

    1. I think it is named for Cato the Younger who opposed Ceasar, not Cato the Elder.

      1. I’m just glad someone got the joke.

        1. Actually, it’s named after Cato’s Letters.


          The Letters were named after Cato the Younger, and were often cited in the pre-Revolutionary “letters of correspondence”.

            1. Well, the linky thing to the Wikipedia doesn’t copy correctly, but if you’re interested you’ll figure it out.

              1. Like any good Commonwealthman, I’ve read Cato’s Letters.

      2. I thought it was Cato the Fool. As in, “You fool! You raving Oriental idiot! There is a time and a place for everything, Cato! And this is it!”

        1. The Kochtopus has often been seen driving the Silver Hornet.

        2. Inspector Clouseau would like a word with you, Cato…

    2. like Keith explained I’m impressed that some one can make $8618 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this link…. http://goo.gl/ASVr8

  2. Well They’ll drone you and say that it’s the end
    They’ll drone you and then they’ll come back again
    They’ll drone you when you’re riding in your car
    They’ll drone you when you’re playing you sitar
    Yes But I would not feel so all alone
    Everybody must get dronedoned

    1. Good effort!

      1. I think more Judy Collins vice Bob Dylan:

        Isn’t it a bitch?
        Are you gettin scared?
        Me here at last on the ground,
        You in mid-air.
        Send in the drones.

        Isn’t this the shit?
        ‘The One’ he approves?
        Children who keeps tearing around,
        Others who can’t move.
        Where are the drones?
        Send in the drones.

        Quick, send in the Drones.
        Don’t bother, they’re here.

        1. I wrote a full version of this a few weeks ago, I can’t remember if I posted it. There are lots of verses that fit perfectly for a parody (for instance the “on the ground/in mid-air” line). I’ll have to go find it in my sent box.

  3. Sen. Paul has done Republicans?and the Republic?a great service by reminding us that there’s nothing conservative about perpetual war.

    Oh bullshit he has.

    1. Why do you say that?

      1. Because Sparky likes to be miserable.

        1. Although true, to sparkster’s point, I don’t recall Rand making a case why perpetual war was incompatible with conservatism. With libertarian/free-society principles, maybe.

      2. Because Rand Paul’s speech in the long run will amount to nothing more than a fart in the wind. It has reminded nobody of anything.

    2. It would be nice if some Democrat, somewhere out there, would remind people that perpetual war is incompatible with liberalism.

  4. Center for American Progress, breathlessly warning that the “Number of Radical Anti-Government Groups ‘Reached an All-Time High’ in 2012.” Homeland Security isn’t serious enough about fighting “patriot” groups, who fear federal policies “aimed at taking away American freedoms.” So send in the drones, already!

    What better way to prove your enemies wrong than to do everything they accuse you wanting to do?

    1. What’s alarming is the number of leftist newspapers etc, that juxtapose handwringing over militia/patriot groups with pictures taken at pro-gun rights rallies attended by, you know, normal people who don’t want their rights trampled but aren’t spending their weekends at paramilitary camp.

      1. If the leftoid media wants to alienate and radicalize pro-gun Americans and drive them into overt opposition to the Total State, that’s fine with me.

        1. For some reason when proglodytes advocate using the state to conduct a war on American citizens of a different political disposition they assume it is going to go well for them.

          1. Agreed. Not quite sure what their envisioned outcome is.

  5. I love that the most anti-war politician out there is a Tea Partyish Republican. It’s just delicious that liberals couldn’t come up with one of their own to be the anti-war spokeshole.

    1. But dahling, with Obama in the White House, pro-war is the new anti-war!

    2. To be fair, a lot of the early Dem anti-war candidates lost in 2004 elections. Of course, DailKos learned to stop worrying and love endless War.

      Obviously, it said more about Democrats than it did about the individual candidates.

      1. But one of the Dem anti-war candidates did win in 2008, and we’ve seen how that has turned out.

        1. One of the allegedly anti-war candidates won.

          1. Anti-Team-Red-wars.

            Team Blue wars are good because Team Blue is good. And Team Blue is good because they only fight good wars.

            1. No, Team Blue is good because they’re not Team Red.

    1. MSNBC viewers would be an excellent first target.

    2. So that’s probably a total of, what three dozen people?

      1. 78% of the three dozen, right?

    3. Is this really a surprise? Progressives are aghast and morally outraged by senseless, unforeseen violence.

      When the violence is dispensed by by one of their own, in conjunction with TOP MEN, and the name written very neatly on a secret list, well, then it’s all good.

    4. Ed Schultz, the man whose soul perfectly matches his face.

  6. Rand Paul doesn’t think that giving the President the right to wage war forever is a good idea?!? What a dangerous lunatic! What poppycock is next from this frightening demagogue? Best he let the Congress get back to the work of Our Nation, namely a playoff system to replace that ghastly BCS silliness!

    1. Why he is a whacko bird or something!

    2. Irresponsible!

      But it was just a political stunt!

    3. Those radical constitutionalists.

  7. “whether the administration could legally execute an American citizen on American soil via flying kill-bot?is, admittedly, an unlikely scenario.”

    I don’t think so, really, I think this is a VERY likely scenario if people don’t wake up.

    1. If it can be done, it will be done at some point. What’s the point of untrammeled power if you don’t abuse it?

      1. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe! I suggest we use it!

        1. “Sir, one of the engineers would like a word with you….something about and exhaust port?”

          1. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    2. Next Waco or Ruby Ridge you can bet there will be a drone strike. Officer safety and stuff, you know?

      1. Bah. Who cares about armed drones? It’s no different than a brave police officer firing a LAW rocket out of a helicopter. Don’t be such a Luddite.

        1. Backblast area….NOT clear.

          1. You can do anything you want…once.

        2. Honestly, I think that whether it is done by drone or other means is pretty irrelevant. It’s the targeted killing in a non war-zone that is the problem. It would be just as bad if a team of ninjas did it with poisoned knives or something.

          1. You mean poisoned shurikens, right?

      2. Waco? As long as it’s rural, they’ll consider the killbot a proper servicing of a drug warrant.

      3. Here’s what’ll happen. One of these scary, mean ol’ patriot militia groups will freak out because they’ve got this funny feeling that the government is trampling the rights of citizens by doing things like disarming them and authorizing the use of extrajudicial military force against political dissidents. So, they’ll stockpile some guns, take a crash-course in animal husbandry, and go live off the grid.

        Since that’s obviously terribly suspicious behavior, this will justify the use of drone fly-overs for surveillance. I don’t know about you, but if I’m already a little edgy about the government I’m probably going to really freak out if actual black helicopters (or drones, in this case) start hovering above my porch. Somebody’s gonna take a shot at the drone, or at some random guy in a black balaclava scoping the place out for a no-knock warrant.

        Well, there you go. Domestic terrorists. The cavalry will come charging in, guns blazing. Since the scary militia is still under the bizarre assumption that they’re being attacked by government forces, they’re probably going to actually shoot back. See? Dangerous terrorist group operating right here in the US of A. Well, anyone still in the compound obviously won’t go down without a fight, so you might as well protect your Fed thugs-er, peace officers-by flying a drone over to flush ’em out.

        1. Next you’re going to suggest that we park ships right near countries we want to get militarily involved in, hoping they sink them so we have a “legitimate” reason to get involved.

          1. Well that’s just paranoid, son, like suggesting that we’d sell guns to Mexican drug cartels so we can trace them after they become murder weapons.

            /Eric Holder

        2. Well duh, we didn’t say we wouldn’t provoke them into engaging in combat first.

    3. Seriously, this is going to happen in what, like, six months to a year tops? I give it five years on the wayyyyyy outside.

    4. While I’m not so sure it is a particularly likely scenario, I think the main point here is to establish SOME limitation on the presidential power to assassinate (let’s be quite clear; that’s what it is) people. In effect, the administration’s position (even if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was unintentional) was that the U.S. government had the authority to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time.

      1. “MURDER” (let’s be quite clear; that’s what it is) people

  8. Drone industry predicts explosive economic boost


    Domestic murderdrone strikes could be the biggest economic boon since the internet so why do you people hate American workers?

    1. Can someone explain to me the difference between Workfare and the top 50% of the DoD budget?

      1. Bigger and shinier outputs?

  9. Agreed that there is nothing conservative about perpetual war, but I disagree with two assumptions:

    1. That the “long war” is necessarily of conservative origin: First, neither Bush was not a conservative. The national security establishment (military and intelligence community) is not conservative, either. Picture the writers at the Atlantic Monthly with infantry divisions, and each general aspiring to be Michael Bloomberg. THAT is the institutional character of the military.

    2. That war should be the last resort. War should be chosen when it is likely to be the most effective response to the problem at hand. There is no gain in letting an adversary harm you before taking action to defeat him. “There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.” – Nicolo Machiavelli

    1. Not a fan of the NAP I see.

    2. I’ll see your Machiavelli and raise you one Sun Tzu:

      “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

      1. “War is politics by other means.” Clausewitz

        “So?” – Ghengis

        1. “Because fuck you”- Hitler

      2. Maneuver like Frederick the Great, inspire terror like Genghis Khan, avoidance of casualties like Fabius Cunctator and persistence of U. S. Grant…..coming right up!

        1. Thought Warty might want to know this:

          His agnomen Cunctator (cognate to the English noun cunctation) means “delayer” in Latin, and refers to his tactics in deploying the troops during the Second Punic War. His cognomen Verrucosus means “warty”, a reference to a wart above his upper lip.

      3. The history of warfare is similarly subdivided, although here the phases are Retribution, Anticipation, and Diplomacy. Thus:

        Retribution: I’m going to kill you because you killed my brother. Anticipation: I’m going to kill you because I killed your brother. Diplomacy: I’m going to kill my brother and then kill you on the pretext that your brother did it.

        Douglas Adams

    3. Well, “effective” for whom? I can think of a host of scenarios where war would be the most effective means to establish a designated policy objective. Of course, for the poor bastards being sent to die or come back maimed, that effectiveness may well be beside the point.

      1. I’ve never understood why if politicians are the scum of the earth, killing people for their benefit is the most noble thing a man can do. I just don’t get it.

        1. Yeah, but THIS politician’s different. He always is.

        2. It’s not framed as getting killed for a politician.

          1. But that is exactly what it is.

    4. You do realize The Prince was intended as satire.

      1. ??

        That is the stupidest comment about The Prince that I have ever read, including all the leftoid comments about Machiavelli being an advocate of totalitarianism.

        1. There’s actually been quite a bit of argument that the book was intended as a satire.

          Interpretation of The Prince as political satire or as deceit

          1. While superficially plausible, this strikes me as somewhat ahistoric. What made The Prince a significant piece is that books tended to focus on what “should be” (particularly in light of Christian philosophy). The Prince was significant because it focused on what empirically is. Italy, at the time, was Europe’s war zone. And Borgia was very good at ensuring that HIS particular plot of Italian soil wasn’t part of that war zone. While right thinking people might find his methods deplorable, his subjects were quite happy that he was able to afford them relative peace and prosperity.

  10. And another thing….

    The GWOT/LW/OOCO/Whatever is not even a real war.

    Wars have a point. Wars have some sort of end state that when achieved constitutes victory.

    This DHS police-state/overseas nation-building hooey is not warfare. It is something else. It is violent, but it isn’t conducted with the intention of achieving anything concrete and finite. It goes on for no other point than to go on.

    Conservative writer Mark Steyn frequently complains that the U.S. military, for all its high tech capabilities, cannot win a war against goat-herders. What he, and many others, fail to understand is that it isn’t a war in the first place. Generals like Stanley McChrystal and mid-level officers like John Nagl (both of whom were big stars for those who worship nation-building) appear to me to have the same understanding of the affairs of states and peoples as a bright, but deluded, freshman poli-sci student at an Ivy League school. They use big words, they grandstand and pontificate, but they don’t have an actual point. It’s all the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    1. You’re saying it’s not war your enemy has no central authority who can tell its fighters to stand down?

    2. Not war, but rather…Forcible society molding. “War” ended in December 2001 or so.

    3. War doesn’t have to have a point. The wars in “1984” were not not wars because they were intended to go on forever as a means of distracting the populace.

      The problem here is that we set our victory conditions ridiculously high. The goatherders just have to continue to annoy us and disrupt the functioning of Afghan society to prevent us from “winning”, even when we can go anywhere we want in AFG or IRQ and dish out as many casualties as we wish.

  11. War as the last resort = Poland 1939

    War when necessary, but necessarily last = Israel 1967

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    1. Why did your sister’s father-in-law’s best friend’s sister-in-law’s neighbor have to do this thing for 10 months, while your sister’s father-in-law only have to do it for a month, yet they were both paid $8434?

      1. Oh, I see… Your sister’s father-in-law was paid $8434, while your sister’s father-in-law’s best friend’s sister-in-law’s neighbor was paid over $8434. Still, quite the coincidence, one being paid $8434 and the other being paid over that exact figure, no?

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  16. I just realized this was written in 2002. I wonder what the gun crime rate is now. Any government that tells you that you have no right to self defense is not looking after your best interest. Self defense is the most basic right anyone has. No government or police can protect you. I can’t believe you all allow this to continue. I keep a gun at home for self defense and have a license to carry it concealed any where I go. And I do. If I am attacked then at least I have a chance to stay alive. By the time the police arrive they can either arrange for my body to be picked up or take a statement from me. I choose the later. Britons let a right be taken from them and now it will be much harder to get it back. But you should try.
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