Rand Paul: 'If you were Assad would you set off chemical weapons? No.'


Campbellsville, KY—Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is not at all persuaded that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was responsible for deploying chemical weapons against his own people, the causus belli being used to prepare America for yet another Mideast war.

Outside an off-the-record meeting with religious leaders yesterday afternoon at Campbellsville University in Central Kentucky, Paul cited Pat Buchanan while expressing skepticism about the Obama Administration's chemical-weapons claims. Here is a transcript from our brief conversation:

Reason: On Syria, a lot of people who are supporting intervention are making not the Iraq analogy, but the Kosovo analogy, where you can do sort of limited bombing and create good outcomes from that. A) is that a decent analogy to what's happening now, and B) do you look at Kosovo as a success?

Rand Paul: Well you know, the precipitating events of people talking about intervening in Syria seem to be chemical weapons. I would think the first question you ought to ask is, who set them off?

Reason: You're not satisfied by the intelligence so far?

RP: Well, it seems like there's some evidence that there were chemical weapons, I think we're sort of all coming around to agreeing with that—but even [then] I'd like to see some evidence. But then secondly I'd like to see what is the evidence of who set these off, you know? […]

Pat Buchanan the other day asked in one of his essays, he said the Latin phrase cui bono, to whose benefit does this redound? I think it's a pretty important question. This is of absolutely no benefit to Assad. If you were Assad would you set off chemical weapons? No—the whole world now is interested in coming in and attacking him. It makes absolutely no sense from a logical point of view. There was no sort of major assault where he was getting ready to be wiped out. I don't know why he would use chemical weapons.

So that's the first question you have to ask. Then there's the question of how do we go to war? Do you go to war simply through the unilateral, arbitrary authority of one person, the president? Or do you go to war the way our Founding Fathers intended, and that's through an open debate, and through a congressional vote? I think the Constitution's clear: You do it through a congressional vote.

If you decide you want to discuss the issue of Syria, there are two ironies you have to overcome if you want to be involved in that war. The first irony is, you're going to be supporting Islamic rebels against Christians. Two million Christians live in Syria, probably more than any other country [in the region], maybe other than Egypt, and they're allied with Assad. The second irony you have to overcome is we will be on the same side as Al Qaeda. I thought we were fighting Al Qaeda.

So, I think those ironies to me are pretty significant hurdles to wanting to get involved in the Syrian war.

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  1. If it’s so worth doing and it’s so evidently the right thing to do, then why not go to Congress? Especially since it’s required under the Constitution.

    1. If it’s so worth doing and it’s so evidently the right thing to do, then why not go to Congress?

      Remember those budgets that got 0 votes? Why would a narcissist subject their ego to congress?

      1. Yeah, I guess. Remind America not to elect anyone like this piece of shit again, will you?

      2. Congree would totally fuck up a war on Syria- they’d attach funding for dandelion subsidies in Maine, hair loss research in Florida, and, by the time they rewrote the bill instead of bombing Syria we’d be sending submarines up the Volga river or some shit.
        Yeah we need a strong Executive.

        1. Um…no.

        2. We need a sarcasm font.

    2. Even if a military response is warranted, to show that no state can gas its own people without consequences, it must be a multi-lateral international response.

      If the US responds unilaterally it will mean intervening in a civil war occurring in another freaking hemisphere of the planet.

      I can, theoretically, be persuaded that a multi-lateral international military action might be justifiable.

      I cannot see myself being persuaded that a unilateral response can be justifiable.

      If the rest of the world’s governments are comfortable allowing the use of chemical weapons to become normalized, I do not see how the US can unilaterally stop it.

      1. Honestly, I can’t agree with you on this. We either should intervene or we shouldn’t. Our policies shouldn’t be determined by what “all the cool governments are doing”.

        1. That might be true from a moral standpoint , but from a political/IR standpoint it is absolutely essential to consider how U.S. intervention would be taken by other states. Not to say we shouldn’t do it anyway, but–and please let me really emphasize this–there will be consequences for it.

          1. Honestly, I’m inclined not to do it anyway. The simple point is that I don’t think multilateralism is per se much of a virtue.

    3. If it’s so worth doing and it’s so evidently the right thing to do, then why not go to Congress? Especially since it’s required under the Constitution.

      We really need an amendment that reads “The President mind his own fucking business, when it comes to the military affairs of other nations that are not actually attacking the United States.”

      1. Damn it.

        will mind…

  2. The part about the Christians is irrelevant. Everything else is spot on.

    1. The part about the Christians is irrelevant.

      I don’t think it’s irrelevant. If fundamentalist Islamists gain control over Syria, then what happens to those 2 million Christians?

      We’re essentially throwing them to the lions if we come down against Assad. That needs to be part of the consideration for any intervention.

      1. He didn’t really phrase it that way, or at least that wasn’t how I interpreted it. It sounded to me more like he was treating the Christians in the country as a special case. Presumably the same could be said of other ethnic minorities (i.e., that they may be persecuted if Assad falls).

        1. I agree it was poorly stated. I just think getting into a war because a thousand people were gassed is absurd when tens of thousands of Christians will probably be murdered or displaced should the rebels win.

        2. Consider the context:

          “.. with religious leaders yesterday afternoon at Campbellsville University in Central Kentucky..”

          1. I get that. I know one has to play the political game at least a little bit. But I just worry that he really truly is more socon that I’d like.

            1. There is no perfect libertarian candidate. Rand Paul isn’t a conservative co-opting libertarianism. He’s compromised but better than anything else we’re going to get.

            2. I don’t think it’s relevant if he’s personally a Socon. I think it’s fairly obvious that he’s very religious, as is his father. So long as he doesn’t use state coercion to force some of his socially conservative beliefs on us, I really could not give less of a shit.

            3. “But I just worry that he really truly is more socon that I’d like.”

              He is, but he is a rare breed of So Con in that he also has no interest in using the power of the state to enforce his own personal morals.

              I’m sure that he religious beliefs will peak out some should he become President but they will not dominate his time in office and I suspect that Religious Fundamentalists will be more upset with him than libertarians will be.

              1. What about libertarian religious fundamentalists?

            4. Many Libertarians were willing to forgive Ron Paul his sin of being personally anti-abortion, but leaving legality up to the states.

              Unfortunately, TEAM Be Ruled doesn’t find principles convincing.

            5. Sorry, but I don’t see what’s wrong with selling libertarian policy in socon terms.

              1. Let me elaborate. Let’s say you had a candidate who ran on a platform of rolling back the federal government’s power and control because “that’s what Jesus would have wanted”, take a much less interventionist foreign policy because “the Bible teaches us that you should just dust off your feet and move on if others won’t listen to you”, get the government out of the marriage business because “it’s a holy sacrament, not a government law”, and revoke laws about victimless crimes because “that’s between them and God”. Would you vote for the guy? Or would you vote for the standard statist because he didn’t roll out all that Jesus stuff?

      2. A dog whistle to SoCons. Rand is trying to convince Republican with war-boners to vote against this action.

        1. He’s trying to blueball the GOP?

        2. Meh. It’s not entirely clear to me that the socons are necessarily identical to the warboners.

      3. We’re essentially throwing them [Christians] to the lions…

        As a person of Roman ancestry, I feel microaggressed upon all of a sudden.

      4. So many Americans remain unaware that the Iraq invasion was the worst thing to happen to the Assyrian/Chaldean Christian community in Iraq in their entire 2,000 year history.

        Separately, Bahraini Shi’ites (the majority of the population) won’t be happy at all that we ignored their persecution, yet are actively working with their oppressors to promote Sunni supremacy in Syria, so why wouldn’t they be more open to Iranian influence?

    2. The part about the Christians is irrelevant. Everything else is spot on.

      When you consider that it’s none of our fucking business, nothing of what he said is spot on.

  3. Two million Christians live in Syria

    I cannot possibly imagine why this is relevant. What does it have to do with anything?

    1. He’s serious about the Republican presidential nomination.

    2. It’s just a way to point out to people they we’re not going over there to lob bombs at evil Muslims, but at people just like the TEAM players who want to lob the bombs.

    3. Because as Irish said above, it would probably be a bad idea (morally and strategically) to support the side that would oppress if not slaughter them.

      1. Yep – They could be serious screwed.

      2. That’s not our concern. All that should matter is ‘what is in America’s strategic interest’?

        1. Last time I checked, it’s not in America’s strategic interest to help Al Qaeda in any way.

          1. Now that is a real point, but it’s not about Christians.

            1. To be fair to Rand, he pointed that part out too.

              I can’t fault him for using the Christian line though, mostly in the hopes that it makes some of the christian pro-interventionist stop and think for a second.

              1. I agree, but at this point there really isn’t a Christian pro-int camp.

                1. Our likely allies (the rebels) are in the process of and are likely to oppress a religious minority group. For some, the fact that that minority group is Christian is going to be more meaningful. And, he’s using that as a reason to NOT go to war. It’s an excellent point really. If the rebels were going to oppress, say, Kurds, it would still be a legitimate point.

                  In this case, the enemy of our enemy isn’t our friend.

        2. I think it is in America’s strategic interest to have non-Muslim communities in the Middle East.

    4. “I cannot possibly imagine why this is relevant. What does it have to do with anything?”

      Because Paul is working republican politics. He is getting social conservatives/ team red partisans to pause for a moment and place the religion at odds with the intervention without sounding like a lefty that is to be dimissed. Hes trying to boraden the appeal of anti intervention.

      This kind of thing is why Rand is far more effective than Ron. He has some idea of how to play politics.

      1. Also because he was in fucking Campbellsville.

        No your target audience. Its like none of you took a public speaking or writing class.

        1. *know*

          Fucking joez law, fucking with me from beyond the grave (or lowell, or wherever).

    5. Outside an off-the-record meeting with religious leaders yesterday afternoon at Campbellsville University in Central Kentucky, Paul cited Pat Buchanan while expressing skepticism about the Obama Administration’s chemical-weapons claims. Here is a transcript from our brief conversation. [Emphasis added].

      There’s your answer right there, Epi. He’s continuing to pander to the religious and hoping that nobody else will notice.

      Also, it’s not really an OTR meeting if you allow in reporters and they make and publish transcripts. More like a by invitation to sympathetic media only meeting.

      1. …hoping that nobody else will notice.

        Or maybe this is wishful thinking on your part. I don’t know why you would think RP isn’t forthright about his religious views.

      2. Or maybe this is wishful thinking on your part.

        Nope, deliberate sarcasm on my part.

        Will remember to include pseudo tags for you in the future.

    6. Two million Christians live in Syria

      I cannot possibly imagine why this is relevant. What does it have to do with anything?

      It’s actually a smart way to get some folk that are prone to war boners to go flaccid. In other words, why support strikes in the name of morality against a regime that protects members of your own religion?

    7. More importantly, why is it ironic, Alanis?

    8. Do you know where else 2 million Christians live?

      (Hint: it’s a midwestern US state with early presidential caucuses.)

  4. The one positive aspect of this fluster-fark is how damaging this is for Obama almost regardless of outcome.

    If he goes through the proper steps (UN vote and Congressional vote) it’s likely he’ll lose and won’t get the proper permission from either or both. That’s a positive. If he then doesn’t act, he looks weak and it weakens the presidency – another positive from my point of view. If he does act he’s then an even bigger hypocrite, and Americans’ cynicism about politics will deepen – another positive in my book.

    The Obama teams has no coherent foreign policy vision, and they’re completely without a meaningful strategy.

    1. You don’t mean to say that Do Something(tm) isn’t a viable strategy, do you?

    2. Obama may be the worst president we’ve ever had in terms of foreign policy. Only the Obama administration could manage to alienate strong friends of America like Lithuania by coming out and supporting Russian interests in the region. His state department is grossly incompetent.

      1. Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, the incompetence is almost perfect, yet people still defend him, regardless of what he or anyone else in his horrible administration do.

        1. But, but…HEALTHCARE.

          1. I clicked through and read the George Will piece. Some commenter stated (I kid you not), “Osama is dead, and the economy is recovering.”

            Delusional idiot.

          2. Domestic incompetence, foreign policy incompetence, character incompetence–the trifecta!

        2. He also pissed off the South Americans by bending over to a Venezuelan regime that is sponsoring left-wing terrorists in Colombia. Colombia has become so fed up with Venezuela trying to destabilize their government that they allegedly attempted to have President Maduro assassinated. Of course, this being Venezuela they could be making that up in an attempt to rally their people against Colombia.

          If you’re an autocracy in a region with nascent democracies, like Venezuela is when compared to Chile or Russia is compared to Latvia and Estonia, Obama will always support you against the democracies.

          1. There was also the incredibly disturbing treatment of post-revolutionary Honduras. They had a diet-Chavista prez named Zelaya who was a budding dictator. He was taking illegal actions to change the constitution to allow him to serve more than one term. At one point he led a mob of supporters into an airbase with ballots. The Congress and SC ordered the military to oust him, which involved waking up the president at gun point and throwing him out. Totally awesome. Anyhoo, Obama did what he could to pressure Honduras into a ‘compromise’ that would allow Zelaya back. Honduras basically told him to fuck off, which was great. That was the first instance where I could see that Obama really was the dangerous ideologue that those crazy conservative types that he was. Score one for them.

            1. The Honduras thing was startling and got nearly zero press. Once again, if a Republican had done the equivalent thing, the press and the left would have gone berserk.

          2. See also: Honduras.

      2. When did he do that? I’m curious.

        I still think Eisenhower was worse for blocking the removal of Nasser and JFK for failing to aid the Bay of Pigs invasion and otherwise helping the CMC happen.

        1. I can’t find an article right now because Googlefu is failing me. Apparently the Eastern Europeans were really angry because of Obama bending over to Russia on various missile agreements.

          There’s also the issue of grossly incompetent ambassadors under the Obama regime. You’ve got Anne Patterson in Egypt and Francis Ricciardone in Turkey, both of whom have grown to be despised by the people of those countries due to the fact that they don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Ricciardone was actually called an “amateur ambassador” by Turkey’s prime minister. This was in 2011 and that nitwit is still serving today.

          Then there’s the absolute joke of Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan.

          1. If I remember correctly, Bush made a deal to place Patriot-style missiles in Poland and other Eastern European locations. Obama reneged on the deal once elected as a sop to the “re-set” with Russia. Whether or not Patriot missiles were a good idea, Obama’s handling of the situation was ham-handed at best, offending the Poles.

      3. Yeah, who’s running the place? And at this point, does it really matter?

  5. Rand Paul: ‘If you were Assad would you set off chemical weapons? No.’

    That question assumes that Assad is rational.

    OTOH, even if he didn’t want to use them, it also supposes that the weapons were not set off without his authorization, either accidentally* or by a panicky subordinate**.

    *One of the main reasons one shouldn’t have chemical weapons in the first place: Too damn much chance of an accident.

    **“Shit! I’m surrounded and out-gunned. If they capture me, they’ll disembowel me then roast me. I’ll just use a little of this stuff to fend them off.”

    1. Don’t start a land war in Asia, and NEVER match wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line.

    2. It’s not impossible the Russians told him they’d block any U.S. attempts to intervene, too.

      Also, let’s not forget that it was dumb for Saddam Hussein to act like he had a chemical weapons capability, but he did it anyway.

      1. There were suggestions that Saddam Hussein knew that risk, but he felt he had to take it because he thought the Iranians would come at him if he made it clear that he didn’t have WMD.

        IOW, he was between Iran and a hard place.

        1. (Sorry, I just had to say that last line.)

          1. Ouch…that pun…you are dead to me…

      2. it was dumb for Saddam Hussein to act like he had a chemical weapons capability, but he did it anyway

        It was not dumb from Saddam’s perspective. He feared his neighbor Iran more than the US, or at least he thought they were more likely to attack. In that context it makes sense. What would have made more sense would have been to call in a few US bigwigs and make a deal of some sort that kept up the charade of WOMD but let us know he was naked.

        1. Yes, I was going to point out that it was dumb because of something he didn’t fully understand–the U.S. would eventually attack because of it.

        2. While Saddam wasn’t as crazy or idiotic as portrayed by the press I think it’s silly to pretend he was even close to being a perfectly rational actor. The guy was a dictator living in a bubble unusual even for dictators.

          1. Well, his habit of torturing to death members of his own cabinet who expressed the slightest disagreement with him did tend to discourage anyone from speaking up.

    3. That question assumes that Assad has control over his own people. Bad assumption.

    4. I thought the evidence that Assad forces were responsible was intercepted communications from one of their commanders talking about it.

      1. My impression is that the Assad regime was in panic over who authorized using the gas. I doubt it was a decision made by Assad and I think it’s reasonable to assume that government forces have a poor command and control system that could allow a panicking army unit to use the gas.

      2. Yes, it has been reported that a call was intercepted from (I think) the Syrian defense minister to the commander in charge of the chemical weapons unit. But I have only heard it described as a “panicked call” or some such — nothing about what was actually said. A panicked call is what I would expect if 1) someone higher up went past the defense minister without telling him, 2) someone under the defense minister went rogue and used the weapons without authorization, or 3) someone outside the government set the weapons off, and the government itself didn’t have a clue what was going on.

    5. I agree, Paul is falling into the rational actor assumption trap. We have no reason to believe that Assad would think like us. Actually, since he’s using artillery on his own cities we have pretty good reason to believe he does not think like us.

        1. Well, that’s not really much of a sign that he’s not a rational actor. We used artillery on our own cities. It was a little tiff we call the Civil War. For all practical purposes, Assad is in much the same position. Sure, he’d optimally have the cities unscathed. But, that isn’t an option. The options are, his enemies have the cities unscathed or he levels the cities.

      1. Assad using gas might actually be rational. Either Obama does nothing and looks weak, or he lobs a few cruise missiles and gives Hezbollah and Iran an excuse to attack Israel. Russia and China get upset and send Assad more weapons. And if your back is against the wall, simply having more chaos in the region might work in your favor.

    6. Yeah, that “what would you do if you were an unhinged, mass-murdering dictator” question was pretty dumb.

      1. What evidence is there that Assad is unhinged? Just because we don’t like him?

        The Assads ruled Syria with an iron fist. The Civil War happened because the rebels (who probably, 2 years later, seriously wish they’d never started) figured Dr Assad the optometrist would be a pushover who’d never use the ruthless tactics of his father – like surrounding a village with artillery and leveling it. They were wrong.

        That doesn’t make Assad unhinged. A horrible human being, like most heads of state, sure.

        1. What evidence is there that Assad is unhinged?

          Don’t you watch the news?!

        2. You know who else is an optometrist?

          1. If you’re thinking of Rand Paul, he’s an Ophthamologist (an MD specializing in diseases of the eyes); those other guys are non-MD para-professionals.

        3. Nit-picking duly noted, EarthtoneDog.

          IMO any mass murderer is unhinged, but whatever.

          1. No. It’s not nitpicking. There is a distinction between evil and unhinged. Evil can be expected to operate with some underlying logic that will be susceptible to incentives. Unhinged won’t.

  6. Overthinking the evidence of chemical weapons is a trap.

    It doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t get involved, period.

  7. There’s plenty of good reason to stay out of Syria without resorting to nonsense over who gassed whom. The rebels did not do it period. The notion that Assad had nothing to gain is flat-out wrong: he’s been unable to root out the rebels in the Damascene suburbs for years now. Further, Assad is probably a fixture; Iran is calling the shots. Assad and/or his underlings can also be crazy.

    1. Any people that you could eliminate with gas you could eliminate more efficiently with bombs. Explosives are far more effective at killing than gas.

    2. There’s plenty of good reason to stay out of Syria without resorting to nonsense over who gassed whom.

      I dont know if it was intentional or not, but I heard that in the voice of the swamp lord from Holy Grail.

    3. “The rebels did not do it period.”

      And we know that because the governments that are gearing up for a war with him told us so. Just like they told us that Saddam had WMDs. Period.

  8. This is of absolutely no benefit to Assad. If you were Assad would you set off chemical weapons? No?the whole world now is interested in coming in and attacking him. It makes absolutely no sense from a logical point of view. There was no sort of major assault where he was getting ready to be wiped out. I don’t know why he would use chemical weapons.

    Logic. My God, the man’s talking about logic! We’re talking about Syrian Armageddon you poofy-haired, inhuman…

    1. Why wasn’t Bones court-martialed for his bigotry?

      1. What, a Vulcan is going to file a complaint?

        1. Not when they have the passive-aggressive nerve pinch.

          1. I know they deleted the scene from Wrath of Spock putting his balls in McCoy’s mouth before he went in the reactor room. Remember, indeed.

            1. The good of the one is greater than the good of the motherfucker who’s been busting my logical balls for the last 20 years.

  9. I don’t think “are you convinced that Assad is responsible for deploying chemical weapons” is all that fair a question.

    After all, how many senators have had ANY access to the evidence one way or another? The only valid response should be, “I haven’t had any access to any evidence, if it exists.”

    A better question would be, “if credible evidence exists that Assad is responsible for deploying chemical weapons, what do you believe is an appropriate response by the United States?”

  10. Was the chemical attack a big win for Assad?

    If I was Assad, I wouldn’t use them unless it was a decisive game changer. The news make it sound like some random pesky town got wiped out – not the leadership of the rebels or thousands of fighters.

    1. It was used in the suburbs of Damascus where rebels have been entrenched for eons now. They are a serious problem for Assad.

      1. Except, they weren’t making much in the way of progress. Quite the opposite, really, from what I’m to understand. The advantage was shifting to Mr. Assad’s side. So, the question becomes would it be anywhere near a rational risk? You’re gaining advantage in a war. Do you use a notoriously unreliable weapon that will have a high probability of drawing in third parties in opposition to you? That doesn’t seem plausible.

  11. “Casus belli,” not “causus belli.”

      1. Bill Belichick?

          1. Causes Belly: too many donuts.

    1. “Casus belly.”

    2. Cassius Clay

    3. Cassius Clay

      1. He moves so fast, I’m seeing two of him.

        1. Hit the one in the middle.

  12. Neocon says: you don’t want to bomb Syria? Isolationist!

  13. Didn’t we have some other president who used chemical weapons fears as a pretext for military intervention somewhere, and by passed Congress to do so?

    I can’t remember his name though.

    1. I thought Boooosh!!!1! got an AUMC?

      1. AUMF, and he did. So, once again, WORSE THAN BUSH. We set a low bar, yet Obama goes lower, like a limbo expert. How low can you go?

  14. Q: “Mr. President, should you consult Congress before going to war with Syria?”

    BO: “We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the President, and we’re talking about bombin’ Syria. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about droppin’ a few bombs–not a war!, not a war!, not a war!–but we’re talking about bombin’. Not a war that I send kids into to die but we’re talking about bombin’, man. How silly is that?”

    “Now I know that I’m supposed to lead by example and all that but I’m not shoving that aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I honestly do but we’re talking about bombin’. We’re talking about bombin’ man. We’re not talking about a war! We’re talking about a few bombs. When you come to the White House, and you watch me give my speeches–you know I got game right–you’ve seen me read my speeches with everything I’ve got, but we’re talking about bombin’ right now.”

    1. lmao…stealing that :p

  15. I think Rand Paul is missing a Golden Opportunity to really get this populism thing going. The American People don’t want this war and the American Left is not going to do its job of being antiwar this time around. I want Paul out there demagoging against this thing all day every day, loudly.

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