Rand Paul is Not an Isolationist


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Last Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) released a statement on the situation in Ukraine:

We live in an interconnected world and the United States has a vital role in the stability of that world. The United States should make it abundantly clear to Russia that we expect them to honor the December 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the U.S., Russia, and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their commitment 'to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.' Russia should also be reminded that stability and territorial integrity go hand in hand with prosperity. Economic incentives align against Russian military involvement in Ukraine. Russia, which has begun to experience the benefits of expanded trade with World Trade Organization accession, should think long and hard about honoring their treaty obligations and fostering the stability that creates prosperity for its citizens. Most importantly, Russian intervention in Ukraine would be dangerous for both nations, and for the rest of the world," Sen. Paul said.

This sort of position is not good enough for neoconservatives, some of whom are repeating familiar and inaccurate rhetoric relating to Paul's foreign policy positions.

Over at Commentary, Jonathan Tobin today referred to Paul's "neo-isolationism." Tobin has previously associated Paul with "a growing chorus of isolationists." In a column for The Washington Post published today, Jennifer Rubin refers to "the isolationist right," and writes that "no one has looked less able to lead America in dangerous times than Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)." Rubin previously referred to Paul's "isolationist vision" in a column about intervention in Syria. In a post for the American Enterprise Institute published in October last year, Phillip Lohaus referred to Paul's "isolationist tendencies."

Of course, Paul is not an isolationist. Wanting trade and diplomatic relations with countries while opposing being overly involved in their affairs does not make you an isolationist. Taken to its extreme, an isolationist foreign policy results in a country that looks much closer to North Korea than a country like Switzerland, which in economically engaged with the world but is known for being wary of military intervention. 

That Paul is not an isolationist has been point out before by the Cato Institute's Justin Logan:

Rand Paul, Rep. Justin Amash, and other skeptics of reckless foreign wars and secret government spying on Americans aren't isolationists. They're prudent conservatives who take the Constitution seriously and rose to power amid the wreckage of the George W. Bush administration, which destroyed the GOP advantage on national security and provided a good example of how not to conduct foreign policy.

There are some on the right who do understand the difference between isolationism and non-interventionism. National Review correspondent Kevin Williamson writes that those who advocate for non-military solutions to foreign affairs justifiably protest against the use of the term "isolationist."

Paul has outlined his position on foreign policy before in a speech at The Heritage Foundation last year. Watch below: