Rand Paul

If Rand Paul Has Hawks Nervous He's Doing Something Right

The Kentucky senator wants a less aggressive foreign policy, and so do most Americans


GOP hawks are reportedly nervous about the potential level of support Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) could enjoy if he decides to run for president in 2016. On Monday Zeke J. Miller wrote in TIME about how several prominent Republican donors at the Republican Jewish Coalition suggested that the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing both the Newt Gingrich and the Mitt Romney presidential campaigns in 2012 and has advocated for the nuking of Iran, is likely to invest in an anti Paul campaign if the Kentucky senator looks like he will do well in primaries. According to Miller's reporting, one unnamed former Mitt Romney bundler thinks that Paul could win both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. 

Over at her blog at The Washington Post the neoconservative writer Jennifer Rubin has been demonstrating a fascination with Paul that borders on obsession. Recent headlines include "Rand Paul is the odd man out of the GOP on foreign policy," "Rand Paul seems confused," and "Rand Paul's fake foreign policy." One of Rubin's recent blog posts is titled "Rand Paul trashed military option for Iran and blamed the U.S. for WWII," claims David Harsanyi dismissed in a post at The Federalist. Rubin has also repeatedly called Paul an isolationist, despite the fact that he isn't one.

That Adelson and GOP hawks view Paul as a threat and Rubin thinks he is worthy of so much attention is a testament to the impact the junior senator has had on the Republican Party since being sworn in back in January 2011. Like his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rand Paul has argued for a foreign policy less aggressive than the foreign policies implemented under recent presidents. If you're a pro-war Republican and you don't want a Democrat in the White House in 2017 a Paul presidential bid is understandably an unnerving prospect. However, unfortunately for Republican hawks not only is Paul right to be concerned about interventionist foreign policies, most Americans agree with him. 

Although perhaps not a popular stance among neoconservatives, Paul represented the views of the majority of Americans when he opposed military intervention in Syria. After the White House claimed that it did not need congressional approval to carry out military strikes against the Assad regime in the wake of chemical attacks on the outskirts of Damascus last August, Paul wrote a TIME op-ed outlining why he was opposed to a military intervention in Syria. A few days after Paul's op-ed was published NBC reported that almost sixty percent of Americans wanted their representatives in Congress to vote against military intervention in Syria. 

This non-interventionist sentiment has not only been on display in relation to the conflict in Syria. According to the most recent Reason-Rupe Poll almost sixty percent of Americans want the U.S. to stay out of the Ukraine conflict altogether, and only 31 percent back sanctions. Even if the situation in Ukraine worsens, and Russia sends troops into more of Ukraine, 76 percent of Americans say that they would still oppose sending U.S. troops to the region.

It is not only Reason's polling that has highlighted Americans' lack of enthusiasm for foreign intervention. Pew polling from late last year shows that over 50 percent of Americans believe that "The U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own," and an overwhelming majority believe that we should be concentrating more on domestic concerns rather than problems abroad.

That Americans are tired of foreign military engagements should not be a surprise. The war in Afghanistan, arguably the most unpopular war in American history, and the war in Iraq have highlighted how awful prolonged military conflicts are not only on American lives but also on the American economy and the state of Americans' civil liberties.

Perhaps some in the GOP should consider that Americans are tired of having successive Democratic and Republican administrations implementing expensive and over-stretched foreign policies. Although not perfect, Paul supports a foreign policy most Americans could back and is making a conscious effort to appeal to the left on issues such a drug sentencing reform and mass government surveillance. However, the Republican Party has demonstrated more than enough times that it is bad at seizing opportunities, and it shouldn't be surprising if wealthy GOP hawks do all they can to jeopardize Paul's widely expected 2016 presidential bid.