Rand Paul: Is Explicitly Threatening Nuclear War Necessary to Run for President?


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) , some say, is crippling his presidential prospects by not loudly announcing that he'd do anything, anyway, anywhere, anytime, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons:.

Jennifer Rubin at Washington Post thinks the not preannouncing war on Iran thing will be political death for the younger Paul:

No GOP elected leader or 2016 contender would agree with him. In fact, no elected Democrat probably would, either. It has been the position of three presidents that a nuclear-armed Iran is intolerable. It is an existential threat to Israel. It is not simply that it is "not a good idea" for Iran to get the bomb. He is far, far outside the mainstream on this — and far to the left of President Obama.

• Hillary Clinton would eviscerate him on that point and win over a chunk of Republicans…. It reveals that he listens to no competent adviser. No knowledgeable foreign policy adviser would urge him to say such things. 

What it reveals is that so far, Paul is still at least slightly serious about offering a fresh perspective on our willingness to threaten and use mass-murderous force. Whether she's right about the electoral effects remains to be seen. (I'm afraid she might be. Americans don't care much about foreign policy when it isn't hitting them where they live, but can be all too easily roused to bloodlust by politicans and media in the short term.)

Rand Paul himself has tried to defend not letting every foreign threat real or perceived as sufficient to trigger a full-on war, a policy he's been trying to rebrand as a fiscally conservative, constitutional, and sane alternative GOP foreign policy for a while now, apparently with little success with the old school pundit class.

Paul tried to explain his current position at greater length in the Washington Post yesterday.

While many, including me, interpreted his comments before the Heritage Foundation last year, in which he praised George Kennan's attitude toward international communism as a viable foreign policy approach to radical Islam in which words like "contain" and "containment" were often quoted approvingly, as meaning Paul believed it was better to contain a nuclear Iran that start a war over it.

Paul now insists loudly he is not for containment.

Hm. Yet he is also not announcing he is for war. He's promoting mysterious inscrutability as a non-negotiable foreign policy plus, and bringing Ronald Reagan into it to boot. Not terribly satisfying to this libertarian, but at least better than an unequivocal "we will absolutely start a war to stop Iran from getting nukes" statement.

Real foreign policy is made in the middle; with nuance; in the gray area of diplomacy, engagement and reluctantly, if necessary, military action.

If necessary? And when is it necessary? A real presidential candidate, Paul implies, like a gentleman, never tells. Like Kenny Rogers' titular gambler, he will tell us that when it comes to foreign policy, we gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em; but he cannot and will not tell us when that might be.

Daniel Larison on how the real problem Rand Paul faces, if he actually wants to avoid war with Iran, is reframing the debate so people realize that a non-nuclear-weaponed Iran can be achieved with means like negotiation and diplomacy, not necessarily threats and/or war.

Reason on Rand Paul and foreign policy.