Should Rand Paul Go on the Offensive?


Credit: Gage Skidmore/Foter

Over at The American Conservative, Leon Hadar argues that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who he thinks "seems to be playing defense on issues like Ukraine," should go on the offensive on foreign policy, given that recent polls show most Americans agreeing with Paul when it comes to non-interventionism.

Hadar thinks that Paul's positioning on foreign policy suggests that he is cautious about annoying the GOP's interventionists. Paul, he argues, should hold a series of public events on foreign policy in places such as Iowa and New Hampshire:

Here is an idea: Paul could convene a series of public forums around the country to discuss the United States's role in the world, in which he could have a dialogue with "regular" Americans in places like Iowa and New Hampshire on how the U.S. should respond to the crises in Ukraine or Syria. Such forums could bring together Republican and Democratic speakers as well as political scientists and historians from local colleges, and could conclude with the attendees voting for or against proposed resolutions.

Hadar is right to highlight that most Americans agree with Paul on foreign policy. Reason's Ed Krayewski blogged here recently about a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that Hadar mentions. The survey shows that far more Americans today (47 percent) believe the U.S. should be less active in world affairs than did in 2001 (14 percent). A Pew poll from last year, also mentioned by Hadar, showed 53 percent of Americans believing that the U.S. "should mind its own business internationally."

These polls are good news for Paul, who since entering the Senate in 2011 has made a name for himself as one of the most outspoken non-interventionist lawmakers in the GOP. I agree that Paul should highlight his non-interventionist credentials in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of his widely anticipated 2016 presidential campaign. It would be refreshing to have a major presidential candidate speak out in favor of a foreign policy much of the American public, but not many of their representatives, support.

That said, his arguments might be heard by an indifferent public. Americans may be fed up with interventionist foreign policies, but it remains to be seen if foreign policy will be a priority in the 2016 campaign.