Rand Paul

Why the Rand Paul-Rick Perry Feud Over Iraq Is Good for U.S. Policy

"Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican" has been suspended.


Gage Skidmore

Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican—that's the "11th Commandment" coined by California's GOP chairman in 1965 and popularized by President Ronald Reagan.

It's been suspended for the duration, judging by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry's ongoing dust-up over the future of the GOP's foreign policy—even while the two combined for an impressive 19 invocations of Saint Ronnie in three dueling op-eds.

In a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) oped, Paul argued that "America Shouldn't Choose Sides in Iraq's Civil War." On Saturday, Perry entered the lists with a Washington Post piece titled "Why Rand Paul Is Wrong on Iraq" (print edition). In his Politico surrebuttal on Sunday, Paul took a swipe at Perry's trendy new glasses, which apparently "haven't … allowed him to see [the world] any more clearly." Zing!

The 11th Commandment was a silly idea to begin with: A little red-on-red internecine strife can be good fun, and the issues here are important. In Perry's case, though, it's a shame he couldn't come up with better arguments.

Perry begins his broadside against Paul by allowing that "I can understand the emotions behind isolationism"—because God knows nobody has any rational objections to pouring more American blood and treasure down the Middle Eastern sandpit.

We can't afford to "ignore what's happening in Iraq," Perry argues, because the Sunni radicals of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now controlling parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq represent a "profound threat" to the United States. Airstrikes have to be on the table, he argues, charging that Paul's policy is to do "next to nothing."

Actually, in his WSJ op-ed, Paul refused to "completely rule out airstrikes," but argued, "there are many questions that need to be addressed first." Perry's objection, it seems, is to asking questions before the letting the drones and Tomahawks fly. "He's a cowboy," former McCain 2008 staffer Michael Goldfarb commented in 2011: "You have to assume he'd shoot first and ask questions later—which would be nice after four years of a leading from behind, too-little-too-late foreign policy."

But if you're sort of timid soul who likes to aim before pulling the trigger, it's probably worth asking, is ISIS a "profound threat" to U.S. national security? We need to remain alert to the possibility, but ISIS seems to have its hands full at the moment. "Creating and sustaining an Islamic state and fighting apostates are the priorities," writes Georgetown's Daniel Byman, not attacks on the West.

"This new conflict is essentially Muslim on Muslim" echoes Sir Richard Dearlove, former chief of Britian's Secret Intelligence Service, and shouldn't be viewed through the lenses of 9/11.

In that light, contra Paul, we're not "choosing sides" in a regional civil war: We're choosing every side. Our current policy looks like a pincer movement against our own interests: Let's back the "moderates" fighting Syria's Bashar Assad, who's fighting ISIS. And let's fight ISIS by aiding the Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq, which is also getting help from Iran. But don't let's empower Iran. Perry has no fundamental objection to this strategic muddle of a policy; he just thinks airstrikes might provide extra moral clarity.

We already know Perry can't remember which Cabinet departments he wants to eliminate; maybe he also forgets which countries we might need to bomb. In his 2010 book Fed Up!, the governor warned that Iran was "utterly unpredicable" and represents "an imminent threat." You'd think he'd want to pause for reflection when Paul asks, "Do we want to, in effect, become Iran's air force?"

But Perry's fed up(!) with all these complications.

This column originally appeared in The Washington Examiner. 

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  2. Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican

    It was a stupid “commandment” anyways. Good riddance.

    1. It’s been suspended for the duration…

      And not a moment too soon. We could have used such sensibility last decade during right wingers’ comical monarchical worship of George W. Bush.

      Republicans are their own worst enemies 100% of the time.

  3. Paul took a swipe at Perry’s trendy new glasses, which apparently “haven’t … allowed him to see [the world] any more clearly.”

    Snark done right.

    “This new conflict is essentially Muslim on Muslim” echoes Sir Richard Dearlove…

    Which is the ideal for this sort of conflict. When your enemies are fighting each other, it’s rude to interrupt them.

    By the way, awesome porn name, Sir Dick.

    1. That is a superb porn name

  4. Our current policy looks like a pincer movement against our own interests

    1. Whoops. Somewhere after that, I had a comment that said, “Because that’s exactly what it is.”

      Carry on

  5. We need more, not less, internecine policy arguing! The petty insults provide comic relief to keep it all fun and interesting.

    1. Yeah, I wish the Dems would argue more, instead of always agreeing on how to FUCK me.

      Cause I’d like at least a KISS before I get FUCKED.


  6. Good ol’ McCain. Why does the United States government have to lead in the world?

  7. “He’s a cowboy,” former McCain 2008 staffer Michael Goldfarb commented in 2011: “You have to assume he’d shoot first and ask questions later?which would be nice after four years of a leading from behind, too-little-too-late foreign policy.”

    He honestly said that without sarcasm?

  8. You have to assume he’d shoot first and ask questions later

    Yeah! What a fucking dumbass!

    -which would be nice



      Russia/Libys/Syria/Iraq/Iran/whatevercountry looked at me funny, I swear!

    2. Would it surprise you to learn that, in addition to being a McCain staffer, he was a research associate at Project for the New American Century?

    3. Sometimes, it takes a trigger happy dumbass?

  9. I don’t see how Perry et al come off looking good in this at all. Is there any significant cohort — either within the general public or Republican primary voters — clamoring for Iraq, Part Tres? What we’re seeing now is the worst case scenario of OIF, and it is very difficult to disguise that fact. The more other Republicans slag Paul on foreign policy, the better he seems (with a small exception in the case of some of his comments on Ukraine, which I don’t think will hurt him long-term).

  10. The neocon streiff at Redstate posted an article attacking Rand Paul. It’d be great to set him straight.

  11. Great moments in American History. The Eye Doctor and the Texas Redneck exchange insincerities.

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