Election 2016

Rand Paul and the GOP's Foreign Policy Civil War

If the freshly minted presidential candidate tries to stay on both sides too long, he could end up on neither.

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Rand Paul
C-SPAN

Sen. Rand Paul's entry today into the 2016 Republican presidential race signals a new front in the ongoing foreign policy civil war in the Republican Party. "Unlike the rest of the likely GOP presidential field, Paul is a die-hard true believer in scaling down America's involvement in conflicts around the world," writes Vox.com's Zack Beauchamp. "That pits him against the mainstream, hawks in the Republican party whose ideas are sure to dominate the campaign." Indeed, Paul has opposed U.S. intervention in the civil war in Libya, the surge in Afghanistan, and arming Syrian rebels to fight either Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or ISIS.

But Paul did propose a resolution last year to declare war on ISIS and send ground troops into Iraq, and supports arming Kurdish fighters against ISIS, even suggesting to Breitbart News that the U.S. literally redraw the map of the Middle East to create an independent Kurdistan. Neither positions were mentioned by Beauchamp in framing Paul as the non-interventionist in the foreign policy debate unfolding in the presidential race. Paul's "softened" stance on non-interventionism seems to be an effort to reach out to base Republican voters. Paul's engagement of radical Islamist violence is more complex than the rest of the field's "kill em all"-ish strategy, and acknowledges how interventions can "exacerbate" the problem.

In his announcement, Paul rejected the idea of nation-building as foreign policy, a position last espoused by a presidential nominee in 2000 when George W. Bush first ran for president. It's a post 9/11 version. Paul insists the enemy be "named" as radical Islam, but rejects the warrantless spying and other measures taken in the name of defense against it, saying he wouldn't "compromise your liberty for a false sense of security."

And some of Paul's positioning, as Beauchamp notes, is a fakeout, or nuanced. Paul's recent proposal to increase defense spending, for example, matched Sen. Marco Rubio's proposal except, unlike Rubio's, included spending cuts elsewhere to compensate, forcing the budgetary issue. Rubio is one of any number of Republican presidential aspirants not named Paul who will stake their foreign policy positions not to the right of where Paul's are, but to the right of where they perceive them to be.

Last month Paul was one of 47 Republican senators to sign an "open letter" to Iran, a "bullshit process story" for which he was excoriated by some antiwar libertarians.  He also became a co-sponsor of Sen. Bob Corker's Iran review legislation, along with nine Democrats and 11 other Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham. Is the shift paying off? In an interview this weekend, Graham, another one of the legion of interventionist Republicans positioning themselves to run for president, said Obama was doing such a poor job negotiating with Iran that any Republican, except Rand Paul, and even Hillary Clinton would do a better job. When Paul buys into the narrative that Obama is "weak" for negotiating with Iran, like he did in his announcement even as he reaffirmed support for negotiating the issue, he's hurting the chances of negotiations and the clarity of his message.

Paul's shifts toward Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy seem to be driving away the kind of supporters probably no other mainstream candidate could attract while at the same time being ignored by the Republican establishment, which continues to try to frame him not just as a non-interventionist but as a dangerous isolationist who would continue Obama's "weak" foreign policy. It's a spin masterpiece. Those who'd want to continue the Bush-Obama foreign policy, on steroids, are trying to hoist the Obama mantle on the one candidate who might not. And insofar as Paul appears to keep lurching to the right and distancing himself from previous positions, he's letting them.

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  1. For fuck’s sake.

  2. Interesting – Rand Paul is a NAGR member. He did a promo video for them.

    (he’s probably also a member of the NRA and GoA, too, but NAGR is the bull in the china shop of 2A issues, which is good).

    1. A slightly unfortunate acronym, though.

      1. The category is, people who annoy you. 10 seconds, talk it out…

      2. I think it’s perfect. They literally nag Congress whenever stupid 2A legislation comes up.

        1. Yeah, that aspect of it works. But there is also the association that Mr. Footage suggests.

  3. When Paul buys into the narrative that Obama is “weak” for negotiating with Iran, like he did in his announcement

    Paul said that Obama was negotiating from a position of weakness, but that we should not, in principle, be afraid to negotiate. He then referenced Reagan’s “trust but verify” maxim, which recalled negotiations with the USSR.

  4. “Here is somebody who is an eye doctor who is suddenly elevated to the Senate[“, said Justin Raimondo.]

    With all due respect, fuck you, Raimondo.

    1. “Here is somebody who is a eye doctor “community organizer” (i.e. unemployed) who is suddenly elevated to the Senate[“, said Justin Raimondo.]

      FIFH

    2. Said as one might say ‘sanitation worker’, I’m sure.

    3. Is anyone “elevated” to Congress.

      It’s always a demotion, unless you’re a rightly convicted criminal.

      1. Punctuation…what thingy goes at the end of a question.!:;'”@#$%^&*()/

      2. “Power is always there for those who lower themselves to pick it up.”

        /Ragnar Lothbrok

      3. It isn’t either. It’s just a new job, still mostly on the Earth’s surface.

        How about “elected”?

  5. If the freshly minted presidential candidate tries to stay on both sides too long

    Because there can only be 2 sides…always…only 2

    1. +2 false dichotomies

    2. Being severely limited to one of two pre-selected choices demonstrates our free-spirited individualism.

      1. ESB is suddenly a fan of third parties.

    3. Only in China can there be more than 2 sides! Real Americans only have 2 sides!

      1. I have it on good authority that standoffs in Mexico have 3 sides.

  6. Whatever. How many of the serious GOP candidates actually inspire confidence when you look at them? Jeb’s a jackass with the Bush stink on him, Walker clearly knows nothing on the subject, Rubio is bland, and Cruz is too busy talking about how much he loves Jesus.

    I honestly think foreign policy might just be a wash given who the top tier candidates are.

    1. Jeb’s a jackass with the Bush stink on him

      I think Jeb is a jackass that manages to have his stink emanate all on his own. Also don’t think he is any more responsible for his family than Rand is for Ron’s frequent walks on the loony side.

  7. You’ll be happy to know that the USG has some powerful generators, so when there’s a massive DC-wide power outage (like there is right now), government work continues apace! Hooray!

    1. Paul said he was going to take on the Washington machine. Guess DC could not handle the RANDPAGE!

      1. RANDPAGE

        Nice

      2. Oh, I get it. Like “rampage”.

        What about A-Paul-calypse?

        1. Too much Randomness.

          We need to be 20/20 about this.

  8. Is Rand Paul running for president or something?

  9. I got a fever, and the only prescription is…

    1. Gotta get out there and dig up some gold!

      1. Solid gold clapper.

    1. That dog’s like 50 years old.

    2. No. But give the damn dog a cupcake, already.

      1. -1 money shot

    3. The back yard…shit, I’m still only in the back yard…

      1. +1 broken mirror.

        (which is also a new type of jobs program, as I understand it)

    4. No; you’re a bad person for a whole host of other reasons.

  10. The knives are coming out already:

    http://www.redstate.com/2015/0…..-paranoid/

    1. The instant I saw the fucking NSA spycam blocker I knew we’d see articles like that.

      1. Political dweebs tend to be really, really humorless.

        1. I went to a Tea Party rally with a sign that said:

          Stop the Children
          Tax the Whales
          Save the Drugs

          Most people thought it was funny. A few posed for pictures with it. One guy got really pissed and told me to go fuck myself. He was wearing a Jesus Saves t-shirt.

          I didn’t think it was possible for a nonsense message to offend.

          Later, I overheard some Team Red grandma railing that Michelle Obama was unladylike because she doesn’t cross her legs when she sits.

          1. Nice.

            Good for a Harty laugh.

          2. Last summer I posted this story about an Aussie camper van rental company that emblazoned its campers with a bunch of “offensive” slogans, with my favorite being, “Save a whale — Harpoon a Jap.”

      2. Somehow their small gaggle of followers doesn’t see any conflict in supporting the total surveillance state that is controlled by a crypto-marxist Obama. This from the same crowd that rightly recognizes the political establishment of both parties is corrupt as hell and a direct threat to liberty. But oh my god someone wants to really limit government’s power makes them crap their pants in fear.

        1. Nationalism liberty

          That is one of the biggest differences between conservatives and libertarians.

          1. I understand the appeal of nationalism for people. Everyone likes seeing bad guys get their ass kicked and lots of people think the US is just the guy to do it.

            But the survelliance state ain’t that.

            1. I agree but a lot of people reflexively associate anything related to defense with patriotism and supporting the troops, etc.

              1. And vice versa.

                people who fail to conform to either idiotic-binary-narrative are seen as heretics by both

            2. I understand the appeal of nationalism for people. Everyone likes seeing bad guys get their ass kicked and lots of people think the US is just the guy to do it.

              But the survelliance state ain’t that.

              Well, what you’ve done there is prove that you aren’t really on the right side of history. If you’ve got nothing to hide, what possible problem could you have with a total surveillance state?

        2. Self-awareness: It’s not for everyone.

        3. Do you really think that Obama controls, in any meaningful sense, the surveillance apparatus?

          1. No reason he couldn’t try to get more of a handle on it. It looks like the IRS senses what he wants and gets it done, why not the spooks?

            1. I tend to think that the spooks have more of their own agenda than the IRS does. Who knows.

              My comment was a response to someone asking why the redstate people would be so in favor of the Obama controlled surveillance state.

              1. Sure he has access to it.

                Remember Herman Cain?

                Dropped out after some affair came out of nowhere. The evidence for it was late night texts between him and his girlfriend that some random no name reporter just stumbled across somehow.

                Sounds a bit like someone pulled the meta data from his phone records and gave them to a friendly reporter – don’t you think?

    2. The comments are ridiculous. I honestly don’t understand how exhibiting a degree of humor to highlight the mass violation of the 4th Amendment is grounds for disparagement.

    3. Wow, the Mod who came into that thread is such a piece of shit. Someone goes ‘this seems overly harsh, why can’t you be less spiteful?’ and gets this response:

      “without spite, sarcasm, and scorn there would be no RedState. If those things offend you, I suggest joining this site http://goo.gl/spE9Mc

      The site he links to is a My Little Pony fan site.

      Do you get it?!?! Does everybody get the joke?!

      1. My Little Ponies did a burlesque of SJWs and “equality”:

        https://youtu.be/hLMzAE9CzaY?t=25m35s

      2. So redstate guy is a brony and linked to his favorite product that he will buy once he get’s his $40 check for moderating Red State in between SSI disability checks. Fuck him and the horsemy little pony he rode in on.

        Seeing dipshits like that makes me wanna legalise late term abortion, invite every human being south of the Rio Grande up here, and mandate a middle school level sodomy cirriculum.

        1. I’ve already created a Middle School sodomy curriculum, unfortunately we’ve had a difficult time getting accredited since our workshops are held in the back of an unlicensed ice cream truck.

          1. Careful: A redstate reader will stumble upon that and think it is entirely factual. You really should inform him that the only catamites in the group will be orphans that you own fair and square.

        2. I like the cut of your jib.

        3. “get’s”?

          Really?

          You people do this deliberately just to piss me off, don’t you? 😉

          1. Ya I throw a mysterious apost’rophe in there every once in a while for some unknown reason. It’s like tourette’s with grammar.

      3. Yeah, they’re pretty fucking crazy over there. Like something out of Bo’s imagination.

  11. “When Paul buys into the narrative that Obama is “weak” for negotiating with Iran, like he did in his announcement even as he reaffirmed support for negotiating the issue, he’s hurting the chances of negotiations and the clarity of his message.”

    I don’t think there’s any real logic to Ed’s underlying complaint here

    Foreign Policy is not an Either/Or game.. where you’re either “for Obama’s negotiation approach”… or WAR NOW!!! DIE ISLAM!!!

    “hurting chances of negotiations?” for *what*, exactly?

    Is the “libertarian” presumption that these sorts of coerced negotiations are a wonderful foreign policy tool now? Diplomacy is often described as ‘war by other means’ which Libertarians are supposed to *vigorously oppose*….

    (see our “intervention” in the Ukraine, and other silly accusations that anything other than Hands Off/Eyes Closed/No Relations amounts to ‘meddling’ in the affairs of others)

    …and i’d assume the underlying sanctions regime on which the negotiations are based aren’t a celebrated Libertarian tactic either.

    I think that opposition to the existing negotiations approach could be based in a variety of positions which would be consistent with Rand’s prior ideas about reducing our degree of entanglement in the region.

    I also think one could oppose the negotiations on the simpler basis that, if they are not supported by our ostensible “allies” in the region (Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc), then what purpose are they intended to serve?

    1. Moreover, I don’t see how negotiated non-proliferation isn’t a laudable goal and something that classifies as fairly run of the mill diplomacy. And like you said, one can disagree with the framework agreed to within the negotiations without thinking that the only alternative is lobbing tomahawk missiles all over the damn world.

  12. It’s been almost 5 years since I made the local paper:

    Even so, some of the participants in the event expressed displeasure about at least one of the other protesters who turned out that morning.

    As Thomas Harty stood in front of the courthouse, facing the street and holding a sign that he said was protesting “stupid political slogans,” a woman moved in front of him, appearing to block the sign from view. Members of the media who attempted to talk to Harty and photograph his sign also were initially blocked by fellow protesters who moved between the reporter and Harty.

    “They don’t appreciate my irony,” Harty said of his sign, which stated “Stop the children, Tax the whales, Save the drugs.”

    1. (vigorous applause)

      1. I think I made a few libertarians that day. A lot of kids were curious about my sign, but were quickly bundled off by concerned parents.

        “They tried to teach my baby about liberty”.

  13. When the other protesters moved from in front of him, a third individual came up behind Harty, holding a sign over his head that decried him as an “infiltrator.” Meanwhile, a woman ripped a yellow sticker from his sign. Officials said the sticker had been placed there to show that the sign was approved, though they were unsure how Harty obtained the sticker.

    Harty said the claims that he was an “infiltrator” were untrue. He identified himself as a Libertarian, and said he supports the tea party movement’s stance on lowering government spending, as well as their take on other principles.

    Others were skeptical, and said there had been reports of people planning to attend tax day tea parties across the country with fake signs in an attempt to give the movement a bad name.

    Rucker said Harty previously attended other events the local tea party group had held without incident. She said she didn’t think he came to Thursday’s event with any ill intentions.

    http://journal-news.net/page/c…..l?nav=5006

    1. “Meanwhile, a woman ripped a yellow sticker from his sign. Officials said the sticker had been placed there to show that the sign was approved, though they were unsure how Harty obtained the sticker.”

      In addition to being an infiltrator, I see you’re a dirty sticker thief.

      1. Rucker gave me the sticker.

        It’s sad how none of them realized the absurdity of policing speech at a freedom protest.

        1. Rucker gave me the sticker.

          You got a sticker from Darius Rucker? What a monster!

    2. In case the rest of the story isn’t visible:

      “I don’t think that this gentlemen was trying to say anything negative, or do anything negative,” she said.

      Concerns were spawned by fear that the movement’s members currently face due to intense hatred that has been geared toward them, she said.

      “We’re just doing it out of self preservation,” she said.

      In an phone call later that day, Rucker said the situation could have been handled differently.

      “The other members of the group could have handled it a whole lot better,” she said. “It just goes to show how worried we are about defending our reputation.”

      Before the day’s gathering, Rucker said participants were told to keep their signs clean and free from any messages that could be taken as negative or offensive. She said group members were worried, but rightfully so due to the intense amount of anger that had been directed toward their movement on a national level.

      “I think we have to be worried,” she said, noting that such concerns have arisen over the past year and were not present during the group’s 2009 protest.

  14. Paul’s shifts toward Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy seem to be driving away the kind of supporters probably no other mainstream candidate could attract while at the same time being ignored by the Republican establishment, which continues to try to frame him not just as a non-interventionist but as a dangerous isolationist who would continue Obama’s “weak” foreign policy.

    AmCon agrees:

    http://www.theamericanconserva…..ul-begins/

  15. Rand Paul needs to appeal to a specific audience to win the nomination.

    He needs to appeal to a more diverse audience to win a national election.

    That he has to do both simultaneously isn’t a “problem” per se.

    It’s what you have to do if you want to run for President and win.

  16. There are a large, large number of voters that are on both sides.

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