Rand Paul

Rand Paul: "Was it a good idea to invade Libya? Did that make us less safe?"


Libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was on Meet the Press yesterday, where he talked about foreign policy blunders and how not to repeat them. Here's an exchange that underscores that Paul is thinking differently about foreign policy than most of the other folks (Republican or Democratic) running for president:

Chuck Todd: …are you satisfied after Governor Bush's sort of fourth answer on this, saying that he wouldn't have gone into the war in Iraq, knowing what we know now? Are you satisfied now that Governor Bush won't be taking us back to the Bush foreign policy? You had said that that was an important litmus test for him.

Rand Paul: …I think when Hussein was toppled, we got chaos. We still have chaos in– in Iraq. I think it emboldened Iran. I think—we now have the rise of radical Islam in Iraq as well. But I think the same question, to be fair, ought to be asked of Hillary Clinton, if she ever takes questions.

They should ask her, "Was it a good idea to invade Libya? Did that make us less safe? Did it make it more chaotic? Did it allow radical Islam and I.S.I.S. to grow stronger?" So I think the war in Iraq is a good question and still a current question, but so is the question of, "Should we have gone into Libya?"

Paul has a new book coming out, in which he outlines various policies, including those related to foreign affairs and military intervention abroad. Todd quotes a passage about our Libya policy thus:

"The problem is, we've already sent the wrong message. The last time a leader gave up his desire for weapons of mass destruction, we bombed his country and took him out."

When asked by Todd about foreign policy and defense spending, Paul replied:

I think that we always have to have the threat of military force behind diplomacy. But I would prefer diplomacy. I think we can still have negotiations. And the thing is—is that we negotiated with the Soviets for 70 years and we ended up coming to a peaceful outcome. I think, with Iran, we need to be steady and firm that they cannot have a nuclear weapons program. There has to be the threat of military force. But my hope is really that negotiations continue. There are some in my party who say, "Oh, I don't want any negotiations." They're ready to be done with it….once you're done with negotiations, the choices are war, or they get a weapon, and I don't wanna have just those two binary choices.

Read the full transcript, in which Paul reiterates a firm stance against Patriot Act reauthorization, here.

I'm glad to see Paul becoming more outspoken about the limits of intervention as a go-to strategy. His recent gestures toward increasing defense spending and sounding a more bellicose line on military action are troubling not just because they ape a generally ineffective Republican Party line but because, as he points above, they haven't worked.

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  1. We didn’t “invade” Libya, you dumb ratfucker. We bombed the crap out of them while “leading from behind”!

    1. It was nothing but a kinetic overseas contingency operation, you ratbagging teafuckers! And also BOOOOOSH!!11!!!!!!

  2. “Autocrats offer the world order!”

    Foreign policy is always trying to find your way through a morass of bad options, and none of the feasible ones are particularly moral or principled.

  3. Seems like Rand could make a better appeal to the Republican base by making this a fiscal responsibility issue. Why subsidize national defense for the Europeans and middle east? Save our money and let them defend themselves. We can maintain a much stronger military with less money if we quit wasting so much money on (1) maintaining foreign bases where we don’t need them, and (2) active/offensive warfare with little benefit to us.

  4. I wish that discussions of foreign policy seemed to be based on reality, rather than ideology. And isolationism is an ideology.

    Not that the Decisions are any better.

    The case for going into Iraq; Saddam had a cease fire agreement with us, from the Gulf War, which he had never come close to meeting. The 9/11 attacks made it important that governments in the area take commitments with us seriously. Saddam had to be made an object lesson.

    We should have gone in, toppled his government, hanged him if convenient, and left.

    We stayed and it was a mess.

    The case for meddling with Libya; Q’addaffi (sp?) was being his usual charming self, the country was in rebellion, and the was a great ferment to Do Something. No threat to us. No Agreement with us being broken. No possible good outcome.

    Somebody please slap Obama upside his peasy head.

    Nations do not have morals. Even if we wanted to have national morals, and had some way to implement this, nobody would believe it. And, in any case, they would change every four to eight years.

    Nations have interests. If we used our military in pursuit of or defense of our interests, and resisted the urge to “Do Good” with soldiers, we would have a much better foreign policy than anything we’ve had in my lifetime.

    And the Progressives AND the Hawks would collectively have kittens.

    So, really, there is not down side, per se??.

    1. The 9/11 attacks made it important that governments in the area take commitments with us seriously. Saddam had to be made an object lesson.

      We should have gone in, toppled his government, hanged him if convenient, and left.

      It’s really hard not to call you a Bush apologist and dismiss everything else you have to say with this horrifying nonsense. Nobody–no liberal, libertarian, or reasonably sane person–outside of the Republican propaganda echo chamber thinks the Iraq invasion was either justified, possible to execute according to neocon video game fantasies you’re indulging, or comparable in destructiveness and pointlessness to any other military action since Vietnam.

      I came into 2008 with very low standards: elect someone who would never do something as monumentally awful as Iraq. You don’t appear to have standards other than “how can I blame Obama?”

      1. Your blanket statements are blanket stupid.

        You make the anti-war movement look stupid.

        I suppose that’s better than making environmentalists looks stupid.

        I’m so glad you’re a progressive. If you were a libertarian, you would make us look so stupid.

        1. It is pretty much settled fact that the Iraq occupation was completely pointless and ruinous. Bush gave the Middle East to Iran and created Al Qaeda’s psychopathic younger brother. The contractors, of course, did pretty well. Nobody here has to disagree with this and lose any face. The world has enough Pavlovian anti-Obama morons who think a dead ambassador in Libya is worse than uncounted thousands dead in Iraq after an invasion justified on lies. Why soil libertarianism with such total hackery?

          1. The occupation, yes. I said so.

      2. Tony, if you think that the commitments of other governments to keep their agreements with us are not important, you are too stupid to discuss anything important with, amd I’m slightly startled you remember to breathe.

        1. Well we sure showed them. It takes a military strategist of uncommon genius to decide that enforcing “commitments” on countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, as a direct response to 9/11, and justified as such, is a prudent course of action. Of course, the original resolution explicitly mentions the WMD that failed to exist–but surely it was all about “commitments” at the time, and this was a smart use of our military assets post-9/11, and this is definitely not a post-hoc rationalization of maximum partisan hackery. At least you admit the execution was botched.

          1. I still don’t see where you’re explaining how Libya was such a great idea by contrast

            1. Tony’s an idiot. It is a mark of just how bored I am today that I actually answered the little twit.

              The core issue is that for the last half century or more our declared foreign policy has supposedly been based on our wonderful altruism.

              I suspect that the few people who buy this have difficulty counting above ten, and drool.

              We had a reason to attack Saddam’s Iraq. Maybe not a NICE reason, but a reason. If we want to make use of diplomacy instead of brute force, we have to be clear that brute force is the alternative, and will be used as necessary. Diplomacy is credit. If nobody believes we have the cash, the credit will be discounted.

              We had no reason to attack Q’addaffy(sp?)’s Libya, at the time. He hadn’t struck at us in more than a decade. The trouble was largely internal, and we weren’t going to conquer the country and run it. Absent a miracle, no subsequent government of Libya emerging from the mess was going to be worth a bucket of warm sewage. No good reason to attack, no good outcome on the horizon.

              Seems to be something of a theme with Jug Ears Obama.

              And sometimes I despair of trying to make people understand this. If we aren’t going to run a global Empire (and Please God! let’s not.) we should limit our meddling in other people’s countries to occasions when we actually have a demonstrable interest. Handwringing over Social Justice twaddle doesn’t count.

            2. Look, the Neocons made Obama attack Libya……and surge unsuccessfully into Afghanistan and suffer 75% of all US Casulties during his presidency……and bomb Syria and Iraq again……and stuff !!!

  5. If Hillary Clinton were competent to be President, she would defend Libya. She would say that Libyans were a never ending source of jihadis around the world, and that this was because Gaddafi made it practically impossible for so many Libyan men to be free and prosperous. Hillary Clinton would say that the international threat of terrorism–to American citizens–wasn’t about to drop off to any acceptable level so long as Gaddafi remained in power, and she’d say that the United States couldn’t stand by and watch Gaddafi massacre the people of Benghazi anyway.

    Hillary Clinton would say that mistakes were made. She would say that Christopher Stevens never should have been there, and that if she had it to do all over again, he never would have been on the ground in Benghazi. However, Hillary Clinton would insist that no matter how bad things in Libya look today, over the long term, Libya wasn’t going to stop being an important source of jihadis all over the world so long as Gaddafi remained in power, and that just because chaos in the aftermath of a revolution is inevitable, doesn’t mean leaving a vicious dictator in power was in the best interests of American security.

    Those are the kinds of things Hillary Clinton would say if she were competent to be the President of the United States.

    1. Unfortunately, instead of saying what a competent President would say, Hillary Clinton is going to direct her campaign to insinuate that criticizing her actions in Libya generally and Benghazi specifically is just further evidence of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that has been directed against her and her husband for the last 20 years–and she’s going to do that because Hillary Clinton is woefully incompetent and has no business being the President of the United States.

    2. Or, you know, not say a thing about Libya because no one will ask about it.

      1. After two years, more than 20 committee hearings and events, and millions of dollars spent investigating Benghazi, the Republican led House has reported no finding of wrongdoing. More questions have been asked about this than you could possibly reasonably expect, especially considering how reluctant they are to ask questions about Iraq. Or is it that you don’t live on the same planet as everyone else?

        1. It’s a bipartisan cover-up with a bunch of public threatrics for the masses, you schmuck. Neither the republicans nor the democrats want anyone to know what it was we were really doing there at the so-called “embassy”.

          That’s why everyone in the government who knows about it is getting polygraphed every single month in order to intimidate them and keep anyone from talking about it.

    3. “If Hillary were competent to be President”

      And on this parallel Earth, are the oceans full of Cola, and the skies a nice tangerine color?

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  7. we negotiated with the Soviets for 70 years and we ended up coming to a peaceful outcome.

    Er no. The Cold War was not ‘peaceful’.

    Negotiations with Iran have been a waste of time, completely and utterly. Their regime is a menace regardless of nuclear weapons or no. The regime must be destroyed. I think it can be destroyed in much the same way as the USSR was.

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