National Defense

Rand Paul and 10 Heedless Hawks

The Kentucky senator offers a desperately needed alternative to the GOP's mindless militarism.


At a Q&A session in Dallas a year ago, Rand Paul expressed skepticism about whether the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posed "a threat to our national security." Hours later at another event in Dallas, the Kentucky senator said that if he were president he "would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."

Paul's sudden conversion on the merits of war with ISIS made me worry that, in catering to Republican primary voters, he would lose his distinctive voice on foreign policy, which urges caution and modesty instead of the heedless interventionism advocated by his rivals. But last week's Republican presidential debate showed that Paul still offers a desperately needed alternative to the mindless militarism favored by the GOP.

"We have a world that grows increasingly dangerous," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida declared, "and we are eviscerating our military spending." It is so eviscerated that the U.S. spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson nevertheless agreed with Rubio that U.S. military spending is dangerously low. "We need the strongest military on the face of the planet," Fiorina said, "and everyone has to know it." Although we and they already do, Fiorina still wants to boost spending on the Army, Navy, and Marines.

Bush upped the ante. "If we're going to lead the world," he said, "then we need to have the strongest military possible." Strictly speaking, that means diverting virtually all resources to military spending, leaving Americans just enough to cover the basic necessities of life.

Paul, by contrast, has proposed a five-year budget-balancing plan that includes $164 billion in Pentagon cuts. Although he later seemed to retreat from that proposal, it is hard to imagine him complaining that $610 billion, about a fifth of all federal spending, is not enough to defend the country.

During the debate, Paul was the only candidate to consistently ask whether the activity funded by that enormous budget actually makes the country safer. "We have to learn [that] sometimes the interventions backfire," he said. "The Iraq War backfired and did not help us. We're still paying the repercussions of a bad decision."

According to Bush and Rubio, however, the mistake was not so much starting that war as ending it. "We politically and militarily pulled back," Bush said, "and now we have the creation of ISIS."

Paul's analysis starts earlier, with the colossal error that George W. Bush made—an error his brother is still reluctant to acknowledge. Paul persuasively argues that deposing Saddam Hussein, based on an utterly spurious national security argument, strengthened Iran and created the conditions that gave rise to ISIS.

Paul warns that the failure to contemplate the possibility of such unintended consequences ensures there will be more of them. "ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad," he said. "Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention makes us less safe….Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we're more at risk.

Paul is not your man if you want a president who doubles down on reckless wars, trying to correct the problems created by earlier interventions. "If you want boots on the ground, and you want them to be our sons and daughters, you've got 14 other choices," he said. "There will always be a Bush or Clinton for you, if you want to go back to war in Iraq."

Bush helped make Paul's case, illustrating the fuzzy thinking that leads to such quagmires. "We don't have to be the world's policemen," he said, "but we certainly have to be the world's leader." I have no idea what that means, which is what makes it scary. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.


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  1. Good to see you are coming around, Jacob….you of so little faith. Maybe now you can stop worrying about his foreign policy and start realizing that, not only is Dr. Rand Paul the best Constitutional candidate for President we have seen in over a hundred years, the country needs a President like him more than we ever have in our history. I believe that our future prosperity literally depends on it. Because, yes Rand Paul is the best candidate to get us out of these senseless wars and keep us safe at home but he is also the ONLY candidate who really knows what to do about the giant financial mess that we have put ourselves in. Rand Paul 2016!

    1. We spend more on defense than the next seven countries combined and blow one fifth of all federal spending annually on the same, yet politicians still get traction by claiming our offensive capabilities are underfunded.

  2. rand continues to be far from perfect but still the best of a whole bunch of terrible options. i don’t think he has quite the right personality to be a hugely successful politician though; him getting testy at news anchors after like thirty seconds of inane questions is very understandable, but taking stupid people and their stupid opinions seriously seems like a pretty important part of the job

    1. Yes I think Rand is faraway the best choice, but doesn’t have a great personality for politics or for being president. If there was someone who had great leadership abilities and the same views then I would vote for them instead, but for now he’s the best we’ve got. I also think that overall he is smarter than most of the other candidates.

  3. We aren’t even spending all of the money wisely. When the Pentagon requests that certain programs and projects be cut only to be overruled by Congress, you know there is a problem. Military leaders are just as fallible as any other type, but I do think I’ll trust them on military issues more than the representative that happens to have Lockheed in his district.

    1. they might me more knowledgable, but who would be more self interested? I’d prefer stupid to evil (im not saying that’s the case; maybe the choice is stupid and evil vs just stupid)

      1. I think LynchPin’s point is along the lines that he’d trust Military leaders to make military decisions about what they need to accomplish their mission rather than political leaders making political decisions about what they want the military to have regardless of mission.

    2. The F-22 costs $420 million per plane, the F-35 costs $337 million and would lose a dogfight against a Mig-21, the V-22 costs $70 million, more than 3 times the cost of a Blackhawk, for a prop plane. When people rob a bank, they go to jail. When people rob the US Treasury, they get a new contract.

      1. Even if you assumption were true (which I doubt given the target acquisition systems, agility, etc of the F22) a Mig-21 would likely never get close enough to engage in a fur ball with a Raptor.

        Word on the street from those who know (folks at Dayton), is that in exercises the F-15C has never even gotten a firing solution on an F-22.

        All that being said, I would rather have cheaper aircraft. The F-20 comes to mind.

        1. a Mig-21 would likely never get close enough to engage in a fur ball with a Raptor.

          He wasn’t talking about the F-22 not being able to beat a MiG-21 in a dogfight, he was talking about the F-35. And from what my wife has told me about her years working on that plane as an engineer, he’s probably right. The F-35’s only hope would be to shoot the MiG down with a missile.

          It can’t turn worth shit, it’s too slow, too heavy, and a complete turd. The F-22, OTOH, is every bit as badass as they say.

          in exercises the F-15C has never even gotten a firing solution on an F-22.

          I’ve also heard from my wife, who worked on the 22 as well, that during the test phase of the F-22 one of the 22’s test pilots, a colonel, got tired of the other F-15 pilots not flying “his” baby (he was a former Eagle driver) properly and the next engagement he took the F-15 and let one of the more junior test pilots fly the Raptor and he was actually able to get a firing solution on the 22. Of course, LM used the data from that flight to make improvements to the aircraft so that now it’s probably not likely, no matter how badass the Eagle pilot is. Not sure how much truth there is to that, but I’m not sure why she’d make a story like that up.

          1. The F22 is a good airplane but it was the second best in the competition for the contract. Northrop’s F23 was faster, carried a heavier payload and had a longer range. It was delivered on time and was flown to its delivery point. The F22 was three months late and couldn’t start on the runway.

            The original fly-off was to be weighted heavily for speed and range. However, Northrop had pissed off the Air Force over the MX Missile Inertial Measurement Unit (part of the guidance system) and the Air Force was not going to give the fighter contract to Northrop under any circumstances. So the requirement was changed to increase the weighting for agility and maneuverability. Maneuverability was the F22’s best feature and it is a remarkably maneuverable aircraft.

            Northrop had problems with the government ever since Jack Northrop told Stuart Symington where to go when Symington demanded that Northrop merge his company with Convair. In response, Symington forced Northrop to destroy all of his flying wing aircraft along with all of the tooling to manufacture it. Even after Jack Northrop left the company Northrop couldn’t sell the F20 to the Air Force despite meeting the requirements for cost and performance.

            Unfortunately, it’s politics uber alles when it comes to government contracts.

        2. Loki answered it for me, but I meant the F-35. People should go to jail for laying that $1 trillion+ boondoggle on the tax payers. If this was the Soviet Union, we would have some LM execs scratching out potatoes out of a frozen field in Siberia.

          1. they do it in europe!

  4. This is dangerous rhetoric from this author, and Senator Paul. ISIL is the spawn of the devil, as foretold in the book of Clancey, and they are on the cusp of reuniting the old holy Roman Empire, the first since Hitler and Charlemange to do so. They have also mobilized their massive navy and have no less than 50 divisions of armor and infantry that are preparing to lay siege to one of our coasts any day now. They have already developed stealth bombing capability, and with tanker support will be carpet bombing New York or LA before Christmas.

    1. Nice way to make a point.

  5. The Republican party is on a slow boat to extinction. Very soon they will regret not providing more support for Ron and Rand Paul. All the social conservative rhetoric is toxic. There are smart people in the party. You’d think they would have figured that out by now.

    1. All the social conservative rhetoric is toxic.

      Except when it comes from SoConz like Ron and Rand Paul?

    2. There are smart people in the party.

      *Citation needed*

    3. “There are smart people in the party.”

      Maybe, but many have already left. I think about Gary Johnson, who I wholeheartedly support, but the Libertarian party won’t get more than 1% of the vote unless there is a Jesse Ventura or other name-brand Hollywood candidate.

    4. yes, republicans as they exist now seem pretty much done, but i don’t think there’s any reason being more like the pauls is the way they’re gonna go. they’d almost for sure have more electoral success if they were just more progressive (“compassionate conservatism” actually won like two whole presidencies, and that’s like the dennis duffy “socially conservative fiscally liberal” position, which is a pretty funny joke, but not so funny a way to run a country)

  6. Face it. The Military-Industrial Complex has morphed in the Political-Bureaucratic Complex and there is no going back.

  7. No country is a threat to the USA. As long as there is one terrorist in the world the war against terrorism will continue to fund the careers and promotions of the war bureaucrats, while the USA terrorizes the Middle East people.

  8. Ron Paul is a man of principle who, unlike his craven son, would never have signed that scuzzy Tom Cotton letter.
    Rand Paul, on record denouncing the Iran deal as a “bad deal,” lacks his father’s courage — defined, to me, as having the guts to speak Truth to war-urging, $-donating, media-backed Power.

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  10. If Dr. Paul had spent more time touting the differences between himself and the rest of the Republican field, he might have more than 2% in the polls. The Republican party is on a slow boat to extinction and trying to be like the rest of the “herd” just doesn’t work.

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