Foreign Policy

Rand Paul is Not an Isolationist

Rubio's mischaracterization may have been a good applause line but it's the kind of lack of thinking sinking Republicans.


Fox Business

Sen. Marco Rubio's big winning line at yesterday's Republican debate was apparently when he called Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) not just an isolationist but a committed isolationist. Bam! In an election cycle that often feels like a parade of low points for the Republican (and Democratic) parties, Rubio's characterization of Paul's foreign policy beliefs certainly seems to fit.

Did Rand Paul demand the U.S. withdraw from all the nearly 150 countries where the U.S. acknowledges it has active duty troops, as his father, Ron Paul, did? Did he demand the U.S. build walls at the borders and dot the coastlines with mines? Did he say fighting ISIS was none of America's business?

No, it was none of those things. Here's what Paul said that got Rubio calling him a commited isolationist:

"How is it conservative to add a trillion dollar expenditure for the federal government that you're not paying for? How is it conservative? How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You cannot be a conservative if you're going to keep promoting new programs you're not going to pay for."

Rubio's response isn't much better than a schoolyard "I know you are, but what am I?" It plays on the inaccurate image low-info voters (which is most voters) have of Rand Paul, based on years of establishment Republicans trying to connect his policy positions to those of his far more radical father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

It's notable, too, that that radicalism—clear calls for the U.S. to pull its military from places it doesn't belong, to stop trying to play the "great game" and instead offer the opportunity for peaceful relations and free trade with all country, to end all foreign aid and not just foreign aid to countries nobody particularly likes—got Ron Paul pretty far in the 2012 election cycle, much further than it had in 2008.

Such a message could resonate even further in 2016, perhaps especially if it's tempered in the way Rand Paul has tried to do. It's a balancing act for sure, one Paul hasn't done so well with so far. Part of the blame lies with the Paul campaign's own uncertainty about where they stand, ideologically, on foreign policy. Paul has generally supported non-intervention or, more accurately, generally understood and articulated how U.S. interventionist policies have contributed to instability in the Middle East and beyond. Then he'll do something like suggest the U.S. send arms to the Kurds and redraw maps for them. In his effort to appeal to non-interventionist and interventionist types alike, Paul risked losing support among both (if he even had any of the latter).

But part of the blame, too, lies with other Republicans who have willfully misrepresented Paul's positions, of which Rubio is only the most recent example. Rand Paul is the only candidate, to my knowledge, on either side of the aisle, who has called for an end to the 14-year-long Afghanistan War. Most Americans continue to say the war was not worth fighting, even as some recent polls show majority support for extending the war. While that's disturbing, it shouldn't be surprising given the dearth of anti-war arguments in mainstream politics. It doesn't have to be that way.

Ron Paul energized a generation of youth in large part because of his anti-war sentiments, helping to send Republicans to Congress like Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Justin Amash of Michigan who fairly consistently articulate the need for non-interventionism. It's important work to build on, and has the opportunity to expand the pool of potential Republican voters. Instead, Republicans have spent this election cycle doing their best to shrink the pool of potential Republican voters. How much further they can shrink it depends on how many debates are left and who gets to speak at them.

Read Jacob Sullum on the Paul-Rubio spat and the truth about U.S. military spending.

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  1. He needs to splain it more. He should tell establishment hack guy that having a foreign policy doesn’t necessarily mean dropping bombs on some poor country. It also means trade and negotiations, diplomacy. Not wanting to bomb everyone does not make you an isolationist. Rubio is retarded. Rand needs to demonstrate this for everyone.

    1. He should challenge them to explain how getting involved in Syria is going to turn out any differently than Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya.

      1. But Bush and Clinton both say this time is not the same.

        1. Well, maybe they would make good proglodyes after all…

      2. Er, in Syria the US is bombing the ISIS whereas in Iraq and Libya it bombed the government. Not to go all PB but you are also mixing nation-building projects with air campaigns.

        This is the kind of sloppy thinking that keeps you at the kids table.

        1. 1. Why not go all PB? You’re basically the bizarro version of him anyway.

          2. Isn’t Canada, really, the kids’ table of North America?

          1. Canada is America’s hat. And a great place to store thing until needed.

            1. Like tar sands and Sidney Crosby.

        2. Sure the US is bombing ISIS. We also want Assad to leave, which of course would lead to the “rebels” taking over even though we don’t know who they are. They’re probably Islamic fanatics too. Calling our Syrian policy incoherent is an understatement.

          Nope. The only correct answer to Syria is to walk away. If Russia wants to get bogged down there for a decade or so all the better.

    2. Rubio is a neo con hack. This is why I’ve been saying that libertarians need to form their own party. They will never win any significant post in this pro war, pro foreign and domestic interventionist, pro big gov’t party. As long as libertarians keep voting these idiots in we will never see a change. Republican libertarians (to me that is an oxymoron) are accepted as long as they tow the party line and vote the way the fascist party wants. People whine and cry about trump but rubio is just as bad in other ways. Cruz may be closer but he’s still a republican puppet. Even if Paul was an isolationist, someone needs to explain how our decades of interventionism has made us safer and more accepted around the world. The republican party has brought us instability on the mid east, greater spying on US citizens, increased militarization of police. Where is their outcry over non regulatory militias, EPA, Dept of Education, etc?

      But, libertarians will vote for rubio like good little sheep as long as trump won’t get in, or clinton as if he will do anything different. In doing so, neo cons like rubio will continue to say what they think we want to hear, and some of us will vote for this “lesser of two evils.”

      1. There IS a libertarian party.

      2. Libertarians have their own party. The problem is that like most political parties the loudest voices are the most extreme.

        I think the core argument here is to abandon the GOP and let it die while also building a viable alternative. Perhaps a party built on principles of liberty rather than political ideologies and sound bites.

        1. I like your last statement. If libertarians are a viable group, holding back our vote or voting straight libertarian would send a message. However, libertarians will continue to be demonized in both parties. The Libertarian Party is more of a hobby than a real party. My question is, if that’s not true, why are libertarians like Amash and Paul identified as republican. I would like to see all libertarians in both houses quit their current party and declare as Libertarian while declaring that the democrat and republican parties are not “built on principles of liberty” but on “political ideologies and sound bites.”

      3. \\But, libertarians will vote for rubio like good little sheep\\
        You totally lost me there. Did PB threaten to castrate your do or something? This industrial strength derp.

    3. a truly strong foreign policy means getting to tell the men and women who have devoted their lives to defending this country that they get to spend christmas at home with their families this year, and sleep in their own bed rather than a environment where you need to keep one eye open to avoid having both of them closed forever.

  2. all the nearly 150 troops where the U.S. acknowledges it has active duty troops

    Well, not as bad as I had thought then.

    1. all the nearly 150 countries where the U.S. acknowledges it has active duty troops

      Fuck. Seriously? Jesus.

      1. Read Imperial Grunts.

        Fascinating stuff.

    2. Does that include troops that are guarding embassies? I remember Ron Paul and his acolytes disingenuously included those in a ‘study’ of sorts designed to shock people. Like the marines at the US embassy in Zimbabwe are part of some kind of ’empire’.

      1. The US has 100 troops in 29 countries.
        Of those, the US has 1,000 troops in 13 countries, and 10,000 troops in 5.
        The biggest deployments are pacifying forces in the recently conquered:
        Japan 48.8K
        Germany 37.7K
        Korea 27.6K
        Kuwait 12.5K
        Italy 11.7K
        Afghanistan 6.8K
        Iraq 3.6K

        1. Squirrels ate the greater than signs.

    3. There are only 196 countries today (by most counts). That means that over 76% of all counties in the world today have an acknowledged US military presence.

      1. That is about 75% too many

  3. If you don’t want to increase the military’s budget then you want no military at all!

    1. I’m assuming this is sarcasm.

      1. From sarcasmic? Not a chance.

    2. If you don’t want to increase the military’s budget at less than twice the rate of inflation, you don’t support the troops.

    3. Interestingly, same argument, different team as the always reasonable “If you don’t support a $15 minimum wage then you are for CRUSHING POVERTY” folks.

  4. It plays on the inaccurate image low-info voters (which is most voters)…

    Well, who’s fault is that, Krayewski? WHO’S FAULT IS THAT?

    1. I would have assumed Nikki’s.

      1. Um, no, it’s their parents’ fault. I don’t make those kinds of mistakes.

        1. The only kind of mistakes Nicole makes are about hats. So many mistakes.

            1. I wish it were only that bad. I really do.

              1. My hats are glorious. It’s not my fault you have no sense of style.

              2. Yeah, the aborted fetus hat was definitely worse than that one.

                1. The one that had all those live pigeons stuck to it was pretty awesome, though.

    2. I blame public education.

    3. You know who else played on the inaccurate image?

  5. WTF is everyone still doing talking about No Fly Zones in Syria? Is Hillary promising USA will shoot down Su-34’s to enforce No Fly Zone? How about shooting down Turkish F-16’s trying to bomb our Kurdish pseudo-pals? These clowns make no sense talking such drivel.

    And, of course, Rand kind of messed up last night repeatedly referring to Iraq in context of Syrian No Fly Zones and the like.

    1. “Pseudo-pals”?

      1. We encourage the Kurds to run their own de facto country in Iraq but won’t actually lift a finger to make that delusion a legal reality.

    2. Talk like that plays well to the neo con pro “amerrka, luv it or leave it” crowd. I agree with Trump, let russia duke it out, in fact, whisper in their ear, “you gonna let isis do that to one of your planes? They’re making you look like a bunch of sissies.” We have gotten this idea that somehow that region is ours. I say let russia take it, they won’t have any more luck there than we have. But people like some on the stage and in congress won’t rest until we send more of our (of corse not theirs, their kids will get an exemption) sons and daughters to die.

      1. An exemption from what? Voluntary military service? Everyone currently enjoys an exemption….

        1. Exemption, unfortunate term, better to use “a pass.” Or, an exemption in that those who demand we send our sons and daughters to fight will pull strings to get them to do something else. But you’re right, I got caught up in the heat of the moment still thinking what rubio said to Paul.

  6. “WAR IS PEACE!”

    I have heard that somewhere before….

    1. “War. War never changes.”

  7. Well, Rand called Rubio and Hillary Neocons this morning, so it’s all even.

    1. It’s about damn time! It’s about time he started taking my advice! Now Rand, tell Carly she’s got a white gurl ass! You’re moving up in the polls, just do it!

      1. ” tell Carly she’s got a white gurl ass!”
        on her face!

        1. Her voice is like a chain saw going through sheet metal.

      2. If he had walked over and punched Rubio out he would be up 12 points over night.

    2. Well that is accurate though.

    3. Which sort of goes the the “low information voter”. How many people even know what a neoconservative is in this country?

  8. I think one can believe both that he afghan war wasn’t worth it and that we are kinda committed to fucking that place up in all perpetuity. 9/11. Tiger by the tail. Can’t leave vacuum. Whatever.

    1. The Afghan invasion and clearance of the Taliban was clearly worth it. Everything after, not so much.

      1. Afghan was a success. But good ole bush didn’t have a clue what he was doing to go into Iraq. Remember? They were going to celebrate us a heroes for setting them free. Typical western ignorance as to the mindset of those over there. I believe bush was going after Iran, the idea was to take afghanistan, then Iraq and we’d have Iran on both sides, then a pincher movement into Iran, but they overestimated our presence in Iraq and the aftermath.

  9. Rand Paul is an isolationist like Marco Rubio is a natural born Citizen.

    1. Birther!

      1. C’mon, everyone knows Rubio’s from Kenya.

        1. He’s an anchor baby.

    2. Good point, Rubio is proof that trump is right on immigration.

      1. More incentive to do away with the 14th amendment.

  10. “Paul has generally supported non-intervention or, more accurately, generally understood and articulated how U.S. interventionist policies have contributed to instability in the Middle East and beyond. Then he’ll do something like suggest the U.S. send arms to the Kurds and redraw maps for them.”

    Ed seems to have willfully blinded himself to the real Rand Paul that Rand has been clearly presenting for some time. The Real Rand is more like me than Ed or Rubio, he clearly rejects both the asinine and expensive and interminable neocon projects as well as the anti-reality historically illiterate ‘nonintervention’ idea faith. Sorry Ed, no one is really interested in your faith as a substitute for real foreign policy.

  11. Rand Paul isn’t even a non-interventionist. Rand Paul has made pretty clear for a while now that he’s a foreign policy realist. The thing is, for a hyper-interventionist like Rubio or Hillary Clinton, for that matter, any indication that any event anywhere in the world doesn’t demand intervention by the U.S. is “isolationism”.

    You know, if Paul were to propose the following dictums should govern our use of force, we’d probably be hearing from these clowns that this is proof he’s an isolationist:

    * The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
    * U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
    * U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
    * The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
    * U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a “reasonable assurance” of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
    * The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.

    Those principles are the Weinberger Doctrine

    They’re the less restrictive (of use of military power) version of the Powell Doctrine.

    1. It all makes sense except the last one. “Last resort”? What if amputation were a last resort, even though I could save an arm now by cutting off a digit? Senseless.

      1. Whoosh, over your head.

        “Don’t start pissing away money and sending our kids into harm’s way unless you absolutely have to” is the essential basis of the idea and it’s not a bad one.

        Of course, it isn’t your money or your kids, so what do you care?

        And the point I was raising is that even the level of hawkishness of the Reagan administration isn’t sufficient for idiots like Rubio (or, it seems, you).

    2. This thought will never make inroads in the repugnican party, all they want is to be the big dog no matter what. That is why there needs to be a Libertarian Party.

      1. The idea that we would not be the world’s big dog is so scary, so repugnant to so many that they will have no problem committing your sons and daughters to die for this, their, cause.

      2. Except it was the Weinberger Doctrine. You know, after Cap Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense. It was the line of policy that won us the Cold War. It made us the big dog. Bogging ourselves down in a million shitpot little wars that we have no interest in isn’t a very good recipe to ensure national strength. It’s more a recipe overextend yourself, undermine combat readiness and make the public war weary.

        1. But that was when the Republican Party had a substantial number of foreign policy “realists” in their ranks. Now the majority foreign policy opinion in the GOP is dominated by Weekly Standard-types. If there is any opposition to the new Republican consensus it isn’t coming from some establishment-realist Republican contingent (Bush 41, Scowcroft, Baker, Weinberger, etc. have almost no influence these days), instead its either coming from libertarians (Paul, Amash, Lee, Massie, etc.) or the so-called paleocons which seem to now include Donald Trump in their ranks. It’s telling that if Rand Paul were to be elected President he would have to probably go completely outside the beltway to find even a couple of non-hawkish/realist Republican Foreign Policy experts to join his cabinet.

    3. Maybe we’d have better foreign policy if we issued fewer doctrines.

  12. Marco Rubio is a lightweight but let him and Bush and Christie and Kasich split the mushy middle vote, which I don’t think will win very much this time. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are going to battle it out for the conservative vote, which should carry the day, in the end. My dream is that either way, it’s a Paul/Cruz ticket or a Cruz/Paul ticket, that will go up against Hillary/Bernie (that’s my prediction for what their ticket will be). One Op-Ed today (The Week) says that, if Rand Paul can pull off the upset and take the nomination, he might very well be the strongest candidate in the general election. People are starting to see it. Rand Paul is the best candidate for President we have had in over a century. Rand Paul 2016!

    1. cough…cough..bullshit…cough

    2. 2013 called. They want their Rand Paul optimism and faith in the Republican party back.

      (For what it’s worth, I like Rand and Cruz well enough but let’s be real here.)

  13. I think we should get Jerry Springer to come out and moderate a GOP debate.

  14. It is enraging actually. The Pauls have NEVER advocated pulling back from the world; not even close. Just a reexamination of our military policy.

    Thinking that we shouldn’t be bombing dozens of countries in various vaguely-defined Wars on [INSERT BAD THING HERE] shouldn’t make you a “committed isolationist”. It should make you “not a (complete) looney”.

  15. i think rand paul -and this is only in retrospect, since i thought it was a good idea at the time- spent too much time courting the libertarian community. he would’ve been better off being respectful, but not as attentive. they would’ve discovered him anyway, and it would’ve given the gop/media less rope to hang him with. anyway, it’s back to senate for him, barring a miracle.

  16. republicans have learned the lesson of distinguishing, at least rhetorically, being a global leader as opposed to the world’s police. problem is, they’ve yet to learn the lesson of having their rhetoric match their actions, and how voters would really love that a lot too.

  17. Rand’s isolationism may have been a good applause line, for the REASON crowd, but it’s the kind of lack of thinking sinking libertarians.
    There, Ed, FIFY.

  18. If you want to use the term correctly, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina are the biggest isolationists on stage, not Rand Paul.

    1. Rubio wouldn’t have used the term is Paul wasn’t already slandered as an isolationist. To a neo con republican caution before sending kids to die, using diplomacy, thinking the consequences through before acting is isolationism. Charging head first and then figure it out after is the republican way (I show Paul respect that I don’t classify him as a republican).

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