Foreign Policy

Rand Paul's Case for Ending America's Wars

"Intervention after intervention hasn't had the intended consequence. We've got more chaos."


Four years ago, the media were talking about a "Libertarian Moment."

I had high hopes!

Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) ran for president, promising to "take our country back from special interests." But his campaign never took off.

He "shouldn't even be on the stage," said Donald Trump at a Republican presidential debate.

Paul quit his presidential campaign after doing poorly in Iowa.

In my new video, Paul reflects on that, saying, "Either the people aren't ready or perhaps the people in the Republican primary aren't ready."

But Paul says, "We may be winning the hearts and minds of people who aren't in Washington."


The current deficit is a record $984 billion, and since Trump was elected, federal spending rose half a trillion dollars.

But Paul says progress has been made, in that Trump has introduced some market competition in health care, cut taxes, cut regulations, appointed better judges, and promises to get us out of foreign wars. Paul tweeted that Trump is "the first president to understand what is our national interest."

"But he hasn't pulled us out of anywhere," I said.

"Compare it to George W. Bush, who got us involved everywhere," answered Paul. "Or President Obama, who sent 100,000 troops to Afghanistan. The rhetoric of President Trump has been a relief."

The problem, says Paul, is that, "When the president has said anything about it…immediately Republican and the Democrat leaders get together and pass a resolution saying it would be precipitous to leave Afghanistan."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) did recently make a speech about "the danger of a precipitous withdrawal."

"Really?" replies Paul. "After 19 years? Precipitous?"

America went into Afghanistan to take out the killers behind the Sept. 11 attacks. We succeeded. So why are we still there?

Paul complains, "Intervention after intervention hasn't had the intended consequence. We've got more chaos."

In Iraq, America took out Saddam Hussein, but that has left a power vacuum and continued violence.

In Libya, we helped get rid of Moammar Gadhafi, but Libya's "government" is now run by armed gangs that torture civilians.

In Syria, we armed rebels to fight Bashar Assad. But many of our weapons ended up in the hands of Al Qaeda, and Assad is still in power.

"Every time we think we're going to get more stability or less terrorism," says Paul, "we end up getting more chaos and more terrorism."

Recently, Trump moved 50 troops from northern Syria. His action received widespread condemnation from people Paul calls the "war hawk caucus."

Lindsey Graham said it was "the most screwed-up decision I've seen since I've been in Congress." That's saying something; Graham has been in Congress for 24 years and has seen several screwed-up wars and failed domestic programs.

But Graham almost always seems to want more war.

Paul acknowledges that four years ago, he wanted to arm the Kurds who are now in harm's way and give them their own country. In promoting American withdrawal, hasn't he betrayed the Kurds?

"When I refer to the Kurds having a homeland, they kind of do. They have a section of Iraq," responded Paul, saying he never proposed creating a Kurdish country in Syria. In any case, "Fifty or 2,000 American soldiers are nothing more than a target for bad people to kill."

I don't know whether Paul is right about Syria, but I'm glad Paul speaks out.

We need a strong military. But we should use it sparingly, only when we know it benefits our defense.

If we go to war, Congress must vote to declare that war. That's what the Constitution requires. Congress hasn't done that since 1942. That's wrong. It allows politicians to hide their deadly mistakes.

"It's a very complicated war over there," says Paul. "They're four or five different countries involved in it. The people who live there know better. We can't know enough about these problems. And unless you want to put 100,000 troops in there and fight Assad, Russia, Turkey…we ought to rethink whether we should get involved in these wars to begin with."

In both foreign and domestic policy, government plans usually fail.


NEXT: Trump’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Foreign Policy

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  1. Wars are like gun control laws; the next one will fix everything. We promise.

    1. Just declare “common-sense” wars!

  2. “In both foreign and domestic policy, government plans usually fail.”

    Despite that @Reason supports coercive monopolies when it comes to government.

  3. so the defense bill is $700B a year. what ladle of that gravy train does any congressmen or district want to spill?

    1. Targeted cuts don’t pass because then certain districts and states will lose and Congress can’t have that. Across the board cuts don’t work because people criticize them as being stupid and needlessly harmful to good programs. Meanwhile most of the political class and the entire bureaucracy see all cuts as a threat to their power.

      As usual, the American voter bears ultimate responsibility, but good luck submitting a formal complaint.

  4. we love the money and don’t mind the wars. DoD in my town makes us all fat and happy and nobody ever gets killed cause it is not a army town sending grunts to the dunes. it is one of the many hubs of our great middle class military -industrial complex and it works nicely for people making $70k on the assembly line or the execs or the airmen , soldiers and officers 5000 mile from the nearest conflict. they better than anyone know they are never going to see danger.

    my neighbors, husband and wife, fly jets for the AF. they own a $600k home and 2 new cars. .My uncle was a SAC base commander in the 60’s He lived in a 1500 SF home on base.

  5. Trump & Rand Paul VP for 2020! Sorry Kentucky; we need your senator to have more influence than just a state senator. Please elect a new one just as good as this one :).

    1. This might actually get me to vote for Trump.

      No… no it wouldn’t. But I would secretly hope for Trump to win then abdicate.

  6. Today’s soldiers have chosen war as a career.

    Western wars are wars of aggression. They advance our economic interests at the expense of the people’s of foreign nations.

    Terrorism? We are the terrorist invaders in this “Red Dawn” reality.

    1. “We are the Terrorists” ?? As-if!. There’s a world of difference (as in practically opposites) between running around committing random acts of human manslaughter in a fit of emotional rage and helping a civilization maintain some sense of security against such acts. We don’t sponsor the National Offense – Its called defense.

      1. Terrorists rarely commit random acts. Groups like Al Queda spend some time surveilling the target, gathering resources, etc.

        Now, your average “lone wolf” terrorist may be random in some ways, but they don’t contribute much to the overall big picture.

        I would also note that to the average villager in Afcrapistan, a US force showing up and shooting the place up would be pretty terrorizing.

        1. “I would also note that to the average villager in Afcrapistan” — Depending on if the average villager was a member of the group Al Queda and spent time surveying the targets, gathering resources and initiating acts of violence (unprovoked?).

          There’s not much that is more disgusting than a bully who accuses his victim of violence the instant that victim tries to defend themselves. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe Al-Queda is just a pieceful non-aggressive organization defending themselves from the U.S. who wanted to take over um ____________???? But that is the conclusion anyone would have to make in order to believe the U.S. is the terrorist.

  7. Ron/Rand Paul were initially popular with the young libs who fancy themselves libertarians because they were just for legal drugs and no borders.

    As far as free speech, freedom of association and taking care of yourself, i.e. no “free stuff”, they were not so into that .

    And neither is Reason. I’m surprised they still allow Stossel.

    But I guess one article is Ok until we get back to Orange Man Bad nonstop.

    1. Most of the people I asked, “Why won’t you vote for Rand Paul” answered that it was his foreign policy ideas that threw them off; but I’m sure there was many who also was exactly as you describe.

      I would’ve voted for him; if had stayed in.

  8. “Intervention after intervention hasn’t had the intended consequence. We’ve got more chaos.”

    I would argue that the interventions have worked very well. Chaos is the intent, not the problem.

    1. Honestly I’m not sure there really is more chaos. That area was always chaotic. We may be exposed to more of that chaos since we interjected ourselves into the middle of it. But the world is constantly getting better and safer in every way (see Pinker’s work). I’d be surprised if this was actually an outlier.

      Obviously I’m not saying US foreign policy is the cause of there being less chaos.

  9. The entire point of endless Middle Eastern interventions *is* to foment chaos and instability. A stable Middle East cannot be used as cudgel against Russia and China, or other rival superpowers. The interventions also create a pretext to establish bases and the expand the military’s capability of striking targets in the region.

    Neither Republicans nor Democrats want a stable Middle East. Not that it is capable of being stable, in any event, in the absence of one military dictatorship or another.

    1. I don’t think you can legitimately claim that with the billions GWB spent trying to setup democracy after Bin Laden was killed. Except to say a strong/stable terrorist organization was never the end goal and “destabilizing” it was.

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