MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Rand Paul Is Virtually the Only Candidate Who Doesn’t Want to Start World War III in Syria

GOP debate separates the interventionist hawks from... the one other guy.

Rand PaulMSNBC“I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” said Sen. Rand Paul during the Republican debate. He was referring to Gov. Chris Christie, but could have been talking about virtually any of the other eight people standing on the stage at The Venetian.

Indeed, only the libertarian-ish Republican senator from Kentucky was willing to admit that reckless U.S. interventionism in the Middle East—cheered on by Republicans and Democrats alike—gave birth to ISIS. He calmly explained that deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya created a vacuum for even worse radicals to thrive. And as Paul pointed out, if President Obama and Republican hawks had gotten their wish two years ago and deposed Bashar al-Assad, ISIS would now rule in Syria as well.

While most of the other candidates remained staunchly anti-Russia, anti-Iran, and anti-ISIS—even though the former two are unwaveringly opposed to the latter—Paul was willing to criticize the recklessness of a go-to-war-with-Vladimir-Putin-over-nothing policy.

“If we announce that we’re going to have a no-fly zone… it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Paul. “It’s a recipe for World War III. We don’t need to confront Russia from a position of recklessness that would lead to war.”

Ted Cruz also appeared to realize that regime change in the Middle East was a dangerous game, and Donald Trump was critical of U.S. nation-building—albeit eager to confiscate the oil from the U.S.’s vanquished foes. But only Paul took the principled stance that endless interventionism and anti-Russian posturing actually makes the nation less safe.

Many libertarians (myself included) have been dismayed by Rand Paul’s recent hard-right turn on immigration. But on foreign policy and mass surveillance, he remains the best candidate by a mile. Thank goodness he’s not afraid to make that clear to the American people. (Related: Rand Paul vs. the Libertarian Moment.)

Photo Credit: MSNBC

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Tybus||

    Has anyone noticed that Ted Cruz and Count Von Count are never in the same room at the same time? Strange.

  • ||

    One, one criminally illegal immigrant; two, two criminally illegal immigrants, ah hah!

  • GregMax||

    He reminds me of The Penguin.

  • ||

    How about Grandpa Munster?

    http://imgur.com/kjuPcdV

  • Chip Chipperson||

    Because there's no middle ground between WWIII and pretending that the middle east doesn't exist.

  • Sevo||

    "pretending that the middle east doesn't exist."

    Because no one suggested that.
    Care to be a bit more honest?

  • Chip Chipperson||

    No one wants to start WWIII either.

    Care to be a little more honest about that one?

  • NYer||

    So enforcing a no-fly zone where Russian Jets are flying and opposing them in Syria couldn't start another World Conflict? Or is the assumption that the Russians are simply going to bow to our interests over their own and abandon Assad?

  • Not okay||

    That's probably what they would do.

  • NYer||

    Seems more hopeful than realistic. Our best hope is that these candidates are lying and if one of them does get in the oval they don't shoot down Russian Jets and hope Russia just abandons their interests. I also hope they're not relying on the belief that if they get rid of Assad that an anti-ISIS non- extremist force is waiting in the wings to take his place.

  • bacchys||

    There's a strain of moron that thinks if you just shout louder everyone else has to do what you want.

    It seems to have taken over the Republican party.

  • NYer||

    It's possible that the Russians might back down if we announce a no-fly zone over Syria and Iraq. It's possible that if they don't back down and we fire warning shots or shoot down a few of their planes that they won't respond and simply turn tail and run.

    It's possible. I'm just not sure I want our foreign policy to rely on what's at best wishful thinking that Putin is gonna be scared away by a Marco Rubio or JEB!. They might be scared of Trump, but that's because no one knows what the hell Trump is gonna do if he actually gets into office.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    ...no one knows what the hell Trump is gonna do if he actually gets into office.

    Renovations. What the White House needs is more pink marble! And disco balls! Why doesn't the White House have disco balls?

    I'm telling you, it's gonna be the greatest White (and Pink) House the country's ever seen. Our enemies will bow down in awe it will be so yuge.

  • steedamike||

    ...you're gonna love it!

  • adampeart||

    Don't forget all of the gold gilding! It will be a great backdrop for the first lady's next nude photo spread ...probably for playboy... Oh wait, they don't do nudes anymore. Oh well, there's always penthouse or hustler, if she's willing to get her lezzy on again.

  • bvandyke||

    I should have read down a bit.

  • bvandyke||

    and gold trim every where. Gaudy gold trim because nothing says class like gold trim.

    every seen the inside of Trump towers? It has been a while but the last time I saw it, it was just plain gaudy.

  • Curtisls701||

    In that sense (and only that sense), Trump reminds me of Nixon - The Chinese were scared of him because he might do something crazy - just like Trump might, should he be elected.

    So basically what I'm saying is that he has no redeeming value as president other than the crazy factor keeping other countries guessing.

  • Tionico||

    so, on WHAT BASIS do WE impose a "no fly" zone within the borders of a sovereign foreign nation to halt air operations by a third nation that is in the second nation because that second nation asked that third nation to provide military assistance against a real and increasing threat... that WE, the alldeged first nation in the string above, trained, supplied, and set upon the legitimate government of that second nation....... Assad, and the folks living in the Eastern part of the Ukraine, both have asked Russia to help defend themselves against military incursions supported in part by US.....

  • Tionico||

    the reason the kinyun ahd his minions WANT Assad gone is precisely because they have an anti-ISIS extremist force waiting in the wings..... in fact, the reason ISIS exists is to take out Assad, because he, Assad, is not cooperating with our nefarious schemes. WHY do you think the kinyun and his minions took out the lawfully elected and sitting President of the Ukraine? Same reason... neither he nor Assad are eager to jig to our fiddles..... its all big bully behind the curtain dirty politics.

  • Chip Chipperson||

    Yes, they would. Because despite Putin's posturing, Russia is a third-rate power and they know it.

    However, Putin also knows that Obama is a feckless weakling and therefore he can play the strongman. But if Putin were faced with an adversary whom he knew would actually pull the trigger, he'd back down in a second.

    This is basically the calculus that kept us from WWIII for the better part of a century, against a Russia that was far more powerful than it is today.

  • keith2366||

    But why does it matter if Putin is helping Syria and Assad? Why is it important to play the strongman and get Russia to back down?

  • Chip Chipperson||

    Because all that 'trade' that libertarians love so much is based entirely on diplomacy, and diplomacy is based on power.

    If you want favorable economic outcomes in the global market, this is the kind of shit you have to deal with. You can't detach global trade from global power projection.

  • Tionico||

    then the candidate most NOT wanting to not go to war over there, and some reasonable traces of wisdom on how NOT to go to war over there, is the best one. If we DO get sucked into, or start on our own initiative, a big war, we WILL suffer greatly, in every "category". What they do over there does not affect us signficantly. What WE do, or think we're doing, or try to do, over there DOES... our men, and now women, will be coming home in body bags, or on medi-lift transports to be put back together as far as they can be, then remain non-productive drains on our economy instead of the productive and contributing citizens they are now. We won't have a hundred thousand homeless veterans begging on the streets..... and we won't be NEARLY as threatened here at home as we are now. that little side show in San Bernardino is just an appetiser.... for the jihadis motivated to "get even" as we continue to meddle, bomb, spy upon, subvert, overthrow, put at risk, violate, the everyday people in those sandbox nations. What makes us so special we have the right, alone the "obligation" to run the show over there? If we quit playing Big Boss Man, there is a strong likelihood there won't be a million 'refugees" either displaced by the wars WE prosecute and supply, or trying to use their taquiyya meme to sneak into our country to execute PayBack at Christmas parties.......

  • LynchPin1477||

    While I don't advocate pretending that the Middle East doesn't exist, what exactly would the super awful consequences be if we did do that?

  • ||

    I do advocate pretending the Middle East doesn't exist from a foreign policy perspective.

  • Hyperbolical (wadair)||

    Many of our trading partners and allies get their oil from the middle east and much of the east- west trade flows through the region. We ignore it at our economic peril.

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    good so they can figure it out and we can get out.

  • Sir Chips Alot||

    good so they can figure it out and we can get out.

  • keith2366||

    It would be nice if those trading partners and allies would pay us for the services we provide like having a huge naval fleet stationed in the Middle East to protect that flow of oil.

  • Tionico||

    what the mainstream US "media" conveniently forget to mention in any of their "exhaustive" coverage of the situation there is that Syria controls oil pipelines, or the routes for them, bringing mideast oil to further east. Just like the Ukraine holds a natrual gas pipeline between west Asia and Europe. We don't "want" Russia to be able to use these.... observe how ISIS are working hard to decommission the oil producing regions of Syria... and Assad is vigourously working hard to prevent that happening. WE need to get that coclkeburr out from between our buttcheeks and let Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc, work it out. Let them all be the big boys they are. Let them spend THEIR money how they like. What is that to us? We have plenty of oil now.... and have even taken nasty steps to reduce its availabilty here in the US. WHY did the kinyun slam down the Keystone pipeline AGAIN? And slam his fist on the table and shut down all drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico? Its not about poitical control, its about economics... and looks more like some children playing Hatfield and Mc Coy than adults responsible for the well being of a few hundred million people.....

  • SimonJester||

    Apa, when you say pretend it doesn't, do you mean that we also end all trade with them, or simply (shock horror) allow them to act the way they want, trade the way they want, and govern the way they want?

  • Tionico||

    George Wasington's Farewell Address as he stepped down as our first president spells out the ONLY sane foreign policy we should ever have. Find it and read it... I'm sure the big Goog can find it for you. It is an amazing piece of work..... well spoken by the man who never wanted to be president in the first place, and ABSOLUTELY refused to become president for life. He could have, and no one would have opposed it. Some were begging him to....

  • BambiB||

    I like Paul's position on war, the Middle East AND immigration. But he's not hard enough on immigration. We should be shooting the criminal aliens at the border.

  • Dread Pirate Roberts||

    You must be some sort of isolationist if you don't want to start WWIII.

  • JackInTheBox||

    So Russia and Iran want to take over the Middle East and its oil fields, a commodities play that can be beaten by repealing the oil export ban. It can also bankrupt Russia... again.

  • Sevo||

    "It can also bankrupt Russia... again."

    Yep. Huge military budgets to get a whole lot more $40/bbl oil.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Why is it bbl? There is only one 'b' in barrel.

  • Sevo||

    Dunno.
    Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Well, the parkway is supposedly scenic, like a park.

  • Sevo||

    I remember parking where it was scenic, but it wasn't on a parkway. No, it wasn't.

  • Quincy.||

    Tolls.

    /Christie

  • ||

  • Joec578||

    Is there something about the color blue that makes it impossible to make a fraudulent barrel that is less than 42 gallons?

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    The extra B is for BYOBB.

  • amanos||

    What's that extra "b" for?

  • Tionico||

    to make silly folk ask why its there......

  • LynchPin1477||

    Wait, didn't Richman call it World War IV? I can't keep track.

  • Quincy.||

    Paul: Re WWIII: Pussy.

  • Suell||

    I think WW III would be a very bad idea. Count me out.

  • AlmightyJB||

    But think of all the new books, movies, and video games we'll get. Why do you hate fun?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    we already have RED DAWN. twice. what more do you need?

  • CE||

    Rand Paul has always been conservative on immigration. He remains the best candidate by far on foreign policy, civil liberties and spending.

  • SimonJester||

    Can you really say he is good on civil liberties if he is bad on immigration? I see those as connected, as so much immigration talk from the Right is a massive violation of civil liberties around the country.

  • Rt. Hon. Judge Woodrow Chipper||

    The only way to be "good" on immigration is to vaporize the welfare system first.

  • Craig@USA||

    Agreed. Search "Milton Friedman" and "illegal immigration" for an explanation so clear, concise, and simple I don't know how the debate is so muddled today.

  • CE||

    His defense of civil liberties is limited to those who are already citizens, which isn't ideal, but it probably lines up well with Republican voters who care about civil liberties.

  • Remix2Cognition||

    Civil liberties are reserved for citizens. This is how our constitution was written and has been interpreted time and time again.

    "Civil liberties concern basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed -- either explicitly identified in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, or interpreted through the years by courts and lawmakers."

    Immigration policies can be viewed as un-Libertarian as they create barriers to a potential workforce/customer base, but it has nothing to do with civil liberties.

  • John Thacker||

    Correct. In fact, his father has *also* always been conservative on immigration. Like with trade, Ron always wrapped things in a veneer of "well, this deal isn't perfect, sure, I'd be for unilateral agreements."

    Those newsletters weren't just fake. The Pauls have always relied on also appealing to paleolibertarian support, because there just aren't enough pure libertarians to win elections. Politics is compromise. An endless set of dealbreakers means that you don't support anyway, and no one supports you.

  • BluthHousing||

    I'll say it again and again, getting angry at Rand over immigration, which he shares the views as Ron Paul and are far more sensible than say Donald Trump, is a drop in the bucket compared to the good he can do in protecting civil liberties and bringing us to a rational foreign policy.

  • Suicidy||

    And advocating open borders is just kook nonsense anyway.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    He calmly explained that deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya created a vacuum for even worse radicals to thrive.

    Robby, Robby -- Didn't you get Sheldon's memo? Don't abuse radical like that!

    Or do you get a pass because you were quoting something, but then get a fail because you forgot the quotes and source?

    Robby, Robby, Robby .....

  • bacchys||

    I don't see the abuse...

  • ||

    Interesting that the morning news reports don't even mention his name.

  • Drake||

    "Virtually"

    Hate that word, particularly in a headline. Is he the only one, or not? Cruz seemed reluctant for a big land war there.

  • NYer||

    Paul and Cruz are probably our best bets at this point for a more rational foreign policy. With Trump, God only knows.
    I actually think Jeb really isn't much of a hawk (at least not a "lets be in every middle eastern country hawk") and will be more likely to listen to his dad's foreign policy advisers (James Baker) rather than say Bill Kristol. Even Jeb's brother Dubya resorted to calling Bill Kristol and the other hawks the "bomber boys" by the end of his term. Now Rubio, yeah he's pure "let's defend democracy everywhere!" sort of hawk I've heard almost nothing but hawkish bromides coming from him since he's been in office. Christie is also bad but his foreign policy actions may be less destructive then his actions here at home.

  • Chevy the Mulched||

    I hate when they keep coming out with sequels. The Great War wasn't enough, they had to bring out WWII. Now we're talking about WW III? I'm only going to get it if it comes with bonus commentary content, unseen footage, and bloopers.

  • simplybe||

    I believe Trump is a shill for the Clintons, but Christie is an ass that would become a dictator given half a chance. Paul is right about terroism but no one is listening. We as a nation are headed down the road to destruction.

  • Moridin||

    Makes me think of a Megadeth song. Just like the Pied Piper, who lead rats through the streets.......

  • bassjoe||

    The anti-Russian rhetoric is crazy. Why not let Putin deal with any blowback from his Syria adventure? It's not a sign of American weakness to sit out the fourth (fifth? Sixth? I don't even know anymore) adventure in the Muslim world in 15 years.

  • Mindyourbusiness||

    Interesting that Rand's closing remarks noted that the drag of government spending and regulation held the economy down, and badly needed reform. None of the other debaters mentioned that. I hate to give Bill Clinton credit for much of anything, but, "It's the economy, stupid!" was spot on. And it still is.

  • JackInTheBox||

    Bill Clinton didn't balance the budget, it's a fact that has been proven and its why you don't hear every liberal screaming it from the rooftops. If anything, I would lump Bill Clinton in with all the clowns that helped cause the housing bumble and the 2008 financial crisis.

  • CE||

    If Hillary Clinton would go back to Bill Clinton spending levels, even I would vote for her.

  • steedamike||

  • skunkman||

    What a stupid article. It isn't even good hyperbole. Calling the idea of assisting countries in the middle east in kicking ISIS' butt quickly is not starting WWIII. I started out as a Rand Paul supporter a few months ago but when you actually listen to what his solutions are for legitimate problems he sounds like a fool. The entire idea, leave them alone and they'll leave us alone is idiotic and the it's the problem of the people in the middle east is either naive or defeatist.

  • JackInTheBox||

    If you think there is any good solution to the Middle East, then you are naive.

  • CE||

    Nice call out on Trump, too -- shutting down the Internet is something North Korea does, and violates the First Amendment. Murdering the families of combatants violates the Geneva Convention. I almost laughed when Trump said the biggest fear is a madman getting nuclear weapons -- isn't that what will happen if he wins? And right after one of the candidates said North Korea spent themselves into poverty via military spending, 8 of the 9 candidates wanted the US to jack up military spending.

  • Chip Chipperson||

    I wish everyone would stop with the meme that Trump wants to shut down the internet in America.

    That's not what he said, and it's not what he wants. Granted, this confusion is mostly his fault for not explaining it well enough, as he doesn't explain anything well at all, but we should at least have the right conversation.

    He's talking about shutting down internet and communication services to parts of the world that are controlled by ISIS. Which is a perfectly fucking reasonable thing to propose. Why should jihadis in Syria and Iraq have access to secure global communications and social media -- which are almost entirely provided by the west, and America in particular?

    It's been demonstrated over and over and over again that ISIS uses the internet to propagandize, recruit, organize, and plan attacks, with much of it originating in their Caliphate. Why give them that?

    We have the ability to shut down -- or at least drastically diminish -- the level of global internet access from ISIS controlled territory. Without easy internet access, their overall efforts will be compromised and they'll seek out other ways to get online, which will make them more vulnerable to detection.

    This should at least be a serious conversation.

  • Cytotoxic||

    "reckless U.S. interventionism in the Middle East—cheered on by Republicans and Democrats alike—gave birth to ISIS"

    That is not a fact, that is your religious belief Mr. Soave. There is no reason to believe that Iraq, Syria, or Libya would be any better of without US intervention. Indeed, given that the Kurds are the only thing really effective against ISIS, there is reason to believe it would be worse.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Also, the article dishonestly lumps Cruz in with the Team Merica World Po-po faction before hesitantly back-tracking.

  • Empress Trudy||

    The only sane option is to let them exterminate one another to the last one standing. The mideast's problems are theirs alone.

  • Chip Chipperson||

    Until the lunatics take over enough land to become an actual global power capable of threatening the west with more than just a few guys with AKs in a nightclub.

    In case you haven't noticed, they're building an actual caliphate over there -- and successfully too. The only thing keeping the lid on it are the efforts of the west, limited though they might be. But if we pulled out, they wouldn't 'kill each other to the last one standing' as appealing of a thought as that might be. ISIS would survive and grow just fine, until they had an actual army and actual resources and actual money. Then what? A war ten times bigger than the one we're currently trying to fight?

  • jacob||

    Not sure ISIS would "grow just fine." They'd first have to wrestle control of Syria from Assad. While he's not a reliable ally, I don't think he would let ISIS take over, at least not without serious battle. Next, they have to contend with two of the other powers in the region - Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran is Shia - the idea that they would buddy up with a bunch of Sunni hard liners is laughable. While I do think the Saudis privately support the Islamic State, the government is very pro-West; if they wouldn't outright fight ISIS/L, they would refuse to back them or bow down to them.

    I have to agree that our interests in the ME aren't as clear cut as "Kill them before they kill us"

  • dpbisme||

    This show he is not ready to be the President... He and the Democrqats don't mind when Americans get killed by crazy Islamists.... To Rand and all that agree with hiom, my life is not worth anything notr is the life of any American.

    What needs to happen is these savages need to be given the same choice we gave the loosers of WW2.

    Play nice in the world or we will kill you all.

    This is a proven methodology going thought history and since humans have not changed much in 6000 years it is the only effective method.

  • Arthur45||

    Has Robby been drinking again? Yeah, right, WWIII is going to start in Syria. Sure it is. Now if Robby only had an arguments to why this would happen,we could all call him a birdbrained moron.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good regime change is replacing the GOP with LP. Young Rand Paul can win the Tea Party and Prohibition Party nominations so long as he and Robert Dear stick to their guns on banning all but back-alley abortions. But this neologism, "libertarian-ish"... is this the new mimesis meme for anti-choice infiltrators eager to subvert the LP and deny individual rights to women?

  • Lainee The Cat||

    Liar. Trump doesn't want anything to with Syria either. You are biased.

  • trutherator||

    Most libertarians don't know this, but Christians in general are increasingly aware that Assad is the best hope in Syria to protect the Christians. That includes the networks that are usually the warmongers and patriotic military-worshippers. On some radio talk shows at least.

    For example, a regular interview is with the former "Muslim terrorist" (his words) Walid Shoebat has exposed ISIS as a direct creation of the CIA, for example.

    And there are a great number of libertarian Christians. That includes a great many who see state sponsorship of any kind of marriage as a statist intervention in personal affairs, whether heterosexual or homosexual or polygamist.

    There is no such thing as "marriage equality". There is freedom from the aggression of government marriage licensing, versus the oppression of government marriage licensing. The push by the authoritarian state to promote the separation of Christianity from the subject population is even more oppressive.

    Meantime, the Orwellian Newspeak dictionary perspective, mandated in state-owned and state-subjugated colleges and in the courts of America, and in state-controlled media, to get the subjects of the realm to pretend that pretend-reality is more real than real world reality, will not fly in the long run. Not even the homoerotic Greeks were that removed from sanity. That politicization of one of today's memes will be regarded by future history as quite the mass cultural disorder.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online