Rand Paul’s Obama Foreign Policy

It’s fashionable to believe that Rand Paul has broken with his father’s views and adopted a more realistic foreign policy that is not based on the belief that the American Empire of the CIA and the Federal Reserve are responsible for all the wars in the world.

Whether that’s true or not remains an open question. Rand Paul’s Heritage Foundation foreign policy speech is a mixed bag that has far more in common with the views of Barack Obama, than anyone on the right.

On the one hand, Rand Paul begins by acknowledging that radical Islam is a real threat, that it will go on existing even if we have nothing to do with the Middle East and that it “is no small minority but a vibrant, often mainstream, vocal and numerous minority.”

That’s a larger piece of realism than most mainstream senators on either side of the aisle have managed to put out there. But most of the speech is a muddled mess of the usual warnings about government overreach and a shortage of practical policies. Considering that Rand Paul appears to be flirting with a presidential run, there isn’t much in the way of a policy there.

Rand Paul spends a while questioning whether Iran is a real threat, using the perfect routine of pretending to look at the issue from the Israeli side. He pretends that he’s challenging some sort of bipartisan consensus, but in practice his Iran policy is that of Obama Inc.

Paul tips a hat to sanctions, warns how dangerous it is to lock ourselves into a war and emphasizes that we need Russia and China’s cooperation to get Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. We could get the same exact policies from a Hillary Clinton speech. Rand Paul even uses Obama’s “all options on the table” line and means it in the same way.

Radical Islam needs to be contained, Paul says, but provides no details of how that will happen. He calls for a “middle path” and “A policy that is not rash or reckless”. But does anyone actually support “rash and reckless policies”? What policies he does support, he fails to lay out.

Like communism, radical Islam is an ideology with worldwide reach. Containing radical Islam requires a worldwide strategy like containment. It requires counterforce at a series of constantly shifting worldwide points. But counterforce does not necessarily mean large-scale land wars with hundreds of thousands of troops nor does it always mean a military action at all.

That’s a paragraph that could easily have come from a speech by Barack Obama. And it actually is Obama’s foreign policy.

Obama hasn’t launched any land wars and he would agree with much of what Rand Paul said, except that he wouldn’t name Islam and would avoid specifics like “containment”.

Rand Paul emphasizes that wars should only be declared with the consent of Congress. Obama said the same thing as Senator.  He just didn’t stick with it. No one in the White House has. Maybe Rand Paul would be different, but all he’s saying here is standard boilerplate opposition criticism. It’s not new or different.

Rand Paul attacks foreign aid, which we would certainly expect him to do, and which he has learned to package in populist attacks on shipping firepower to Egypt, but in the larger picture, how does he propose a containment strategy that will utilize minimal US military intervention, without arming the countries that are fighting against Islamism?

That’s the kind of basic detail that Paul doesn’t bother addressing and it raises some questions about the credibility of his containment program.

Mostly Rand Paul doesn’t clarify what he will do or what he wants done. He’s waging a war of ideas against the neo-conservative foe, so it’s not too surprising that he often sounds more like Barack Obama or Chuck Hagel. And those guys are already running foreign policy.

Rand Paul attacks Obama for trying to claim Reagan’s mantle, and then he utters a classical Obama “I really am Reagan” line.

“Everybody now loves Ronald Reagan.  Even President Obama tries to toady up and vainly try to resemble some Reaganism. Reagan’s foreign policy was robust but also restrained.  He pulled no punches in telling Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.”  He did not shy from labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire. But he also sat down with Gorbachev and negotiated meaningful reductions in nuclear weapons.”

This is the exact argument that every RINO and Liberal who wants to claim that Republicans have gone right since Reagan has used.

Paul’s conclusion is an equally muddled mess.

I recognize that foreign policy is complicated. It is inherently less black and white to most people than domestic policy. I think there is room for a foreign policy that strikes a balance.

This is, ironically, a restatement of how Kerry responded to Paul’s question about arming Egypt during the Senate hearings. Now Paul insists on being the grey area nuance man.

And it’s fine to be nuanced, so long as you do have an actual policy, rather than a lot of talk about being middle of the road, striking a balance and being all complicated about it.

Sometimes we have to bomb places, but other times we don’t have to, Rand Paul says. We should be restrained and careful about the places we bomb.

Again, this is the least original and controversial idea, ever, but it doesn’t come close to defining the specific guidelines on which this middle path works. (Paul supporters will of course say, the Constitution, but that doesn’t answer the question either. Especially since the Paul clan tends to define the Constitution to mean anything they want.) The question isn’t the procedures by which an intervention would occur, but why and where. And Rand Paul buries that in talk of strategic ambiguity, which is fine if, like Reagan, you’re already president, but not fine if you want to run for that office.

The closest Rand Paul comes to specifics is more Obamaisms.

“What would a foreign policy look like that tried to strike a balance? first, it would have less soldiers stationed overseas and less bases. Instead of large, limitless land wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy; strike with lethal force.”

That’s nice. But that’s already the program. Obama is pulling out of the land force and focusing on lethal drone strikes. He’s cutting the military.

All that Rand Paul can offer is that he will be more Obamaesque than Obama. He’s against nation building. So is Obama. He will cut the military even more than Obama. He will intervene less.

It is time for all Americans, and especially conservatives, to become as critical and reflective when examining foreign policy as we are with domestic policy. Should our military be defending this nation or constantly building other nations? What constitutes our actual “national defense” and what parts of our foreign policy are more like an irrational offense?

Rather than concluding with a conclusion, Rand Paul concludes with more questions. We can conclude that Rand Paul would like to defend fewer nations and stop offending others with a foreign policy that’s an… irrational offense.

But he lacks the courage to clearly specify what and where he means. Does he want to pull out of Korea? We don’t know. What about Japan?

Rand Paul asks a lot of leading questions, but he dodges the answers. Ron Paul was a dubious creature, but at least he would say what he believed. Rand Paul ducks and weaves. He invests in ambiguity and complexity. He’s for a middle ground. He’s for being careful, constrained and not upsetting the neighbors. And after a long speech, he never really qualifies what he would do, what his containment policy would look like, which countries he would pull out of and what he would do to contain radical Islam.

Rand Paul has delivered an Obamaesque speech, reminiscent of Obama’s old anti-war Iraq speech in 2002. That speech was also full of hedging, unobjectionable on the surface to its audience, but cautious and devoid of meaningful content. It never really answered the question, “So what would you do?”

Rand Paul hasn’t answered the question either.

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Yup, that's the answer, "containment". All the while the Muslim Brotherhood Mafia infiltrates and penetrates every power center, both within and outside Washington''s confines.

    That ought to quell the Sharia loving adherents into accepting Jeffersonian thinking – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/01/08/the-brotherho

    I dare Paul to counter the above. He can't. But at least the revolutionary, Islamist loving left doesn't pretend to be anything but all embracing of the Muslim Brotherhood Mafia. They march – literally – in lock-step.The likes of Paul is much more dangerous, as many believe that so called conservatives are the antidote to the Radical/Islamist-in-Chief. NOT by a long shot.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • http://twitter.com/ItIsMyBlog @ItIsMyBlog

    This is the most insanely comical article I've read about this speech. You neoconservatives are really afraid of this guy, lol!

    • Gee

      No we just don't like leftist idiots that haven't got a brain, kind of like you

  • Chris

    Thanks for the article, I needed a good laugh. Never underestimate the mind of a neo-con. You guys are a dying breed, but you certainly are an entertaining bunch.

  • Cat K

    I'd say like the father, Rand Paul has his own rude, irrational trolls. They provide us with the best window into who this man is ……

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Yup. Ron Paul supporters tell you a lot about the man at the center of the cult.

  • Ghostwriter

    I doubt I'd vote for a guy like Rand Paul. He seems to be in Cloudcuckooland. We need leaders who live in the real world,not a fantasy one. Rand Paul is NOT one of those people.

    • cathy

      FOREIGN DEFENCE

      To some extent … this Capital "C" Conservative agrees with Rand Paul. With the exception of the ONLY real democracy in the Middle East … Israel … the US should not have diplomatic relations with the Islamic regimes. All factions of Islam have a worldwide takeover agenda … a worldwide takeover agenda to destroy Israel … destroy America … destroy all that is not Islam. When all is said and done all the appeasing and … all the financial/military aid … is all for naught. It is an outright betrayal to an ally called Israel. It is an outright betrayal to the US forces who have given their lives in the name of a farce called Islamic democracy. It is an outright betrayal to the American people who are continually at risk.

      • cathy

        DOMESTIC DEFENCE

        America should be in a military strong position from within … a strong position to defend Herself from enemy attacks from outside her borders and also act offensively if necessary. In other words … ANY regime that threatens the US will become a crator on the landscape of the earth. ANY regime who attacks on America soil … the consequences will be likewise. Anything less is a betrayal the We the People.

        The focus also needs to be for the American administration to clearly identify and expell the enemy within its midst and the enemy residing amongst the Republic's law abiding citizens as well as … the enemy that does not respect the American Way. Forget about PC. On this issue Paul Rand and I part ways.

      • cathy

        BACKUP SOURCES

        Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi calls Jews ‘descendants of apes and pigs
        September 23, 2012
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thh0H6E1ubU

        Rand Paul: GOP must ‘evolve’ on immigration
        1/31/13 6:20 AM EST
        http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/paul-gop-ev

        LTC Allen West on Illegal Immigration
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nmn0mFV7xFs