Last week junior Kentucky senator and isolationist proponent Rand Paul provided the American people with the best example yet of his lack of foreign policy competence. In an interview with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Paul stated that it was Republican hawks who were largely responsible for creating the ISIS menace by providing weapons to anti-Assad rebels without proper oversight.
He also blamed the growth of ISIS in Libya on Republican support for “Hillary’s war,” in a transparent and crass effort to lump the bulk the Republican playing field in with the Democrat’s top presidential contender and likely nominee. Paul also asserted that both Libya and Iraq are now “failed states” because of Republican policies and that bombing Assad would have been wrong because it would have bolstered ISIS.
That superficial and nonsensical analysis demonstrates Paul’s shallow understanding of the Mideast and its radical underpinnings. It also shows that despite his best efforts to carve out his own uniqueness, Rand Paul is nothing but a dressed up clone of his father, Ron, whose fringe and extremist views, if ever implemented, would chart a disastrous course for the United States.
Much of the blame for the creation of ISIS can be placed squarely at the feet of Barack Obama and the isolationist policies Rand Paul craves. When the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, rebel forces, known as the Free Syrian Army, were composed of an eclectic group drawn from Sunni, Kurd and Druze populations. But Obama preferred to sit on the sidelines, allowing the more moderate forces to be swallowed and dominated by the extremists who offered promises of salvation through Allah.
The leadership void created by Obama was filled by terrorist-supporting countries like Qatar and Turkey. Qatar began supplying cash to ISIS while the terrorist organization enjoyed Turkey’s full military cooperation. Meanwhile, moderate Syrian rebel factions were weakened and marginalized.
In Iraq too, the Obama administration badly miscalculated. When Obama assumed the presidency in 2008, Iraq was relatively stable. There was a democratic election and a Sunni insurgency that threatened to destabilize the country was defeated thanks largely to the 2007 surge authorized by President Bush.
Things began to unravel after Obama took office. Obama allowed hard-won gains to slip away by foolishly setting rigid, predetermined timetables for troop withdrawals giving the terrorists advance warning when to restart the mayhem. Moreover, Obama all but ignored sectarian transgressions committed by Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki was led to believe that his policy of marginalizing Sunnis would elicit no repercussions from the Obama administration and he was right. Frustrated Sunnis, who were allies while Bush was president, turned to ISIS during Obama’s term.
Moreover, the Obama administration had received advance notice that ISIS was turning into a formidable force to be reckoned with. Indeed, 17 months before Obama dismissively referred to ISIS as members of the “JV team,” the CIA and State Department received and failed to properly act on intelligence reports warning that ISIS posed a credible regional threat.
Paul also absurdly states that Iraq and Libya are failed states because of policies advocated by Republican hawks. That is patently false. Those two pseudo nations, as well as Syria for that matter, were failed states long before American intervention. To place the blame for their failed status on so-called “Republican hawks” is not only disingenuous, it is asinine.
Libya was ruled by an obscenely insane leader – Khadafy – for over 40 years. He survived by implementing governance characterized by spreading terror and fear. Since it was granted independence, Libya was a nation marked by brutality, tribalism and oil and not much more.
Iraq, the Frankenstein product of colonial agreements between Britain and France, was also a disaster in the making. Iraq’s history is one marked by endless coups, dictatorship, xenophobia, war and never-ending sectarian violence. It was a failed state since its inception. Ironically, the last year of Bush’s term is when Iraq experienced its freest and most tranquil (relatively speaking) period.
In the case of Libya, it was the Arab Spring that acted as the catalyst for Khadafy’s fall. As an aside, it was the invasion of Iraq that prompted Khadafy to dismantle his nation’s nuclear bomb program for fear that he was next. Bush critics, including Rand Paul, conveniently overlook this fact. They also overlook the fact that had Khadafy not been intimidated into relinquishing his nuclear ambitions, the situation in Libya today, with the possibility of nuclear weapons mixed into the equation, would be infinitely more perilous.
There’s an old but pointed adage that states that the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The more he opens his mouth, the more Rand Paul sounds like an echo chamber for his father’s fringe and extremist views and that should be a source of concern for Republicans and Democrats alike.
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