Rand Paul on War & Peace
PAUL: Occasionally, I can be partisan, but, on this, I don't think I would jump to the conclusion that, all of a sudden, the ayatollah of Iran is telling the truth, and my government is lying to us. Now, the biggest problem we have right now is that every time there is a hint of an agreement, the Iranian foreign minister tweets out in English that the agreement doesn't mean what our government says it means. So I keep an open mind as to who is telling the truth. It is very, very damaging to the American public, and to the details of this agreement, if we can't trust the sincerity or the credibility of the Iranian government
Q: So, at this point, you have an open mind about this?
PAUL: Yes. I want peace. I want negotiations. I don't want another war. But I also want a good agreement.
There are two million Christians in Syria. And you know what? If you asked them who would they choose, they would all choose Assad over ISIS, because they see the barbarity of perhaps both. But they see the utter depravity and barbarity of ISIS. And so bombing Assad probably isn't a good policy.
Paul's support for the Kurds includes giving them more weapons, but he doesn't feel the same about Syrian rebels for reasons that include fear the arms would land in the hands of extremists. He also insists the Obama administration was wrong to intervene in Libya.
Paul said Hillary Clinton was to blame for what he described as foreign-policy failures: she was a proponent of interventions during popular uprisings against the ruling regimes in Libya and Syria. "Hillary's war in Libya has been an utter disaster," Paul said. "There are now jihadists roaming all across Libya. It's a jihadist wonderland."
The US was part of an international coalition to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power in 2011. "Gadhafi was a secular dictator," Paul said. "Not the kind of guy that we want to have representing us in country, but he was secular. He didn't like radical Islam, and he kept them down because they were a threat to him. What happened when we toppled the secular dictator? Chaos. More radical Islam."
In Syria, Paul said that Islamic State--a militant group operating in Syria and Iraq that is also known as ISIS--was essentially created by the US aid program under the Obama administration. "I think we have to do something about ISIS," he said. "But, you know why we're doing something and why we have to be there again? Because of a failed foreign policy that got us involved in a Syrian Civil War. By supporting the Islamic rebels, ISIS grew stronger and stronger. And now we have to go back."
"Intervention is a mistake. Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake. Intervention that destabilizes the Middle East is a mistake. And yet, here we are again, wading into a civil war," Paul said.
His doubts ran contrary to the thinking of Rubio, who advocated an aggressive response, saying the threat should have been addressed earlier. "If we do not confront and defeat ISIL now we will have to do so later, and it will take a lot longer, be a lot costlier, and be more painful," Rubio said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "If we fail to approve this, the nations of that region will say America is not truly engaged."
Of course, that's only likely to be the case if Paul can defeat his more hawkish GOP rivals for the Republican nomination. Recent public polls have reflected a competitive race, with Paul and several others jockeying for the top spot. The Kentucky Republican has publicly feuded with many in his party about national security issues, saying the GOP has at times appeared "too eager for war," and that the US should be more judicious in the use of military force.
I support continuing our assistance to the government of Iraq, which include armaments and intelligence. I support using advanced technology to prevent ISIS from becoming a threat. I also want to stop sending U.S. aid and arms to Islamic rebels in Syria who are allied with ISIS, something Perry doesn't even address. I would argue that if anything, my ideas for this crisis are both stronger, and not rooted simply in bluster.
If the governor continues to insist that these proposals mean I'm somehow "ignoring ISIS," I'll make it my personal policy to ignore Rick Perry's opinions.
Unlike Perry, I oppose sending American troops back into Iraq. After a decade of the United States training the Iraq's military, when confronted by the enemy, the Iraqis dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms and hid. Our soldiers' hard work and sacrifice should be worth more than that. Our military is too good for that.
I disagree with Sen. Paul's representation of what America should be doing, and when you read his op-ed, he talks about basically, what I consider to be, isolationist policies.
PAUL: I see mostly confusion and chaos, and I think some of the chaos is created from getting involved in the Syrian civil war. You have to realize that some of the Islamic rebels that we have been supporting are actually allies of the group that is now in Iraq causing all of this trouble.
Q: ISIS, as a terrorist organization, has been billed by many as a clear and present danger. Do you see that?
PAUL: I look at it on a personal basis. I ask, "Do I want to send one of my sons, or your son, to fight to regain Mosul?" And I think, "Well ya, these are nasty terrorists, we should want to kill them." But I think, "Who should want to stop them more? Maybe the people who live there." Should not the Shiites, the Maliki government, should they not stand up? Yes, we should prevent them from exporting terror; but, I'm not so sure where the clear-cut, American interest is.
PAUL: Was the war won in 2005, when many of these people said it was won? They didn't really understand the civil war that would break out. And what's going on now, I don't blame on Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.
Q: You're not a "Dick Cheney Republican" when it comes to American power in the Middle East?
PAUL: What I would say is that the war emboldened Iran. Iran is much more of a threat because of the Iraq War than they were before--before there was a standoff between Sunnis and Shiites--now there is Iranian hegemony throughout the region.
It is a dumb idea to announce to Iran that you would accept and contain that country if it were to become a nuclear power. But it is equally dumb, dangerous and foolhardy to announce in advance how we would react to any nation that obtains nuclear weapons. If, after World War II, we had preemptively announced that containment of nuclear powers would never be considered, the US would have trapped itself into nuclear confrontations with Russia & China.
I believe all options should be on the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, including the military option. I have voted repeatedly for sanctions against Iran and will continue to do so. But I will also continue to argue that war is a last resort.
PAUL: I've repeatedly voted for sanctions against Iran. And I think all options should be on the table to prevent them from having nuclear weapons. I'm a stickler on what the wording is, because I don't want to have voted for something that declared war without people thinking through this. They said containment will never, ever be our policy. We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy towards Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan. The people who say, "by golly, we will never stand for that", they are voting for war.
Q: Could the US live with a nuclear armed Iran?
PAUL: It's not a good idea to announce that in advance. Should I announce to Iran, "well, we don't want you to, but we'll live with it." No, that's a dumb idea to say that you're going to live with it. However, the opposite is a dumb idea too.
Paul's dovish line started to seem a bit embarrassing when men with unmarked uniforms began to seize control of parts of Crimea. Paul then issued this timid warning for the Kremlin: "Russia should be reminded that stability and territorial integrity go hand in hand with prosperity. Economic incentives align against Russian military involvement in Ukraine."
Eight days later, he published an essay in Time under the headline, US Must Take Strong Action Against Russian Aggression. He wrote, "It is our role as a global leader to be the strongest nation in opposing Russia's latest aggression."
Montesquieu recognized this. He wrote that when the Executive Branch usurps the legislative authority, when the president says, "I can write the laws, watch me," he's got a pen, he's got a phone, he doesn't care what the law is, a tyranny will ensue and we must stop this president from shredding the Constitution.
It isn't just the harm that this president is causing, it's the future harm that he allows by destroying the checks and balances that once restrained each of the branches of government.
PAUL: No. And I think it's a mistake to get involved in the Syrian civil war. I would ask, "Do you think that it's less likely or more likely that chemical weapons will be used again if we bomb Assad?" Is it more likely or less likely that we'll have more refugees in Jordan or that Israel might suffer attack? I think all of the bad things that you could imagine are all more likely if we get involved in the Syrian civil war.
Q: Secretary Kerry says for you and others not to authorize force is really hurtful to US credibility.
PAUL: The one thing I'm proud of the president for is that he's coming to Congress in a constitutional manner & asking for our authorization. That's what he ran on: his policy was that no president should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority. And I'm proud that he's sticking by it.
PAUL: The line in the sand should be that America gets involved when American interests are threatened. I don't see American interests involved on either side of this Syrian war. I see Assad, who has protected Christians for a number of decades, and then I see the Islamic rebels on the other side who have been attacking Christians. I see Al Qaeda on the side we would go into support. And I don't see a clear-cut American interest. I don't see [the rebels, if] victorious, being an American ally.
Q: How would the US look if the president decided to take military action and Congress does not give that authority?
PAUL: I think it would show that he made a grave mistake when he drew a red line. When you set a red line that was not a good idea to beginning with, and now you're going to adhere to it to show your machismo, then you're really adding bad policy to bad policy
Paul, a reliably libertarian voice, said in a statement that the situation in Syria lacks a "clear national security connection" to the U.S. but that the nation "should condemn the use of chemical weapons." There needs to be an "open debate in Congress over whether the situation warrants U.S. involvement."
Among his concerns, Paul said, is that there are "too many Christians that live in Syria... and I just don't want to see my kids or weapons of the U.S. used to kill Christians in Syria."
Though I detest violence, I could kill someone who injured or threatened my family. Though I hate war, I could commit a nation to war, but only reluctantly and constitutionally and after great deliberation. I believe that though some would find this a contradiction in terms that there is a such thing as a Christian or just theory of war, that a just war is a war of self-defense. At the same time I'm conflicted. I don't believe Jesus would have killed anyone or condoned killing, perhaps not even in self-defense. I'm conflicted.
Sometimes our national security warrants extreme sacrifices. In this case, however, there is little reason to believe that the continuing commitment of tens of thousands of troops on a sprawling nation-building mission in Afghanistan will make America safer. Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished. Al Qaeda has a much larger presence in a number of other nations.
I will not vote to go to war without a formal declaration of war, as our soldiers deserve and the Constitution demands.
"The strange thing about Hussein & Iraq is that we actually had been their biggest ally for 20 years because we saw them as a bulwark against the Iranian dominance of the region. I don't think there was a reason to go into Iraq," he said.
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