Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) certainly has a knack for boldness. On Sunday’sMeet the Press, he dubbed U.S. military engagement in Libya “Hillary’s war” and stated the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) is not a result of President Obama’s inaction in the Middle East but the unintended consequence of the U.S. military engagement in Libya.
The comments predictably caused heads in the GOP’s foreign policy establishment to explode. The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin called the rhetorical gambit “ludicrous” and said Paul holds the same views as his father, the libertarian former-Rep. Ron Paul. In an email to me, John Yoo, the former top Justice Department official in the Bush administration, said Paul is the Republicans’ “own version of George McGovern.”
In a phone interview, Paul expanded on his remarks and offered a detailed rendering of his views on foreign policy that, regardless of their merits, are undoubtedly innovative for a man likely to seek the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. Paul told Breitbart News:
I would say the objective evidence shows that Libya is a less safe place and less secure place, a more chaotic place with more jihadist groups—and really, we’ve had two really bad things happen because of Hillary’s push for this war. One is that our ambassador was killed as a consequence of not having adequate security and really as a consequence of having a really unstable situation there because of the Libyan war, and then most recently our embassy having to flee by land because they couldn’t leave via the airport because of such a disaster in Libya. So I think it’s hard to argue that the Libyan war was a success in any way. From my perspective, the first mistake they made was not asking the American people and Congress for authority to go to war.
While Muammar Gaddafi, or Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein—deposed during the George W. Bush administration—were certainly bad actors, Paul wants to know: who takes their place?
Sometimes people are trying to say I don’t have enough concern for this. Well, actually, I have a great deal of concern—and not thinking through the consequences of intervention has caused Islamism and radical jihadist groups to proliferate. So I think Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein were both secular dictators who were awful, and did terrible things to their people, but at the same time were also enemies of the jihadists. Assad is the same way. What we’ve done in Libya, and now what we’re doing in Syria, is we have armed groups that are commingled with jihadists.
For instance, in Syria, Paul says, by arming the “rebels” against Assad, America “degraded Assad’s capacity to wipe out the rebel groups in his country.”
A year ago, Obama sought approval from Congress to engage militarily in Syria, as Paul urges, but Congress balked. Facing stiff resistance from lawmakers of both parties, the matter never even came up for a vote.
According to Paul, that’s how the system is supposed to work.
“Think what would have happened had we seriously degraded Assad to the point where he was overrun, think who would be in charge of Syria right now?” Paul asked before answering his own rhetorical question: ”ISIS.” In conclusion, Paul said:
So we are very lucky that the American people are much wiser than Hillary Clinton, and much wiser than the president. We got the president and Hillary Clinton to slow down, but Hillary Clinton was widely reported to be the chief person proposing that we get involved in Syria. But really the only person directly involved in bombing ISIS’s bases right now is the Syrian government—so for all their wrongs, we’re actually quite lucky we didn’t have regime change, because I think it is a very realistic prediction that, had we had that happen, that ISIS would be in charge of Syria. Really, Syria, with Assad and all this war, is somewhat of a counter to the power of ISIS.
Written by MATTHEW BOYLE
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