Rand Paul: GOP Hawks Have Advocated Policies That Have Helped ISIS Flourish

Rand Paul is out with one of his more forceful attacks on Republican hawks to date.

Rand Paul Senate Floor

One of the recurring themes of the race for the Republican nomination is likely to be the debate between Republican foreign policy traditionalists on the one hand and those who advocate a less interventionist foreign policy on the other. Principally, of course, that second group is largely, indeed perhaps solely, represented by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who has made his name in no small part by advocating a more restrained foreign policy that is ordinarily heard from Republican politicians going as far back as three years ago in a speech at the Republican National Convention. During the 2012 campaign itself, he also openly criticized Republican nominee Mitt Romney when Romney laid out his own foreign policy during the General Election campaign. In the Senate, he’s made a name for himself by leading campaigns related to the Administration’s drone policy and, most recently, a campaign against renewal of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act that has, for the moment at least been successful. Because of his willingness to stray from Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy, Paul has been the target of attacks from his fellow Republicans, including of John Bolton, Chris Christie, Dick Cheney, and Rick Perry.

More recently, the campaign has seemingly heated up. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who heretofore has shown absolutely no interest in running for President, is on the verge of entering the race for President and most observers believe that he is the race primarily to counter the arguments made by Senator Paul. Over the last two weeks, Paul has been the only Senator to definitively break with the party over the Iraq War, and now he is asserting that the rise of ISIS can largely be blamed on the policies of hawks in the Republican Party:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that the Islamic State flourished because of hawks in the Republican Party.

“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS,” Paul, using an acronym for the Islamic State, said on “Morning Joe.”

“The hawks wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’s job easier,” Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, continued. “They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because of the hawks in my party.”

Paul said that Iraq is a “vassal state” for Iran and that the hawkish members of his party are wrong – and have been for decades.

“Everything they’ve talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years but they have somehow the gall to keep pointing fingers and saying otherwise,” Paul said.

This isn’t the first time that Paul has made this argument. He made the same points, in greater detail, in a column in The Wall Street Journal last August, and he’s made it in other forums on other occasions. To a large degree, of course, Paul is correct that many Republicans have advocated policies that, in the end, have done little but help to create situations that have made it easier for the Islamic State to consolidate and expand its power. The ultimate example of this, of course, is the Iraq War itself. Although Paul doesn’t mention this directly, it seems fairly obvious that one can draw a direct line from the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the policies it followed in the post-war years, to the rise of the organization that started out as al Qaeda in Iraq and is known as ISIS, or whatever one wishes to refer to it. Additionally, the Administration’s decision to advocate the complete purging of Baath party supporters from the Iraqi military has also arguably played a role in the rise of ISIS since many of the top military commanders for the organization are men who used to be top officials in Saddam Hussein’s armed forces. Since then, it has been Republican hawks like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio who have advocated policies such as arming the Syrian rebels and backing the rebels in Libya. Of course, it is worth noting that these are also policies that have been advocated by many top Democrats, including President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In both cases, these policies have done little more than help to create the conditions of chaos that ISIS thrives on to the point where, one year after the President first made targeting ISIS a foreign policy priority for the United States, the group seems to be as strong as ever if not stronger.

Paul’s comments this morning have already drawn an attack from one potential opponent, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who said that Paul’s comments demonstrated that he is unfit to be Commander in Chief. Amusingly, though, Jindal sent his attack out using his office’s official letterhead, which appears to be a violation of Louisiana state laws that forbid government officials from using state funds to campaign for or against any political candidate. Whether that’s true or not is a matter for Louisiana voters to worry about , of course, but the more interesting things about his comments is that he never really bothered to address the substance of what Paul actually said. To a large degree, I suspect, that’s because Jindal’s primary motivation here was about getting attention for himself given his dismal poll numbers. As far as the substance goes, though, Paul’s argument is seemingly irrefutable. While Republicans have criticized the President for a “weak” response to the threat posed by ISIS, they have yet to face up to the reality that they have spent the better part of the last several years advocating policies that have allowed ISIS to expand its influence. That’s a hard truth for Republicans like Jindal to face, I would imagine, but it’s one that they will need to acknowledge at some point if they are going to pull their party out of the foreign police morass it has been in since the George W. Bush Administration.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, National Security, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. aFloridian says:

    “The hawks wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’s job easier,” Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, continued. “They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because of the hawks in my party.”

    100% agree. Which is why we should find some way of helping to prop up the monster Assad. I’d rather have the Alawites in charge than Sunni extremists. For one, any Middle Eastern country where hijab isn’t forced on all women is one I respect a little more, because it’s the fundamentalism that’s a threat to us. Oppressive evil secular Arab regimes are not what keeps me up at night. They have been our friends traditionally, insofar as they are more than willing to oppress the Islamists. Kind of like how I feel bad for Morsi, given the crime against democracy his ouster probably was, but boy, I’m glad he’s gone.

    Syrian moderate rebels are a pipe dream.

    But there’s an elephant in the room Paul has learned not to mention. Israel. I can’t quite quantify, but I’ve long felt our lockstep with the Zionist cause has not been good for tensions in the Middle East nor for our profile in the region. If I could go back in time and convince the Allies to never allow the creation of Israel I would do it, but it did happen, so now we have to move forward. Israel has a right to exist. But to allow Israel to flagrantly abuse the Palestinians as they do is as big a stain on our supposed high-mindedness as the continuing existence of Guantanamo.

  2. aFloridian says:

    And to comment on Paul, I would vote for him over any Republican current in the field outside Bush (blech, but true). But I have this sneaking suspicion he’s making it up as he goes along. His isolationism appeals to me, but I also realize there’s a balance to be had between the neoconservative musket diplomacy of Bill Kristol and the fiddle-while-the-world-burns of Daddy Paul.

    Concerns about his academic record (and therefore integrity) and about his true view of civil rights issues to do with race, especially, might very well keep him off my ballot.

  3. argon says:

    @aFloridian: And five minutes later Rand talked about the wonders of gold-backed currency and his ‘libertarian’ position on contraception & women’s issues and why ‘blacks only’ fountains are OK & self-correcting or how market forces will stop polluters.

  4. Missing Hillary Hate says:

    Principally, of course, that second group is largely, indeed perhaps solely, represented by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who has made his name in no small part by advocating a more restrained foreign policy

    In what reality is this even close to being true?

  5. James Pearce says:

    That’s a hard truth for Republicans like Jindal to face, I would imagine, but it’s one that they will need to acknowledge at some point if they are going to pull their party out of the foreign police morass it has been in since the George W. Bush Administration.

    Assuming they’re interested in being pulled out of this particular morass….

    Paul being the only one willing to say this stuff points to “No.”

    At some point, the question must be asked: Would Paul be more effective as a Democrat? Wouldn’t it be easier to swing Dems to some of his economic views than it would be to swing Republicans to his foreign policy views? Maybe not, but it would be worth the effort I think.

  6. #1stTweet says:

    We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future. We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, “If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.”
    Kentucky Tea Party Senator Rand Paul*

    *Source: Tea Party Response to 2013 State of the Union Address , Feb 12, 2013**

    “Oh, yeah, just please don’t bother me about this when I am with Iowa Republican Representative Steve King…I’ll get back with you on this some other time…really I will.”
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/05/1319279/-DREAMers-confront-Rand-Paul-and-Steve-King-Watch-their-hilarious-and-offensive-reactions#

    **The Tea Party Express, a political action committee that champions conservative principles, sponsored Paul’s speech, which originated from the National Press Club in Washington.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Paul will never get the nomination of the Stupid Party by saying smart things like this.
    I hear him say this stuff and I think…maybe I could actually vote for him.
    They he talks about the right of bigoted business owners to not serve people…and a single cell being a person…and economic and regulatory policies that make Ayn Rand look downright sane.
    I think what he needs is a couple decades to grow up and realize how stupid the Republican agenda is…across the board.
    Maybe then he will be ready for the Presidency. Maybe.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think what he needs is a couple decades to grow up and realize how stupid the Republican agenda is…across the board.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…. You funny man, make joke. 😉

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    No….this is what’s really funny…
    Bill O’Reilly, noted liar and preeminent host of Fox News…which has been proven repeatedly to have the least informed and most mis-informed viewers…said this about Democrats:

    “I believe only about 50 percent of the American people take the time to understand important issues…Half the country does not. They are simpletons, unwilling and unable to discipline themselves into formulating a philosophy of life.”

    Now that’s funny….

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    On civil liberties Libertarians belong with the Democrats. On money they belong with the Republicans. The fact that libertarians invariably prefer the Republican party tells you where their true priorities are. Liberty my ass. The LP is just another party of greed heads.

  11. #1stTweet says:

    You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

    Bill O’Rightly knows his audience…

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I thought the official Republican number was 47%? And like Romney, O’Reilly is kinda correct, except that at least half of them vote Republican.

  13. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Libertarians don’t exist. Certainly not civil libertarians.

    They are Republicans ashamed to admit it. Literally, they are figments of their own imagination.

  14. Tyrell says:

    “ISIS Is Winning” CNN
    “ISIS Murders 265 Iraqis” CNN

  15. J-Dub says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: the fact that he started his own medical board and “certified” his own practice should be reason enough to disqualify him.