Opinion
Rand Paul at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. Rand Paul at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.  

Pentagon Official: Why Rand Paul’s Ideas Scare Me — And Why They Should Scare You

Joseph Miller
Contributor

Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

Sen. Rand Paul’s first real-time entrance into wartime decision-making in Iraq may have echoed the isolationist positions of his libertarian supporters — and the war-weary sentiment of much of America — but it also highlights a devotion to ideology over reality; politics over national interest. And more importantly, it makes clear that he should not be considered a serious candidate to lead this country.

Paul’s foreign policy views are at best foolish and naïve, and at worst politicized and dangerous.

On Iraq, Paul went on record to say that he is opposed to sending ground troops back into Iraq, despite the obvious signs that the situation — and the threat it poses to the United States – is quickly spiraling out of control. The problem is not the sentiment, which is shared by a large number of Americans: The problem is that any decision on what military resources the United States is willing to bring to bear on its sworn enemies must not come based on some campaign commitment, but based on what the U.S., dealing with real-time facts, has decided its mission is; and what tools U.S. leadership has decided are required to achieve them.

Both Paul and President Barack Obama share in this blatant error — they have both been wrong to take essential options off the table so early in crises.

When Obama gave the commencement address at West Point this year, he said, “U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

Yes. And the opposite is also true, though neither the president nor senator from Kentucky seem to think so. By taking ground troops off of the table so early, both Obama and Paul have decided that the problem must be a screw, and a hammer is not the appropriate tool — all before they know what they’re even dealing with.

Simply said, you never want to tell the enemy what actions you may or may not plan to take in response to a situation. Instead, you set a policy in place and then enforce when necessary. That is how deterrence works. Neither Obama nor Paul seem to understand that, much to the detriment of U.S. national security.

In the case of Iraq, both Paul and Obama told al-Qaida affiliated militants in Iraq and Syria that they would not have to face U.S. ground forces — just the crumbling Iraqi army. The militants must be very excited that both the top Democrat and a Republican presidential contender share a position on their issue, given that the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both testified before Congress that they cannot imagine a situation where Iraq is able to defeat the militants without U.S. military involvement. This is how you embolden an enemy, not defeat it. (MILLER: Obama’s Afghanistan Fantasy Today Is America’s Nightmare Tomorrow)

What Paul and Obama consistently get wrong is that if the threat posed to the United States is dire enough to warrant the use of military force, then the commander in chief should not tie the hand of the U.S. military before the Pentagon has a chance to make its recommendations. It may well be that ground troops will not be required to achieve U.S. objectives, but if they are, then what?  Our government ends up flip-flopping, as the president has done on numerous occasions, causing both he and our nation to lose credibility with our foes as well as our allies.