As other Republican presidential candidates propose sending troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS, Kentucky Sen. [crscore]Rand Paul[/crscore] says he is still staunchly against putting American boots back on the ground.
“The first Iraq war didn’t make us safer,” Paul told The Daily Caller. “Didn’t make the region any less chaotic. The first Iraq war destabilized the region and has led to the current chaos. I don’t think another Iraq War is going to make it better.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, said in a speech this week he would like to see an unspecified number of U.S. troops fighting ISIS in the region. Another candidate, Sen. [crscore]Lindsey Graham[/crscore] of South Carolina, is also calling for an American ground invasion.
Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican, says he would like to troops in Iraq and Syria fighting the Islamic radicals — just not American troops.
“I do think that to defeat ISIS, there will have to be boots on the ground,” Paul said. “But the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground. And frankly, they will have to be probably Sunni Muslim boots.”
Added Paul: “I think that while we can militarily defeat anyone in the world — we have the greatest military on the planet, probably in the history of mankind — if we go over there and defeat ISIS, and then we attempt to occupy those Sunni Muslim cities, I think another generation rises up.”
“I think really civilized Islam is going to have to be the boots on the ground,” he said. “They will have to have Muslims defeating Muslims.”
Said Paul: “We can help, but we certainly and shouldn’t be the boots on the ground. The first war was a mistake, and I oppose going back again.”
Paul is still trailing a number of his rivals nationally and in early state polls, but expressed optimism that both front-runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, would fade before voters head to the polls.
“There’s been a lot of faltering perceived or otherwise with Carson’s campaign lately,” Paul said. “And I think Trump’s schtick and humor or insults have grown thin and, I think, aren’t really received with the same sort of enthusiasm as they once were. I think we’re in a good position. And we think the race is still wide open.”
Asked to describe how he views his path to victory, Paul said he needs to bring together three voting blocs. “Combining independents, liberty-minded folks in the party and college kids, we think we can get to the number that necessary for victory.”
Speaking of students, Paul said “college-aged kids, as well as really anybody under 40, are very much against the government’s program of collecting all of our phone records.”
“So they’re for privacy and see me as a spokesman for their movement. College kids also don’t want to see their friends or buddies put in jail for a marijuana offense,” he said. “They also don’t want to see their friends or buddies being sent off to another war in Iraq.”
Paul said his campaign is working to woo independents in some states. “They are allowed to vote without changing their registration in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said. “So independents can be a big block of voters.”
“And then finally the liberty movement,” he said. “There are a lot of liberty movement conservatives slash libertarians, libertarians slash conservatives who are in the Republican Party now and that’s a group that we find and believe to be a main backbone … of our movement.”
Paul said his operations has a “significant ground game in all four of the first primaries and caucuses — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada” but “we think caucus states are a little easier for us since they are smaller turnout.”