USS Cole commander: Rand Paul is ‘new form of Republican leadership’ on defense

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Kirk Lippold has seen national defense first hand – 12 and a half years ago, he was the commander of the USS Cole when she was attacked by al-Qaida. Looking at national security today, he says, Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s approach is the more realistic way to move forward, and the Sen. John McCain’s of the world are being left behind.

Lippold’s book, “Frontburner: Al Qaeda’s Attack on the USS Cole,” comes out in paperback Thursday, and focuses on Oct. 12, 2000 — the day the USS Cole was attacked and how the crew dealt with it in the moment — and the immediate aftermath.

“Looking back on it now,” he said, “it’s very apparent that we missed a clear signal as a nation because before 9/11, there was 10/12,” Lippold told The Daily Caller in a phone interview. “When you attack buildings and embassies, those are things that while they house and represent you as an interest, attacking a warship is fundamentally different because a warship defends our citizens and our interests around the world. And when you try to take away an nations ability to defend itself, it truly was an act of war … the nation paid a very tragic price because we did not react to that attack.”

Nowadays, Lippold said, national defense should be more aligned with the thinking of Sen. Paul.

“When it comes to defense, I think Rand Paul is representing a new form of Republican leadership that is basically looking at what are — that really asks — the hard question: What are our national security interests in getting engaged in any nation, and what is the best way to go about doing it?” Lippold said.

“I think that John McCain, while he had some good opinions about things in the past, I think that these days the world is evolving and changing. And the fact that Rand Paul, for example, stood up and made the nation ask some very hard question regarding drones and drone usage was a fundamental shift in how the Republicans view the defense of the nation both here at home and abroad,” Lippold went on.

“Because this president, in my opinion, has fundamentally undermined our ability to defend this nation by killing terrorists rather than capturing them and taking them to an intelligence facility like Guantanamo Bay and learning how these groups operate,” Lippold added. “And while the program appears on the face to have had great success, I think ultimately the drone program is setting us up for failure because for each high-level terrorist you kill, that is a high-level intelligence asset that is no longer available to exploit.”

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