Rand Paul has taken a page from the foreign policy views of the anti-colonial left, according to my colleague, TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein. Since we value diversity of opinion here at the Daily Caller, I’d like to strongly disagree with all of his points.
Who has observed this alleged leftist entryism? Rick Santorum, whom he quotes as saying the good senator from Kentucky has “allied with Barack Obama’s foreign policy.” And here I was thinking Jennifer Rubin was the sharpest-eyed Rand Paul-watcher, given the 143 times she mentioned him, with near-universal disapproval, in the first three weeks of March. Rick Santorum, it must be noted, has described fighting regimes in Syria and Iran as a “national calling.”
1. How dare Paul worry about unintended consequences of a prolonged Iraqi occupation!
Weinstein quotes Paul’s skepticism of John McCain’s glib comment that we should stay in Iraq for 100 years, in which Paul worries about the “unintended consequences” of doing so. He says Paul took the quote out of context, and that bases in Baghdad are no more imperialistic than a hospital in Landstuhl.
I’m pretty skeptical that Iraqis are as likely to welcome an American military base as Germans, but that’s debatable.
In general, though, it seems to me that to be a conservative is to be aware of unintended consequences, and to the extent that Rand Paul represents a shift from the worldview of people like McCain, who never met a third-world insurgency he didn’t want to either fund or destroy, it seems healthy. McCain certainly could have been more aware of the unintended consequences when he supported the initial second invasion of Iraq, which according to some estimates has resulted in half a million civilian deaths. I suppose that’s a left-wing talking point too.
2. Rand Paul’s bin Laden conspiracy theory
The claim that the U.S. directly supported bin Laden is nearly impossible to prove, and Weinstein says “no evidence has been produced to support it.” Yet bin Laden is said to have been appreciative of the help the U.S. gave to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. It’s not disputed that we funded, armed, and trained rebels bin Laden went to join, which is the relevant point. The more specific claim that he worked with the U.S. directly comes from a Jane’s Intelligence Review report from 1998, that claims he “worked in close association with U.S. agents,” a report the Heritage Foundation found credible enough to cite.
The charge has also been lodged by whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, against whom the state secrets privilege was invoked by John Ashcroft to keep her from testifying. She told the following to former CIA agent Phil Giraldi in 2009:
So these conversations, between 1997 and 2001, had to do with a Central Asia operation that involved bin Laden. Not once did anybody use the word “al-Qaeda.” It was always “mujahideen,” always “bin Laden” and, in fact, not “bin Laden” but “bin Ladens” plural. There were several bin Ladens who were going on private jets to Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. The Turkish ambassador in Azerbaijan worked with them.
There were bin Ladens, with the help of Pakistanis or Saudis, under our management. Marc Grossman was leading it, 100 percent, bringing people from East Turkestan into Kyrgyzstan, from Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, from Azerbaijan some of them were being channeled to Chechnya, some of them were being channeled to Bosnia. From Turkey, they were putting all these bin Ladens on NATO planes. People and weapons went one way, drugs came back.
In the DOJ Inspector General’s report on her termination, Glenn Fine wrote “that many of her allegations were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services. Rather than investigate Edmonds’s allegations vigorously and thoroughly, the FBI concluded that she was a disruption and terminated her contract.”
Jamie may not find this fishy enough to give the good Senator from Kentucky the benefit of the doubt, but I’m withholding judgment on this one.
3. Slash Social Security, not aircraft carriers
Weinstein says this sounds more like Barney Frank than Rand Paul: “Adm. Michael Mullen stated earlier this year that the biggest threat to our national security is our debt. If debt is our gravest threat, adding to the debt by expanding military spending further threatens our national security.”
The second sentence is just a restatement of the first, so one assumes my colleague thinks Admiral Mullen also shares Barney Frank’s view of our military’s finances.
Hawks commonly argue that entitlement liabilities dwarf military spending, and that’s true, but it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison; it relies on demographic projections, among other things, and they’re not a part of the discretionary budget. National defense, on the other hand, is by far the largest part of our discretionary budget. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost about $2 trillion, and we’re potentially on the hook for about double that due to military benefit liabilities, among other things.
My colleague is right about this, though:
The truth is that Paul, like many Democrats, wants to cut the defense budget in order to scale back America’s role in the world. That’s a fair debate to have.
Yes, though the questions of whether American hegemony is sustainable or desirable are separate. (In case it isn’t clear, my view is it’s neither.) Nor can I think of any historical example of a powerful nation spurning its imperial ambitions — Solzhenitsyn’s advice for Russia to tend its own garden, clearly disregarded by Putin, seems relevant here — but hope springs eternal. Formulating a more humble framework of American power will take time and experts, and a rejiggering of an establishment that for decades has assumed America’s ability to project power is limitless.
But when he says “many Democrats” want to scale back America’s role in the world, he certainly isn’t talking about the Clintons. As an unrepentant isolationist, it seems to me the only prospect of a legitimately pro-peace party in America lies with the Republicans. And the best hope for making that happen lies with Rand Paul.
My question is how many American mothers and fathers is he willing to tax for that thirteenth aircraft carrier, and why he thinks it’s a winning strategy to slash their Medicare at the same time?