View Full Version : Rand Paul's Romance With Realism

08-18-2014, 04:34 AM
Rand Paul's Romance With Realism

Olivia Nuzzi

Very long and detailed article at the link. Some highlights:


"As the Republican primary begins to creep up, Paul is moving closer to a perceived conservative middle-ground on foreign policy. It is a recasting that is deeply at odds with how Paul is perceived by his enemies and by many of his supporters. But to hear his advisers tell it, he barely changed at all.

""To begin, I guess you could say what he’s not: he’s not a neoconservative, a unilateralist on the one hand; and he’s not what some people call a liberal interventionist on the other,” Richard Burt, a former Ambassador to Germany and State Department Adviser to Ronald Reagan, who acts as an unofficial foreign policy adviser to Paul, told me. “I would put him in the mold of a traditional, Republican internationalist – more along the lines of a kind of Dwight Eisenhower, to some extent, Ronald Reagan, and maybe George H.W. Bush, in the sense that he, I think, he certainly is not an isolationist.”

"Burt is part of an informal, unpaid foreign policy team who regularly briefs Paul on international issues. In addition to Burt, the group includes Rob Givens, a former U.S. Air Force Brigadier General from Kentucky, and Elise Jordan, Condoleezza Rice’s one-time speechwriter, and Lorne Craner, a former John McCain staffer and the head of the International Republican Institute. Hardly a collection of pacifists."


"Because Paul has made clear that his bar for intervening is set very high, I was curious about what, specifically, that meant. Why be open to intervening in Iraq, but not in Syria? Asked about this, his advisers said American action had to depend the level of interest the U.S. has, and if there can be a clearly defined objective. As a senior aide put it, Paul “doesn’t want to be everywhere all the time.”

"“American interests have to be directly threatened, and part of that is in the interest of an ally...all of our reactions should be defensive in nature,” Givens added. (Critics of Paul’s suggest that only intervening when America faces a direct threat would be ignoring the root of the issue, and the reality that international conflicts tend to impact one another.)

"Specifically, Burt offered, “He clearly opposed the invasion of Iraq, and he, I think, questioned the military action in Libya, but, I think, in the case currently in Iraq, he sees this as limited, to some extent humanitarian, but also to the extent that it supports the Kurds who we have shared interest with, I think he sees this as a discreet, limited used of effective American power.”"


"Again and again, Paul and his foreign policy advisers have been consistent in saying that he would support using military force when necessary – like in the case of the war in Afghanistan. They’ve tried to portray him as an old-school statesman, supportive of a muscular, if limited, American role in the world. But all too often, Paul’s words seem to undo all the positioning work."


"Burt told me that the elder Paul contributes to the misconceptions about Rand: "It’s the obvious point, It’s the elephant in the room–that he’s his father’s son. I think there's a tendency to believe that his approach to foreign policy is similar to his father's–and, to a limited degree, I think it is.”

Ben Friedman, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, offered: “People are just kind of assuming that he starts off with the same views as his father, so every time he says something that’s more in line with the conventional wisdom, he’s betraying those views – and I think that’s not really fair.”"


"But when he spoke on Monday about the airstrikes in Iraq, Paul said “ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria.” If there is any evidence to support that claim, Paul’s camp would not say. They did not respond to multiple requests for clarification.

"Meanwhile, it is easy to argue that laying off of Assad – Paul’s position as of last month – is, in effect, a form of protection for ISIS. Assad’s forces have repeatedly declined to shell ISIS positions in Syria; and ISIS sells its captured oil to the regime in Damascus. Many American politicians – from Hillary Clinton to John McCain – have called for the arming of the so-called “moderate rebels” of the Free Syrian Army, who fight both Assad and ISIS simultaneously. Paul is in the other camp."


"Givens, who told me he first met with Paul around February and discussed the situation in Iraq with him a few weeks ago, recalled: "When we first started talking [about] the airstrikes in Iraq, there were a lot of questions about, 'okay, what can we do with airstrikes? How would they work? What's a threat to our aircraft?' You know, 'what can we accomplish? What can the pilot see?' those types of very specific questions."

"Asked if the briefings seemed like practice, Givens laughed, “we’re never playing the game of ‘okay, you’re the president! What would you do? Or anything along those lines.”

"But then, Givens gave a bit of a different answer. “Is part of this, perhaps, a preparation for a White House run? Clearly, it’s got to be,” he said. And maybe Givens isn’t the only one changing course."