Commentary Magazine


Topic: candidate in Kentucky

Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy

Rand Paul has tried to dial back the extreme isolationist rhetoric expressed by his father, Ron Paul, who once suggested that 9/11 was our fault for provoking al-Qaeda. For instance, the junior Paul, who is now the GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, says that he’s against a “wholesale withdrawal” from Afghanistan or Iraq (as opposed to a partial pullout?) and that he’s in favor of winning wars once we get into them. Moreover, he favors keeping Guantanamo open and trying terrorists in military tribunals.

But his victory is still bad news for Republicans who believe in a strong and active foreign policy. All you have to do is look at his website to see that he holds a quirky — and untenable — view of a “Fortress America.” He writes, “I believe our greatest national security threat is our lack of security at the border,” a threat that he proposes to address by imposing “a moratorium on Visas from about ten rogue nations or anybody that has traveled to those nations.” This may sound like a seductive solution, but it will not keep us safe, because numerous terrorists (like the would-be Times Square bomber) already have U.S. citizenship or citizenship from non-rogue states such as the United Kingdom. By closing our doors to “rogue nation” citizens (which nations qualify? he doesn’t say), he spurns our best counter-radicalization tool — the ability to educate foreign students in the United States.

The rest of his bare-bones foreign-policy statements consists of red herrings, such as his demand “that we fight only under U.S. Commander and not the UN” — as if UN command of U.S. forces were a big issue. Only in the Paul household, I suspect. And maybe the Pat Buchanan household too. Rand Paul really goes deep into isolationist territory with his views on “sovereignty”:

The Founding Fathers warned us that foreign alliances sacrifice our independence as a nation. In Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, he asserted that America should have “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” Yet today, America is often subservient to foreign bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations (UN). …

Rand Paul proposes that America can engage the world in free trade, develop lucrative commercial relationships with other nations, and defend its national interests without funding or joining international organizations. The U.S. Government must answer only to the Constitution and the citizens protected by it.

I suppose some on the right would join him in denouncing the UN, but what about the IMF, World Bank, and WTO? Generally I think most conservatives are Hamiltonian (one of the Founding Fathers whom Paul doesn’t mention) and believe that we gain from such trade and economic arrangements, which, yes, restrict sovereignty to some small degree but in the process immeasurably benefit the United States by curtailing tariffs and other obstacles to economic growth. There is ample room to criticize and improve the UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other organizations, but Paul’s suggestion that we not fund or join any international organizations suggests that he is advocating a fringe foreign-policy outlook — one I hope is not representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Rand Paul has tried to dial back the extreme isolationist rhetoric expressed by his father, Ron Paul, who once suggested that 9/11 was our fault for provoking al-Qaeda. For instance, the junior Paul, who is now the GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, says that he’s against a “wholesale withdrawal” from Afghanistan or Iraq (as opposed to a partial pullout?) and that he’s in favor of winning wars once we get into them. Moreover, he favors keeping Guantanamo open and trying terrorists in military tribunals.

But his victory is still bad news for Republicans who believe in a strong and active foreign policy. All you have to do is look at his website to see that he holds a quirky — and untenable — view of a “Fortress America.” He writes, “I believe our greatest national security threat is our lack of security at the border,” a threat that he proposes to address by imposing “a moratorium on Visas from about ten rogue nations or anybody that has traveled to those nations.” This may sound like a seductive solution, but it will not keep us safe, because numerous terrorists (like the would-be Times Square bomber) already have U.S. citizenship or citizenship from non-rogue states such as the United Kingdom. By closing our doors to “rogue nation” citizens (which nations qualify? he doesn’t say), he spurns our best counter-radicalization tool — the ability to educate foreign students in the United States.

The rest of his bare-bones foreign-policy statements consists of red herrings, such as his demand “that we fight only under U.S. Commander and not the UN” — as if UN command of U.S. forces were a big issue. Only in the Paul household, I suspect. And maybe the Pat Buchanan household too. Rand Paul really goes deep into isolationist territory with his views on “sovereignty”:

The Founding Fathers warned us that foreign alliances sacrifice our independence as a nation. In Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, he asserted that America should have “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” Yet today, America is often subservient to foreign bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations (UN). …

Rand Paul proposes that America can engage the world in free trade, develop lucrative commercial relationships with other nations, and defend its national interests without funding or joining international organizations. The U.S. Government must answer only to the Constitution and the citizens protected by it.

I suppose some on the right would join him in denouncing the UN, but what about the IMF, World Bank, and WTO? Generally I think most conservatives are Hamiltonian (one of the Founding Fathers whom Paul doesn’t mention) and believe that we gain from such trade and economic arrangements, which, yes, restrict sovereignty to some small degree but in the process immeasurably benefit the United States by curtailing tariffs and other obstacles to economic growth. There is ample room to criticize and improve the UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, and other organizations, but Paul’s suggestion that we not fund or join any international organizations suggests that he is advocating a fringe foreign-policy outlook — one I hope is not representative of the Tea Party movement as a whole.

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