I and others have been noting that Senator Rand Paul is particularly prone to shoot from the lip when it comes to foreign policy, raising serious concerns about his judgment if he should ever be elected president. Paul has surrounded himself with his father’s former advisers, who failed Ron in his electoral bid, and are now trying to triangulate a cluster of policies that will appease various constituencies in or close to the Republican Party.
Rand Paul himself frequently appears to be poorly informed, prone to grandstanding on issues, and it has even been suggested that he lacks core beliefs, though he may indeed be at heart a non-interventionist like his father. The existence of an “inner Rand” who believes in all the right things is a point his supporters make when they try to explain his flips and flops. They observe that he will have to hold his nose and support policies that are not truly in the national interest to make himself electable, at which point he will morph into the libertarian that he has always secretly been. In a sense, they are saying that the end always justifies the means in politics, a position that father Ron Paul would never have taken.
I have never bought into the Rand boosters’ explanation because it suggests only two alternative possibilities: first that Rand is a congenital liar and has no core values at all or second that he sees all policies as tactical, subject to change depending on what kind or pressure he is under from interest groups. Neither position is ethically acceptable and I now believe that many other observers of the Rand Paul phenomenon are beginning to see the light, including some who have been either protective or supportive of Paul previously.
Rand’s fundamental problem is that he, an ophthalmologist by training, does not appear to understand that a country like the United States has actual global interests. If one regards the core function of government to be the enhancement of the wellbeing of the people who are governed, national interests are the benchmarks for what must be done in pursuit of that objective. In the Middle East, for example, Washington has a vital interest in encouraging overall political stability so oil continues to flow, avoiding an energy price rise shock to the world economy that would have devastating impact in the United States. It also has other interests in the region but they are secondary to maintenance of cheap energy.
Rand does not appear to understand that, inclining instead to make bumper sticker style pronouncements without any regard for possible consequences. His most recent foray into foreign policy was an over the top letter that appeared in the National Review Online on July 1st entitled “Tragedy in Israel: It’s time to end aid to the Palestinian Authority.” Rand asserts that the kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis was carried out by Hamas, that Israel is a “nation that was at war but desperately wanted peace,” and that “Israel has shown remarkable restraint.” He concludes that “enough is enough” so US aid to the Palestinians should be cut off lest taxpayer money go to “an entity kidnapping and murdering Israeli and US children.”
Rand Paul’s rant is full of half-truths and misrepresentations. No evidence has been produced by anyone demonstrating that Hamas carried out the kidnappings and Paul ignores the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is exploiting the deaths to collectively punish the Palestinians using mass arrests and home demolitions to destroy their unity government. Israel has demonstrated repeatedly that it has no interest in peace and continues to steal Arab land in defiance of United Nations resolutions while its unrestrained police and army have killed 1523 Palestinian children since the year 2000 as a by-product of the brutal occupation of the West Bank without any objection being voiced by Paul. Nor did Senator Paul find it expedient to comment on seventeen year old Mohamed Abu Khdeir, who was abducted by Israeli Jews and burned alive on July 2nd and he has not objected to the subsequent beating by Israeli police of Khdeir’s fifteen year old cousin, an American citizen.
Indeed Rand Paul’s foreign policy viewpoint is characterized by his persistent pandering to Israel in an apparent attempt to win the crucial evangelical votes that he will need for his presidential bid. In so doing he lessens the support he will receive from his father’s core supporters who were generally very cool on the Israel relationship and he does little to help his cause as suspicion of his father Ron among the friends of Israel runs deep. For them, like father like son and there will be other Republican candidates whose support for Israel might appear to be less opportunistic.
Paul’s National Review piece is in fact a follow-up to his late April introduction of the “Stand With Israel Act of 2014,” Senate Bill 2265. Randpac, where the bill is posted, describes it as halting “all U.S. aid to the Palestinian government until they (sic) agree to a ceasefire and recognize the right of Israel to exist.” But the bill also recognizes Israel as a Jewish State, which would delegitimize the Palestinian Christians and Muslims who live there and ask them to accept that European and American Jews were perfectly justified in destroying Palestinian society and putting their own state in its place. And it would legally recognize that Israel is a theocracy, not a democracy, while also punishing the Palestinians if they attempt to go to the United Nations or any other international body to obtain redress for the Israeli occupation.
Paul unsuccessfully sought unanimous approval for his “Stand With Israel Act” and subsequently commented how he felt “deeply disappointed and disturbed by the Senate’s inability to stand with me in defense of Israel today.” In reality, Paul did not obtain much support because the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) advocated continuing aid to the Palestinians so that Israel would not have to pick up the tab, suggesting that Paul may have misjudged his audience.
Rand Paul is certainly free to believe whatever he wants but his frequent expressions of affection for Israel coupled with his condemnation of “terrorist” Iran and denunciations of Arabs as burning “our flag and chanting ‘death to America’” reveals an awkward simplicity in his thinking that makes him something less than presidential. His persistence in advocating policies that are not in America’s interest to include “any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States” reveals a profound ignorance regarding what a foreign policy is supposed to achieve while his willingness to take center stage to say things that he surely must know to be untrue reflects an opportunism that is at a minimum unseemly. Like many ambitious politicians he has morphed into a legend in his own mind, believing that his relatively recent election as junior Senator from the State of Kentucky has somehow endowed him with a clear understanding of complex international issues. In reality he lacks experience and has avoided any exposure to alternative viewpoints that he considers to be politically toxic, to include any expression of sympathy for the Palestinians. When it comes to foreign policy he in reality differs little from a John McCain or a Mitt Romney and therein lies the tragedy.