Senator Rand Paul visited the Heritage Foundation this past Wednesday to deliver a speech on foreign policy.
There is a quite a bit of buzz about this speech as it seems that Paul may run in 2016.
In the speech he broadly outlined his views, cutting a middle ground between isolationism and interventionism. It is, he says, “a policy that is not rash or reckless. A foreign policy that is reluctant, restrained by constitutional checks and balances, but does not appease.”
He called Reagan’s foreign policy “robust but restrained” and spent a good deal of time talking about Radical Islam and how to respond to such threats.
Radical Islam is no fleeting fad but a relentless force. Though at times stateless, Radical Islam is also supported by radicalized nations such as Iran. Though often militarily weak, Radical Islam makes up for its lack of conventional armies with unlimited zeal.
Like communism, radical Islam is an ideology with worldwide reach. Containing radical Islam requires a worldwide strategy like containment. It requires counterforce at a series of constantly shifting worldwide points. But counterforce does not necessarily mean large-scale land wars with hundreds of thousands of troops nor does it always mean a military action at all.
Containment, though, should be discussed as an option with regard to the more generalized threat from radical Islam. Radical Islam, like communism, is an ideology with far reach and will require a firm and patient opposition.
He also touched on how he would deal with the threat of Iran having nuclear weapons.
No one, myself included, wants to see a nuclear Iran. Iran does need to know that all options are on the table. But we should not pre-emptively announce that diplomacy or containment will never be an option.
Let me be clear. I don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons but I also don’t want to decide with certainty that war is the only option.
Probably the best paragraph to summarize Paul’s views in this speech is the following.
What the United States needs now is a policy that finds a middle path. A policy that is not rash or reckless. A foreign policy that is reluctant, restrained by Constitutional checks and balances but does not appease. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of radical Islam but also the inherent weaknesses of radical Islam. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of bombing countries on what they might someday do. A foreign policy that requires, as Kennan put it, “a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of . . . expansive tendencies.” A policy that understands the “distinction between vital and peripheral interests.”
Although I do not claim to know much about foreign policy, I resonate with what Paul is saying.
I have always thought his father was a little extreme on this issue, but Rand Paul seems to have come to a reasonable yet non-conventional view.
Let’s hope as he says that it is not the case that, “anyone who questions the bipartisan consensus is immediately castigated, rebuked and their patriotism challenged.”