Rand Paul carves out own space on foreign policy
Sen. Rand Paul advanced his foreign policy views in a speech on Wednesday that appeared to be aimed at showing his fluency in that arena, particularly on radical Islam, the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program, and U.S. military involvement.
On some of those issues, he sounded tones similar to his father, the former three-time presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Rand Paul campaigned for his father, who drew attention for his libertarian views -- which he described as non-interventionist but critics described as isolationist and out of the mainstream.
But overall, the Republican senator from Kentucky sought make his own foreign policy footprint -- and project himself as mainstream.
"I've just joined the Foreign Relations Committee. I wanted to spell out what my vision is for our foreign policy," he said in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room" after his speech. "I think it's a unique position and I think its one that needs to be expressed."
The vision he laid out at the conservative Heritage foundation was primarily guided by "two basic tenants of true conservatism: Respect for the Constitution and fiscal discipline."
"What the United States needs is a foreign policy that finds that 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," he said.
"A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of radical Islam but also the inherent weakness of radical Islam. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of bombing countries on the pretext of what they might someday do," he said.
On that last note, he sounded much like his father, who divided the Pentagon's activities into defense and military spending. Defense spending is necessary and proper, Ron Paul said; military and foreign aid spending are not.
His father spoke out strongly against the U.S. wars of the past decade, taking positions which were out of the sync with many Republicans.
Rand Paul's position sounded like a compromise between his father's position and the views of other Republicans.
"We often have sort of two polar extremes and really just one for the most part, that we're everywhere all of the time," he said on CNN. "The other extreme is that we'd be nowhere any of the time and that would be isolationism."
A more realistic approach, he said, would "involve active policies such as containment" but would not be "the standard approach of having 100,000 troops in countries is really the approach that we need."
The senator offered a broad prescription for handling radical Islam around the world based on that containment model. He argued that with or without Western involvement in the Middle East, the United States would face threats from that region.
"I don't agree that absent Western occupation, that radical Islam goes quietly into that good night," he said.
He said the United States is not discussing rigorously enough the suspected Iranian nuclear program, which he said "appears to have less debate in this country than it receives in Israel," which would be threatened by such a program.
Paul called for more diplomacy to work towards a solution and said the U.S. should not show its hand -- retain what he called "strategic ambiguity" -- as far as what Iranian steps would trigger a U.S. military response.
Paul, elected to the Senate in 2010, has acknowledged that he is interested in a potential run for the White House in 2016.
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