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Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Zbigniew Mazurak

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Rand Paul’s Anti-Defense Views

Currently, one of the most formidable candidates for the Presidency in 2016 is Sen. Rand Paul, son of the libertarian, isolationist ex-Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Many conservatives, including some of my conservative friends, have been seduced by the younger Paul and misled into thinking that he is unlike his father – not isolationist, not naïve about the world, and not hostile to a strong national defense.

Unfortunately, the facts – Sen. Paul’s actions, as well as the vast majority of his rhetoric – prove them wrong. Sen. Paul is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just like his father, he’s an isolationist, an anti-defense libertarian, and a naïve man with a completely warped view of the world and its affairs. These negative traits should utterly disqualify Sen. Paul from the Presidency.

Indeed, the fact that Sen. Paul has had to try to reassure national security conservatives of his supposed foreign policy bona fides is, by itself, proof there’s something very wrong with him. If he were a credible defense conservative, he would’ve had no need to explain his views and reassure anyone. (Have you ever seen Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, or Mike Pence having to assuage fears about their views on these issues?) The only people who need to do that are dishonest politicians. They are like snake oil salesman – always ready to tell you a great story to make you buy a car that doesn’t run.

The Younger Paul’s Rhetoric: Hardly Different from the Elder’s

One could point to dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of cases where Sen. Paul, through his rhetoric, has revealed these warped views and expressed support for libertarian, isolationist, and anti-defense policies. Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin has chronicled most of these cases meticulously like a Benedictine monk.

Just to mention several such examples:

  • In 2009, Sen. Paul claimed – or at least implied – that the Bush Administration launched the war in Iraq because then-VP Dick Cheney was a former Halliburton executive and wanted to ensure huge profits for his former company through that war. Thus, Sen. Paul essentially accused Cheney of putting his former company’s profits above the country’s interests. He has not apologized to Cheney to this day.
  • In 2012, Paul granted an interview with CNN journalist Erin Burnett where he strongly condemned Mitt Romney’s proposals to reverse President Obama’s crippling defense cuts. Paul also called for even deeper defense cuts and agreed with Burnett’s utterly false and misleading graph (borrowed from the Soros-funded “Project on Government Oversight”) that purported to show that Mitt Romney wanted to increase defense spending to $900 billion per year.
  • Sen. Paul has also claimed the US provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor by imposing sanctions on her after Japan’s invasion of China and Indochina.
  • He has also claimed the US invited German “anger” and aggression by imposing an unspecified “blockade” on Germany after World War 1, which is a complete lie as the US never did such a thing; in fact, the US rejected the punitive Versailles Treaty, tried to do as much as possible throughout the Interwar Period to ease the reparations burden on Germany, ratified a separate peace treaty with Berlin, and continued large-scale trade with Germany until 1941. One of the reasons why Germany was so hardly struck by the world economic crisis that began in 1929 was because many US companies had invested in Germany – so their trouble, and America’s economic woes, automatically meant the same woes for Germany. The two economies were tightly interrelated until WW2. (Paul later backtracked on those “we invited aggression” claims… sort of.)
  • In February of this year, just as Putin was beginning his military aggression against Ukraine, Sen. Paul wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post falsely accusing Republicans of wanting to “tweak Russia” and revive the Cold War, of harboring Cold War mentalities, and many other sins, while whitewashing Russia’s record and calling for a partnership with it. He was forced to do an embarrassing U-turn several days thereafter with another op-ed, where he hilariously claimed to be a Reaganite.
  • And also this year, as well as previously, Sen. Paul refused to rule out supporting a containment policy towards Iran, while claiming he doesn’t support such a policy and pretending to support “strategic ambiguity.”

In several of these cases, like those above, Sen. Paul put his foot in his own mouth – he first said something utterly false or calumnious, and then was forced to do an embarrassing U-turn. He has also tried to play it nice (rhetorically) with national security conservatives at the Citadel and anti-defense libertarians and liberals in Berkeley alike, depending on whom he was speaking to, and telling each audience what they wanted to hear.

Which has led Jen Rubin to ask: “Which Paul is running for President?”

The most likely answer is: the “real Paul”, the isolationist, anti-defense libertarian son of Ron Paul. Paul talks a good game and does listen to defense conservatives when they speak. But he then ignores what they tell him and sticks to his libertarian views regardless. And most importantly, the way he votes and acts tells you who he really is.

Sen. Paul’s voting record

It isn’t just Sen. Paul’s overwhelmingly libertarian, anti-defense rhetoric that should trouble conservative voters. It’s above all Sen. Paul’s record, which proves he’s no Reaganite and that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Sen. Paul has, inter alia:

  • Voted against defense spending bills (the National Defense Authorization and Appropriation Acts) on the Senate floor.
  • Voted against the Balanced Budget Agreement, which softened sequestration’s impact on the military for two years, and expressed support for defense cuts even deeper than sequestration.
  • Introduced budget proposals that would cut defense spending, structures, programs, and overseas deployments even further.
  • Voted to confirm Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s liberal choice for Secretary of Defense, being one of only four Republican Senators to vote so (the others were Hagel’s fellow Nebraskan Mike Johanns and fellow RINOs Thad Cochran and Dick Shelby).
  • Voted against aid to Ukraine and against sanctions against Russia and Iran, in line with his publicly stated belief that sanctions against Japan invited the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Failed to support the bill recently introduced by Senate Republicans which would impose new sanctions on Russia, strengthen US support for Poland and other loyal NATO allies, and hasten missile defense system deployment in Poland.
  • Opposed the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe.
  • Made Richard Burt, the chairman of Global Zero (a group advocating America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament), his top foreign policy advisor.

Actions speak louder than words. Sen. Paul’s actions speak volumes about who he is. And he is certainly no Reaganite, despite his claims of being one. As former Governor Zell Miller of Georgia says, “campaign talk tells people who you want them to think you are. How you vote tells people who you really are deep inside.”

These words, which are still true today, were spoken at the 2004 Republican National Convention, when Republicans were campaigning against  (and ultimately defeated) another anti-defense weakling Senator who was masquerading as someone more palatable. At that time, virtually nobody doubted the GOP’s defense and foreign policy credentials – which (along with the recovering, growing economy) helped the GOP win the 2004 presidential election.

Which brings us to the next relevant fact.

What Policy Would Appeal Better to the Voters?

Many libertarians claim – and many conservatives seem to have bought the myth that – the GOP must agree to deep defense cuts, beyond those already implemented and scheduled to occur, in order to have credibility as a fiscally conservative party and to appeal to a majority of voters.

This is another myth, which current polling and past electoral experience utterly refute. On the contrary, whenever Republicans advocate a strong defense policy, a muscular approach to America’s foes, and nominate candidates knowledgeable about foreign policy, they win, and usually win big.

On the other hand, when Republicans fail to support a strong defense, fail to stand up to the world’s Brezhnevs, Putins, and ayatollahs, or nominate candidates who aren’t well versed on world affairs, they lose.

As President Reagan rightly said in 1984, in a similar situation:

“Now, some insist that any further budget savings must be obtained by reducing the portion spent on defense. This ignores the fact that national defense is solely the responsibility of the Federal Government; indeed, it is its prime responsibility. And yet defense spending is less than a third of the total budget. During the years of President Kennedy and of the years before that, defense was almost half the total budget. And then came several years in which our military capability was allowed to deteriorate to a very dangerous degree. We are just now restoring, through the essential modernization of our conventional and strategic forces, our capability to meet our present and future security needs. We dare not shirk our responsibility to keep America free, secure, and at peace.”

Current polling shows a sizeable majority of Americans still supports a strong, well-funded military and a muscular policy towards America’s adversaries, most notably Russia, Iran, and terrorists.

According to a February Gallup poll, 63% of Americans say the US spends the right amount or not enough on the military (28% say “too little” and 35% say “the right amount”). Only 38% claim the US spends too much, which makes them a small minority (despite Gallup trying to spin this result as indicating US voters are “divided”). Moreover, according to Gallup polls, around 60% of US voters has consistently held the “not enough” and “the right amount” view for several years now.

Furthermore, per Gallup, 80% of Republican, 62% of Independent, and even 48% of Democratic voters say it is important that the US remain the world’s top military power.

Most Americans also consider Russia an adversary and favor a more muscular approach towards Moscow than what President Obama has tried.

Quite simply, despite what libertarians and the MSM may tell you about Americans’ “war weariness” and about “non-interventionism” now being a fashionable view, the truth is far different. There is no popular demand for defense cuts or for a wholesale retrenchment from the world like Sen. Paul and other libertarians advocate.

By contrast, in the early 1970s and early 1990s – in the last years of the Vietnam and Cold Wars – such sentiments were the majority view. Then, the nation did support defense spending cuts and, after the Vietnam War, was indeed “war-weary.” In 1969, 52%, and in 1990, 50% of Americans claimed the US was spending too much on defense – the peak of such views in Gallup polling.

Today, there is no popular demand whatsoever for such policies. On the other hand, there is a huge popular demand for a strong national defense, a robust policy towards America’s foes, and strong, decisive American leadership in the world. Most Americans recognize that the threats around the world are multiplying, and America’s foes are growing in strength, while the US itself is becoming weaker every day.

If the GOP nominates Sen. Paul, or anyone else who shares his anti-defense views, tens of millions of national security oriented voters will have been disenfranchised.
As Frank Gaffney rightly says, the American people are entitled to at least one pro-strong-defense, Reaganite, pro-muscular foreign policy major party.

It is up to the GOP to choose before 2016 which way it wants to go: towards a mirage of new voters who will never really vote Republican even if it goes anti-defense and isolationist, or towards victory through reaffirming its reputation as a pro-strong-defense party and a competent steward of America’s foreign policy.

*Zbigniew Mazurak is a defense analyst with 6 years of experience in the field, specializing in the defense budget, nuclear weapons strategy, and missile defense.

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