EDITORIAL: Rand Paul’s foreign-policy vision

Kentucky senator takes a middle course between isolation and intervention

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As the past four years have demonstrated, things go bad when a president lacks a clear foreign-policy vision. The lack of coherence in our dealings with other nations has emboldened our foes, who suffer no consequence when they murder our ambassadors and kill our citizens.

One of the newest additions to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Rand Paul, laid out what he’d do differently in an address to the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. The Kentucky Republican argued the need for a foreign policy that balances restraint with the need for a strong national defense. This is a more moderate approach than the one taken by his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican.

Building solid foreign-policy credentials can be the key to higher office. Should the younger Mr. Paul give it a go in the 2016 GOP primary, he would have a platform to advance a long-overdue debate on national priorities. Mr. Paul is an advocate of free trade, economic growth and limited government. For many conservatives, however, the notion of limited government ends at our shores as those on the right are often among the strongest advocates of government intervention, foreign entanglement and the ultimate extension of governmental power — war. Mr. Paul suggests an approach he sees as more consistent and closer to Ronald Reagan’s vision.

“I am convinced that what we need is a foreign policy that works within these two constraints, a foreign policy that works within the confines of the Constitution and the realities of our fiscal crisis,” said Mr. Paul. “Today in Congress, there is no such nuance, no such moderation of dollars or executive power.”

America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the Congressional Budget Office’s reckoning, cost taxpayers $1.5 trillion, and will cost an additional $240 billion in the next four years. That’s a bill of about $13,000 for every American who files with the Internal Revenue Service. The the price could rise as a number of senators advocate more intervention, proxy wars and airstrikes in countries such as Syria, Libya and Iran.

The GOP’s isolationist wing, led by the elder Mr. Paul, takes the other extreme and seeks the recall of our overseas troops so other countries can deal with their own problems. It would mean European nations would have to start picking up the tab for their own defense, but it would also leave allies like Taiwan and Israel out in the cold.

The younger Mr. Paul claims a middle ground that is neither isolationist nor interventionist. 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.”

The Senate has not been particularly receptive to this point of view. In September, Mr. Paul tried to persuade his colleagues to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan over attacks on our embassies and for Pakistan’s jailing of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the man who helped us find Osama bin Laden. More recently, he has attempted to stop the shipment of U.S. F-16 fighter jets and M-1 Abrams tanks to the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.

In the world’s most exclusive country club, these proposals gathered a handful of votes. Out in the heartland, though, they would likely resonate. To take back the White House, Republicans will have to be at the top of their game in 2016. The renewed focus on the proper role of government in foreign affairs is a good start.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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