- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2014

Seeking to shed an isolationist label that some have tried to stick on him, Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday called for an American foreign policy agenda he touted as “conservative realism” that falls in between hawkish interventionism and disengagement from the rest of the world.

“Americans want strength and leadership, but that doesn’t mean they see war as the only solution,” Mr. Paul said in prepared remarks. “America shouldn’t fight wars where the best outcome is stalemate. America shouldn’t fight wars when there is no plan for victory. America shouldn’t fight wars that aren’t authorized by the American people, by Congress.”

“America should and will fight wars when the consequences … intended and unintended … are worth the sacrifice,” the Kentucky Republican continued.

Mr. Paul, who spoke in New York at the Center for the National Interest, said in his remarks that the war on terror is not over and America cannot “disengage” from the world.

“To defend our country, we must understand that a hatred of our values exists, and acknowledge that interventions in foreign countries may well exacerbate this hatred, but that ultimately, we must be willing and able to defend our country and our interests,” he said.

“Some anger is blowback, but some anger originates in an aberrant and intolerant distortion of religion that wages war against all infidels,” the potential 2016 GOP presidential contender said. “Yes, we need a hammer ready, but not every civil war is a nail. There is a time to eliminate our enemies, but there is also a time to cultivate allies and encouragers among civilized Muslim nations.”

“We can’t retreat from the world, but we can’t remake it in our own image either,” he continued. “We can’t and shouldn’t engage in nation building, but we can facilitate trade and extend the blessings of freedom and free markets around the world.”

Driving principles for his “common-sense conservative realism” include the notions that indispensable force is and always has been an indispensable part of defending the country, Congress must authorize the decision to intervene, and peace and security require a commitment to diplomacy and leadership.

He reiterated his support for the war in Afghanistan in 2001 in response to 9/11 but said that “stalemate and perpetual policing” seems to be the country’s mission now in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

He also made clear that he supports a strategy of airstrikes to dismantle the Islamic State terrorist group, but said he doubts a decisive victory is possible in the short term and that ultimately only the people of the region can destroy the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

He also criticized the Obama administration — and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — for how the U.S. has handled Libya.

The final principle Mr. Paul outlined is that the country’s national power “is a function of the national economy.”

“Promoting free markets should be a priority,” he said. “The only long-term strategy that will change the world is fostering successful capitalist economies that increase living standards and connect people through trade.”

“Americans yearn for leadership and for strength, but they don’t yearn for war,” he continued. “Our enemies should bear witness to the unmatched and unstoppable American force that was justifiably unleashed after 9/11 and know that terrorism will never defeat America, that terrorism will only awaken and embolden our resolve. But the world should also know that America aspires to peace, trade and commerce with all.”

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