The Washington Times - July 22, 2013, 10:49AM

Sen. Rand Paul mixed a gracious appreciation to veterans with a call for a more limited role for America’s military might around the world in a speech Monday at the 114th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention.

The Kentucky Republican, who has not been shy in hinting he may run for president in 2016, has been a critic of overseas military adventurism that partly defined President George W. Bush’s two terms in office, as well as the use of drone strikes under both Mr. Bush’s administration and that of President Obama.

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“America has never backed down from a fight, but we should never be one that is eager to get involved in civil wars that don’t affect our national security,” he said. “Is our involvement in Egypt, Syria and Pakistan to our benefit or our detriment? We must have the strongest military on Earth — not because we are eager to use it, but so that no one would ever dare challenge us.”

Mr. Paul went on to quote President Reagan’s first inaugural address: “Our forbearance…should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength.”

For the country’s sake and for veterans’ sake, Mr. Paul said, “America’s mission should always be to keep the peace, not to police the world.”

Mr. Paul said a country that did not seek to get involved in every foreign conflict could better take care of its soldiers at home through fixing a hefty file backlog in the Department of Veterans Affairs and providing better health care, for example.

“War is the last resort; not the first,” Mr. Paul said. “Soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan will require a lifetime of care. It is our sacred duty to provide and protect those who have protected us.”

Mr. Paul also said that U.S. aid to certain foreign countries should be re-examined.

“I’ve tried to stop the continuous flow of money to countries that hate us and also hate Israel,” Mr. Paul said, noting that he introduced an amendment last year halting transport of all weapons to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya.

“What kind of response did I get?” he asked. “Over 75 percent of the American people are against arming the Muslim Brotherhood, yet over 75 percent of the U.S. Senate voted to continue arming the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic radicals. In Egypt, the regimes keep changing but our system of foreign aid remains the same. It’s unbelievable.”

Mr. Paul went on to say that even if one does believe the rebels in Syria should be armed, it is the prerogative of Congress, not the Executive Branch, to declare war.