Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Do We Know That Rand Paul is On To Something? Jen Rubin Is Attacking Him

For those of you who aren't as obsessed by politics as I am, Jen Rubin can best be described as the Eva Braun or the Tasmanian Devil of the Republican Establishment.  She was so Pro-Romney that she should have been voted "most likely to try to rape Mitt Romney when he isn't looking".  For all other candidates she made big deals over very minor points like what was painted over on rocks on leased hunting grounds and consulting arrangements and did so viciously and incessantly.  For 2016, she is probably trying to decide whether to turn her googly eyes on Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan.  I'm not sure those candidates should be happy or not (though I'm sure their wives don't really want a bunny boiler hanging around their husbands).  

Anyway, she just came up with a piece titled "Rand Paul's Confused Foreign Policy Speech".  While I didn't agree 100% with everything that was in his foreign policy speech (I tend to be a bit more hawkish, especially on Iran), I thought it well thought out and had a lot of food for thought.  The main points, as they apply to foreign policy, were:

1.  We need to have a flexible foreign policy
2.  We shouldn't tell our enemies exactly what we will do before we do them
3.  We should contain in some instances and confront directly in other based on clear criteria based on our interests and our ability to win it and be able to afford the cost, both financially and in terms of lives
4.  Congress needs to be the ultimate arbiter of whether we go to war, as defined by our constitution

Does any of this sound confused?  It all seems pretty reasonable to me and point 3 would surely keep us out of trouble (why did we get involved with Libya anyway?  Where was the national interest?  And in the end, did we even win?)

Now here is what Jen Rubin says:

This is not unlike a typical President Obama straw-man speech. But of course, in the real world, no serious politician or foreign policy analyst favors war for frivolous reasons. And pacifists are largely out of favor these days. So claiming the mantle of Ronald Reagan as he does without relation to specific conflicts and challenges is a bit of an empty gesture.

It almost seems that Jen Rubin is making a straw man by claiming this was a straw man speech.  Where did Rand Paul say that neoconservatives want to go to war for frivolous reasons?  A frivolous reason would be, "I just don't like him" or "He reminds me of my chemistry teacher", I don't think Rand Paul was claiming either of those.  Neoconservatives tend to want a more active foreign policy for some good reasons, the problem that Rand Paul has is that they simply might not be good enough.  It's always attractive to go in fighting and blow the enemy to bits, but then we have to deal with the aftermath and in the end, the situation might be worse than when we started.  Is Libya better off now?  Is Egypt better off after we pressured Mubarak to leave?  It certainly is doubtful that Syria would be if the Max Boot's get there way.  The reasons for these interventions are usually good ones, they are for democratic and humanitarian reasons.  But are those reasons good enough for the United States to go to war.  For Billy Bob Jones from East Overshoe, Kentucky to lose his life?  That is the debate Rand Paul wants us to have.

Now back to Jen Rubin:

More problematic is that the speech is based on a giant fallacy. Parts of the speech are downright incoherent. For example: "Many of today's neoconservatives want to wrap themselves up in Reagan's mantle, but the truth is that Reagan used clear messages of communism's evil and clear exposition of America's strength to contain and ultimately transcend the Soviet Union." Huh? Reagan said of the Cold War, "We win, you lose." What conservative of any stripe, especially those attuned to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, takes issue with that?

Talk about incoherent.  She takes one sentence out of context and then throws a short Reagan quote after it.  Here is the Rand Paul quote in context:

Many of today's neoconservatives want to wrap themselves up in Reagan's mantle but the truth is that Reagan used clear messages of communism's evil and clear exposition of America's strength to contain and ultimately transcend the Soviet Union. 
The Cold War ended because the engine of capitalism defeated the engine of socialism. Reagan aided and abetted this end not by "liberation" of captive people but by a combination of don't mess with us language and diplomacy, not inconsistent with Kennan's approach. 
Jack Matlock, one of Reagan's national security advisors, wrote, "Reagan's Soviet policy had more in common with Kennan's thinking than the policy of any of Reagan's predecessors."
Reagan waged a policy of containment and usually (with 1 exception) took a more direct role only when the two conditions that Rand Paul mentioned were met A) " there is a sufficiently powerful national interest"  and B) when "we have the means to conduct such intervention successfully and can afford the cost."  Reagan is known for 3 military interventions, the Invasion of Grenada, the bombing of Libya and sendind the Marines on a peacekeeping mission to Lebanon.  
Grenada was a short operation that involved only 7,300 US troops (and even some from Jamaica) and had a goal of deposing the military rulers who had just murdered the previous government, ending Soviet and Cuban inroads into that country (there were quite a few Cuban troops there and an airport that could accommodate large Soviet aircraft) and protecting American medical students.  Basically, it was a very limited operation of low cost and American interests were involved.  Perfect.  
The April 1986 bombing of Libya was another limited engagement to send Gaddafi a message to stop funding terrorism in Europe.  Just that December, Libyan funded terrorists attacked the airports in Vienna and Rome, killing 19 and wounding 140.  Then on April 5th, Libyan agents bombed a club in West Berlin that was frequented by US soldiers.  Clearly, it was in US interests to get Gaddafi to stop.  So there was a bombing campaign involving a total of only 45 aircraft that lasted for only 1 night.  Again, our interests were involved and the cost was low (only one plane was lost).

Reagan's biggest mistake, one that he admitted, was sending Marines to Lebanon.  That was really the one time when he didn't follow the Kennan/Rand Paul doctrine and instead decided to act simply because of humanitarian reasons, a reason many neoconservatives give for us to get involved in Syria.  That one mistake cost a total of 265 American lives, 12 times greater than the cost of both the Libya and Grenada engagements.
Jen Rubin continues:
Because radical jihadism is a culture of death and religious zealotry, containment doesn't work. Israel knows this. The entire Western world knows this. Both of our political parties know this. But not Rand Paul.
Is radical Islam really that different from the Soviet threat?  My family and I know this firsthand, the Soviets were just as evil and just as nefarious as the radical jihadists.  Instead of religious zealotry they had revolutionary zealotry and both share anti-semitism and an inferiority complex towards the West as well.  And just as a reminder, Communists murdered 100 million people worldwide, which is more than the Nazis for God's sake!   And do you really think anything but containment was a choice for dealing with the Soviets?  What were you going to do, invade a country with thousands of ICBM's?  Invade China?  When dealing with radical islam as a whole, containment is the only choice here as well.  Just about every single country in the muslim world and many of those outside it, have radical islamic elements.  Some are small minorities and others, like those in Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are in charge of things.  So on the whole, all you can do is contain it, you can't eliminate it, it doesn't matter how many regime changes you go through.  Only in isolated cases, like with Iran, could military confrontation meet the Rand Paul/Keenan exception standards as our interests would be great (but please no more nation building!).  
Jen Rubin wants to get people to think this speech was confused and silly, instead of the thoughtful articulation of a moderate foreign policy that it is.  Thankfully her reputation was soiled enough in the 2012 election cycle and her points were vapid enough that it won't work.


  1. I have been a long time Libertarian (since '88) and a libertarian Republican since 9/11/01. Rand gives me hope that the libertarian wing of the party may be coming to its senses.

    BTW if you want to go after the socons:

    Medical Marijuana prohibition is a crime against humanity and a violation of the religious precept - heal the sick.

    Pass it on. And maybe Rand could do a speech on it.

  2. I agree, drug laws are nothing but totalitarianism. If you can't control what you put in your body, what do you control?