Rand Paul, U.S. Senator of Kentucky, since announcing his bid for the 2016 presidential election has tried to defend his views on foreign policy, for which he has come under fire. Critics have suggested that Paul’s views on foreign policy echo the isolationist views of his father, including whether Iran poses a threat to world security, and if the U.S. should give aid to its allies, including Israel. On Wednesday in New Hampshire, Paul clarified his positions, and while he supports policy of less intervention abroad, many tend to be similar, while some more moderate than those of his father.
Auditing the Pentagon
Like his father Ron, Paul challenges the laissez-faire approach his GOP colleagues take toward the Pentagon’s military spending In South Carolina, he conveyed his belief that the Pentagon would need to be audited, similar to his proposal of auditing the Federal Reserve.
Cutting foreign aid to Egypt
Like his father, Paul was opposed to the insistence of Congress to continue aid to Egypt. His colleagues in the GOP argued that the aid given to Egypt helped create stability in the Middle East in addition to maintaining the peace treaty signed with Israel in the 1979 Camp David Accords. After Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in July 2013, Paul insisted that the U.S. stop providing aid to Egypt on the principle of it being illegal to provide foreign aid to a country that has changed leaders under a coup d’etat. While the administration did not agree that Egypt had gone to that level, the Kentucky Senator managed to push the issue to a vote, which pitted him against some of the biggest advocates of foreign aid, including Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain. If passed, the measure would have diverted the 1.5 billion of foreign aid funds toward the rebuilding U.S. infrastructure domestically.
Paul’s foreign policy views he has tried to defend, were at times on the same side of some Democrats, which was especially true when it came to the war in Iraq. Like his father he was opposed to this legislation which allowed the president to act unilaterally. Several times he tried to introduce legislation to repeal the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq (AUMF), the bill which gave the president authority to launch and maintain the Iraq War. In 2011, when putting this matter to a vote, Paul was defeated opposite fellow GOP member, Senator Marco Rubio. In 2014, as the violence continued, Paul again introduced a bill to repeal AUMF with the help of six democrats and two GOP members, 2016 rival Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Mike Lee. Though it was repealed, just months later, Obama stepped up military action in Iraq with areal attacks against the new threat – ISIS.
In an attempt to show a more balanced and moderate approach toward foreign policy than his father, Paul proposed his own declaration of war on ISIS, which he saw as a danger and threat to world stability. In his resolution, he proposed the use of a limited amount of ground troops, which would be subject to an annual renewal of authorization. Furthermore, rather than acting on executive order, putting him at odds with Obama, the president legally must seek congressional approval for any type of military action.
Aid to Israel
While his father opposed any kind of military aid abroad, Paul’s proposal in 2012 was to cut $500 billion of aid to foreign countries including Israel, money which he argued the U.S. did not have. While he maintained that Israel was a close ally, its ability to conduct its own foreign policy and support itself economically and militarily would be strengthened without the “heavy hand of U.S. interests.” This proposal of course, put himself at odds with several Republican lawmakers as well as right-wing Jewish groups who felt that under Paul, the U.S. and Israel would not maintain the same type of friendship. Paul, however, has demonstrated his support for Israel in different ways, including his vote for the increase of funding for Israel’s Iron Dome project in 2014, which effectively prevented a barrage of missiles based in Gaza from inflicting heavy damage on major cities like Tel Aviv. He was also one of the members of Congress opposed to the removal of sanctions against Iran and in fact, co-sponsored Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress. In 2015, he introduced the, ‘Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015’ bill, with the goal of eliminating foreign aid to the Palestinians, not differentiating between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He also stated Israel had the right to build where it wanted, and it was not the business of the U.S. to dictate these terms, or whether or not it should withdraw from the Golan, the strategic mountainous area it captured from Syria in 1967 and 1973.
Opposing Attacks by Drones
In a defining moment of his career, Paul stood on the same side of rivals Cruz and Rubio when, for 12 hours led the filibuster against Brennan’s nomination for Director of the CIA. “Is the U.S. authorized to kill American citizens through the use of a drone?” he argued. This event in 2013 not only sparked the #standwithrand Twitter campaign, but sprung him forward as a champion for civil liberties.
As Rand Paul’s campaign begins to move forward in his bid for the White House in 2016, it is anticipated that rivals from both ends of the political spectrum will try to capitalize on the whether he is wishy-washy as he tries to defend his view on foreign policy. Many libertarians hope to see Paul continue the views of his father while more mainstream conservatives know that, although his views of foreign policy differ from the interventionist approach of traditional Republicans, they will take on a more muscular approach than the isolationist views of his father.
By Bill Ades