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Syria-ously Redux: Let's Do the Same Thing, Just Better

(To read the rest of our coverage on foreign policy, the military and the presidential primaries, please click here.)

When it came time to endorse a Republican for president in the primary--we wanted to endorse candidates on both sides--Michael C and I choose Rand Paul. He supports civil liberties and opposes the burgeoning police state. More importantly, he’s an isolationist and doesn’t support needless military interventions abroad. Though we have major disagreements with his domestic policy, we agree with him on many foreign policy issues, especially compared to other Republicans.

But Michael C found this seemingly non-isolationist op-ed he wrote for Time magazine, titled, “I Am Not An Isolationist”. Did this change our minds about the once-isolationist-now-pro-intervention Rand Paul?

Nope.

Despite the title, Paul doesn’t actually argue against reducing US intervention abroad but for attacking ISIS. His op-ed doesn’t refute his previous opposition to foreign entanglements, but, like us, he is bristling at a label war hawks give anyone who opposes needless military interventions. We also don’t believe him. Lines like, “I still see war as the last resort.” and “There’s no point in taking military action just for the sake of it, something Washington leaders can’t seem to understand” are actually arguments for isolationism, or at least reducing the use of military force. (And stand in stark contradiction to multiple Republicans who endorse “carpet bombing” and other indiscriminate uses of force.)   

But I noticed something else in this op-ed. Rand Paul doesn’t actually offer any solutions to defeat ISIS. Or anything different than what Obama has already done. Instead, he resorts to bland platitudes like, “If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS...”

One of the only lines of attack Republicans have against Democrats in this upcoming campaign is the “threat” of ISIS. And you know whose fault it is? Obama’s. We could dig up a bunch of quotes from Republicans saying Obama allowed ISIS to thrive. Do we need to? It’s been a central talking point of Republicans throughout this campaign.

What would Republicans do differently than Obama? Rand Paul’s recommendations--including airstrikes, aiding the Kurds, asking Congress for military approval--are all things Obama did. And have largely worked, both in terms of stopping ISIS’s growth and actually causing them to lose territory.

His only major difference with Obama, policy-wise, is making it harder for Muslims to enter the US, which obviously won’t change the situation is Syria. Since the candidates don’t want to promise to send soldiers into the Middle East again (“boots on the ground”, as the saying goes), they’re stuck without any alternatives than what we’ve already done. (And yes, Rand Paul kept mentioning developing a better strategy. “Strategy” is a vague buzzword, like “leadership”, that politicians and pundits use when convenient.)

Still, haters gonna hate, hate, hate. Republicans don’t offer an alternative, just the fact that they’d do it better. Might as well be called the “Trump strategy”. I don’t know how I’d do it, I’d just do it better.

And that’s not actually a foreign policy.