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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 22, 2014

 
Sorry Rand, a "muscular" foreign policy is the essence of the modern GOP

by digby

Speaking of the Tea Party, this description of Rand Paul's strange mishmash of views on foreign policy is on target. It starts with a recitation of what most of us think of as Paul's general libertarian views on the matter and then discusses his recent meanderings:
Recently, ... as his presidential star has risen—Paul won the CPAC straw poll handily earlier this month, and he is leading most of his rivals in Iowa—he appears to be trimming his sails with an eye to the 2016 nomination. Despite his antipathy to foreign aid, which he likens to “welfare,” Paul has warmed noticeably to Israel, a position popular with social conservatives. (“When I look at it and say, ‘Well, who would I cut [foreign aid from] first?’ Well, maybe the people who are burning our flag, maybe the people who are chanting, ‘Death to America,’” he said last year. “And one of the comments I made in Israel was, ‘I don’t see anybody here, nor do I imagine an Israeli burning an American flag.’”) Now, faced with the need to say something suitably “presidential” about the renewed threat of Russian expansionism, he appears to be trying to square his anti-interventionist doctrine with his party’s tradition of muscular and unapologetic nationalism. In this, he has not succeeded.

Consider Paul’s ideas for punishing Russia, which are so inconsistent they sometimes cancel each other out: Paul the geopolitical hardliner calls for restarting work on American missile defense systems in Eastern Europe that were suspended as part of Obama’s unsuccessful “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. But Paul the skinflint insists that “the Europeans pay for it”—which means the missile shields probably won’t go up. In one breath, Paul calls for more vigorous U.S. action to punish Russia for its rogue behavior; in the next he bemoans the fact that America is “broke” and can’t be the world’s ATM or policeman. This puzzling logic sometimes sound like a Zen koan: “Like Dwight Eisenhower, I believe the U.S. can actually be stronger by doing less,” he wrote in Time.

While insisting that he stands with Ukraine against Moscow’s attempts to dismember the country, Paul also ruled out U.S. economic aid to Ukraine because it might go to Russia to pay Kyiv’s enormous gas bills. In Paul’s view, energy isn’t just a cudgel Putin uses to intimidate neighboring countries—it’s also the main weapon America has to wean Europeans from dependence on Russian gas and oil. In contrast to Obama’s supposed dithering on energy, Paul calls for aggressively exporting U.S. natural gas to Europe and demands, weirdly, “immediate construction of the Keystone Pipeline.”

That ain't his father's foreign policy, that's for sure. But it isn't different enough for the hawkish Will Marshall, the author of that piece, whose withering disdain for Paul's civil libertarian and isolationist proclivities is obvious.  The problem is that in order to be a nationally viable Republican, you simply cannot be an isolationist. It's as if a Democrat running for president in 2016 ran on a segregationist platform. It's simply so far out of the mainstream of his own party (and half of the the opposing Party as well, as Marshall demonstrates) that it's impossible that he can influence his war loving party in even the smallest way. Yes, the Tea Party is rabidly anti-government --- with one huge exception: they worship the military and avidly support a "muscular" foreign policy. And I think you all know what that means:



Good luck to Rand and all his libertarian bros trying to change that. That's the very essence of the modern Republican party from which everything else flows. Unlike Paul, it's something Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio understand very well:
Sen. Ted Cruz['s] zeal to eviscerate the federal government apparently stops at the water’s edge. Cruz, who agrees with Paul on staying out of Syria but sides with McCain’s more aggressive stance on Iran, said on ABC earlier this month that the United States must play a “vital role” abroad, where we have a “responsibility to defend our values.”

As Paul struggles to synthesize neo-isolationism and Scowcroftian realpolitik, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has moved deftly to identify himself with Reagan’s expansive and optimistic view of America as a liberating force in world politics. Rubio has been traveling extensively abroad to burnish his internationalist credentials, and in a series of well-regarded recent speeches has endorsed both the strategic necessity of strong U.S. global leadership and America’s moral commitment to defending liberty and human rights. A Rubio-Paul showdown for the GOP nomination would force Republicans to choose between the party’s post-1945 policy of international engagement and a recrudescence of its discredited “America First” past.
Paul will lose. When it comes to fighting wars and global military power, it's always a blank check with these people. Refusing to spend money on "inner city" citizens, on the other hand, is something they do have in common but it's hard to see why they'd choose him over someone like Cruz or Rubio  both of whom have the whole package.

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