According to a Tuesday story in Politico, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is somewhat tepid about launching air strikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq. He is, however, rather firmer on what he sees as the need for President Obama to seek congressional approval for expanded military action to stop the terrorist army from committing genocide against Iraqi Yazidis and Christians. He gave no indication how far he would be prepared to go to oppose ISIS, which has established what it calls a “caliphate” in parts of Syria and Iraq and has directly threatened the United States.
Paul, who tends to favor a more isolationist foreign policy than most, expressed a certain skepticism about military intervention, claiming that the same people who favor bombing ISIS now also favored bombing Syria, against which ISIS and other opposition groups are fighting. This is an assessment that the Weekly Standard disputes.
Many analysts suggests that the failure of the United States to nurture a secular, moderate opposition force in Syria actually led to the rise of ISIS, now rampaging through Northern Iraq. The terrorist army has engaged in such practices as decapitating children and selling women into sexual bondage. Many fear that it will establish a terror state that will become a launch pad for attacks on the West, much as Taliban ruled Afghanistan was the base for the 9/11 attacks.
Paul, who is thought to be contemplating a run for president, seems to be reflecting a mood of ambivalence at best on the part of the electorate over involvement in foreign trouble spots. This is caused by 13 years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that many have concluded were more trouble than they were worth.
On the other hand it can be argued that letting trouble fester would be far worse in the long run. Paul, by being hesitant and tentative, seems to be aware of that as well. A single terrorist attack, on the scale of 9/11, could change public perceptions overnight. Anyone running for president cannot be on the wrong side should that happen.
On the other hand, Paul’s father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, was unambiguous about what should be done in Iraq. The elder Paul favors doing nothing, whatever the circumstances. This too could prove to be a headache for the younger Paul as he seeks to navigate between a war weary public and the necessity to remain engaged in the world.