Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s push to be a Reaganite on foreign policy is eviscerated by remarks caught on video last year in which he denigrates the potential use of force in Iran and bizarrely claims the United States was partially to blame for causing World War II. In the video, posted on a Paul fan Web site and dated Feb. 24, 2012, he minimizes the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons, saying merely “It is not a good idea” and claims an Israeli official doesn’t think an Iranian bomb is an existential threat to Israel, something no Israeli government official or Obama administration appointee has ever agreed with:
American Enterprise Institute’s David Adesnik studies the history of U.S. isolationism. After viewing the video, he tells Right Turn, “Blaming the U.S. for Pearl Harbor is a long-standing isolationist habit that reflects tremendous historical illiteracy. Sen. Paul is very poorly informed if he thinks U.S. sanctions ‘probably caused Japan to react angrily.’” He explains, “The U.S. cut off oil supplies to Japan in August 1941, long after Japan had launched its atrocity-laden war against China in 1937. The evidence is conclusive that Japan was determined to dominate all of East Asia. Believing that the U.S. would not stand by passively if it overran Thailand, Singapore, Malaya and the East Indies, Japan launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.” As for the allegation about Germany, Adesnik expresses incredulity, “Sen. Paul’s comments on Germany are so eccentric that it’s hard to be sure what he’s even talking about. He refers to a U.S. blockade on Germany after World War One ‘which may have encouraged some of their anger.’ There is extensive debate about whether German resentment of the Versailles Treaty helped bring Hitler to power. Yet Hitler didn’t just oppose Versailles; he wanted all of Europe to become a Nazi slave empire.” Adesnik continues, “It isn’t exactly clear why Hitler declared war on the U.S. just days after Pearl Harbor, yet there is no evidence that twenty-year old sanctions played a role. However, the U.S. did play a crucial role in helping Britain survive Hitler’s air and naval assault, which we have every reason to be proud of, even if it antagonized the Nazis.”
A foreign policy expert at a center-left think tank puts it simply, saying Paul sounds like the “unreconstructed Taft-Lindbergh-Buchanan wing of party, ” referring to isolationist Republican Sen. Robert Taft, America Firster Charles Lindbergh and Pat Buchanan (who has opined that WWII need not have been fought).
The remarks disparaging the potential use of force against Iran were echoed a year later at the Heritage Foundation when Paul opined that containment would be an option for U.S. policy. These comments, his bizarre take on historical events and his current opposition to sanctions (in accord with President Obama) raise troubling issues regarding his true beliefs and the degree to which his father’s radical libertarian ideas have rubbed off on him.
Michael Makovsky of the pro-Israel group JINSA tells me, “There are two main troubling aspects to his remarks. First, not only is a nuclear Iran simply not a ‘good idea,’ but [it] would be disastrous for U.S. strategic interests and those of our allies in the region, and would trigger other countries to pursuing the same capability.” He adds that in addition, “while there are always ‘unintended consequences’ to any action, including war, they must be weighed against the consequences of inactions.”
Christian conservatives whom Paul attacked for being “war mongers” in their defense of Israel are likely to be disturbed. Before the video surfaced Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, which includes Israel as one of its key issues, remarked to me that Christian conservatives “have recently been reminded by Vladimir Putin that al-Qaeda isn’t the only threat to freedom and stability in the world.” As for wacky isolationism, she said bluntly, “The renewed concern for global stability should be factored into the presidential aspirations of any candidate. Conservative hawks aren’t in the mood to tolerate naiveté about the motives of global bullies.”
Nor do I suspect is any segment of the GOP comfortable with isolationists on the right or left who would try to contain Iran or lay blame for WWII on the United States. (“But then, somehow, they always blame America first.”) Rand Paul’s uphill climb to convince voters he’s not his father’s student now will be infinitely tougher. And given the latest video you have to wonder: What else is out there?