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Rand Paul: Hillary Clinton ‘eager to shoot first in Syria’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is voicing sharp criticism of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's foreign policy in a new op-ed, writing that the U.S. is "lucky" Clinton's push to arm Syrian rebels didn't happen.

Paul wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday that arming the rebels could have put extremist Islamist militants in power in Syria.

"Those who say we should have done more to arm the Syrian rebel groups have it backward. Mrs. Clinton was also eager to shoot first in Syria before asking some important questions. Her successor John Kerry was no better, calling the failure to strike Syria a 'Munich moment,'" he wrote.

The clash between Paul and Clinton offers a glimpse of a debate over national security and foreign that could play out on the national stage in the 2016 campaign, as both seriously consider a run for president.

As secretary of state, Clinton supported arming Syrian rebels in their fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a recent interview with the Atlantic, Clinton said, “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against [Bashar al-Assad] — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

Paul argued that arming the rebels would have created a sanctuary for the same extremists the United States is trying to defeat in Iraq.

"To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State," he writes. "We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS."

Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin responded in a statement, “Simply put, if Rand Paul had a foreign policy slogan, it would be - The Rand Paul Doctrine: Blame America. Retreat from the World.”

Updated at 11:08 a.m.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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