Clearly, for some, 2016 is just around the corner. For weeks now there is scuttlebutt about presidential candidate repeat-offender Mitt Romney running yet again, and now Rand Paul is drastically watering down his isolationist and conspiracy-laden past in the hopes of becoming a contender. The senator’s attempt to reinvent himself is largely superficial and points to deeper problems.
On Friday in New York, Paul gave his national security stump speech, unveiling as he did so his platform of “conservative realism,” and sounding in places as if he was reversing some of his key beliefs.
Like the “curates egg,” there were some bad parts and some positive elements to the speech. To begin with, when the politician most associated with the new version of libertarianism that favors a United States detached from the world says “America cannot disengage from the world,” that is news, indeed– and something to be welcomed by those who agree that we cannot realistically and safely disengage internationally.
But the omissions of the speech are strange and hard to fathom. No mention of Israel; no mention of the border or immigration; no mention of the NSA trammeling our privacy rights.
However, it is hard to disagree with the Senator that our forces were magnificent in the weeks after 9/11 as a small group of Special Operators with local assistance demolished the Taleban and routed Al Qaeda, and that afterward their success was progressively undermined by ever-increasing mission-creep.
And it is easy to agree with Paul’s utter contempt for the way in which, more recently, the Obama administration used force in Libya without a real strategy, let alone Congressional consent.
But then taken as a whole, the speech is neither an about-turn for the isolationist– sorry Paulites, I mean “non-interventionist”– politician, nor does it add up to a new plan under which the right will finally act coherently on national security issues.
On the contrary, it is confused and disingenuous. Let’s begin with the confusion.
In a week that saw two jihadist attacks in Canada and one in New York, one would expect a trenchant and forthright handling of the threat that has shaped our age. Instead Paul gave us this:
The world does not have an Islam problem, the world has a dignity problem, with millions of men and women across the Middle East being treated as chattel by their own governments.
Sorry? A dignity problem? Who denied Osama bin Laden or Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, their dignity? Perhaps the Boston bombers were denied their dignity, but not because they lived in a Middle Eastern nation where the government treated them as property. On the contrary, if their dignity was undermined it was in the form of the Massachusetts state subsidies they received without having to earn them (something the younger Tsarnaev actually boasted about on social media).
So where could this newfound concern for the downtrodden of the world come from for Senator Paul? In truth, the old Rand Paul is lurking just beneath the surface, as this line reveals: “Many of these same governments have been chronic recipients of our aid.” So, Islam is not to blame for jihadi terrorism. America is, because we support unjust regimes.
The fact that Paul uses this argument is not only disturbing in that it negates the responsibility of the jihadists – it’s their governments, and America that keeps them in power – but also because this is the fallacious reasoning behind the Obama’s administration’s counterterrorism strategy.
Senator Paul is not only channeling Chomsky with this speech, he has also reinforced the White House line that ideology is irrelevant in this war and that terrorism is understandably a result of the oppression of Muslims around the word.
Sebastian Gorka PhD is the Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory, Marine Corps University, and National Security Affairs Editor for Breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter at: @SebGorka.