Sen. Rand Paul delivered these Senate remarks on the growing threat of the Islamic State in the Middle East
If there is one theme that connects the dots in the Middle East, it is that chaos breeds terrorism.
What much of the foreign policy elite fails to grasp is that intervention to topple secular dictators has been the prime source of that chaos.
From Hussein to Assad to Ghaddafi we have the same history.
Intervention topples the secular dictator. Chaos ensues and radical jihadists emerge.
The pattern has been repeated time after time and yet what we have here is a failure to understand, a failure to reflect on the outcome our involvement in Arab civil wars.
They say nature abhors a vacuum. Radical jihadists have again and again filled the chaotic vacuum of the Middle East.
Secular dictators, despots who terrorized their own people, are replaced by radical jihadists who seek terror at home and abroad.
Intervention when both choices are bad is a mistake.
Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake.
Intervention that destabilizes the region is a mistake.
And yet here we are again, wading into another civil war in Syria. I warned a year ago that involving us in Syria’s civil war was a mistake.
That the inescapable irony is that someday the arms we supply would be used against us, or Israel.
That day is now. ISIS has grabbed up U.S., Saudi, Qatari weapons by the truckload and we are now forced to fight against our own weapons.
Now, even those of us who have been reluctant to become involved in the wars of the Middle East feel that American vital interests are at stake, that our consulate, our embassy are threatened and that left to their own devices ISIS will fulfill what they have boasted–an attack on us at home.
So, yes we must now defend ourselves from these barbarous jihadists, but let’s not compound the problem by arming feckless rebels in Syria who seem to be merely a pit stop for the arms that are inevitably scarfed up by ISIS.
Remember clearly the President and his Republican allies that clamored for air strikes against Assad.
Had those airstrikes occurred, in all likelihood ISIS would now be in Damascus and the threat to America even greater.
Remember that all the hawks who now clamor for boots on the ground also wanted to take out Assad last year.
Had the hawks been successful last year, we could very well now be facing an ISIS in charge of all of Syria and parts of Iraq.
Intervention is not always the answer and often leads to unintended consequences
Some will argue: No, no it’s not intervention that led to this chaos, but not enough intervention.
They say: If only we’d given the rebels more arms, ISIS wouldn’t be as strong now.
The only problem is–the facts argue otherwise.
One reason is, we did give arms and assistance to these rebels, through secret CIA operations, and through our allies and not so allied countries in the region.
Reports show that the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have supplied roughly 600 tons of weapons to the militants in Syria in 2013 alone.
According to U.N. records, Turkey has sent 47 tons of weaponry to the Syrian Rebels–sending 29 tons in just this month.
Videos appear online of Free Syrian Army rebels with downed M8 helicopters and MANDPAD air defense systems.
An American made TOW anti-tank system was shown in the hands of Harakat Hazm, a group of so-called moderate rebels.
A Wall Street Journal report detailed Saudi Arabia providing weapons like this to the rebels. It also detailed millions of dollars in direct US aid to rebels – all from nearly 8 months ago or more.
The NY Times reports that Qatar used “a shadowy arms network to move shoulder fired missiles” into the hands of Syrian rebels.
According to Gulfnews, Saudi Arabia also partnered with Pakistan to provide a Pakistani made version of Chinese shoulder launched missiles to the rebels.
Iraqi officials publicly accused Saudi Arabia and Quatar of also funding and arming ISIS at the same time.
Kuwaitis, a Sunni majority country bordering Iraq, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a wide range of opposition forces both in Iraq and Syria, according to reports by the Brooking Institute.
According to a New York Times report, over a year ago, the CIA began training Syrian rebels in nearby Jordan, thousands of them, along with delivering arms and ammunition.
The New York Times reports also detailed the huge arms and financial transfers from Quatar to the Syrian rebels, beginning as early as 2011.
No one really knows where that all ended up: Jane’s Terrorism Center noted, the transfer of Quatari arms to targeted groups has the same practical effect as shipping them to Al Nusra, a violent jihadist force.
The New York Times further detailed that Sudan has provided anti-tank missiles and other arms.
So the idea that these rebels haven’t been armed before is ludicrous on it’s face.
It is also ludicrous to believe that we know where all of the money, arms and ammunition will end up, or who will end up benefitting from these shipments.
Because we don’t know for sure who the groups all are.
Even when we think we do, loyalties shift and groups become amorphous, with alleged moderates lining up with jihadists.
And finally, moderate groups have often sold their weapons or had them seized by the jihadist elements led by ISIS.
According to the Carnegie Endowment, There are no neat, clean, secular rebels groups. They don’t exist. They reiterate that this is a “very dirty war” with no clear good guys for us to ally with.
The German Ambassador to the U.S. has fully admitted what our State Department tries to hide – that we can’t fully control the final destination of these arms.
Former officials are more forthright with their criticism.
According to a former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Syria, “We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition, is…Frankly, we don’t have a clue.”
The rebels have been all over the map. There are said to be 1500 different rebel groups. The largest coalition other than ISIS, Al Quada and Al Nusra, all jihadist extremists, is the FSA– which has three people who claim to be the leader.
There are estimates that half of the FSA has defected.
And we prove time and time again we don’t know how to vet their leaders.
Two groups that were initially provided US and ally help last year provide good examples.
A top official of Ahrar al Sham, one of the largest rebel groups at the time, announced publicly that he now considers himself allied with Al Qaeda.
Robert Ford, our most recent Ambassador to Syria, said, “We must understand two vital points going in, the moderate armed opposition’s biggest enemy is not ISIS, it is the Assad regime…moderate forces have and will tactically coordinate with the Al Qaeda linked Nusra front on the ground.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, one of the militants provided access to advance U.S. weapons said that it is seeking “the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel.”
These are among the many problems we have in arming the Syrian opposition.
Who are we really arming? What will be the result? Where will the arms end up?
There are too many here who believe they have the answers to these questions, when they do not, indeed when all indicators are that it may well be unknowable.
I am a skeptic of this administration’s policies, though I share their new-found belief that the jihadists in the region are the biggest threat.
Where I differ is whether to arm the same side as the jihadists.
Regarding whether we go to war at all, or under what circumstance, remember that the President last year wanted to intervene on the OTHER side of this war.
Let me reiterate that: This administration and its allies on both sides of the aisle in seeking perpetual war, last year wanted the United States to join this war on the side of ISIS, against the Assad regime.
I opposed them, for reasons that have now suddenly become clear to everyone else.
It’s not that I am against all intervention. I favor striking ISIS.
I supported the decision to go to war with Afghanistan after our nation was attacked on 9/11.
There are valid reasons for war. And importantly, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it.
Colin Powell wrote in his autobiography: “War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.”
I believe that he had it right
America should only go to war to win.
War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened.
I don’t think the situation in Syria passes that test.
Even the State Department argues that:
“There’s no military solution here that’s good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution.”
The U.S. should not fight a war to save face.
I will not vote to send young men and women to sacrifice life and limb for stalemate.
I will not vote to send our nation’s best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory.
When American interests are at stake, then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat.
Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion.
The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war, and they must convince the people and their representatives in Congress.
Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?
Are any of the Islamic rebels our allies?
Will they defend American interests?
Will they acknowledge Israel’s right to exist? Will they impose Shari’ah law?
Will they tolerate Christians, or will they pillage and destroy ancient Christian churches and people?
The President and his Administration have not provided good answers to any of these questions.
Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now.
In 2007, then Senator Obama stated that no President should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority unless there is an actual or imminent threat to our nation.
I would like for President Obama to re-read some of the speeches of candidate Obama.
Our Founding Fathers understood that the Executive Branch was the most prone to war and so with due deliberation they gave the power to declare war to legislative branch.
President Obama’s new position, though, is that while he requests congressional input, he doesn’t necessarily need Congress’s approval.
Secretary Kerry stated explicitly yesterday his understanding of the constitution when he argued that NO congressional authorization was necessary.
The President and his Administration view this vote as a courtesy vote.
Even if Congress votes against it, the President still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in a war unilaterally.
But Mr. President, that is not how our Constitution works.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress — and Congress alone — the power to declare war. If Congress does not approve this military action, the President must abide by that decision.
Our founders understood this.
Thomas Jefferson said the Constitution gave “one effectual check to the Dog of war by transferring the power [to declare war] from the Executive [branch] to the Legislative body.”
Madison wrote even more clearly:
“The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”
There is no debate more significant for a legislator than the decision to engage in war.
We must hold our leaders accountable.
If we do not, there will be no end to war. The ridiculous and the absurd must be laid to rest. You’ve all heard it before.
Toppling Ghaddafi led to a jihadist wonderland in Libya,
Toppling Hussein led to the chaos that is Iraq,
Toppling Assad will lead to a new chaos and greater danger from the jihadists.
The moss covered too-long-in-Washington crowd cannot help themselves. War, war, what we need is more, more war . . .
Their policies and the combination of feckless disinterest, fraudulent red lines, and selective combativeness of this administration have led us to this point.
Yes, we must now confront ISIS, in part for penance for the President’s role in their rise.
But while we do so to protect our interests here, what we need is someone to shout:
War, war, what are we fighting for…
Amidst the interventionist’s disjointed and frankly incoherent rhetoric,
Amidst the gathering gloom that sees enemies behind every friend,
And friends behind every enemy,
The only consistent theme is war.
These barnacled enablers have never met a war they didn’t like.
They beat their chests in rhythmic ode to failed policies.
Their drums beat to policies that display their outrage but fail to find a cure.
Unintended consequences drown and smother the possibility of good intentions.
Must we act to check and destroy ISIS? Yes, and again yes, because of the foolishness of the interventionists.
But let’s not mistake what we must do.
We shouldn’t give a pass to forever intervene in the civil wars of the Middle East.
Intervention created the chaos.
Intervention aided and abetted the rise of radical Islam and intervention made us less safe in Libya and Syria and Iraq.
To those who wish unlimited intervention and boots on the ground everywhere:
Remember the smiling poses of politicians pontificating about so-called freedom fighters and “heroes” in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq…unaware that so-called freedom fighters may well have been allied with kidnappers, killers or both.
Are the so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria friends or foes? Do we know who they really are? All debatable questions at best.
As the interventionists clamor for boots on the ground, we should remember that they were wrong about Iraq.
They were wrong about Libya.
They were trying to intervene last year on the wrong side of the Syrian war.
When will we quit listening to the advocates of perpetual war?
When does a track record of being consistently wrong stop you from being a so-called expert when the next crisis arises?
We should remember that they were wrong, that there were no WMD’s, that Hussein, Khaddifi, and Assad were no threat to us.
We should remember that radical Islam now roams about in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
We should remember that those who believe that war is the answer for every problem, were wrong.
We should remember that war against Hussein, that war against Khaddafi, that war against Assad led to chaos.
That intervention enhanced the rise of radical Islam, and ultimately led to more danger for Americans.
Before we arm the so-called moderate Muslims of Syria, remember what I said a year ago:
“The irony you will not be able to overcome is that these arms will someday be used against America.”
That prediction is now true.
We will fight ISIS, a war I accept as necessary, largely because our own arms and the arms of our allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar have enabled our new enemy ISIS.
Will we ever learn?
President Obama now wishes to bomb ISIS and arm their Islamic allies in Syria.
The Emperor has no clothes. Admit it.
The truth is sometimes painful.
We must protect ourselves from radical Islam, but we should never, ever have armed radical Islam, and we could make it worse by arming it more today!
We have enabled the enemy we must now confront.
Sending arms to so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria is a fool’s errand and will only make ISIS stronger.
ISIS grew as the U.S. and our allies armed the Islamic rebels in Syria.
The barnacled purveyors of war should admit their mistakes and not compound them.
ISIS is now a threat. Let’s get on with destroying them.
But make no mistake arming Islamic rebels in Syria will only make it harder to destroy ISIS.