Exclusive — Rand Paul: James Baker-Backed ‘Selective Engagement’ Worldwide Would Have Prevented Rise of ISIS

Rand Paul AP and James Baker Getty
AP, Getty

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a former 2016 GOP presidential candidate and outspoken conservative in the U.S. Senate, said former Secretary of State James Baker’s testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of “selective engagement” around the world reaffirms his worldview when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.

Paul said in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday afternoon:

I think Baker said some pretty amazing things. He talked about a foreign policy that includes selective engagement, but he also talked about the fact that not only did he think Obama was wrong to get involved with Libya, he also mentioned Syria as well, but he also mentioned even Iraq. I think people didn’t quite appreciate how big a deal this was coming from a famous Republican former Secretary of State — to come forward and be really quite explicit that he thought toppling Hussein led to more chaos, and that toppling Gaddafi led to more chaos, and then I think he also said that toppling Assad would lead to more chaos. So I think these were pretty profound statements coming from a Republican Secretary of State and show a great deal of division, sort of, between the neo-conservative wing of the party and the more realist wing of the party. I think that was sort of evident in my questions as well as in the other senators’ answers too.

During an exchange with Paul, Baker—who served as White House chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and then as Secretary of State to President George H.W. Bush—backed up Paul’s views on “selective engagement” around the world. During his campaign for president, Paul repeatedly made the case that the U.S. should not ignore the rest of the world. But, he argued, before taking action, the U.S. must determine what the outcome of said action would be—and whether it is in the national interest. Baker agreed with Paul’s assessment.  Baker said:

You’re quite right on selective engagement. That’s why I like the paradigm, because you look at each one of these discrete, specific foreign policy problems through the prism of the national interest and our principles and values and you say to yourself, okay, if you take this action ‘Where is it going to lead to?’ That’s the way a president ought to approach these things, and look at whether the vital national interests of the country are at stake. You might decide to even go as far as the military, but if you don’t get to that point, you still have the tools of political, economic and diplomatic engagement.


What’s more, Baker disagreed with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether or not the United States used its military force to sweep out dictators throughout the Middle East.

“Yes the people were standing up, but we enabled it to happen by using our military force to go in there and remove those dictators,” Baker said when asked by Rubio about how Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq were taken out, and how Bashar Al-Assad has been weakened in Syria. “Same thing in Iraq. I don’t suggest that this is not a bipartisan problem. It’s a bipartisan problem. But look where we are in all three of those places: Syria, Iraq and Libya. Would we have been there had we not done those things? I’m not sure we would have. In fact, I don’t think we would have.”


More from Paul’s latest exclusive interview with Breitbart News is forthcoming.


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