Over 191,000 people have been killed during Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody campaign against his own people, and millions more have been displaced, but Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) says in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that we should not take any action to degrade his capacity to exterminate his people.
Why? Because we need Assad to fight ISIS on our behalf.
In September President Obama and many in Washington were eager for a U.S. intervention in Syria to assist the rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s government. Arguing against military strikes, I wrote that “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?”
The administration’s goal has been to degrade Assad’s power, forcing him to negotiate with the rebels. But degrading Assad’s military capacity also degrades his ability to fend off the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Assad’s government recently bombed the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.
To be clear, the primary reason we did not arm rebels in Syria is because we could not ensure that arms would not fall into the wrong hands, and the White House has been mindful of that, going so far as to take steps to ensure that our allies also do not arm the wrong people, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
To say that we should not take steps to degrade the power of a genocidal dictator because we need him to fight wars for us is the ultimate in isolationist horse shit. And it’s a misnomer for a number of reasons.
It’s a misnomer because Assad has been waging war against his own people since 2011 but the emerging threat of ISIS is far younger and only came to the forefront in recent months. It’s also a misnomer because the United States did not initiate Assad’s war on his own people.
Assad created instability in the region by launching a civil war to crush dissent. Assad opened a door for ISIS.
Paul continues to get his facts wrong.
This is not to say the U.S. should ally with Assad. But we should recognize how regime change in Syria could have helped and emboldened the Islamic State, and recognize that those now calling for war against ISIS are still calling for arms to factions allied with ISIS in the Syrian civil war. We should realize that the interventionists are calling for Islamic rebels to win in Syria and for the same Islamic rebels to lose in Iraq. While no one in the West supports Assad, replacing him with ISIS would be a disaster.
No one is calling for arming factions allied with ISIS. No one is calling for ISIS victory in Syria. No one is saying that we should replace Assad with ISIS. And again — this is why we have been cautious; because we don’t want to support ISIS.
Rand Paul refers to U.S. foreign policy as “unhinged” and “flailing” but from my perspective the White House is the only party that seems to be fully cognizant of both the benefits and the consequences of actions we do or do not take in the region.
Rand son of Ron obviously doesn’t agree, and that may be because he believes in conspiracy theories such as this one:
Our so-called foreign policy experts are failing us miserably. The Obama administration’s feckless veering is making it worse. It seems the only thing both sides of this flawed debate agree on is that “something” must be done. It is the only thing they ever agree on.
But the problem is, we did do something. We aided those who’ve contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. The CIA delivered arms and other equipment to Syrian rebels, strengthening the side of the ISIS jihadists. Some even traveled to Syria from America to give moral and material support to these rebels even though there had been multiple reports some were allied with al Qaeda.
Based on Rand’s op-ed, you may get the impression that every single rebel fight in Syria is a Jihadist or allied with ISIS, but that is not the case.
In any event, the CIA has not delivered American-supplied arms and equipment to Syrian rebels or ISIS. What the CIA has reportedly done is helped steer arms supplied by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to rebel groups who are not allied with ISIS. This was an initiative aimed at doing the exact opposite of what Rand claims has been done.
The idea that the CIA has personally delivered American arms to Syrian rebels is a Benghazi conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theorists, such as Rand Paul, believe that the American embassy in Benghazi was used to funnel arms to Syria through Turkey.
Rand asked former Secretary of State Clinton (who he is now attacking in the WSJ) about this during a congressional hearing last year, embarrassing himself in the process.
The “news reports” Rand referred to during his questioning of Clinton were actually reports from Glenn Beck and right wing blogs.
Conspiracy theories aside — you should not be under the mistaken impression that Rand Paul has a better alternative to our current foreign policy in the Middle East.
His alternative is to do nothing.
Indeed, in his lengthy screed for the Wall Street Journal, Rand offers no alternative. He only says that while we should recognize evil exists, we should also be realistic and do nothing about it.
Those wanting a U.S. war in Syria could not clearly show a U.S. national interest then, and they have been proven foolish now. A more realistic foreign policy would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe. Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.
No one actually believes that we can or should solve every problem in the world. That is a strawman. And for Rand Paul, the “practical limit” appears to be the water’s edge.
The Democratic National Committee issued a statement concerning Rand Paul’s op-ed and I couldn’t agree more.
“Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Paul. Last week he criticized American policy to the president of another country on foreign soil. This week he’s blaming the Obama Administration for another nation’s civil war. That type of “blame America” rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing in the world. In fact, Paul’s proposals would make America less safe and less secure.
The foreign soil incident the DNC refers to is this one.