On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave a speech on foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, which is likely the most well known conservative think tank in the movement.
This was a significant event. The Heritage Foundation has been known for its aggressive foreign policy views. Dare I say that it would have been unthinkable five or six years ago to have someone like Sen. Paul — the son of former Rep. Ron Paul, who is know for his anti-war views — speaking at such a prominent institution.
As he explained in the speech, Sen. Paul was trying to present a “middle path” on the issue, one that stressed a reasoned, fiscally responsible approach. Unfortunately, the reaction to the speech has been met with negative and, in some cases, outright contempt.
While most of the comments border on the absurd, John Glazer at Antiwar.com has one of the more straightforward critiques of Sen. Paul’s speech:
Paul suggested the United States reapply its Cold War strategies of engagement, aggression, and containment to the 21st century’s version of a Soviet threat: “Radical Islam.”
But does America really face such an overarching threat? Peter Bergen, one of the few Western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden, this week criticized “American politicians” for getting “into sky-is-falling mode” over the so-called Islamist threat. He says, “core al-Qaeda is going the way of the dodo.”
Few Americans will be persuaded of non-intervention if they are constantly reminded of minor, indirect threats through the oversimplified rhetoric of politicians.
Oh, stop. Sen. Paul has done more for the anti-war movement than his father. Why? Because he’s able to present the non-interventionist message in a way that is able to appeal to the average voter. Look, I respect his father, Ron Paul. I voted for him in the Republican primary in the last two cycles. But let’s face facts here — Rand Paul is the better politician because he is able to present the message in a more concise way.
I realize that many libertarians and anti-war activists want a firebreathing purist on the issue. While I respect that, it ultimately does us no good. Sen. Paul is very likely running for president in 2016. And because so many Republicans aren’t fond of his father’s foreign policy views, Sen. Paul is having to set himself apart in some respect. The non-interventionist core of what his father believes is very much there, but if he wants to win, he has to appeal to a broader audience.
But rather than jumping to ridiculous conclusions, the question anti-war activists should ask is this — would I rather have the foreign policy of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney or Rand Paul? The answer should be obvious.