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Rand Paul Foreign Policy Speech Falls Short of Expectations

Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave a foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation. If I were grading him, I’d give him a C. He was good at identifying some problem areas in our foreign policy like a public that would rather know who won on Dancing with the Stars rather than discuss foreign policy, but was short on specific solutions. He calls himself a realist who sees the world as it is.

His main points:

- We need to develop a foreign policy similar to George F. Kennan’s Cold War strategy, which was based on containment of the Soviet Union. He saw that strategy as a moderate path between appeasement and another war. The U.S. needs a foreign policy “… that is not rash or reckless…that is reluctant, restrained by Constitutional checks and balances but does not appease…that recognizes the danger of radical Islam but also the inherent weaknesses of radical Islam...that recognizes the danger of bombing countries on what they might someday do...that understands the distinction between vital and peripheral interests.”

- Paul emphasized the problem is not with Islam but with radical Islam, which he calls a radical and vocal minority. He sees similarities between radical Islam and Communism in that it is an ideology with a world wide reach. Therefore, we need a world wide strategy.

- One of our challenges is understanding what drives our enemies. Until we do that, we can’t defend ourselves.

- Since the Korean war, Congress has abdicated its responsibility for declaring war. We need less troops and bases overseas. When necessary, target our enemy with lethal force but we must not intervene without the cooperation of the host government.

This was not a ground breaking policy speech. I would have been more impressed if he’d been more specific, especially when he addressed the debt crisis and our military readiness. All he did was quote former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “Admiral Mullen calls the debt the greatest threat to our national security. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted that 'At some point fiscal insolvency at home translates into strategic insolvency abroad.'"

Last week at a conference in San Diego, Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, opened the conference by stating the current continuing resolution expires March 27 and we were in danger of sliding into a hollow force. Force readiness is a major issue. If the budget situation isn’t resolved, our military readiness will drop and we might find ourselves in a situation where the military may have to say they can’t respond to a crisis. The admiral stated: “I know of no other time that we have come down this far this fast in the defense budget. Our world is about to change.”

I‘ll conclude with two questions I’d ask of Senator Paul:

Does he believe strategy should drive the military budget?

Will the decline in military readiness negatively impact his proposed defense strategy?

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