Rand Paul on ISIS: ‘Intervention Created This Chaos’

In a long speech on the Senate floor, the Kentucky Republican laid out his foreign policy vision, and took transparent swipes at members of his own party.

This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Senate Democrats pushed Wednesday for speedy confirmation of John Brennan's nomination to be CIA director but ran into a snag after a Paul began a lengthy speech over the legality of potential drone strikes on U.S. soil. But Paul stalled the chamber to start what he called a filibuster of Brennan's nomination. Paul's remarks were centered on what he said was the Obama administration's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes inside the United States against American citizens. (AP Photo/Senate Television)
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Rebecca Nelson
Sept. 18, 2014, 10:57 a.m.

Rand Paul ramped up his rhet­or­ic Thursday on the Sen­ate floor, force­fully re­peat­ing his view that the United States gov­ern­ment should not arm and train Syr­i­an rebels in the fight against the Is­lam­ic State.

This time, however, he took it a step fur­ther, say­ing that arm­ing the Free Syr­i­an Army could have dev­ast­at­ing con­sequences for Is­rael.

“There is not one of those ji­hadists,” he told his fel­low sen­at­ors, “not one of those so-called mod­er­ate rebels that will re­cog­nize Is­rael. And if they win, they will at­tack Is­rael next.”

He also took the op­por­tun­ity to as­sert his broad­er views on for­eign policy, which crit­ics say have en­dured flip-flop­ping over the last few months. Paul cri­ti­cized both the Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions for in­ter­ven­tion­ist tend­en­cies, blam­ing the rise of the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia on past med­dling in the Middle East. In­ter­ven­tion, he said, “toppled sec­u­lar dic­tat­ors,” lead­ing to the rad­ic­al ji­hadist groups of today in places like Libya.

“When does a track re­cord of be­ing con­sist­ently wrong stop you from be­ing a so-called ex­pert when the next crisis comes up?” Paul ques­tioned. “We should re­mem­ber that they were wrong. There were no WM­Ds, that Hus­sein, Qadhafi, and As­sad were not a threat to us. Doesn’t make them good, but they were not a threat to us.”

In a pos­sible dig at John Mc­Cain, he al­luded to a false­hood he’s brought up be­fore: that the Ari­zona sen­at­or may have been cozy with fu­ture IS­IS mem­bers.

“In­ter­ven­tion cre­ated this chaos,” he said. “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, and in Ir­aq. Un­aware that the so-called free­dom fight­ers may well have been al­lied with kid­nap­pers and are killers and ji­hadists.”

Des­pite the anti-in­ter­ven­tion­ist theme, he made clear that he does sup­port fight­ing IS­IS. But he thinks Pres­id­ent Obama has ab­used his power, com­mand­eer­ing Con­gress’s au­thor­ity to de­clare war.

“People ask me as I travel around the coun­try, what has the pres­id­ent done, what is the worst thing he’s done?” Paul asked the cham­ber. “It’s the usurp­a­tion of power.”

In a nod to a likely 2016 match­up, he also fit in an at­tack on Hil­lary Clin­ton, bring­ing up what he called her “ter­rible de­cisions” in Benghazi. “This is one of the reas­ons it per­suades me that, as re­luct­ant as I am to be in­volved in Middle East­ern wars, that we have to do something about it,” he said. “I think we are do­ing the right thing but just in the wrong way.”

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