The PJ Tatler

Rand Paul on Iraq: 'Would Not Rule Out Air Strikes'

Rand Paul is in Iowa this weekend to speak at the Republican State Convention. Also making an appearance were former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Paul told the 1400 delegates that the GOP needs to nominate a different kind of Republican in order to win in 2016:

“You guys have a strong force here but frankly the president won Iowa twice so we can’t do the same old same old,” the Kentucky senator told the Iowa Republican state convention here. “The definition of insanity is thinking the same thing will get you different results.”

Paul said he wants Republicans “to be the dominant party again,” and noted that he’s been spending time in African-American areas and on college campuses trying to broaden the base. He said talking about the drug war and his emphasis on privacy resonates.

The likely 2016 candidate spent most of his 20-minute speech throwing red meat to the about 1,300 delegates at Hy-Vee Hall.

“There are people who say we need to be more moderate,” he said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”

“I think the core of our message: we can be even more bold,” he added. “When Ronald Reagan won a landslide, he ran unabashedly … that’s what we need … It isn’t about being tepid.”

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Paul nixed the idea of sending ground troops to Iraq but said he wouldn’t rule out airstrikes to assist the Iraqi government in fighting off the terrorists moving toward Baghdad:

Q. What do you think about the prospect of American ground troops invading Iraq again?

A. I think it’s a mistake to put ground troops into Iraq and the main reason is that people need to reason that the people that are taking over large swaths of Iraq are now allied with the people who we were helping in Syria. So in one war, the Syrian war, we’re supporting Sunnis as well as Sunni radicals that are trying to overthrow Shiites. In Iraq, we’re now supporting the Shiites against the same Sunnis that really are fighting on both sides of the border. ISIS is a group that’s been involved in both countries. I think when we go to war, we should go to war as a last resort. We go to war when it’s clear-cut enough that you’re going to tell my son or your son that they know exactly what it is that we’re fighting for. I think it’s confusing to our GIs to ask them to be killing people in one country that they’re aiding in another country.

Q. Can you see a time when you would think it was a good idea for air strikes or to send in ground troops?

A. Yeah, I’m mostly talking about ground troops. I think that we have aided the Iraqi government for a long time, I’m not opposed to continuing to help them with arms. I would not rule out air strikes. But I would say, after 10 years, it is appalling that they are stripping their uniforms off and running. And it concerns me that we would have to do their fighting for them because they won’t fight for their own country, their own cities. I am thinking that it is time that they step up.

Paul thinks Hillary Clinton is going to have a tough time with the foreign policy issue, given her handling of Benghazi especially:

You know, I think what you’ll find is that Hillary Clinton’s going to have a lot of questions to answer. Not only about this but, her recent comments that the Taliban is not a danger to Americans, her handling of Benghazi or lack thereof, her telling me in committee that she didn’t read any of the cable from the ambassador requesting more security. She has a lot of things that are really significant obstacles for her to really convince people that she can be commander in chief. … There’s going to be a litany of foreign policy failures that she’s going to have to overcome. I think the biggest thing for someone who wants to be commander in chief is that the American public needs to believe that you’ll defend the country, you’ll defend the troops, and you’ll send reinforcements.”

Paul has his own problems with mainstream Republicans about his foreign policy ideas, but appears to be making an effort to clarify his non-interventionist stance. Air strikes can by no means be considered “non-interventionist” so the fact that he would consider them in this situation suggests he’s trying to mollify those in the party worried that he may be too much of an isolationist.

Paul has high favorables in Iowa, but it is perhaps indicative of the ideological tenor of the state that the two candidates that Iowa Republicans believe would do best against the Democrats in 2016 are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.