Rand Paul Wants U.S. Politicians to Stop Warping Reagan’s Philosophy

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Waves of Tea Party conservatism propelled both Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in 2010 and Sen. Tex Cruz of Texas in 2012 into Congress. Neither had the opportunity to vote against the Affordable Care Act, but both voted not to table the House resolution that would have funded the federal government into the 2014 fiscal year except for the Affordable Care Act, and they both voted against the deal to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling. But a critique Paul penned in an opinion piece published March 10 by the conservative news and opinion website Breitbart drew attention to their differences on foreign policy, differences that have manifested themselves as the crisis in Crimea becomes more acute, and differences that will be increasingly important if the two men campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rand actually never once mentioned his fellow Republican senator by name. He did, however, discuss the stance on foreign policy taken by former president and famed Republican ideologue Ronald Reagan, a man Cruz often holds up as a model that Republican leaders should emulate. More importantly, at least for the sake of the argument Rand was trying to make, the Kentucky senator noted that “too often people make [Reagan] into something he wasn’t in order to serve their own political purposes” — and that is where Cruz fits into his op-ed.

In recent interviews, Paul, the leading non-interventionist voice in the Republican Party, has spoken out against the United States’ decision to give monetary aid to Ukraine because of the country’s history of corruption. He does believe that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community,” a violation that should be condemned by the United States. “This does not and should not require military action,” he said in a press release dated March 10. “No one in the United States is calling for this. But it will require other actions and leadership, both of which President Obama unfortunately lacks.”

Cruz distances himself from Paul’s libertarian foreign policy views. On Sunday, Cruz said of Paul, “I don’t agree with him on foreign policy.” He, too, has suggested that the situation in Ukraine has shown President Barack Obama’s weaknesses. “A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness. Putin fears no retribution,” Cruz said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “If we were serious about standing up to Putin’s power grab, we would immediately suspend Russian membership in the Group of Eight (G8), which should consist of nations that can contribute to a civilized order,” he said in a press release dated February 28. “And if the Russians persist in this aggressive action, we should look into additional measures such as suspension from the World Trade Organization and even the United Nations Security Council.”

Paul has acknowledged in his opinion piece that “regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, there is little difference among most Republicans on what to do. All of us believe we should stand up to Putin’s aggression. Virtually no one believes we should intervene militarily.” The United States government is then “faced with a finite menu of diplomatic measures to isolate Russia, on most of which we all agree, such as sanctions and increased economic pressure,” he continued. “Yet, some politicians have used this time to beat their chest. What we don’t need right now is politicians who have never seen war talking tough for the sake of their political careers.”

Paul argued that America deserves better than politicians “talking tough,” as do the country’s soldiers, who “understand the anguish that comes with their ninth and tenth tours in battle zones.” These men and women do their duty, but do not mistake heroism for a love of war, he said. “Many agree with General Eisenhower who said, ‘I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity,’” he added. Paul acknowledged that “Reagan clearly believed in a strong national defense and in ‘Peace through Strength.’ He stood up to the Soviet Union, and he led a world that pushed back against Communism.”

Paul believes there is time for military action, like after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But there is also a “time for diplomacy and the strategic use of soft power, such as now with Russia,” he wrote. “Diplomacy requires resolve but also thoughtfulness and intelligence.” Reagan knew that difference, Paul wrote, noting that the Reagan said his greatest regret as president was sending Marines to Beirut.

“Today’s Republicans should concentrate on establishing their own identities and agendas, as opposed to simply latching onto Ronald Reagan’s legacy — or worse, misrepresenting it,” Paul said.

Cruz has not responded to Paul’s comments.

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