Politics & Policy

GOP Debate Showed Why We Should Be Thankful for Rand’s Foreign Policy

Rand Paul speaks during the GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015. (Scott Olson/Getty)

During last night’s debate, Rand Paul did a great job of showing why we should all be thankful for his candidacy: His differing views on foreign policy.

Yep. You heard me.

First of all, I’ll admit that I personally do believe Rand Paul’s views on these issues are the right ones — which is why I am thankful that he did such a great job last night of explaining them. Now, I also know that that is an unpopular opinion in conservative circles. I can’t tell you how often I hear “I like Rand Paul, but I hate his views on foreign policy.”

But these people usually have the misconception that Rand Paul and the people who like him want a weak America — which isn’t true. Obviously, we must have a strong national defense. Hell, I’ll even take it a step farther: We need to have the strongest national defense in the world.

But here’s the thing: We already do. By a lot. Rand Paul did such a great job of defending his (and my) view by explaining that we already “spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined.” That’s huge! I mean, seriously, how much do we need to spend for the Republicans like Marco Rubio to be satisfied? More than all the countries combined? When is it enough? Is it ever?

He was also bold enough to oppose a no-fly zone in Syria that was very popular among the other candidates — pointing out that it would likely lead to another war in Iraq — and doubled down on his what-some-see-as-radical-but-I-would-call-reasonable idea that “You can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world.”

To me, this view is just so refreshingly logical and level-headed — and it came as such a relief to hear someone say it on a stage full of people taking positions that I can only describe as irresponsible warmongering.

But more important: Even if you do disagree with his views, you should still be thankful that he was on that stage offering them. After all, the idea that Republicans are hypocritical for attacking government spending while supporting seemingly unlimited foreign-policy spending is a common one — and one that was mentioned by Martin O’Malley during MSNBC’s Democratic Forum last Friday night.

Thanks to Rand Paul, however, criticisms like O’Malley’s don’t apply to the whole Republican field. And whether you personally agree or not, it’s good to have a presidential candidate in the party who serves as a counterpoint to a common criticism leveled at it.

#share#After all, there are undoubtedly people out there who think that they cannot be conservatives because they aren’t hawkish on foreign policy. Rand Paul managed to turn that stereotypical narrative on its head last night by actually re-defining what most consider to be “conservative foreign policy” as “liberal on military spending.”

It was a brilliant move:

“Marco, how is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure for the federal government that you’re not paying for?” he asked. “How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures?”

And then, of course, the kicker: “You cannot be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you’re not going to pay for.”

Again, as a filthy small-l libertarian myself, I can’t say enough how much I agree with him — which is why I’m personally glad he did such a wonderful job of explaining it. But even if you don’t, you should be thankful, too. His existence on that stage explaining those views communicates to people who are more on the side of anti-war, less interventionist policies that they too can belong on the conservative side of things if they agree on some of the other issues.

Rand Paul makes the party more inclusive — and no one who cares about its future should see that as a bad thing. 

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