Toward the end of his foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, Rand Paul mentioned two guiding principles of his "more restrained foreign policy":
I’d argue that a more restrained foreign policy is the true conservative foreign policy, as it includes two basic tenets of true conservatism: respect for the constitution, and fiscal discipline.
The Constitution? Check. Fiscal discipline? Got to love that. But isn't something missing from this list? I don't know, something like … well, the security of the American people?
The word "security" appears five times in Paul's prepared remarks. There are two references to official titles and institutions such as "national security adviser" and "domestic security service." The third and fourth references acknowledge the "dangers to our security that really do exist in the world," and demand that "no president should go to war unilaterally without the approval of Congress unless an imminent threat to our national security exists." Finally, Paul cites former Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen's famous statement that the national debt is a grave threat to national security.
The speech, which calls for a policy of "containment" of jihadism, certainly implies that radical Islam is a threat to U.S. security. And the speech certainly suggests, as well, that a nuclear Iran would be a threat. Paul says, "No one, myself included, wants to see a nuclear Iran." But what to do about these threats? How to stop Paul from seeing a nuclear Iran, other than by having him put on a blindfold? The senator:
Let me be clear. I don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons but I also don’t want to decide with certainty that war is the only option.
Okay. I don't want my employees to be lazy but I also don't want to decide with certainty that firing them is the only option. Surely there are some intermediary steps I can take to spur productivity?
Tip: When a politician says "let me be clear," he is about to obfuscate.
A good starting point for any discussion of U.S. foreign policy is the national security of the American people. That requires a clear-eyed view of the world as well as due consideration of constitutional forms and available resources. How American security continues to be enhanced by military bases in Europe, for example, is not so clear to me. How Senator Paul will satisfy his base in the "liberty movement" while convincing Republican primary voters and Americans more generally that he is prepared to do what it takes to keep America safe is not so clear to me, either.