I agree with Rand that we need more reason and less action without thought in our foreign policy. I would agree with him that there is not long-term policy or nuance in our dealings with allies and enemies. I would agree we need to restore more power to the legislature and have less in the executive.
But I take a couple of points with him. Yes, Reagan was far more clever than the last 2 decades of presidents, but Rand is a little off in his vision of Reagan. Reagan’s tactics may have been far more intelligent, and Rand correctly points this out, but it is not accurate to describe Reagan’s strategy as one of containment. Reagan’s intention wasn’t “containing” the Soviet Union, his goal was the total destruction of the Soviet Union. And he won. “He won the Cold War without firing a shot,” as Thatcher pointed out. (Although we did bomb a lot of allies of the Soviet Union, even if we didn’t attack them directly). He drew a line in the sand and did not back down and this caused the Soviet system to panic, to overspend, to collapse much faster than it would have if the policies of Reagan’s predecessors had continued. Senator Paul points to the fact that “The cold war ended because the engine of capitalism defeated the engine of socialism” but ignores that while socialism’s defeat by the laws of economics are guaranteed, capitalism’s defeat can easily come at the hand of military and political force (and 4 more years of Carter may actually have seen such a collapse).
He also conveniently forgets that sometimes in Reagan’s policy we had to deal with some terrible people to hold back even worse people. Now I don’t really fault him for this, the ideals of policy speech should be above the need to sometimes get your hands dirty that actual policy requires, but it annoys me during the speech that he ignores how many freedom fighters we did arm, and how many deals with the devil we had to make to keep the worst evil at the time at bay.
Further he condemns nation building as not being our responsibility. I will point to two situations. We did not rebuild Germany after World War I. We had to come back a little over 2 decades later. We did not help rebuild Afghanistan after we helped them push the Soviets out. We had to come back a little over a decade later. There is a great scene at the end of the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, a quote from Wilson on our helping the nation fight for itself, and how we didn’t help them rebuild. “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world…and then we fucked up the end game.” If Rand Paul wants pragmatism then it is the fact that capitalism, rule of law, and classical liberal ideals must be supported, sometime monetarily. The fact is that if we had supported these nation after they were destroyed it is far less likely they would have fallen to tyranny again as quickly (Hitler only won about 40% of the vote, if the nation had been more stable would he have even won that?…Afghanistan was Westernizing before the Soviet invasion and was not a fruitful ground for extremism, would it have bred the Taliban if we had helped it recover after the Soviets left?). When you don’t deal with problems before they become problem you have expensive problems that are almost impossible to solve.
Yes the last 20 years of foreign policy have been conducted haphazardly with no end game in mind at best, and simply idiotically at worst. There has been no ability to adapt, no oversight of the stupidity, and little rational debate. And I agree with Rand that we need more of that. And yes we shouldn’t be doing anything if we don’t have the money or time to do it (like now).
But the word containment is wrong. If you go in just wanting to stop the spread of something you will always lose. The goal needs to be the spread of democratic-Republics, the spread of capitalism, the spread of liberty. Certainly not in such a slipshod helter-skelter way that non-interventionist Bush (who only turned to Neoconservatism on 9-11 because it was the only thing that made sense, but without understanding it to be long-term, possibly generational idea, not a quick two term fix) and drone happy Obama have done it.
The long-term goal cannot be containment. It has to be to win, or it will always result in loss. Reagan understood this, I wish I could say that Rand Paul understood this, but while I’ll certainly take Rand over Obama, Bush, or anyone currently in control of foreign policy, I’m not sure he has Reagan’s understanding yet.
“We win. They lose.”–Ronald Reagan