National Review editor Robert Costa explains Rand Paul’s strategy on defeating proposals to intervene in Syria, and to reshape America’s foreign policy consensus. Senator Paul aims to revive the Reagan-era prudence best espoused by the Weinberger/Powell doctrine. You can read more about the Reagan-era war doctrine by clicking here. Costa tells readers that Senator Paul has been meeting with a broad range of foreign policy advisors in an effort to best understand America’s options.
Behind the scenes, Paul has held weekly meetings with former Reagan and George H. W. Bush advisers, asking them to help him articulate a “realist” foreign policy for a new generation. “I was surprised when he called and wanted to meet, but I met with him and we talked for a few hours about how different crises in the past have been handled by Congress and the president,” says a former Republican official who met with Paul earlier this summer. “It wasn’t what I expected. Clearly he wants to be more than Ron Paul’s son; my impression is that he’s staking out his own ground.”
Another official Paul has sought for counsel is Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany and State Department adviser for Reagan. “The senator’s instincts, in terms of defining the national interest, are exactly right,” he says. “He and I have spoken about how Syria doesn’t meet the threshold that Reagan would set for military action. What he’s doing isn’t knee-jerk isolationism but a return to Reagan’s sense of prudence.”
Senator Paul and his allies want to dispel the idea that he’s some kind of isolationist. Instead, he wants to take the country back to a more prudent foreign policy stance that sees the U.S. less involved in foreign wars.
Paul’s friends say the role of leading this bloc is a natural one for the Republican freshman. They also believe that the Syria question gives him an opportunity to dismantle his critics’ caricature of his libertarian views. His team is eager to cast Paul as an heir to Ronald Reagan, who, they argue, was frequently reluctant to involve the U.S. military in foreign civil wars. “It’s about reclaiming the party from hawks and putting us back in the mode of Reagan,” says a Paul source. “As we do that, we want to help him, so we’re pushing back really hard against the isolationism chatter. That’s not what he’s about; he’s about non-intervention and the national interest.”
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