By Sen. Rand Paul
I hope against hope that the rumors are wrong and that President Donald Trump will not open the State Department door to the neocons. Crack the door to admit Elliott Abrams and the neocons will scurry in by the hundreds.
Neoconservative interventionists have had us at perpetual war for 25 years. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that the Iraq War was a mistake, the neocons (all of them Never-Trumpers) continue to maintain that the Iraq and Libyan Wars were brilliant ideas. These are the same people who think we must blow up half the Middle East, then rebuild it and police it for decades.
They’re wrong and they should not be given a voice in this administration.
One of the things I like most about President Trump is his acknowledgement that nation building does not work and actually works against the nation building we need to do here at home. With a $20 trillion debt, we don’t have the money to do both.
I urge him to keep that in mind this week when he meets with Elliott Abrams, the rumored pick for second in command to the Secretary of State.
Abrams would be a terrible appointment for countless reasons. He doesn’t agree with the president in so many areas of foreign policy and he has said so repeatedly; he is a loud voice for nation building and when asked about the president’s opposition to nation building, Abrams said that Trump was absolutely wrong; and during the election he was unequivocal in his opposition to Donald Trump, going so far as to say, “the chair in which Washington and Lincoln sat, he is not fit to sit.”
Why then would the president trust him with the second most powerful position in the State Department?
Abrams was equally dismissive throughout Trump’s entire candidacy. As a Never-Trumper, he repeatedly said he would neither vote for Clinton nor Trump. He likened the choice to the one the nation faced of McGovern vs. Nixon.
I voted for Rex Tillerson for secretary of state because I believe him to have a balanced approach to foreign policy. My hope is that he will put forward a realist approach. I don’t see Abrams as part of any type of foreign policy realism.
Elliott Abrams is a neoconservative too long in the tooth to change his spots, and the president should have no reason to trust that he would carry out a Trump agenda rather than a neocon agenda.
But just as importantly, Congress has good reason not to trust him — he was convicted of lying to Congress in his previous job.
His conviction for deceiving Congress over secret arms deals, better known as the Iran-Contra scandal, show that his neocon agenda trumps his fidelity to the rule of law. The Constitution directs Congress to approve or disapprove of war. It would be a mistake to appoint anyone to the State Department who was previously convicted for defying Congressional authority.
Nation building in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen has not and will not work. Mr. President please, please do not open the door to the people who sip lattes while sneering behind your back. They are bold enough to come begging for work while continuing to laugh and deride your every remark concerning foreign policy. Don’t let them in!
The neocon trademark is to conduct war in secret to avoid congressional scrutiny. This is exactly what happened during Iran-Contra. Despite legislation that prohibited sending arms to Nicaragua, Abrams and other neocons surreptitiously funneled money from sultans in Brunei to sheiks in Iran, converting the cash into weapons that were then sent to authoritarians in Nicaragua.
Abrams also supervised, covered up and defended a policy of arming a Guatemalan government undeniably waging war against an indigenous native population. Thousands of the indigenous people of the Ixil region of Guatemala were exterminated. The Guatemalan President was eventually convicted of war crimes. Abrams was an unabashed supporter and organizer of sending arms into this tragic situation.
In a country of 300 million people, surely there are reasonable foreign policy experts who have not been convicted of deceiving Congress and actually share the president’s foreign policy views. I hope Secretary Rex Tillerson will continue the search for expert assistance from experienced, non-convicted diplomats who understand the mistakes of the past and the challenges ahead.