If Donald Trump becomes president, we will have a commander in chief who rhetorically is opposed to regime change and nation building—but who also thinks he can magically get rid of ISIS in “30 days” by merely “knocking the hell out of them,” that bombing nations indiscriminately and “taking their oil” is sound policy, and that we should kill terrorists‘ entire families (also known as terrorism).
In practice, if he is serious about any of this, a Trump foreign policy will probably look a lot like the same old regime change and nation building. That’s simply what wanton intervention produces.
Hillary Clinton should know, who promises to take us back to the George W. Bush years.
The reflexively hawkish Clinton never saw a possible U.S. military intervention she didn’t actively pursue and despite her claiming that voting for the Iraq war was a mistake, there’s virtually nothing in her record as a senator or secretary of state that indicates she would govern any different as president.
If you liked Dick Cheney, you’ll love Hillary Clinton.
And then there’s Rand Paul.
As the presidential election enters its final weeks, former 2016 Republican presidential candidate Paul is helping lead a fight in the senate to block the sale of arms to our “frenemy” Saudi Arabia. Raw Story reported Wednesday, “The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday on a measure to block the sale of tanks and other military equipment worth $1.15 billion to Saudi Arabia…”
The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department had approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia…
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Chris Murphy, introduced a joint resolution seeking to block the arms deal, expressing concern that Saudi-led air strikes had killed civilians in Yemen, worries that the deal might fuel a regional arms race and concern that Congress was giving up its power to declare war.
“We should be part of the debate over whether or not we go to war. But then we should debate the practicalities of whether or not it’s a good idea to be involved in the war in Yemen,” Paul told Reuters.
We’re at war in Yemen? How many Americans even know this? The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison observed Tuesday:
Fortunately, more Americans are gradually being made aware of this involvement through the efforts of Murphy and Paul in the Senate and Rep. Ted Lieu and others in the House, but it remains the case that the war and U.S. support for it have been mostly ignored for almost a year and a half… Between the Saudis’ own indiscriminate bombing and continued U.S. arms sales, the war has become harder for Washington to keep out of sight, and with luck that should mean that it will become harder for the administration to persist in its horrible policy of support for an indefensible war.
“Sens. Paul and Murphy deserve praise for continuing to shine light on the administration’s policy and for doing what they can to oppose it,” Larison added.
American involvement in Yemen via the Saudis is simply one part of a larger enduring foreign policy status quo in which the U.S. is addicted to constant interventionism even when the results are questionable.
Even when the results are disastrous.
There are Republicans and Democrats—a bipartisan coalition, however great or small their numbers—who reject America’s longstanding foreign policy consensus and seek a more sober look at national security and foreign affairs.
They are not hawks-at-any-cost, like Hillary Clinton or Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio or John McCain. Republican Rand Paul also represents something far more coherent than Trump’s anti-interventionist ramblings that are so often mixed in with schoolyard bully-sounding hyper-interventionism.
We should not be helping to arm the Saudis. We should not be getting involved in other nation’s wars needlessly. We shouldn’t allow presidents to continue to go to war without consulting Congress.
Hillary Clinton vehemently disagrees with all of the above paragraph. Trump can change his mind depending on the time of day and his mood, to the degree that he even realistically comprehends foreign policy.
But there is a coherent political alternative to this madness, as Rand Paul and a few others in both parties remind us.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.