Published On: Mon, Jul 14th, 2014

Rick Perry corrected on statements about Rand Paul’s foreign policy

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, in an apparent attempt to begin to better his abysmal showing in the last round of presidential primaries in 2012, recently attacked the current leader in Republican polls, Rand Paul, on his perceived vulnerability — foreign policy. In the piece “Isolationist Policies Make the Threat of Terrorism Greater” in the Washington Post, Perry endeavored to smear Paul’s views by calling them “isolationist” and linking him to the “leading from behind” policies of President Barack Obama. At the same time, Perry tried to use a trick that many Republican candidates regularly use — to link themselves to the “internationalist” Ronald Reagan.

donkeyhotey @wordpress.com

donkeyhotey @wordpress.com

The issue that Perry chose is the U.S. reentry into the Iraq quagmire. Perry is for it and Paul is against it. Most Americans, tired of fruitless and never ending U.S. government wars, agree with Paul, but unfortunately, Perry’s interventionist jingoism still gets some traction with the Republican base. And because Perry must win the Republican primaries in 2016 before he needs to worry about what the general public thinks (he better hope they forget his view by then), he is attacking Paul now on his more restrained foreign policy.

First of all, Paul and like-minded people are not “isolationists.” This same inaccurate smear was used against Paul’s father Ron in his previous runs for president. Since 1945, and especially since the end of the Cold War, people who didn’t want to bomb anyone and everyone — that is, who show any restraint at all in their foreign policy views — have been subject to this accusation by hyperactive interventionists.

Second of all, Ronald Reagan exhibited more restraint in the direct use of U.S. military power than many other recent presidents, including the two George Bushes, Bill Clinton, and Obama. Reagan avoided large-scale U.S. ground interventions and even withdrew from smaller peacekeeping missions when the human costs became too high. During his eight years in office, Reagan conducted a small-scale invasion of the island of Grenada, had minor dust ups the air with Libya, and withdrew his peacekeeping mission to Lebanon after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. So if anything, Reagan’s actual policies in office were closer to Paul’s view rather than Perry’s. Perry also apparently doesn’t know much about Dwight Eisenhower’s track record in foreign policy. Perry argues that Reagan, like Eisenhower before him, refused to heed “the false prophets of living alone.” Yet Eisenhower was even more restrained than Reagan in the direct use of military power — conducting only a small-scale ground invasion of Lebanon during his eight years in office.

In fact, Reagan and Eisenhower might raise an eyebrow against sinking back into the bog in Iraq, even by conducting airstrikes. In the Vietnam War, when American air strikes didn’t cause North Vietnam to desist in trying to take over South Vietnam by using Viet Cong guerrilla forces, the United States felt obligated to escalate the ground war. Similarly, any American air strikes against the surging Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq would again put U.S. prestige on the line but will likely not end the IS insurgency. Then Perry and his ilk probably will begin demanding a re-escalation on the ground.

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Published with permission from Dr. Ivan Eland

Dr. Eland is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty, The Independent Institute

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