WATCH VIDEO BELOW: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, a near-certain 2016 presidential candidate, cautioned against foreign intervention Friday at CPAC 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland.
“At home, conservatives understand that the government is the problem, not the solution,” Paul said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “But as conservatives we should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad. That a government that can’t even deliver the mail will somehow be able to create nations abroad.”
Sen. Paul also noted that the president’s proposed intervention in Syria, which many Republicans supported, would have been an enormous mistake. Though President Obama notoriously backed down from his self-imposed “red line” after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deployed chemical weapons against the rebels, a U.S. intervention would have directly and indirectly helped ISIS, who now controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
“In the Middle East a dangerous and barbaric cult has risen. ISIS has become a threat to our embassy in Baghdad and our consulate in Erbil,” Paul said. “ISIS, though, grew in a safe haven created by arming Islamic rebels in the Syrian civil war. When I voted against arming the Islamic rebels in Syria I warned that these arms might end up in the hands of jihadists and that one day we might be forced to go back to fight against our own weapons. Within a year that prediction came true.”
While Paul argued that the U.S. and allies must confront ISIS, otherwise known as the Islamic State, he said it must be done with caution and Arab armies.
“Without question we must now defend ourselves and American interests from this barbarous aberration,” Paul added. “But it troubles me that we must now fight against our own weapons. We need a national defense robust enough to defend against all attacks, modern enough to deter all enemies and nimble enough to defend our vital interests. But we also need a foreign policy that encourages stability, not chaos.”
The libertarian-leaning senator stayed rather true to his past political inclination in the face of growing support for U.S. ground troops in the Middle East to confront ISIS. He set forth a vision many pundits and potential 2016 rivals say cannot be reconciled with Paul’s past statements and positions.
“Without question we must be strong. Without question we must defend ourselves. I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable and unencumbered by nation-building,” he added. “I envision a national defense that promotes, as Reagan put it, peace through strength. We must realize though that we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan. It angers me to see mobs burning our flag and chanting ‘death to America’ to countries that receive our foreign aid. I say it it must end. I say not one penny more to these haters of America!”