Senator Rand Paul addressed the Heritage Foundation today on the topic of foreign policy. Though he was met by an eager and full auditorium, he did not invite time for questions.
The senator began memorably:
“Foreign policy is uniquely an arena where we should base decisions on the landscape of the world as it is . . . not as we wish it to be. I see the world as it is. I am a realist, not a neoconservative, nor an isolationist.”
He went on to put this into a context: “that the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with Radical Islam.”
With these ingredients, he began to identify both the nature of radical Islam as a relentless movement that spanned borders, and though a minority to be distinguished from Islam itself, was often mainstream and supported by radicalized governments. He noted that, “though often militarily weak, radical Islam makes up for its lack of conventional armies with unlimited zeal.”
In light of this reality, Paul acknowledged that outright occupation on the McCain “100 years” model fans radical Islam’s flames, but he also rejected the notion that “glad hands and winning smiles” worked any better. Instead, Senator Paul spoke favourably of George Kennan and the policy of containment.
Though never succinct enough to be on a bumper sticker, Senator Paul demonstrated how some of the elements of Kenan’s containment policy were effective in ending the Cold War and could be similarly effective in combating radical Islam. By bringing a policy that seeks the “application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points” to match the enemy, Paul sought to show that it could utilize a “preponderance of strength” better than the Truman doctrine’s “everywhere, all the time” model.
This matched another concern that Paul highlighted—the reality of fiscal limitation. Whereas occupation and overwhelming force are not financially possible everywhere and for all time, Paul noted that a containment policy is actually financially viable, and better suited to the limitless patience of radical Islam.
For substantiation, Paul turned to Reagan. He highlighted that Reagan combined strong language and diplomacy with restraint and a “strategic ambiguity” where others would understand “a policy in having no stated policy.”
Senator Paul drew a strong link between the two, and also to himself when he noted that “one of Reagan’s national security advisors wrote ‘Reagan’s Soviet policy had more in common with Kennan’s thinking than the policy of any of Reagan’s predecessors.'” The bottom line being that such an approach contained communism until it killed itself, and was the best option looking forward to countering radical Islam.