Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) declared his candidacy today to be the Republican standard bearer in the 2016 election.
So what would a Rand Paul presidency look like with regard to Middle East policy? Although Paul has a reputation as a Libertarian non-interventionist, he isn’t actually either one. As he has admitted, he supported the Afghanistan War in 2001.
Let’s take Syria. Sen. Paul was opposed to the planned Obama administration intervention in Syria in fall, 2013 after a unit of the Baath regime was alleged to have deployed chemical weaponry against rebels in Ghouta near Damascus, killing some 1100 people. Paul said that an American intervention would create a “jihadist wonderland.” In part, his opposition had been rooted in a demand that Obama get congressional approval before going in. But even when Obama looked as though he would ask for a congressional vote, Paul remained opposed, unsure that the rebels in Syria, many of them become extremist radicals, would be better for US interests than the government of Bashar al-Assad.
But then a year later when Obama decided to bomb Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) positions at Raqqa in Syria, Rand Paul supported the move. However, he did not approve of the second part of Obama’s strategy, of training pro-Western freedom fighters to take on both Daesh and the al-Assad regime.