A brief item on Rand Paul by Time's Alex Altman describes the Republican Kentucky senator speaking recently to a group of Republican women in his home state and catching himself when he brings up the idea of shutting down U.S. military bases on foreign soil.
“I’m not saying don’t have any,” he said. "I'm just saying maybe not 900. I mean, I’d rather have one at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox than one in Timbuktu.”
And it turns out Paul is not opposed to keeping military bases in Iraq, or in that part of the world, for the foreseeable future. When he sat down a few weeks ago with a few reporters at an event hosted by National Review, I brought up a report that morning in The Wall Street Journal about the CIA taking responsibility for U.S. operations in Iraq from the Defense Department, and asked Paul if that was a good model for him, or whether he wanted "total removal" of U.S. forces from the country.
Paul said he supported something "in between all that."
"I think having some places and bases where we could orchestrate attacks if we had to, if there's a regrouping of people, wouldn't be too unreasonable. But I think out patrolling the villages after 12 years, the Afghans should be doing that," Paul said.
A few minutes later, Paul came back to the issue of closing military bases on foreign soil, and reiterated a middle ground approach.
"There are some who want to come completely home. Some want to stay forever. And the answer might be somewhere in the middle that we'll still have bases in places, but we don't necessarily have to maybe have 900 bases. Maybe we have less," he said.
The fact that Paul expressed support for the idea of some military bases abroad, and even some in or near Iraq, is interesting because it is a significant difference from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Asked on Fox News in June of 2011 which bases on foreign soil he would like to see closed, the elder Paul answered succinctly, "All of them."
Rand Paul shares his father's belief that U.S. troops being stationed on foreign soil often increases anti-U.S. sentiment in the countries where they are stationed. "If U.S. occupation is a primary recruitment tool and what inspires Islamic terrorists, are many of our current efforts overseas actually fighting terrorism and diminishing the threat?" he wrote in his 2011 book, The Tea Party Comes To Washington.
But Paul has expressed interest in running for president in 2016, and a full withdrawal of all U.S. bases from the world would clearly mark him as an isolationist, even though his father and his father's supporters call themselves "non-interventionists." Rand Paul calls himself "a realist."
And Paul has also acknowledged, during a foreign policy speech at The Heritage Foundation last month, that "the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with radical Islam."
"Some libertarians argue that Western occupation fans the flames of radical Islam -– I agree," Paul said in that speech. "But I don’t agree that absent Western occupation that radical Islam 'goes quietly into that good night.'”
Paul favors a more surgical approach to foreign policy, is vehemently opposed to nation-building and wants to limit the power of the president and the executive branch to initiate and wage war.