WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday voiced concerns about President Barack Obama's request for authority to use military force against Islamic State militants.
"We’re still looking at it," he told The Huffington Post at Reboot Congress, a conservative technology conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "I’m concerned about it really having no limitations on how big the war can become and how many troops can be on the ground."
The president on Wednesday unveiled his draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was met with immediate criticism from Democrats as being too broad and Republicans as being too narrow. It would limit U.S. military action to three years and allow limited U.S. ground troops. It does not, however, put geographic limits on the ongoing military campaign against the Islamic State, which has so far centered on airstrikes. It also does nothing with respect to the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and which remains in effect.
Paul's cautious approach, which echoes that of many Democrats on Capitol Hill, stands in sharp contrast to other would-be GOP presidential candidates. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee all sounded more hawkish notes following the administration's announcement, arguing that the authorization's narrow scope, both in terms of time and ground troops, would unnecessarily hamper U.S. power abroad.
Paul's libertarian leanings, as well as his previous struggles to clarify his position on the Islamic State, could give him some trouble amid a crowded 2016 presidential field that may end up well-populated by war hawks. He caught some flak from members of his party last year when they called him "isolationist," a label that Paul rejects.
Asked whether he was running for president at the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Paul said he was still weighing the matter and that he would make a decision by March or April.
“Maybe," he said. “We are thinking very strongly about it.”
"Part of the decision-making process is, do you have a chance, is the message resonating, do people believe that you can somehow win this, because it’s not really a lot of fun," he added.