When faced with ideas of non-intervention in foreign policy, the most common refrain among hawkish Republicans is that such notions are naive, immature, unrealistic, and “wacko.” In reality, it is the foreign policy worldview of the Republican establishment that has been thoroughly discredited as naive and unrealistic.
What is most odd is that the right-wingers on the attack against the small libertarian-leaning wing of the party that opposes rabid interventionism seem thoroughly unaware that what they call “naive” foreign policy is actually backed up by history and much of academia.
Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review, is miffed by Rand Paul’s foreign policy ideas. Rand’s “instincts,” Lowry writes, “sometimes seem more appropriate to a dorm-room bull session than the Situation Room.”
Specifically, Lowry is upset about a YouTube video from 2008 that resurfaced depicting Paul skewering Dick Cheney and his motivations for the invasion of Iraq. Here are the key excerpts:
There’s a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending [President] Bush No. 1 [and the decision not to invade Baghdad in the first Gulf War], and he goes on for about five minutes. He’s being interviewed, I think, by the American Enterprise Institute, and he says it would be a disaster, it would be vastly expensive, it’d be civil war, we would have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five minutes. Dick Cheney saying it would be a bad idea. And that’s why the first Bush didn’t go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq.
The day after 9/11, [CIA chief] George Tenet is going in the [White] House and [Pentagon adviser] Richard Perle is coming out of the White House. And George Tenet should know more about intelligence than anybody in the world, and the first thing Richard Perle says to him on the way out is, “We’ve got it, now we can go into Iraq.” And George Tenet, who supposedly knows as much intelligence as anybody in the White House says, “Well, don’t we need to know that they have some connection to 9/11?” And, he [Perle] says, “It doesn’t matter.” It became an excuse. 9/11 became an excuse for a war they already wanted in Iraq.
Detractors like Lowry condemn Paul for arguing Cheney pushed for the invasion of Iraq solely to benefit Halliburton. That doesn’t really seem to be what Paul was saying. He seemed to be making the rather benign observation that Cheney’s experiences working the “revolving door” of government-corporate-military-energy sector over many years probably had a deep affect on his foreign policy views.
And the latter point about how the Bush administration cobbled together unrelated evidence post-9/11 in order to pursue a war in Iraq that had already been decided upon irrespective of real evidence is just about as accepted a take on early Bush policy as there is.
Paul Pillar, who was head of the CIA’s MidEast division during the march to war, has spoken extensively on this point. He has explained that “a policy decision clearly had already been made [to invade Iraq],” and “intelligence was being looked to to support that decision rather to inform decisions yet to be made.” This was the impression of the Bush administration’s counterparts in Britain, as well, as the famous Downing Street memo showed (“the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”).
But Lowry’s beef with Rand Paul’s foreign policy doesn’t end with these Iraq comments: