Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Rand Paul: Romney's wrong on Middle East, defense spending

By Rand Paul, Special to CNN
October 11, 2012 -- Updated 0010 GMT (0810 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Rand Paul: I support Mitt Romney but question some of his foreign policy speech
  • He says Romney seeks more intervention in Mideast, where U.S. wars have fared poorly
  • Paul says arming the rebels in Syria risks empowering some people with anti-U.S. agendas
  • He says U.S. defense budget is too high, growing at unsustainable rate

Editor's note: Rand Paul, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Kentucky. He will be a guest tonight on Erin Burnett Out Front at 7 p.m. ET.

(CNN) -- This week, I will campaign for Gov. Mitt Romney. I believe this election will and should be about moving America back from the edge of the abyss on which we stand, where our debt and spending threaten to overwhelm and drown us. Romney's belief in free markets, limited government and trade make him the clear choice to lead our country come January.

I do not, however, support a call for intervention in Syria. And, if such intervention were being contemplated, it is absolutely necessary that Congress give any such authority to the president. No president, Republican or Democrat, has the unilateral power to take our nation to war without the authority of the legislature.

At times, I have been encouraged by Romney's foreign policy. I agree with his call to end the war in Afghanistan sooner rather than later and with his skepticism of, and call for reform in, foreign aid, but I am a bit dismayed by his foreign policy speech Monday, titled "Mantle of Leadership."

Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated Defense Department and for not being bellicose enough in the Middle East, two assertions with which I cannot agree.

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul
Mitt Romney speaks with Wolf Blitzer
Sen. Paul wants aid cut to Libya, Egypt
Rand Paul: Nothing changed dramatically
Romney responds to 47% comment

Defense and war spending has grown 137% since 2001. That kind of growth is not sustainable.

Opinion: Romney's sorta-kinda call to arms

Adm. Michael Mullen stated earlier this year that the biggest threat to our national security is our debt.

If debt is our gravest threat, adding to the debt by expanding military spending further threatens our national security.

While I would always stand up for America and preserve our ability to defend ourselves, a less aggressive foreign policy along with an audit of the Pentagon could save tens of billions of dollars each year without sacrificing our defense. To dismiss either idea is to miss the very compromise that will enable us to balance our budget. That compromise would be for conservatives to admit that not every dollar spent on the military is sacred or well-spent and for liberals to admit that not every dollar spent on domestic entitlements and welfare is necessary.

In North Africa and the Middle East, our problem has not been a lack of intervention. In the past 10 years we have fought two full wars there, and bombed or sent troops into several others.

This past year, President Obama illegally began a war with Libya, taking sides with the rebels to unseat an admittedly bad man in Moammar Gadhafi. There were several problems with this policy: First, the president did not seek or get the necessary constitutional authority from Congress for this military action. If our Constitution is to mean anything it must be applied even in times of war, when those seeking to exercise power do not find it expedient.

Just as importantly, the Libyan rebels were assisted with virtually no one in the administration or in Congress demanding to know who these people were that we were arming and propping up. No one seemed to understand that in toppling Libya's dictatorship, we were leaving in its wake an unformed, unorganized government without a centralized structure, one that would have a difficult time keeping order among the more than 100 tribes that make up Libya.

This "act first, think later" foreign policy has real consequences. We've seen our embassies and consulates stormed in more than one country. Our diplomats and security team were killed. Our flag is being burned, our country mocked.

The proper response to this would be to step back and think of whether we really need to be involved in these countries in the way we have been. Instead, both parties rush headlong into more places they don't understand, exemplified Monday by Romney urging action to arm Syrian rebels and topple President Bashar al-Assad.

But just who are these rebels? What will they do when in power? Is this really in our vital national interest?

Opinion: Romney's foreign policy twilight zone

We've been 10 years in Afghanistan and we can't identify friend from foe. Do you think we can, with certainty, identify friend and foe in Syria?

Before taking our country closer to war, shouldn't we at least ask the viewpoint of the significant Christian population in Syria? News reports indicate they are wary of the rebels and are either sitting the fight out or siding with al-Assad. Al-Assad is by no means a saint but Christians flocked to Syria from a war-torn Iraq because they feared al-Assad less than the Islamic government we brought into being.

Before getting deeply involved, should someone ask: Are these rebels going to be implementing the death penalty for criticism of Islam?

There is ample evidence the rebels are being funded and armed by the most extreme Islamist elements and governments in the region. Is that where we want our funds and weapons to end up? We need to stop and think before we act.

I am not an isolationist or a pacifist. I heartily reject both labels. I believe in engagement in the world, with trade, commerce, diplomacy and a foreign policy that projects the greatness of America and her people. I would not hesitate to vote to send American troops to war to protect our country and our vital national security interests.

Opinion: Obama, Romney -- Ignore Afghanistan war at your own peril

But we are in too many places, too often, and we don't seem to even know the reason -- or where we will end up when we're done. This foreign policy has created more enemies than it has vanquished. It has siphoned trillions of America's dollars. It has cost tens of thousands of casualties in the loss of the lives and limbs of our soldiers.

We owe it to ourselves, our soldiers and our children to take a more careful look at our foreign policy, to not rush into war, and to not attempt to score political points with wrongheaded policy ideas.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rand Paul.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT