Rand Paul: Letting Assad Fall Will Empower ISIS

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 02:52 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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American intervention into the Middle East's politics has helped give rise to the Islamic State and other extremists, and the United States is finding itself in the position of helping its enemies in the war-torn region, Sen. Rand Paul writes in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.

"Our so-called foreign policy experts are failing us miserably," said the Kentucky Republican. "The Obama administration's feckless veering is making it worse. It seems the only thing both sides of this flawed debate agree on is that 'something' must be done. It is the only thing they ever agree on."

But the problem is, people wanting war in Syria could not show that the action would be in the United States' best interest, and "they have been proven foolish now."

Instead, a more realistic foreign policy "would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe," he continued. "Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S."

But instead, the United States helped contribute to the rise of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Paul, including delivering arms to Syrian rebels that have strengthened ISIS.

The problem is, Paul says, is that "shooting first and asking questions later" has never been good foreign policy, but that's what the Obama administration has been doing when it comes to Syria.

Back in September, Paul says, the president and much of Washington wanted to assist the rebel groups fighting against President Bashar Assad's regime, but he argued against military strikes, asking if his ouster could encourage instability.

"Degrading Assad's military capacity also degrades his ability to fend off the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham," said Paul. "Assad's government recently bombed the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Raqqa, Syria."

Paul called out interventionists such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential foe for him in the 2016 presidential election, should they choose to run, echoing his calling her a "war hawk" earlier this week on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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Clinton has called for arming Syria's Islamic rebels against Assad, and Paul said she and others should be cautioned that it would have created a safe haven for ISIS.

"We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria," said Paul. "That new regime might well be ISIS."

He also does not believe the United States should side with Assad, but rather recognize how regime change in Syria could have emboldened ISIS.

"Those now calling for war against ISIS are still calling for arms to factions allied with ISIS in the Syrian civil war," said Paul. "We should realize that the interventionists are calling for Islamic rebels to win in Syria and for the same Islamic rebels to lose in Iraq. While no one in the West supports Assad, replacing him with ISIS would be a disaster."

Meanwhile, Paul described the United States' Middle Eastern policy as "unhinged, flailing about to see who to act against next."

But, he noted, there are hawks in his own party as well who want strikes on Syria, which would have "eliminated the only regional counterweight to the ISIS threat."

The threat of ISIS should be taken seriously, said Paul, but Americans can recall how policy decisions have helped extremists "so that we don't make the same mistake of potentially aiding our enemies again."

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