On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul published an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the "interventionists" in both the Democratic and Republican parties who seem blind to the role past American interventions have played in the Middle East's current crises.
The piece includes some boilerplate criticisms of the Obama administration ("feckless," "veering," etc), as well as a broadside against Republican Party hawks who warned of catastrophe if the US failed to strike Syria. "What they were advocating for then — striking down Assad's regime — would have made our current situation even worse, as it would have eliminated the only regional counterweight to the ISIS threat," Paul writes.
It also includes a sharp hit on Hillary Clinton. "We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria," Paul writes. "That new regime might well be ISIS."
The article never comes close to saying what Paul wants to see done in the Middle East. But Paul's skepticism of the consequences of intervention and his focus puts him closer to Obama's outlook than to more hawkish members of both the Democratic and Republican parties. When Paul says that "only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.," you can imagine the president pumping a fist.
Which makes the Democratic National Committee's response all the more telling. DNC Press Secretary Michael Czin fired back at Paul with a statement that reads as if it's been copied-and-pasted from a 2005 Republican National Committee attack on a liberal Democrat. It's worth reading in full:
"It's disappointing that Rand Paul, as a Senator and a potential presidential candidate, blames America for all the problems in the world, while offering reckless ideas that would only alienate us from the global community.
"Unfortunately, this is nothing new for Paul. Last week he criticized American policy to the president of another country on foreign soil. This week he's blaming the Obama Administration for another nation's civil war. That type of "blame America" rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing in the world. In fact, Paul's proposals would make America less safe and less secure.
"Simply put, if Rand Paul had a foreign policy slogan, it would be - The Rand Paul Doctrine: Blame America. Retreat from the World."
This is the brain-dead patriotism-baiting that Democrats used to loathe. Now they're turning it on Paul.
There are a few things worth noting here. The first is the ferocity with which the DNC responded to an attack that was, in truth, aimed more at Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama,. The second is the degree to which a Rand Paul-Hillary Clinton race would scramble the politics of national security, with Democrats running against Paul in much the way Bush ran against Kerry. And the third is that it's still the case in foreign policy, the real divide isn't left vs. right, but interventionists vs. non-interventionists.