Rand Paul, The GOP, And The Young, Ctd

W. James Antle III summarizes the libertarian’s foreign policy approach:

Rather than get into a shouting match with more hawkish Republicans over Russia—though he has condemned Vladimir Putin as often as he has tweaked the thinly-veiled Cold War nostalgia masquerading as foreign-policy thought in some corners of the right—he is making his case from a strong, limited-government conservative perspective.

What Paul has been saying ever since he filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination over drones is that the Lindsey Graham view of foreign policy—a permanent war in which the American homeland is a battlefield—is incompatible with constitutionally limited government. You can have a national-security state of that scope or you can have the Bill of Rights, but you can’t have both.

It’s a powerful way of forcing Republicans – and all of us – to confront the core trade-offs in a constantly evolving war on terror. And it compares, starkly, with Marco Rubio’s retread of neconservatism on steroids. It’s a possibly shrewd bet in a crowded field, but it still feels like Rubio is trying to impress Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol and all the other boomers stuck in the 1970s. Pareene nails it:

Take a look at [Rubio’s] handy list of things “Obama must do” about Ukraine, which includes expanding NATO to Georgia and also stating “unequivocally” that Putin is a mean jerk.

(When Tough, Muscular Foreign Policy types think calling for actual war won’t be received well, they usually fall back on demanding that the president say Tough things unequivocally.) Now he’s at CPAC, telling people that North Korea will nuke California as Iran is nuking New York as we wage a global struggle against China and Russia and “totalitarianism.” Sounds like fun!

If this is what the Marco Rubio comeback is going to look like, I’m not convinced it’s a wise strategy. Republicans may be obsessed with the image of our “weak” president “folding” before “tough” Vladimir Putin, but Americans in general are not hugely interested in picking fights with other countries at the moment.

Larison is unimpressed with the argument that Rubio is going to have some kind of broad appeal like Bush II did. Meanwhile, Matt Lewis looks at how Cruz is positioning himself:

Cruz is making a bet that Paul’s more libertarian positions on issues like non-interventionism aren’t a mainstream opinion. So he will set up shop just on the other side of Paul. Anyone who says, “I really like Paul’s position, but I think we need to stand up to Russia,” now has a home. Or the guy who says, “I hate drones, but I don’t want Iran to go nuclear,” has a candidate.

Whoever wins this foreign policy debate may be extraordinarily important for the future of the United States in the world.