On September 18, 2014, the United States Senate voted 78-22 to arm and train the “moderate” Syrian rebels, a plan put forth by President Barack Obama. The day before, the United States House of Representatives passed the same resolution 319-108 with 4 no votes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much debate on either side. Leadership in the House and the Senate tried to push the resolution through without debate. You cannot blame one particular party for the votes, as the votes were in no way along party lines(this is quite evident in the United States Senate, where Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand joined Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to vote no). However, despite the passage of the bill and the names of those who voted for each side, one name stands out among the rest, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul voted no, but was by far the most vocal in Congress.
Senator Paul made impressions on multiple fronts with his opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. On September 17 Senator Paul questioned Secretary of State John Kerry on the White House’s plan in Syria. Secretary Kerry, as usual, dodged many of the questions, but Senator Paul remained adamant. After that, Senator Paul took to the Senate floor for 47 minutes in a passionate speech giving reasons as to why we shouldn’t be arming the rebels. Senator Paul was spot on with every single point.
However, his opposition has lasted for more than just the past few days, and this is where the controversy starts. It is no secret that Senator Paul does not get along well with many of the older and more “moderate” members of the party (does not get along is an understatement). There has been quite a bit of back and forth between Senator Paul and Senator John McCain. McCain has insisted for over a year that the Syrian rebels were moderate and had no ties to extremist groups such as al Qaeda. Senator McCain at times claimed he “trusted” them and that they were “his heroes” and “friends.” McCain advocated for arming these same rebels last year, and unofficially, we did end up arming the rebels (another point Senator Paul mentioned multiple times). Those arms, as we now know, have ended up in the hands of ISIS fighters. It’s important to note that Senator Paul fought against arming them last year too.
For the past few weeks Senator Paul has publically stated that he does want to attack and destroy ISIS. Many in the mainstream media have taken this out of context to say that Senator Paul has changed his views and that he is nothing but a flip flopper. However, the situation has changed significantly. ISIS has posed more of a threat now than they did 6 months ago. 12 months ago, ISIS was nothing; an organization that no one knew existed. Now many estimates have ISIS’ numbers around 30,000. Senator Paul supports destroying ISIS, but not arming a group that may turn out to be just as bad as or worse than ISIS. Senator Paul never argued for the United States to arm the Syrian rebels, and he stays true to that today.
There is one important thing that critics of Senator Paul’s foreign policy should realize, the situation has significantly changed. One year ago when Senator Paul said we should intervene in Syria, ISIS didn’t exist. One year ago the mission would have been against Bashar al-Assad, an intervention into a civil war. However, right now we are intervening not in just a civil war, but in genocide by homicidal barbarians. This time last year, American and British journalists had not been beheaded on video and sent to the entire world. This time last year, we hadn’t already sent arms that ended up in the arms of the extreme factions of the “moderate rebels.” Many politicians do change their stances on certain issues, and most of the time they are rightfully criticized for it. However, in this situation, the view of all politicians on this particular situation should have changed with the rise of ISIS.
I consider myself to be a Conservative. I am not Libertarian. I do not believe that the United States should be completely free of world affairs. There are certain cases in which the United States does need to get involved in certain world affairs. One of those cases involves the situation of Americans being killed. Another is when a group declares war on the United States and then attacks our allies. ISIS has done both. They have beheaded Americans, and attack innocent Christians, Muslims and Kurds all throughout Iraq and Syria. We do need to intervene, but it needs to be done in a smart way. The ideas that Senator Paul have put forward are not radical, they are not wishy-washy, they are not weak, they are spot on. We got into this mess by arming “moderate” rebels to fight Bashar al-Assad. We cannot get out of this mess by arming more “moderate” rebels. Another thing to keep in mind is the reported news that some of these “moderate” rebels may have signed a peace deal with ISIS.
Is this who we want our weapons to go to? Is this who we want our combat troops to be training? Is this where we want our taxpayer dollars to go? Absolutely not. I do not always agree with Senator Paul, but his analysis of the situation has been spot on, and he has been the loudest voice of reason by far with this situation. I am defending Senator Paul’s comments not because I am a Libertarian(I certainly am not), but because they make sense, they are common sense. If you don’t believe me, read his words from the Senate floor and see for yourselves:
“The biggest group that we give arms to is currently the Free Syrian Army, which currently has three different people claiming to be in charge of the Free Syrian Army. We don’t even know who’s in charge!”
“Half of them have defected! Half of them are now fighting with the jihadists!”
“So as we’ve sent 600 tons of weapons, Isis has only grown stronger.”
“The barnacled purveyors of war should admit their mistakes, and not compound them. Isis is now a threat, let’s get on with destroying them, but make no mistake, arming rebels in Syria will only make that more difficult.”