Video: Rand Paul's rebuttal to Obama's speech on Syria

Useful, if only as a contrast to O’s blithe suggestion in his own speech that using “military might” against a monster should be enough to give conservatives war fee-vah. Paul touches all the bases you’d expect here — his point about whether a U.S. attack might inadvertently lead to more gassing, not less, is his best — but he’s forced to pretend (as was Obama himself) that Russia’s proposal might prove to be a real solution to the standoff. It isn’t. It’s a scam, transparently, which reluctant warriors on the Hill both left and right are semi-participating in because it’s a way out of the war box that Obama’s dopey “red line” rhetoric forced everyone into. If you’ve got an hour to kill this morning, spend it poring over the many, many stories today expressing skepticism or outright incredulity about trying to disarm Assad in the middle of a war. Take your pick: The NYT, the LA Times, WaPo, Reuters, Politico, Foreign Policy, and the Daily Beast, where Eli Lake notes that we’re now trusting a guy who supplies Assad with weapons (and who has himself been slow to get rid of his own gas) to be the top cop in taking his weapons away. A sample quote from the NYT:

“I’m very concerned about the fine print,” said Amy E. Smithson, an expert on chemical weapons at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. “It’s a gargantuan task for the inspectors to mothball production, install padlocks, inventory the bulk agent as well as the munitions. Then a lot of it has to be destroyed — in a war zone.”

“What I’m saying is, ‘Beware of this deal,’ ” Dr. Smithson added. “It’s deceptively attractive.”…

“We’re talking boots on the ground,” said one former United Nations weapons inspector from Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still works in the field on contracts and did not want to hurt his chances of future employment. “We’re not talking about just putting someone at the gate. You have to have layers of security.”


“It’s a smoke screen,” said former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli of the Russian-backed proposal for international monitors to remove Syria’s chemical weapons. “Nobody knows how many weapons they have, nobody knows where they are. It all depends on the Syrians providing full, accountable transparency.”…

“I don’t think for one moment that the Syrians will give up their chemical weapons stocks. They will say they will give it up and they will play the game to undercut any support for a military strike. But they will then start to put conditions on verification and on the foreign presence in Syria,” Joseph said. “Soon, they will start in with Israel; demanding that Israel’s nuclear weapons be put on the table. All of this will lead nowhere for the United States — exactly where Damascus and Moscow want it to go.”…

“I am unaware of anyone successfully gaining control of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and monitoring them and ultimately eliminating them in the middle of a war,” said Thomas Graham, a former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency official who helped negotiate the Chemical Weapons Convention. “It’s a difficult task even in peacetime. … I won’t say it’s impossible, but it would appear to be extremely difficult.”

Paul’s careful to say that the Russian plan shouldn’t automatically be taken at face value (trust, but verify), but if you’re going to drop a libertarian anti-war truth bomb on the president in prime time, why reduce the payload by giving it any credibility at all? Obama’s out there lying baldfaced to the American people about how Putin’s plan might achieve something meaningful, and in the process he’s setting up another military push a few weeks or months from now if/when Russia refuses to meet western demands for a firm deadline for Assad to turn over his weapons. Paul could have flagged that; he could have also noted that, while Russia’s plan is a scam insofar as it’ll never succeed in disarming Assad, a U.S. bombing run wouldn’t succeed either. And he could have pointed out that it’s exceedingly strange that, after two years of red lines and Assad-must-go’s, the U.S. and its allies are now trying to resolve the standoff by placing their faith in Assad’s legitimacy and credibility. The unvarnished anti-war line would have been to call B.S. on this whole thing and say that, while it’s horrendous that Syria has come to the point it’s at, the terrible fact is that the United States simply lacks the power and political will at this point to make it appreciably less horrendous.

But Paul probably figured he couldn’t get away with that with a presidential primary looming in two years. He doesn’t want to be “the anti-war candidate” facing an electorate that’s still hawkish on balance. So he calculated that it’s better to play along with the charade that diplomacy might achieve America’s goals here instead of gently reminding the audience that sometimes America doesn’t get to achieve its goals. Speaking of which, check him out at the beginning of the clip touting the fact that the U.S. used “overwhelming force” to smash the monsters behind 9/11. Would he have endorsed overwhelming force had he been president instead of Bush? Show of hands: Who thinks so?