Rand Paul on dad's 9/11 comments: Some terrorists want to attack us whether we're overseas or not

I wondered in last night’s post whether Rand shares Ron’s fondness for the “blowback” magic-bullet theory of terrorism, so here’s your answer. It feels surreal crediting a U.S. senator and aspiring presidential nominee for having the basic common sense not to blame America for 9/11, especially on 9/11, but given the tenor of the comments among the Paul fanbase on Ron’s Facebook post yesterday, this is actually Rand taking a bit of a risk.

The elder Paul said Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, that they were “blowback for decades of U.S. intervention in the Middle East.” In a radio interview Thursday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee asked the younger Paul about his father’s comments, which Paul said he had not heard until then.

“What I would say is that, you know there are a variety of reasons and when someone attacks you it’s not so much important what they say their reasons are,” Paul said. “The most important thing is that we defend ourselves from attack. And whether or not some are motivated by our presence overseas, I think some are also motivated whether we’re there or not. So I think there’s a combination of reasons why we’re attacked.”…

“The bottom line is, I think people around the world and our enemies around the world need to know that if we’re ever attacked on something like 9/11, if anyone were ever to use chemical weapons on our soldiers anywhere in the world, the response would be an overwhelming one from America and I think that’s the credibility we always need to maintain,” he said.

Is that true, that it’s “not so much important what they say their reasons are”? Ron Paul would disagree. So would lots and lots and lots of hawks. If you want to defeat your enemy, or at least figure out how to get him to leave you alone, knowing what motivates him is helpful.

Back to “blowback,” though. A Canadian columnist wonders: What about the blowback caused by not intervening? Like it or not, as the world’s hyperpower, America’s going to alienate some people abroad when it doesn’t act, not just when it does.

It’s almost impossible to know what a NATO country like Canada should do in a situation like this, with the United States, NATO’s undisputed star quarterback, in a state of dribbling, catatonic paralysis. Canada has already contributed more than $300 million in humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees and to infrastructure and security supports in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. True, there’s a lot more we could be doing.

We could be assisting in the development of police and judicial systems in Syria’s liberated areas, building up field hospitals inside Syria and on the Syrian-Turkish border, funding scholarships, setting up a proper family reunification program for Syrian Canadians — for these kinds of things, it is not too late.

But ultimately, the unforgivable cowardice and indifference to Syrian suffering that has been the primary “international community” context within which Syria’s revolutionaries have been obliged to struggle will surely one day produce something along the lines of the “blowback” thing we hear about from time to time.

Will the repercussions from choosing not to aid Syrians be worse than the repercussions from punching Assad to get him to put down his gas? Probably not, but who knows? Like Rand Paul says, and as I said myself last night, there are lots of reasons that bad actors zero in on America as a hate object. The reason not to intervene in Syria isn’t because there’s a greater risk of blowback from acting than not acting (if not intervening leads to a regional war that hugely damages U.S. economic interests, is that “blowback”?), it’s because there’s no obvious U.S. interest in one side winning versus the other losing to justify risking American lives on the outcome. If the rebels really were the moderate secular freedom fighters of John McCain’s fondest dreams, that would be a strong reason to support them against Iran. As it is, we’re looking at either an Iranian protectorate there or an Al Qaeda statelet. Whatever the U.S. does or doesn’t do, it’ll be hated by whoever emerges.