We must continue spending to supply our military with Tomahawk missiles, says ... Rand Paul?

This ain’t your daddy’s libertarian. More to the point, this ain’t his daddy’s libertarian.

First he went after Ted Cruz for trying to characterize him as a dove, now this. By the end of the year, he and McCain will be holding joint filibusters on the Senate floor demanding that America build the biggest nuclear bomb evah. Rand Paul, hawk?

In the current budget, the Obama Administration called for the elimination of the Tomahawk missile. This missile protects our troops and allows us to avoid much direct person-to-person combat. Our navy has depended heavily on them…

Nobody wants to cut spending, including Pentagon waste and abuse, more than me. I agree with former Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen who has said that the greatest threat to our national security is the national debt.

But I don’t want to cut weapons that have been integral to maintaining a strong military…

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has identified nearly $70 billion in waste–everything from studying flying dinosaurs to making beef jerky–that somehow qualifies as Department of Defense spending. The $128 million President Obama plans to cut next year from the Tomahawk program could easily be replaced by cutting some of this $70 billion we are wasting right now…

America should be a country that is always reluctant to go to war and that only goes to war constitutionally through a declaration by Congress. But if the time comes when our security or interests are threatened, the United States must always be ready to fight and win, decisively and quickly.

I’d pay cash money to watch him and Ron debate defense. They could make it happen at any time on Fox News; presumably Rand, who’s peevish about being pressed by the media on his father’s views (isn’t he the same guy who’s constantly bringing up Bill Clinton’s sins as an indirect attack on Hillary?), has decided that that’s too risky. There are potential benefits in doing it — there’s no better way to draw a contrast with Paul 1.0 than by challenging him in front of a camera — but holding on to Ron’s libertarian base (especially in Iowa) is a core part of his strategy. The contrast helps him with grassroots conservatives but hurts him potentially with old-school Paulites, which is why today’s Tomahawk op-ed ran at Breitbart rather than Reason. And a joint appearance opens each of them up to awkward questions. Would Ron be comfortable with Rand as commander-in-chief knowing that he’s taken a line on Russia after the Crimean invasion that’s basically as hawkish as any other prominent Republican’s? Would Rand feel comfortable with a commander-in-chief like Ron who’s willing to look the other way at Russian interventionism and defend an obviously crooked Crimean referendum? Does Ron agree that Tomahawks are a vital defense measure worth protecting or are they just another enticement to “warmongering”? There must be some derivative of the “starve the beast” approach among isolationist libertarians that says it’s better to have fewer weapons lying around lest the Pentagon be tempted to use them abroad. How about that idea, Rand?

But maybe I’m overestimating Rand’s fear of alienating the Ron Paul voters of 2012. Could be that there are more hawks (or moderate hawks) among them than we think and that those differences with doves were papered over in the name of advancing Ron’s candidacy. Now he’s retired and Rand’s the man so the hawks can assert themselves a bit more. This statement yesterday by one of the founders of Students for Liberty condemning Ron’s approach to Russia caught my eye as a reminder that libertarians aren’t uniform on foreign policy. They have their centrists and hardliners too, like any political movement, and Rand’s emergence as a more hawkish mainstream candidate may be emboldening some of the centrists to speak up. He talks a lot about needing to change the Republican Party but maybe he’s changing some parts of Paulworld too. Or maybe they’re going to turn on him viciously now that he’s extolling the virtues of missiles at the top of Breitbart. They don’t call him the most interesting man in the Senate for nothing!