Rand Paul's preemptive strike on the rest of the 2016 field over foreign policy

Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment reads: “Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” It is up to the elders of Simi Valley to determine whether an attack so clear in its target but that doesn’t actually invoke his target’s name is still in keeping with this rule. It’s not the first time Paul has employed this loophole. “The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered,” Paul said last year at CPAC. “I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?” The senator didn’t need to name names because it was obvious he was attacking John McCain, a previous Republican nominee with whom he was having a spat at the time.

Paul’s central argument is that some Republicans have turned Reagan into a cartoon of hawkishness. So Paul reminded readers of the various times that Reagan had been called an appeaser, like when he negotiated with the Russians, and when he withdrew U.S. troops from Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 Marines. What the critics of the time called weakness was the right approach, Paul argues. (Those signed up for the graduate level seminar will discuss the limits of criticizing others for using Reagan’s legacy while simultaneously using Reagan’s legacy to bolster your own views.)

By adding the war service element, Paul raises the stakes, arguing that there is a human cost to witless hawkishness.