If we launched the Iraq War for corporate profits, we have a poisonously corrupt government that is a threat to world peace. If we caused Japan to react angrily with ill-considered sanctions prior to Pearl Harbor, as Paul said in 2012, perhaps we were reaping what we sowed in what is usually regarded as one of the most notorious sneak attacks of all time. If we are guilty of tweaking Russia while it secures a traditional sphere of influence, as Paul said when the Crimea crisis first broke out, it’s no wonder that Vladimir Putin lashes out.
You can hear in all this a note of the blame-America-first libertarianism embraced by some Paulite thinkers and writers. Rand Paul himself is more circumspect. After the Japan comments surfaced, one of Paul’s advisers put out a statement in support of World War II, which usually goes without saying. Paul quickly toughened up his rhetoric on Russia as Putin’s Crimea invasion unfolded.
Paul likes to calls his foreign policy “realism,” but his record on Russia suggests the label is inapt. Last year, he thought what was wrong with President Barack Obama’s Syria policy was that we weren’t engaging the Russians enough. Earlier this year, he held out the Syria chemical-weapons deal — a humiliation for the United States that secured Bashar Assad in power — as a model for future diplomacy. He thought the Russians were a partner for peace, right on the cusp of their launching a war.