Lately, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has been playing the hawkish foreign policy and security state yang to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) realist foreign policy and libertarian civil liberties yin. King has even floated his name out there as a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate specifically to counter the rising influence of more “isolationist” Republicans like Sen. Paul. King makes it clear that others have approached him about running due to their concerns that no one is talking about national security to their satisfaction.
Another potential national security presidential candidate whose name has been floated is former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. As the National Review article linked above indicates, Bolton is also being encouraged to run by hawks who want a champion to counter what they perceive to be the libertarian drift on foreign policy within the Republican Party.
While these hawks are the kind of foolish that a foolish ideology makes men, they cannot all be stupid or without political savvy. I’m sure they understand that neither Bolton nor King have much of a chance of winning the GOP nomination, but they also seem to understand the importance of having someone clearly making their case so that it is not lost in the noise of a presidential campaign season. Some foreign policy non-interventionists could learn a thing or two from these King and Bolton boosters.
Bolton and King are clearly attempting to counter Rand Paul and his perceived libertarian tendencies, but this says at least as much about the paranoia and absolutism of the uber-hawks as it does about Rand Paul. Among non-interventionists, Rand Paul is widely viewed as a disappointment. The reasons for this warrant a separate article, but suffice it to say that while Rand Paul is better on foreign policy than your average Republican, he is not his father by a long shot.
Principled non-interventionists are often lectured by more pragmatic types that Rand Paul is the best we’ve got so we should make the best of it, but if the uber-hawks want a clear messenger like King or Bolton for their hawkishness despite the presence of more credible candidates who are mostly with them, why shouldn’t non-interventionists yearn for a clear messenger for their cause? While I think the super hawks are dangerously wrong, I admire that they are pro-actively seeking a spokesman to their liking for their message.
Despite the paranoia of the hawks, while skepticism of particular interventions may be growing, interventionism remains the default underlying premise of almost all elected Republicans at the national level. If it weren’t so, then why would non-interventionists be told that Rand is the best we should hope for?
But it is precisely because this interventionist premise is virtually unchallenged outside paleoconservative and libertarian circles that we so desperately need a principled non-interventionist to challenge the status quo and clearly articulate an alternative vision. Someone who could truly be a real non-interventionist yin to Bolton’s and/or King’s hyper-interventionist yang rather than Rand’s weak sauce. We need someone to carry on the non-interventionist message articulated by Rand’s father in 2008 and 2012. The current iteration of Rand Paul, despite the panic of King and Bolton and their ultrahawkish allies, is not it.
Who some potential standard-bearers for principled non-interventionism in 2016 might be will be the subject of a future column.