If Senator Rand Paul truly listened to his father for all those years why does he sometimes act like Mitt Romney? To be sure he has taken some positive positions regarding the surveillance state and the use of drones, though even there he frequently comes out with a zinger that suggests that he is not so much thoughtful and principled as grandstanding. His comments objecting to the domestic use of lethal drones notoriously granted an exemption to targeting anyone who has been "charged" with a crime. Or, putting it more anecdotally, when someone is coming "out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him."
In spite of his holding a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rand’s foreign policy blunders are legion, to include his recent baseless allegations that Defense Department nominee Chuck Hagel might have some unsavory foreign connections. A clueless Rand frequently appears to be in thrall to his advisers, who themselves are nurturing his presidential aspirations, to include a number of leading neoconservatives and ex-Romneyites like Dan Senor and Bill Kristol. It is no surprise that the esteemed senator from Kentucky has swallowed whole the "radical Islam is the enemy" shtick that he has been fed while asserting Iran "is engaged in the pursuit of nuclear weapons and supports terrorism across the globe." Apparently lack of evidence for a nuclear weapons program does not inhibit believing otherwise while support of global terror sounds more like Washington than Tehran, but Rand has failed to dig deep enough to make those distinctions.
Rand has, of course, made his obligatory pilgrimage en famille to Israel to see "our Judeo Christian roots" while simultaneously kissing Benjamin Netanyahu’s ring. The trip was paid for by the anti-gay evangelical American Family Association, whose spokesman once asserted that Hitler surrounded himself with homosexual storm troopers because "straights" would have had moral objections to his policies. While in Israel, Rand discovered the meme that he has been beating to death ever since: that the U.S. should stop giving aid to countries that "are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America’…No one is accusing Israel of that." Which leaves Israel as a beacon unto humanity while a bunch of Arab countries stand around looking guilty. Later on the trip Rand advised the Palestinians that they would be punished by sanctions if they tried to declare statehood through the United Nations even if they refrain from chanting or burning flags.
After returning from his root finding and his road to Damascus discovery about chanting flag arsonists, Rand Paul confronted Secretary of State nominee John Kerry, demanding an end to arms supplies for Egypt as those feckless Gippos have been saying so many nasty things about Israelis and "they only understand…strength." On the next day he called on the Administration to publicly declare that an attack on Israel would be considered the same as an attack on the U.S. At the end of May he spoke before a Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) gathering and picked up the theme yet again, praising the ZOA for its courageous display of support for his demand to end the flow of money and arms to Egypt and Pakistan. But not to Israel. Per Paul, "the U.S. and Israel have a great shared religious and cultural history."
Well, Rand is at it again, second verse same as the first except that he has now also discovered that there is also a plot against Christians being organized by those dastardly Muslims who run around shouting "Death to America," presumably in English so Rand can understand it, while torching Old Glory. Speaking at the evangelical Faith and Freedom (sic) conference in Washington on June 13th, Paul asserted that those very same chanters are "haters of Christianity," that "American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East, and I believe that must end."
Well, for once I agree with Rand but somehow I have heard a different version of what might be going on. If one goes back to 2001, it would have been possible to discover ancient and vibrant Christian communities in both Syria and Iraq. As Rand has noted, though without being aware of the implications of what he was actually saying, U.S. taxpayer money brought about an invasion of Iraq that has all but destroyed the Christian minority, which had previously been protected by Saddam Hussein’s largely secular regime. Now the same thing is about to happen in Syria, where, ironically, many of the Iraqi Christians had sought refuge. So yes Rand, you are correct in observing that U.S. taxpayer dollars have all but eliminated a Christian presence that goes back two millennia, but you have to think a bit more about who is doing what to whom.
And then there is Israel. The most recent State Department report on religious persecution notes that Israelis are frequently hostile to non-Jews. Desecration of churches in 1948 and 1967 was widespread and has also recurred periodically since that time, Christian groups have been attacked by zealots, and missionaries who try to convert Jews to Christianity can be imprisoned for five years. In 2012, the Vatican protested after a Trappist monastery’s doors were burned and "Jesus was a Monkey" was written in orange spray paint on the building’s walls.
When Israel was founded in 1948, the number of Christians in the mostly Palestinian Arab population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean was between 300,000 and 400,000. Now it is considerably less than half of that. The Israeli government protects Jewish historical sites but permits the destruction of remains, including cemeteries, that are linked to Christianity or Islam. Churches and congregations have been subject to arbitrary treatment by the Israeli authorities, Christian clergy have been harassed and spat upon, and Christian villages have been surrounded by security walls and checkpoints making them economically dysfunctional. Most of the Christians who could leave Israel to join relatives in the west did so as a consequence. Indeed, one might reasonably claim that Israeli government policy is to encourage the Christian minority to leave. So that would make it another case where U.S. taxpayer money is underwriting a situation in which Christians are being persecuted, but it is hardly what Rand Paul had in mind.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky might indeed be the only Great White Hope for the recovery of the Republican Party at a national level, but that speaks more of the irrelevance of the GOP than it does of the possible remedies that are being promoted, particularly in the foreign policy realm. Paul would appear to be less inclined to intervene overseas than George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but one might recall that both Bush and Obama sang more-or-less the same tune before they ascended to the Oval Office and discovered what fun it is to run a powerful national security state. Paul’s limited foreign policy vision ends with professed generic non-interventionism and every time he opens his mouth on specifics he finds himself foundering as he seeks to explain himself. That someone can, with a straight face, decry the death of Christian communities in the Middle East without considering what has happened in Iraq and about to happen in Syria demonstrates an ignorance of the consequences of U.S. policies that might well be described as profound. How convenient to have Arabs to blame. How convenient to let the Israelis off the hook. Whatever it takes, whatever must be said to become president, Paul appears to be prepared to go along. How sad, and what a terrible footnote to his father’s legacy.