Rand Paul’s unique understanding of Syria


It wasn’t surprising to see Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on “Meet the Press” yesterday criticizing the idea of military intervention in Syria. It was, however, interesting to hear his rationale for what U.S. foreign policy should look like in this case.

“I think the failure of the Obama administration has been we haven’t engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this, and I think they were engaged. I think there’s a possibility Assad could already be gone. The Russians have every reason to want to keep their influence in Syria, and I think the only way they do is if there’s a change in government where Assad has gone but some of the same people remain stable.

“That would also be good for the Christians. I think the Islamic rebels winning is a bad idea for the Christians and all of a sudden we’ll have another Islamic state where Christians are persecuted.

“So I think really the best outcome for all the major powers would be a peaceful transition government, and Russia could influence that if they told Assad no more weapons.”

Paul seemed oddly preoccupied with Christians in Syria – a group he mentioned five times during the brief interview – to the point at which it seemed the senator may be confusing Syria with Egypt, where Coptic Christians have seen their churches burned.

But it was his rhetoric about Russia that was especially out of place.

About 13 years ago, then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore met for the first of three debates, and Jim Lehrer asked about Slobodan Milosevic, who was threatening at the time to ignore his election results and leave office. Bush said it would be “a wonderful time for the Russians to step into the Balkans” and help lead diplomatic efforts.

Gore said that didn’t make any sense – Russia had largely sided with Milosevic and wasn’t prepared to accept the election results. Bush said, “Well obviously we wouldn’t use the Russians if they didn’t agree with our answer, Mr. Vice President.”

“They don’t,” Gore replied, making clear that only one candidate on the stage knew what he was talking about.

I thought about that 2000 debate watching Paul suggest the Obama administration should “engage” Russia to help create a “change in government” in Syria. Indeed, in Paul’s vision, Obama would convince Russia to deny military aid to the Assad government.

How would this happen, exactly? Does Rand Paul realize that Russia and the U.S. are on opposite sides of this, and “engaging” Russians to help oust Assad doesn’t really make any sense? Did the senator not fully prepare for questions about Syria before the interview?

Or is this just another issue in which the Kentucky Republican has strong opinions about a subject he doesn’t really understand?

Rand Paul and Syria

Rand Paul's unique understanding of Syria