Richard Stevenson reviews the foreign policy disagreements between Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Here he describes Sen. Paul’s recent comments on Israel:
He backed the stance of the conservative Israeli government on settlements, and after returning, he told the conservative media outlet Breitbart.com that an attack on Israel should be considered an attack on the United States.
In fact, Sen. Paul went a little beyond that and said that the U.S. should publicly “announce to the world” that an attack on Israel would be treated as an attack on the United States. There are several things wrong with this idea. First, it isn’t a true reflection of what U.S. policy has been and what it presumably will be in the future. The U.S. has no formal defense obligation to Israel, and attacks on Israel have never been treated as attacks on the United States. Especially because of the strains on our military and our current fiscal woes, it doesn’t make any sense for the U.S. to extend yet another security guarantee to a prospering client state that can already provide for its own defense. The U.S. needs to reduce allied and client dependency on the U.S. We certainly shouldn’t be adding any new security guarantees.
More to the point, making this announcement would be unnecessary. Israel has the most powerful military in the region, and it possesses its own nuclear deterrent. No state that would be deterred by such an announcement is going to launch an attack on Israel, because it is already deterred from doing so by Israel’s military arsenal. Those militias and groups that are still willing to launch strikes on Israel would still be willing to do so after such an announcement. The only things that this announcement would achieve would be to link the U.S. even more closely with Israel in the eyes of the world and potentially to make Americans targets of these groups.
If the U.S. made such an announcement and followed through on it the next time there is a conflict between Israel and Hizbullah, for example, the U.S. would be committing itself to involvement in a conflict in Lebanon that serves no discernible U.S. interest. If the U.S. makes the announcement and then doesn’t honor the guarantee being made, other U.S. security guarantees that may be necessary elsewhere in the world could be undermined. The worst-case scenario is that providing such a guarantee to Israel could make a future Israeli government more aggressive in its behavior towards one of its neighbors, and that could end up pulling the U.S. into a war that it wasn’t seeking and shouldn’t be fighting.