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Rand Paul’s Unnecessary Security Guarantee

Richard Stevenson reviews [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] 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.

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Rand Paul’s Unnecessary Security Guarantee"

#1 Comment By SeaBee On January 26, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

We have never had a security treaty with Israel – nor should we. All American presidents have avoided putting anything binding on paper, for obvious reasons, and Rand Paul should know better than to peddle nonsense like this.

#2 Comment By kyle huckins On January 26, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

Does this mean we can stop hearing about him inheriting his fathers legacy now?

#3 Comment By Aaron Gross On January 26, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

Maybe we shouldn’t take his pandering seriously, but I’m wondering: Just what is an “attack on Israel”? Is a rocket attack on Israel a rocket attack on the United States? An armed incursion into Israeli territory? A bomb detonated on a bus? A bomb dropped from the air? What’s an “attack”?

#4 Comment By SDS On January 26, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

Well, it was promising; for short while….

Pretty soon he’ll be pushing for more military aid to Israel as well…..

And stating “deficits don’t matter”….

#5 Comment By Noah172 On January 26, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

Well, it was nice while it lasted. I think I’m done with Paul junior now. If he is pandering insincerely to those contemptible pharisee “Christian” Zionists, then shame on him for peddling dangerous ideas that he knows are wrong.

His father is a real patriot and small-r republican, unafraid to tell Hagee/Robertson/Falwell hicks that they are undermining their own country.

The UK and France gave unconditional security guarantees to Poland. Remind me, how did that work out?

#6 Comment By Mario Leone On January 26, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

I think in the grand scheme of things, this was an inconsequential statement geared towards the Republicans who didn’t care for Ron. It really is meaningless; everyone knows Israel can annihilate anyone in the Middle East with or without American help. Rand was just over there calling for more trade between Israel and West Bank/Gaza and ending Israeli aid so he will be fine. We just need to let him get this BS out of the air early. Remember that when it counts, he was interrogating Kerry on the significance of the War Powers Act and really going after Clinton. Rand is not a neocon.

#7 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 26, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

“Rand is not a neocon.”

No, he’s not, and I wouldn’t claim that he is. That isn’t the point. Maybe this doesn’t matter in the long run, but it’s an unnecessary statement that could have easily been avoided.

#8 Comment By collin On January 26, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

In a surprise announcement, Rand Paul and Marco Rubrio recommend Israel is so important to the US that they should be given 100 delegates in the Republican primary.

His conversion to neocon is going quicker than planned and any day he will support the extension of the Patriot Act.

#9 Comment By Chris 1 On January 26, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

Rand is not a neocon, but the statement demonstrates a willingness to demagogue an issue for what he perceives is short-term political gain.

We either must assume he meant what he said or he didn’t, and neither assumption makes him a more appealing candidate.

#10 Comment By Race Bannon On January 26, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

We cannot have a formal security treaty with any country until that country first defines its territorial boundaries, something Israel has steadfastly refused to do.

(I will refrain from hurling invectives at Rand Paul, but one must seriously question, based on his inanity, if he really is his father’s son.)

#11 Comment By Sean Scallon On January 26, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

If you listen to Rand’s claque such statements are a necessary part of nomination process. To them it’s all about “focusing on what he does, not what he says.” But if you believe rhetoric is a meaningless reality of our political system, then President Romney and Sen. Akin I think they would disagree with you.

#12 Comment By Red Phillips On January 26, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

Daniel, all your analysis is nice but superfluous. This is an abject sell out. There is no spinning it otherwise. Anyone who had hopes that Rand might carry the non-interventionist banner in 2016 needs to start looking for another candidate. I really want to know what Jack Hunter has to say about this.

#13 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 26, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

I agree that it’s an awful statement. I don’t think I’m trying to spin anything here. The more I think about this statement, the worse it seems to me.

#14 Comment By Patrick On January 26, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

What’s funny is that Senator Paul will be tossed under a bus because he isn’t a neocon-100-percenter. He’s alienated his base without gaining help.

I guess he wasn’t ready for the prime time anyway.

#15 Comment By KJL On January 26, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

In terms of broadening the GOP’s appeal, the fixation with Israel on part of a number of Republican Senators – among them Rand Paul, Rubio, McCain, Graham and Cruz, just to name a few who have been on the Sunday shows in recent weeks profusely going to bat for the country as though it is our little sister to smother with protection – is bizarre. Do they think this Israel stuff resonates with the American public? It certainly makes Rand Paul’s frequent denouncement of foreign aid sound preposterous.

#16 Comment By Peter Schaim On January 26, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

Noah172 says:

“The UK and France gave unconditional security guarantees to Poland. Remind me, how did that work out?”

Well, as I remember, war was declared, and the Nazi’s met a growing resistance (The Allies), so much so, that by 1945, they declared victory over Germany and restored Western Europe to Democracy.

I suppose what I am saying is that Britain and France’s support for Poland (doomed no matter what) was good for Europe and for the world, and that the example of Poland is an unsuitable comparison with Israel, unless I’m missing something.

On the money with Rand though.

#17 Comment By Uncle Vanya On January 27, 2013 @ 1:31 am

Until it wins back its erstwhile supporters, the GOP doesn’t need to worry about broadening its base. It needs to shore up its failing marriage with middle America, and until it does that, it needs to stop worrying about reaching out to women, minorities, lesbians and gays.

And they should remember, the same people who are telling them that they need to broaden their base are the same ones who claimed Iraq and Afghanistan would be cakewalks, free trade would usher in a period of never before seen national prosperity and that passing Medicare Part D would put the seniors in the pockets of a generation of GOP politics.

Those people were totally wrong on those issues, so I’ll wager they’re again completely off the mark when they tell the GOP it needs to broaden its base. (I guess they haven’t yet asked themselves why did 7,000,000 of their supporters stay home on election day?)

So, if any republican operatives are reading this, remember: Dance with the one who brought you.

#18 Comment By Clint On January 27, 2013 @ 5:07 am

A Presidenr Rand Paul will never take The United States to War unilaterally.


#19 Comment By Gerard On January 27, 2013 @ 8:25 am

Rand Paul selling out would be much more difficult to deal with if the Republican Party and conservatism weren’t becoming more impotent and irrelevant by the day– thanks in part to their own self-destructive policies that hastened the demographic shift. The best the GOP can do in future elections is beat the point spread. After a decade of ass-kissing and everything for Israel the GOP only lost the Jewish vote by 41%.

#20 Comment By Noah172 On January 27, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

Well, as I remember, war was declared, and the Nazi’s met a growing resistance (The Allies), so much so, that by 1945, they declared victory over Germany and restored Western Europe to Democracy.

I suppose what I am saying is that Britain and France’s support for Poland (doomed no matter what) was good for Europe and for the world

But what about Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe? They got nearly half a century of communist tyranny, despite the Anglo-French “guarantee”. They would have been much better off if Nazi Germany and the USSR had fought each other to a stalemate — which was likely given the balance of, on one hand, German industrial superiority over the Soviets coupled with German fighting spirit, and, OTOH, Russian geography and far greater Soviet population numbers — and both totalitarian systems collapsing from within.

We aren’t promising to protect Israel to “restore” democracy to the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, for instance, is despotic, but that kingdom is not threatening (or perceived to be threatening) Israel’s security. Our political class is in thrall to Israel and only Israel, for reasons of domestic politics.

What about the UK and France themselves? Did their guarantee to Poland end up being a good idea for their citizens — who, lest we forget, elected their leaders to advance national, not global, interests (assuming FTSA of course that the war was in fact good for the world)? Both nations came out of the war severly weakened, lost their empires (which might have been the right thing to do in a gradual way over the long term, but was devastating as part of an enervating war), and lost their status as leading world powers. And they didn’t even save Poland!

#21 Comment By James Canning On January 27, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

Perceptive piece.

Don’t most former directors of Israeli internal security (shin Bet) say Israel must get out of the West Bank? Yet Rand Paul thinks the US should spend trillions of dollars in hopes insane illegal colonies can continue to grow?

#22 Comment By James Canning On January 27, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

If Rand Paul wants Israel to live in peace, he should tell Israeli leaders to sign the NPT and get out of the West Bank and Golan Heights.

#23 Comment By Chad On January 28, 2013 @ 12:35 am

As a liberal I must say this statement is disconcerting. I was hoping Rand while unsuccessful in his bid to become President would at least pull the GOP into forming a more coherent ideology when applying it’s “small government” litmus test. I guess we must hope that President Obama pursues a “peace dividend” by cutting the defense budget although I’m not too heavily invested in predicting that he will.

#24 Comment By Brian A. Cobb On January 28, 2013 @ 3:58 am

…and his dad never would have spoken so boorishly to Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearing.

#25 Comment By steve in ohio On January 28, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

I’ll be a contrarian here and suggest Rand did what he had to do to win the nomination. Many primary voters in 2016 will be Christian evangelicals who believe God promises to bless any nation that supports Israel. If they know Rand is pro Israeli, I think they will listen to his arguments to be non interventionist and cut defense spending.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you want smaller government and a saner foreign policy, Rand may be the only game in town. OTOH we could start now working for Gary Johnson and maybe watch him rise to 5% next time around.

#26 Comment By James Canning On January 28, 2013 @ 1:53 pm


And let us remember that a number of neocon warmongers press for the admission of Israel to NATO. Insane.

#27 Comment By James Canning On January 28, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

Noah172 – – Winston Churchill sometimes would say privately, after the war, that he was not sure it had been worth it to fight that war. But he supposed the Nazis left Britain with no choice.

#28 Comment By Barry On January 28, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

Race Bannon says:
January 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

“(I will refrain from hurling invectives at Rand Paul, but one must seriously question, based on his inanity, if he really is his father’s son.)”

He is. Which is not complimenting the father.

I realized recently that a Rep doesn’t count for squat, save in cases where the House is truly tied. A Rep is therefore free to talk all the smack that he wants (so long as he brings the pork home to his district).

A Senator matters, though. Each of them has real power.
And note that Rand fils has been moving away from his father’s positions, now that he has the actual power to put up or shut up.

#29 Comment By Jedediah On January 29, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

They’re all the same..get elected… see who can ruin our foreign policy the most by sucking up to Israel…and opening out borders to the 3rd World..the GOP needs to go the way of the whigs

#30 Comment By vivarto On April 18, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Israel is indeed the only ally US has in the region.
It would be in our interest to support Israel and let it become the regional hegemonic power.

We can trust Israel to be our ally, we cannot and MUST NOT trust Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, etc.
They are and will always be our enemies. They say so between the lines, they say so in Arabic, their acts show it.

It was the great idiocy of the United States to push Israel to give away Sinai to Egypt. Today Sinai is a breading ground for Al Qaeda terrorists. It is even greater idiocy to pressure Israel to give away the so called West-Bank, to so called “Palestinians.” Arabs have more than enough land, and every bit of it is a failed state.
No Muslim state is going to be our ally unless they are totally secular. (E.g. Azerbaijan)