American weakness, not American strength, emboldens our enemies. Senator Paul’s illogical argument clouds a situation that should provide pure moral clarity.
Paul easily has the better of the argument here, and he could have gone further in tracing the origins of ISIS to the invasion of Iraq and the chaos created by regime change. Jeb Bush’s fantasies aside, the group that we now know as ISIS or the Islamic State sprang from the Iraq war. The flourishing of jihadist groups such as ISIS is one of that war’s most baleful consequences, and it would not have happened if there had been no invasion. Furthermore, ISIS did benefit from the weapons that the U.S. provided to the Iraqi army, since the army melted away and left those weapons to be seized by the terrorist group. It has also acquired some of the weapons that the U.S. has provided to “moderate” rebel groups in Syria, which is just what critics of proposals to “arm the rebels” warned might happen. Jihadists that declared support for ISIS have made gains in Libya thanks in part to the 2011 U.S.-led intervention supported by most Republican hawks. Jindal has nothing to say about any of these claims because he can’t refute them, and so he is reduced to flinging insults and rehearsing tired propaganda lines. Jindal thinks he has proved that Paul has shown himself unfit for the presidency, but he has just reminded us once again why Jindal’s judgment on foreign policy shouldn’t be trusted.
The weakness of Jindal’s position is reflected in his robotic recitation of ideological slogans. Interventionist policies routinely have negative and destructive consequences, and asserting the virtue of “American strength” doesn’t change that. If Jindal were interested in moral reflection here, he would grapple with the dangerous effects caused by unnecessary wars and the grave costs that those wars have for both the U.S. and the other countries affected by them. Hawks believe these wars to be expressions of “moral clarity,” but this just reminds us that “moral clarity” is often code for justifying whatever aggressive policies the U.S. happens to pursue while refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of those policies.