Rand Paul: ‘True’ conservative foreign policy is ‘restrained’

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday called for the U.S. to adopt a "restrained" foreign policy, saying he was skeptical of long-term military efforts that increased power to Congress on matters of war.

In a high-profile speech to the Heritage Foundation, a Republican-leaning Washington think tank whose foreign policy analysts advocate a strong national defense, Paul said conservatives should embrace a foreign policy posture that is less interventionist and less costly.

"It is time for all Americans, and especially conservatives, to become as critical and reflective when examining foreign policy as we are with domestic policy. Should our military be defending this nation or constantly building other nations?" Paul said. "I’d argue that a more restrained foreign policy is the true conservative foreign policy, as it includes two basic tenets of true conservatism: respect for the Constitution, and fiscal discipline."

Paul, the son of former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, echoed a milder version of his father's anti-war message. The senior Paul's foreign policy views helped him gain support from mostly younger conservatives and libertarians in the party, but he struggled to find a broad coalition to support his presidential bid.

Instead of calling for full disengagement, the younger Paul, who is considering a run for president himself in 2016, called instead for "a balance" between those mulling war with Iran, for instance, and the noninterventionists.

"What would a foreign policy look like that tried to strike a balance?" Rand Paul said. "First, it would have less soldiers stationed overseas and less bases. Instead of large, limitless land wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy; strike with lethal force."

Since he arrived in the Senate in 2011, Paul, a tea party favorite, has tussled with members of his own party over the role of the American military. As a new member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Paul now has a platform for his argument that the GOP should be less willing to support military engagement and war funding.

On Iran, a nation that American officials worry is developing a nuclear weapons program, Paul said the United States should seek alternatives to war with the potentially hostile nation. He called for ending the practice of arming nations like Egypt and others he said were "hostile to Israel and the United States."

He also warned that the United States may not even have a choice to scale down its efforts abroad, cautioning that "the looming debt crisis" could force the nation to "reassess" its international role in the future regardless of international circumstances.