Sen. Rand Paul: Reagan’s Foreign Policy Was Robust, But Also Restrained

By Fred Lucas | February 6, 2013 | 7:46 PM EST

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), frequently at odds with neoconservative Republican colleagues, invoked President Ronald Reagan to argue for a more restrained “true conservative foreign policy” respectful of the Constitution and fiscal discipline.

“We cannot afford endless occupation, but this does not mean that by leaving we disengage or that we will not and cannot contain radical Islam,” Paul said Wednesday speaking at the Heritage Foundation.

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“Everybody now loves Ronald Reagan,” Paul continued. “Even President Obama wants to vainly compare himself to Reagan. Reagan’s foreign policy was robust, but also restrained. He pulled no punches in telling ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ He did not shy away from labeling the Soviet Union as the evil Empire, but he also sat down with Gorbachev and negotiated meaningful reductions in nuclear weapons.

“Many of today’s neo-conservatives, they want to wrap themselves up in Reagan’s mantle, but the truth is that Reagan used clear messages of communism’s evil and clear exposition of America’s strength to contain and ultimately to transcend the Soviet Union ,” Paul added.

During the speech to the conservative think tank, Paul said there should be more debate among U.S. policy makers in handling the Iranian nuclear weapons problem – adding that he supported sanctions so long as they were not a pretext to war. He further cautioned the United States in aiding the Egyptian government and Syrian rebels.

The junior senator from Kentucky and son of former GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul affirmed that he was not an isolationist.

“A foreign policy that is everywhere all the time – that would be one polar extreme. Likewise, if we imagine a foreign policy that is nowhere any of the time, that’s another extreme,” Paul said. “There are challenges to our security that really do exist in this world, so I think really there has to be some in between. There are times, such as existed in Afghanistan of terrorist camps that do require intervention.

“Maybe we should strike a balance. Maybe we should be somewhere some of the time and do so respecting our Constitution. Reagan’s foreign policy was much closer to what I’m advocating than what we have today,” Paul added.

Throughout his remarks, he cited George Kennan, an American diplomat who advocated containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“The Cold War ended, and we won because the engine of capitalism defeated the engine of socialism,” Paul said. “Reagan, not by liberation captive people but by a combination of ‘don’t mess with us’ language and diplomacy, not inconsistent with Kennan's approach.”

Paul also said “more restrained foreign policy is the true conservative foreign policy as it includes two basic tenants of true conservatism: respect for the Constitution and fiscal discipline.”

“I’m convinced what we need is a foreign policy that works with peace through strength, a foreign policy that works within the confines of our Constitution and the reality of our fiscal crisis,” Paul said. “Today in Congress, there is no such nuance, no such moderation of dollars or of executive power.”

However, Paul did call one Reagan administration policy into question.

“In the 1980s, the war caucus in Congress funded Osama bin Laden and the Mujahedeen in the fight against the Soviet Union,” Paul said. “In fact, it was the official position of our State Department to support radical jihad against the Soviets. We all know how well that worked out.”

Paul cautioned about arming the Syrian rebels.

“Perhaps we might want to ask the opinion of the 1 million Christians in Syria, many of whom fled Iraq after our Shiite allies were installed,” Paul said. “Perhaps we might want to ask ‘will the Syrian rebels respect the rights of Christians and other ethnic minorities.”

He also had concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood’s power in the new Egyptian government.

“Out of the Arab Spring, new nations have emerged,” Paul said. “While discussion of Iran dominates world affairs, I think we should have more discussion on whether we continue to send aid to countries that are hostile to Israel and the United States. I think it is unwise to send more M1 tanks and F16 vipers to Egypt.”