Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and former Bush administration Vice President Dick Cheney came to a sharp political disagreement this weekend on the subject of Iraq.
“It’s now a Jihadist wonderland in Iraq precisely because we got over-involved, not because we had too little involvement,” Paul said during CNN’s weekly program “State of the Union,” which aired on June 22.
Paul has been pushing for America to stay out of Iraq despite its current state of jihadist-induced chaos, while Cheney has been advocating the opposite, claiming that American force will make things right in the Middle East. Both men had their views published in recent op-eds in the Wall Street Journal.
“Leadership means admitting our mistakes so we can correct them,” wrote Paul in his June 19 piece, explaining that the initial American involvement in Iraq was a mistake and going back would only make it worse. “We will do ourselves no favors if we simply recommit to the same mistakes and heed the advice of those who made them in the first place.
“Too many in Washington are prevented by their own pride from admitting their mistakes,” Paul continued. “They are more concerned about saving face or pursuing a rigid ideology than they are with constructing a realist foreign policy.”
Cheney disagreed, saying that abandoning Iraq will have worldwide negative consequences.
“It is time the president and his allies faced some hard truths: America remains at war, and withdrawing troops from the field of battle while our enemies stay in the fight does not ‘end’ wars,” wrote Cheney. “Weakness and retreat are provocative. U.S. withdrawal from the world is disastrous and puts our own security at risk.”
Cheney believes that Paul is an “isolationist,” and uses the term disparagingly. “Isolationism, I think, is a flawed concept,” Cheney said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “My disagreement with Rand Paul isn’t personal. It’s on substance. I just think he’s wrong.”
This foreign policy disagreement between the two might be indicative of a wider divide in the Republican Party; in April, Mother Jones author David Corn described similar GOP dustups as “intra-party feud(s) between the Cheney/neocon crew of the GOP and Sen. Rand Paul.”
“We’ve become very, very concerned about the state of U.S. policy around the world,” Cheney told The Daily Caller. “ I worry that there is a growing isolationist strain in my own party.”
Cheney and his daughter Liz have recently started a nonprofit group called Alliance for a Strong America. Part of its mission statement says that the group is meant to “ensure that national security issues are a critical part of America’s national debate and discussion in the coming years and beyond.”
“That is,” The National Review interpreted, “it will try to stamp out Paulite foreign policy within the Republican Party.”
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2