Rand Paul Flips On ISIS: I’d Vote ‘In A Heartbeat’ For Air Strikes

Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Sen. Rand Paul said on Friday he’d vote to authorize further air strikes against ISIS “in a heartbeat,” changing his position on how the U.S. should deal with the radical Islamic group.

“I would vote yes and I would do it in a heartbeat. Radical Islam is a threat to the United States, our embassies, our journalists,” the Kentucky Republican said on Fox News, adding that President Barack Obama needs to seek permission from Congress.

Paul’s comments came one day after he published an opinion piece in TIME magazine saying he’d have “acted more strongly and decisively” against ISIS if he were in the president’s shoes.

“The military means to achieve these goals include airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Such airstrikes are the best way to suppress ISIS’s operational strength and allow allies such as the Kurds to regain a military advantage,” the senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate wrote.

Paul’s support for military action against ISIS is a new stance and cuts against his signature brand of nonintervention and deep skepticism when it comes to military action. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin points out, earlier this summer on June 22 the senator expressed wariness of U.S. involvement in the region.

“What’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama,” he said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution.”

In early August, Paul said he has “mixed feelings” about air strikes and emphasized the complexity of the political situation in Syria. (The U.S. has launched air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, and lawmakers are debating whether to also strike the militant group’s positions in Syria.)

“I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing, but I am concerned that ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria for a year,” he said, according to Kentucky-based WBKO. “Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them? Assad, the Syrian government. So a year ago, the same people who want to bomb ISIS wanted to bomb Syria last year. Syria and ISIS are on opposite sides of the war. We’re now bombing both sides of one war that has spread into another country.”

Paul suggested in the TIME op-ed that his new position was not a reversal. “Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying [ISIS] militarily,” he wrote. It was not the first time Paul revised his stance on a difficult issue while suggesting he never took his previous position.

Paul has, however, been consistent in his view that a long-term solution cannot come from the United States. “The final resolution of this war will not come from the west,” he said Friday on Fox News. “It will come from civilized Islam which is the vast majority of Islam. They need to rise up and wipe out these barbaric elements that I think are not true custodians of the religion.”

Paul’s change of heart was appreciated by leading military hawk, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Latest DC
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: