Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who has been engaged in a fight within the Grand Old Party over its foreign policy vision — in an interview published on Friday lambasted those in the “Christian community” who see war as an answer to every problem, saying that type of thinking isn’t very Christian.
Within the Senate, Paul has been steadily building up his profile as the antithesis to the Republican Party’s image from the past decade of eagerness for war. Paul has been particularly vocal over the past two weeks when speaking about Syria, appearing on radio and cable television alike to press against Congress voting to authorize force against Syria.
“You know, the president’s rattling the saber and beating the drums may have an effect,” Paul told NPR on Wednesday. “But you can also argue that the most hawkish members of Congress, who have wanted a full-scale bombing three weeks ago, you would have never gotten to this possibility of a diplomatic solution had you not had some delay in this.”
In speaking out against bombing Syria, Paul has also seemed to be laying the groundwork to push against launching military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program in the near future. “I think some within the Christian community are such great defenders of the promised land and the chosen people that they think war is always the answer, maybe even preemptive war,” Paul said in a recent interview with BuzzFeed. “And I think it’s hard to square the idea of a preemptive war and, to me, that over-eagerness [to go to] war, with Christianity.”
On the other side of the Hill, Paul has in match in Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Amash is only in his second-term, but he’s already become a leader in the House on what he sees as executive overreach when it comes to national security. When the National Security Agency was revealed to have several secret domestic intelligence programs in place, Amash led the charge in attempting to defund the spy agency if it didn’t pull back its efforts. Several weeks later, as the evidence mounted that chemical weapons were used against civilians in Syria and the White House readied for a military strike, the sophomore congressman lobbied hard to ensure that Congress would be able to vote on the matter before the missiles began flying.
But the two aren’t proceeding without resistance. On the other side of the House debate stands Amash’s fellow Michigander Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the House Intelligence committee, and a proponent of military action against Syria. “We’re either going to pay this price now or we’re going to pay a bigger price later,” Rogers argued on Sunday during a segment on CBS’ Face the Nation, only minutes before Amash appeared to counter him.
Paul has likewise faced down opposition from within his own party, particularly from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his allies. When Paul launched a much-discussed filibuster in March to protest secrecy surrounding drone strikes, McCain referred to Paul and his cohorts as “wacko birds.” McCain later apologized, but has continued to hit back against what he sees as a desire to withdraw from the U.S.’ role as a world leader. “As misguided as this exercise was, the political pressures on Republicans were significant and many ultimately did — including many who know better,” the senator said about his colleagues’ who joined Paul’s filibuster in a Center for New American Security speech in April.
Further clashing with some of his Republican (and Democratic) colleagues, Paul in particular has had an outspoken record on cutting foreign aid to U.S. allies, instead desiring to focus on “nation-building at home.” Last year his colleagues slammed him for suggesting cutting off all aid to both Pakistan and the government of then-Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.
The fight extends beyond the Hill, reaching into the wide-open landscape for the distant 2016 Republican primaries. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) lashed out in July at what he says are politicians seeking to challenge the post-9/11 security environment, pointing to Paul as a prime example. “These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation,” Christie said. “And they won’t, because that’s a much tougher conversation to have.”
“I want to break bread and have a beer with him sometime,” Paul said on Thursday, attempting to smooth over the fights. But back in July, Chrsitie threw cold water on the idea of a “beer summit” with Paul, saying he “[doesn’t] really have time for that.” The fact remains that the are policy differences between the two sides seem insurmountable, and with no real end in sight to the conflict between the opposite wings of the party, both will remain duking it out until one or the other reaches the White House.