Paul breaks new ground

Rand Paul’s filibuster represented a new and noble attempt to limit the excesses of the national security state. Not only did he conduct an actual filibuster, instead of cowering behind silent tactics to delay or defeat legislation, he made salient points against the possible abuse of drones. In this effort he was joined by other Republicans and not a few Democrats, most notably Ron Wyden of Oregon.

John McCain and Lindsay Graham, who have never seen a military action they didn’t like, predictably hammered Paul as reckless. McCain called it a bid for support among “impressionable libertarian students in their dorm rooms.” As usual, anyone who questioned the almighty security apparatus was subject to ad hominem attacks. McCain even referred to Paul as a “whack-o,” and all because he legitimately questioned the possible misuses domestically of a new technology. Instead of having his sanity questioned, he needs to be patted on the back for being contemplative.

Too often anyone questioning irresponsible interventions or actions have been ridiculed as loners or disloyal. Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska were depicted as perverse mavericks when they opposed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in August 1964. Eleven years later in 1975, they were considered wise. For those who criticized Pat Buchanan for opposing George W. Bush’s efforts to invade Iraq in 2003 as being extreme, the following events proved the critic right.

Dissent is useful in preventing severe errors. Iraq and Vietnam cost America much in lives and treasure, not to mention international support.

It was in fact libertarian conservatives who led the way in the critique of George W. Bush. Chuck Hagel saw his nomination held up by John McCain, whose love for an ill-advised surge in 2007 fashioned his opinion of his former Senate colleague. Iraq is hardly a success story, and Paul and his father Ron know it as well as others. That elements of the Right now question a reflexive response to foreign policy is refreshing. The Pauls deserve great credit for this.

By questioning President Barack Obama’s policies and methods, they are doing a service as well. Democrats must hold their president to the same standards to which they held George W. Bush. Obama ill-advisedly orchestrated a surge in Afghanistan, although he is slowly reversing that decision. Foreign policy disasters are often made possible by an ill-advised rush to judgment and calls for action.

Paul’s filibuster was not dealing with that broad a policy but nevertheless its questioning of the means is significant.

Smartly, Paul made his point and then withdrew. He obviously ruffled the feathers of what Pat Buchanan referred to the “Amen corner” of interventionists.

He comported himself as a gentleman and nicely held his ground. Moreover, he was careful in his language, avoiding inflammatory appeals and loaded phrases.

He spoke of hypothetical abuses and worried if such technology fell into the hands of leaders with no scruples. Goodness knows Paul has seen abuses of oversized power from the War on Drugs to Ruby Ridge.

Again, Paul is to be saluted for questioning power and for making his point thoughtfully.