Many non-interventionists were perplexed by Senator Rand Paul's last minute support for Donald Trump's Secretary of State pick last week after a month of vocal opposition to the nomination of Mike Pompeo to the most influential White House cabinet position.
The former U.S. representative and CIA director's previous support for torturing detainees, extraordinary rendition, regime change in Iran, and continued NSA spying on the American people disqualified him for the cabinet position, Rand Paul argued:
"The neocons have been so completely and regularly wrong for decades now that it’s almost unimaginable to believe they would ever be in a position to advise a president again – let alone to wield the kind of power they will have if they lead some of our nation’s most powerful institutions."
So what changed at the very last second, when Trump needed one more vote in the Senate to confirm one of the U.S. government's most prolific neocons, and Rand Paul obliged?
Though the votes were tight to get his pick through the nomination process, Donald Trump didn't seem too concerned. When reporters asked him about Rand Paul's holdout vote, Trump said "He's never let me down... I have a feeling it's going to work out very well."
After voting to confirm neocon Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, Paul told reporters in an interview that in a series of three phone calls in one day on April 23, Donald Trump assured the Kentucky Senator that he would be returning to the non-interventionist policies that he championed as a candidate.
"The president told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of there. I think the president’s instincts and inclination are to resolve the Afghan conflict."
In his America First foreign policy speech in April 2016, Donald Trump promised a major reversal of the Bush-Obama era foreign policy of massive trillion-dollar military invasions and occupations of foreign countries halfway around the world.
"It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy...
We’re getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world. Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge. We need a new rational American foreign policy, informed by the best minds and supported by both parties, and it will be by both parties — Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody, as well as by our close allies...
Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction. The best way to achieve those goals is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy. With President Obama and Secretary Clinton we’ve had the exact opposite — a reckless, rudderless and aimless foreign policy, one that has blazed the path of destruction in its wake...
After losing thousands of lives and spending trillions of dollars, we are in far worst shape in the Middle East than ever, ever before. I challenge anyone to explain the strategic foreign policy vision of Obama/Clinton. It has been a complete and total disaster...
However, unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength. Although not in government service, I was totally against the war in Iraq, very proudly, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East...
Instead of trying to spread universal values that not everybody shares or wants, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions...
The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends and when old friends become allies, that’s what we want...
We want the world to be — we want to bring peace to the world. Too much destruction out there, too many destructive weapons. The power of weaponry is the single biggest problem that we have today in the world."
Many Americans voted for Trump thinking he would do what's best for business and what's best for America, unlike Hillary Clinton who would do what's best for some businesses (the ones that make bombs), signaling strong continuity with Bush-Obama era foreign policy.
Instead of a withdrawal from the Middle East, we got an escalation of the United States' longest war in history. The war in Afghanistan has dragged on so long that babies who were being born when the first U.S. troops landed there in 2001 are now old enough to enlist and fight in a war their parents could have fought in.
Those who believe in the American Founding Fathers' understanding of government and foreign policy can only hope that Donald Trump will actually keep the insinuations he made in private to Rand Paul on the phone after breaking the promises he made in public to all of America in prepared remarks on a campaign stage.
"The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." - James Madison
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison
"Having seen the people of all other nations bowed down to the earth under the wars and prodigalities of their rulers, I have cherished their opposites, peace, economy, and riddance of public debt, believing that these were the high road to public as well as private prosperity and happiness." - Thomas Jefferson
"Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." - George Washington