Sen. Rand Paul Questions Sec. of State Nominee Blinken on Regime Change

19 Jan 2021

Sen. Rand Paul Questions Sec. of State Nominee Blinken on Regime Change

January 19, 2021

Sen. Rand Paul: Like Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton, you've been a consistent supporter of military intervention in the Middle East, from the Irak War, the Libyan War to the Syrian Civil War. Someone on your side of the aisle including the president elect said, well, we were given bad intelligence, they mislead us on the intelligence on Irak. That's a very specific reason, there's probably some truth to it, but I think it misses, sort of, the lessons of the Irak War. Likewise, your justification for maybe coming to a new approach on the Libyan Civil Wars, well, maybe we overestimated the idea of viable successors there. To me, it seems like we're still missing the point because even after Libya you guys went on to Syria wanting to do the same thing again and you've argued, maby we didn't do enough, if we had done more we could have toppled Assad and we could have had real regime change. You got it in Irak, you got it in Libya and it's a desaster. The lessons of these wars is that regime change doesn't work. People say, oh, we're going to get rid of the iron fist and Thomas Jefferson is going to arise from the ashes. Well that, you know, is a naive notion to believe that Thomas Jefferson or his like live in Libya or live in Irak. Their tradion is so much different then ours. When we've been fighting against centralised power in the English tradition for 1000 years. The revolution in England was 350 years ago, ours was 250 years ago. That tradition they don't have. They have a tribal existance, you trade one for a another. But mostly, what you have gotten to the policies you have advocated and Joe Biden has advocated and, frankly, John Bolton has advocated, this idea of regime change has been a desaster for the Middle East. We complain, everybody around here is concerned, Iran, Iran, Iran. Well, why is Iran stronger? Who's their best friend in the region now? Irak! You know, we did that. We had a balance of power, it wasn't perfect, but we had somewhat of a balance of power in the Middle East and you guys messed it up. You got rid of the one bad guy and another bad guy got stronger. And so then you went to Libya and did the same thing and they said, maybe Libya is a one off. Maybe there's a rule here, maybe there is something we can learn about regime change and maybe we can learn that humility would be that maybe we shouldn't be chosing every government in the Middle East

I would argue that instead of chosing every government maybe we should not reward the bad ones. You know what I mean? So, e. g. with Saudia Arabia. I dispise the regime. I'd probably still trade with the, I probably wouldn't cut them off completely. I wouldn't sell them any more arms, and after they killed Kashoggi, they shouldn't have got one bit of our armaments. But both sides advocate for this. On UAE, we tried to stop that because UAE has a terrible human rights record. Both sides support it. The problem around here is we have bipartisan consensus. The problem isn't lack of consensus, the problem is too much consensus because the consensus is for regime change. Are any of the lessons you learned from the failure of Irak war, Libyan war, the chaos, the vacuum and more terrorism that occured and more lives that were lost and then to go on to Syria, I don't get that there's been a lesson learned. Is there any kind of lesson learned on your part that regime change my not be the best thing for us in the Middle East?

Blinken: Senator, I think we, we and I certainly have an obligation to try to learn from everything we've done, advocated, taken into account the results and to make that inform how we think about these problems going forward and I've done a lot of hard thinking about some of the very situations you mentioned. I'm proud of the fact that I've spent all of my carreer during the times I've been in government for the better part of 25 years working to advance our diplomacy to do everything we possibly can to make the diplomacy is the first answer, not the last answer and that war and conflict is a last resort .

Sen. Rand Paul: That was Syria, the next step was the Syrian Civil War which looks a lot like the Irak War and the Libyan War ..

Blinken: In Syria there were those who were advocating for a repeat of Irak which is to say a whole scale intervention that is something I did not agree with. When we were looking at what to do in Afghanistan ....

Sen. Rand Paul: But here's the problem in Syria: There is a predictable result there. Had you gotten rid of Assad, who were the fiercest fighters over there? Al Nusra and Al Kaida, the most rad.... - the more radical you were, the better fighters you were. The programme that you started with Hilary Clinton, the programme that trained these "the moderate rebels", we spent 250 mill., we trained about 60, we sent 10 of them into battle and they were captured in the first 10 minutes. It was a complete desaster. This whole idea that there were moderates over there that we were going to support, doctors and lawyers and stuff, there were, but I don't think they were out there fighting. The ones out there fighting were Jihadist, Al Kaida, Al Nusra, and if they had taken over the country ..... Assad's a terrible person but I'm not positive that these people would have been better. So, it means the same lesson: Our humility has to be, lets quit toppling regimes over there. Let's don't support the bad ones but let's don't presume enogh that if we topple them that in the vacuum Thomas Jefferson is going to arise because it never seems to happen. With regard to advise and consent, and this is a little bit on Senator Borraso's extenstion of his question on treaties, it really isn't so much a solicited (solicitor's?) mood to say well, we just can't pass these treaties or we're going to make all these agreements and not coming to you but I would argue even more importantly on war. You have argued, when you've been part of administrations, that, oh yes, we'd like, like Senator Kaine is a more narrow AUMF (Anm. Übers.: Authorization for Use of Military Force) , but,we don't really need it.... You're not alone. That sort of, I think, arrogant executive sort of attitude comes from both parties. Every president of the last 50 years, in fact probably all of then did this, they believed they had absolute power, it's called this absolute Article 2 authority. And this runs on both sides. But it runs through the extremes on our side, the John Boltons on our side believe in the absolute Article 2 authority. The AUMF from 9/11 had nothing to do with people in Somalia. Do you think the AUMF from 9/11 authorises you to continue the war in Somalia?

Blinken: In think the AUMF from 9/11 has been used in countries and against groups that were not contemplated or recited in the AUMF which is the very strong reason why we should revisit it.

Sen. Rand Paul: But, it's very specific: it says people who organised to attack us. It doesn't mention, you know, if people say, well, they say: "and associated forces", that's not in it, somebody dreamed that up later and sort of said that it's in, it's not in there, it doesn't say "associated forces". There is no authorisation for war in Somalia, Mali, Jemen, which the Obama administration did support. So, there really isn't. I'm not for a more narrow one, I'm just for no more war over there, I'm tired of all the war, I'm tired of all the nation building ... Look, I'm as much for the rights of women as anybody, but if our goal is going to be that we're going to keep women in power, like in Saudi Arabia, are we going to war with Saudia Arabia, because they don't have women administers of health and stuff, you know, it really isn't exactly our national security you're talking about, you're talking about something different. Now, from the point of view of the secretary of state, there are things you can do to soft power to advocate for the principles we believe in. But, overthrowing governments to instill women's rights or to continue women's rights and to continue our military presence there and fight battles for it is really not something that is in the purview of the secretary of state or really under the constitution to anyone in our government. With regard to NATO, you've advocated for expanding NATO. Do you still support putting Georgia into NATO?

Blinken: If a country like Georgia is able to meet the requirements of membership and if it could contribute to our collective security, yes, the door should remain open.

Sen. Rand Paul: So, if you're successful, we would be at war with Russia now.

Blinken: I actually thing it is the opposite: I think that, Senator, with regard to NATO membership, there is a very good reason that Russia has proved aggressiv against countries that are not actually in NATO and under the umbrella ...

Sen. Rand Paul: This would be adding Georgia that's occupied to NATO, under Article 5, then we would go to war ...

Blinken: Well, I think we've seen again in the past that countries that have joined NATO have not been the same target of Russian aggression that we've seen.

Sen. Rand Paul: We're talking about 20 years ago, we might have a valid argument now, Russia occupies Georgia, Russia occupies or proxy troups occupy part of Ukraine, so I think adding either of them to NATO not only is provocative but you have to think what comes next. I mean, if we're obligated to defend our NATO allies, I mean, basically, we'd be voting for war. So, I wouldn't vote to add Georgia to NATO, not on your life, unless I'm ready to send my kids and your kids to fight in Georgia ... There are complicated fights and wars and occupation around and just think that we need to think these things through. And I think for every provocation there is a response as well. So, we can't look at it in a vaccum: I don't care what Russia thinks, I don't care what Teheran thinks. If we don't understand our adversaries enough to think how will they respond then I don't think we are doing our job.

Blinken: I agree with you.

Sen. Rand Paul: But, as you can tell, I am not excited about more military intervention in the Middle East. I think there has been some chastening on the part of the incoming administration of our previous failures, but I don't think that you have completely gotten the idea that regime change has been a terrible desaster, created vacuums, chaos and acutally more terrorism throughout the reagion. So, I hope you will consider that it's important not just for the philosophical point but it's important for our kids, I mean, we are sending these kids over to fight these wars, they go on for ever and ever and ever and somebody has got to stand up. And I hope you will be somebody brave enough to stand up and stop some of this.

Blinken: I appreciate what you said.