Sen. Paul: Difficult to distinguish friend from foe in Syria

Lawmakers opposes military action


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 11, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, forget delaying it. Just ditch it? As the president asks Congress to postpone a vote on striking Syria, Republican Senator Rand Paul says it's time to strike the vote itself.

To the senator now on what kind of response he's been getting.

Senator, what kind of response?

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Well, we have been getting thousands of phone calls, and probably 96, 97 percent against being involved in the Syrian civil war. Anecdotally, when I meet G.I.s from my state or parents of G.I.s, we get not a no, but a hell no, about going into the Syrian civil war.

CAVUTO: John McCain was just here, Senator, saying we do have to get involved in this, that we do have to give a very clear signal to Bashar al-Assad that this cannot and will not be tolerated, and relying on promises from the Russian president is not going to cut it.

PAUL: Well, I guess my problem is, today, on the anniversary of 9/11, we ought to remember who attacked us, Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is now involved in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Islamic rebels that some in my party want to support. I think it's a mistake. I think there are bad people on every side of this war.

CAVUTO: Well, he said, just to clarify, sir -- he said, just to clarify, that there is way to distinguish between the Al Qaeda elements and those more friendly and that we would not be doing that. You say there's no way to ascertain that?

PAUL: Well, I say it's very difficult.

You know, in Afghanistan, we have people joining the Afghan army who say they're allies of America, I love America, until you turn around and they shoot you in the back. We have had 100 of our soldiers, American soldiers killed by people who pretended to be our friends.

So, when people line up in Syria and say, oh, please give me a Stinger missile, please give me a MANPAD, I'm ready to be for America, can we trust them when they line up in that line? I think it's very difficult for us to distinguish friend from foe. The Joint Chiefs of Staff's Martin Dempsey, he said as much several times. It's very difficult to determine friend from foe.

CAVUTO: Senator, since your name often gets mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, I know you don't like to talk about that stuff -- and maybe now isn't the time -- maybe you will raise it with me another time -- I wonder what your foreign policy then would be as president or what you think any president's foreign policy should be with regard to the Middle East?

Would it -- for a President Paul, would it be just let them deal with this, not us?

PAUL: Well, you know, I consider myself to be a realist on foreign policy.

I think we do have American interests in the Middle East. I think we need to and would defend our allies over there. Turkey's a NATO ally. Israel is a longstanding ally. Jordan is a longstanding ally. We do have interests there, but also have a very high bar for sending our kids to war.

And the way I look at war is a very personal way. I look at it as if I were sending one of my sons or one of your sons to war. It's not that we won't fight, but then when we do fight, we have to have a clear American interest, a clear military objective and a clear desire and a goal to win.

The goal of the Obama administration in Syria is stalemate, and they say every day there's no military solution. So, if there's no military solution, why are they proposing a military solution?

CAVUTO: That doesn't exactly jibe with your dad. When I talked to him, he was more or less, as you know, Senator, you know, what the hell are we doing over there? Who are we siding up with there? Who are our friends there? Good money after bad there. Enough with it there.

That is pretty much the gist of what he said.

PAUL: Well, you may not agree with your dad on every issue, Neil.


CAVUTO: Well, you don't agree with him on this one.


PAUL: No, I would say, in general, we seem to be somewhat on the same side of it, but we may not be exactly in the same place.

But what I would say is that our foreign policy needs to be constitutional. It needs to not be rash. And when we go to war, we go to war reluctantly, but when we go to war, we go all in. We go to win.

CAVUTO: You know and you have heard this before from those who argue within the party, the Chris Christies, to a degree, the John McCains, who might say again if you were to ever become president, he's going to be weak on terror.

What do you say?

PAUL: I think young of the few things that we have told the world since 9/11 is that we won't be trifled with, we won't be attacked, and that if you kill our citizens, you are going to pay the ultimate price.

And I think this is true and it's an important message to send the world, but the other part of the message is that we won't always be involved in the affairs of every other nation. But if you attack America, if you attack our soldiers, that absolutely we will respond with overwhelming force.

That's the lesson of 9/11. And that's why when people say, oh, this president not acting and drawing a red line threatens the credibility of America, no, I think the credibility of America and how we will respond when attacked is very foremost and present for those who remember 9/11.

CAVUTO: There are many of your colleagues on the left and right, Senator, who are saying that whatever people's views are on Syria, they're a great distraction, maybe even a deliberate deflection, from the real domestic economic issues like a budget that's still not done, a debt limit that's still facing us, and in less than three years a health care law where a whole lot of implementations go into effect.

Is any of that ever going to get addressed, do you think, any time soon?

PAUL: Well, they're also a distraction from a lot of the scandals that have gone on, like Benghazi, where we did have American interests threatened and American personnel, ambassador killed.

So it does distract from that, where nothing ever occurred to avenge their deaths or to bring people to justice. But, yes, we have got a lot of things going on. We have a budgetary problem, budgetary deadline coming up, debt ceiling crisis coming up, ObamaCare.

Yes, so I think all of those do need to be discussed, and the president will often say, oh, we need to be doing some nation-building at home. But he's still preoccupied with sending a lot of money overseas. And this incursion or war that he wants to have in Syria won't be free either, free either in terms of lives or in terms of treasure.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, if you could talk to Vladimir Putin right now, what would you tell him?

PAUL: Well, you know, what I would say is that if he's sincere, that we will accept diplomacy, we will accept a negotiated settlement.

And my understanding or my feelings about diplomacy are that diplomacy is sort of like a market transaction. If I give you $2, and you give me a loaf of bread, both of us are -- it's not an equal transaction. You think you wanted the $2 more than the bread, and I wanted the bread more than the $2.

Diplomacy is a little bit the same way. Both parties need to make a trade and they both need to perceive that trade as being a victory. And I think if we can convince Putin or Russia or China, for that matter, that we're such an important trading partner to them, that it's in their self- interest to make us happy, to make the world safer, to bring Iran down from the brink, to bring North Korea down from the brink, to bring Syria down from the brink, that they are able to tamp down, instead of gin up these conflicts, that it's to their benefit.

I think Russia could be a real player as far as trying to help make the world a more prosperous place. That being said, I'm not sure that I give them carte blanche as far as trust goes. Reagan's saying trust but verify is I think an important one.

CAVUTO: Senator Rand Paul, I hope I didn't cause any family squabbles here.


CAVUTO: But it's always good to have you.

PAUL: I think we will survive. Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: I bet you will.

Senator, thank you. All right.

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