Rand Paul on opposing US military intervention in Syria's civil war: I'm not sure the victors would be friends of America

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Rand Paul is against military action in Syria, and just a short time ago, he asked his Senate colleagues to join him in blocking the U.S. from entering Syria's civil war.

Senator Rand Paul joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: Hey, Greta, glad to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Glad to have you here. Before I get to the letter that you have now written to your Senate colleagues, let me ask you about the news today that the Russians, President Putin, and Syria may be considering putting the chemical weapons, the stockpile under international control.

Do you think that's a serious movement, or do you think that we're being played and it's just a delay?

PAUL: You know, I think it's good news. And I think diplomacy, if possible, is always better than going to war. But you know, diplomacy also is partly trust and partly verifying. So we'll have to see. But I think it is a step in the right direction.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has now put the vote off in the Senate. Does that not sort of -- if the whole strategy is to put the pressure on Syria, by putting the vote off, does that sort of lift the pedal from Syria?

PAUL: Well, yes and no. I think I agree with putting the vote off because I think that the pressure is out there. And in fact, this is really an argument why we shouldn't have rushed to do this bombing three weeks ago because now we actually are giving diplomacy a chance.

I think the answer to so many riddles in the Middle East, to so many riddles in North Korea, are getting diplomacy and getting us to work with China and Russia for our own mutual benefit, which is trade and prosperity. And if we can get China and Russia to work with us instead of against us, I think we can resolve a lot of the world's problems.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, your letter is a rather forceful letter opposing any sort of military strike in Syria. I'm curious if tomorrow night, when the president addresses the nation, is there anything that he could say that would change your mind that a military strike in Syria, even a limited one, would be a bad idea?

PAUL: You know, I think, once again, announcing in advance that it's going to be limited is sort of like announcing, well, it's not going to be very effective. That doesn't sell me.

The other thing I ask myself is, which scenarios are more likely or less likely if he bombs Assad? The chemical weapons are a big problem. So if the chemical weapons become loose and uncontrolled and they end up going into the hands of al Qaeda, everybody thinks that's a bad idea, myself included.

But my question is, if we destabilize Assad, is it more likely or less likely that al Qaeda may come into contact and in possession of chemical weapons? Is it more likely or less likely that Israel will be attacked? Is it more likely or less likely that there'll be more refugees in Jordan, or an attack on Turkey, our ally?

I think all of those scenarios are more likely if we destabilize Assad. So I'm not sure destabilizing Assad is a good thing, nor am I convinced that being an ally of al Qaeda on the other side is a good thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happens in response to your -- to the letter you've written? Have you had any response at all from your Senate colleagues? And do you have sort of some sense that if the vote did happen -- obviously, it's been put off, but do you have any sort of sense whether it would pass the Senate to have military strike or not, a limited military strike?

PAUL: You know, a week ago, I would have said it was a fait accompli that the Senate was going to pass this overwhelming because I didn't think there'd be much debate over here. But the longer the debate goes on, I'm really pleasantly surprised that more and more Republicans are coming out against this and more and more Democrats.

I think the Democrats' only inhibition to opposing this is they're afraid it may appear partisan. What I would say is there's always bipartisan consensus I think to be overly aggressive around the world. It'd be nice for a change to have a bipartisan consensus that shows a little bit of restraint.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- how do we get Russia and China on board? You mentioned Russia and China. I mean, they have -- they have never been on board on this one.

PAUL: Yes. I think that we've had too many what I would call show votes in the Security Council. It's kind of like what we do in Congress. We get so polarized on an issue that the Democrats put up something and we defeat it. Then the Republicans put up an alternative, and they defeat it. And nothing ever gets done on an issue.

A think some quiet diplomacy, trying to convince Russia and China that our trade to them is so important and the benefits of being our friend is probably greater than the benefits of supporting a guy who's using chemical weapons. I think if that could be done quietly, and not -- I guess if you box people into a corner, they feel like they have to save face.

So if Syria is an ally of Russia and we force Russia to feel like they're being told what to do by a superpower, I think they feel boxed into voting against us. But if we convince Russia that it's in their best interests not to have chemical weapons go into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists, I think maybe they would be for trying to, and what they're saying they're for now, which is having some international control of these chemical weapons so they don't fall into the wrong hands.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's in -- what's in the best interests of our ally in that region, Israel? Because Israel is right next door, and they, you know, have a lot to fear, and they've got a lot of enemies.

PAUL: You know, I think that an attack on Israel is more likely to happen if we destabilize Assad. I think if he lashes out in desperation, he's more likely to send missiles and maybe even gas towards Tel Aviv. So I think it destabilizes the position and makes it riskier for Israel.

Some have said and have criticized me and said, Well, these Israel -- pro-Israeli, American-Israeli groups, they say we have to attack Syria. And my point is, is that opinion in Israel is much more pluralistic than that. I've visited Israel. Not everybody in Israel has the same opinion. They vote for multiple different political parties, and they're a pluralistic society the same way America is.

So I think a good, healthy debate about whether or not attacking Syria would help Israel or hurt Israel -- I am a supporter and defender of Israel, but I think attacking Assad makes it more likely that Israel would be attacked and more likely that Israel would be drawn into a regional war. So I think it's better to not get involved in that civil war.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, there are a lot of sort of worst-case scenarios that we could go through, you know, whether we act or don't act. But let me ask you this one. If we don't act and Assad uses chemical weapons on his people, then what?

PAUL: You know, I think he -- he in all likelihood has already done that. But he's also killed 100,000 people through conventional warfare. We have to decide when we get involved in any country -- and there has to be, to me, a multi-step sort of analysis. We have to decide, are American interests involved, even if there's tragedy. I think we all agree there's tragedy. Would it be better if the Islamic rebels took over?

I'm not so sure the million Christians in Syria are too excited to have people take over who will eat the heart of their enemy or chop the head off of priests with a machete. We've had Antiochian Orthodox priests beheaded with a machete by Islamic rebels in that country. We've also had an Islamic rebel on the news eating the heart of one of the Syrian rebel -- Syrian army soldiers.

So I'm not sure who the good guys are. And I can't ask my son or your son or anybody else's kid to fight in a war where I'm not sure that the victor will be a friend of America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

PAUL: Thank you.