Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul supports Trump, says staying in Syria would overextend military

Trump "doesn't want to get involved in another Iraq war in Syria," Paul said.

October 11, 2019, 1:45 PM

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul doubled down on his support of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria in an appearance on ABC’s “The View” Friday, arguing that leaving troops in northern Syria would overextend the military.

"I think the Iraq War and the regime change in the Middle East are senseless and so does President Trump," Paul said. "He doesn't want to get involved in another Iraq War in Syria. If anything, Syria is more complicated. The Kurds have been our allies and the Kurds are in all likelihood going to be allies with [Bashar al-Assad] to try to carve out a place in Syria for themselves."

He said it's not the U.S. military's job to act as a global "police force."

"War is not a chess game," he told the hosts.

Trump made the announcement to officially withdraw U.S. troops on Sunday, a surprise to both the Kurdish forces and Congress. Republican senators who usually stand in lockstep with Trump said the move amounted to abandoning Syrian-Kurdish fighters who had fought ISIS alongside American troops, potentially opening the door for at least 10,000 ISIS prisoners to escape and Turkey to invade the region.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump, left, listens as Sen. Rand Paul, right, speaks at a rally at Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., Oct. 13, 2018
President Donald Trump, left, listens as Sen. Rand Paul, right, speaks at a rally at Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., Oct. 13, 2018.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Paul, too, has faced backlash after he posted on Twitter Monday in support of the president's decision, saying Trump was fulfilling "his promises to stop our endless war and have a true America First foreign policy."

Paul's support comes as many of his GOP colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, publicly oppose the decision, warning that it will damage trust with other U.S. allies and put the lives of Kurdish forces at risk. Paul wrote on Twitter Thursday that being able to save U.S. troops from a "senseless middle eastern war" makes the withdraw worthwhile.

"These are the same people that would have us still in Vietnam. They are the same people who always say 'stay at war, stay at war, stay at war.' It has not helped us. We have been in Afghanistan for 19 years. The same people complaining about this -- the Cheneys, Lindsey Graham -- you know what they say about Afghanistan, it would be precipitous to leave," Paul said. "We have been there 19 years and there's no mission."

The U.S.-backed Kurdish allies -- who lost 11,000 soldiers in the war against ISIS -- have seen at least 23 fighters killed since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an assault of northern Syria on Wednesday.

Erdogan warned European leaders that if they call this an invasion, he'll open his borders and send 3.6 million refugees their way.

Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters cross the border into Syria as they take part in an offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria launched by the Turkish military, Oct. 11, 2019.
Nazeer Al-khatib/AFP via Getty Images

"The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea," Trump said in a statement.

"The View" co-host Meghan McCain has openly criticized the White House decision on Syria.

"There is blood on anyone’s hands, starting with [Paul] and President Trump’s, letting this happen because there are people being slaughtered after standing with our troops in the Middle East for an extremely long time fighting against terror cells," she said on Thursday's episode. "The whole point of having proxies is so we don't get into another war. And I'm sorry... have we not learned the lessons of 9/11? And I don't understand it!"

McCain, a conservative pundit, was absent from Friday's show, but her colleagues did not cede to the senator. Paul continued to defend his loyalty to the Trump administration and his belief that the troops needed to come home, as the hosts threw more questions his way about what the withdrawal means for the future of ISIS, the safety of Kurdish troops and Turkey-U.S. relations.

Trump tasked the State Department on Thursday to mediate a possible deal between Turkey and the Kurds, following a second day of Turkish airstrikes and artillery targeting America's Kurdish allies in northern Syria who helped defeat the Islamic State.

Senator Rand Paul appears on ABC's "The View," Oct. 11, 2019.

Paul also appeared on the show to promote his new book, "The Case Against Socialism," in which he says an expanded welfare state will cripple an economy built on capitalism.

While researching the book, he said he learned a bit more about the brand of socialism perceived to be a hallmark of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' political campaign.

"We actually found that Bernie Sanders' form of socialism actually is unpopular," Paul said.

Sanders, a self-labeled Democratic socialist, has been arguing for years that working class families deserve a decent standard of living.

"We must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights -- the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a decent job, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement and the right to live in a clean environment," Sanders said during a June speech at The George Washington University. "We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights."

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