Doug Stafford, Sen. Paul’s Chief of Staff, recently clarified the remarks in an e-mailed statement.
“The questions asked of Senator Paul in recent days were regarding an unprovoked attack on Israel. In one case the question was regarding a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv from another state,” explained Stafford. “Senator Paul believes that if another country launched an all out war with Israel that the United States should and would assist them in some way.”
Stafford notes that Sen. Paul’s views on the matter are consistent with the approach he has taken during his tenure in the Senate, noting, “He was not discussing any offensive or preemptive war, nor was he describing the skirmishes that come up from time to time in that region. He was discussing a hypothetical all-out attack on Israel by her neighbors.”
He explained that Sen. Paul believes that approval to go to declare or engage in war only “lies with Congress,” noting that making such a strong statement “is likely to lead to a smaller chance of such attack ever taking place.” Stafford also noted that Sen. Paul “never has war as a goal or a preferred policy, only as a last resort.”
First of all, the best part of this is that he felt the need to clarify his statement at all. That means there is at least a small counter balance developing. If you’re someone in the Paulist orbit you can’t just make shameless pledges of fidelity to Israel without there being some pushback. (Hopefully Ted Cruz will get some pushback for his shameless grandstanding at the Hagel hearing.)
That said, this clarification is only slightly helpful. I don’t think anyone believed that Paul was pledging US help if Israel is attacked by Hezbollah. So clarifying that he was only talking about a major attack doesn’t really help. The problem of the security guarantee still remains. Ideally, America would consider Israel a friendly nation, no less “special” but no more “special” than any other. We shouldn’t offer Israel a security guarantee unless we offer every friendly country a security guarantee, which would be a bad idea and totally unworkable. We must change the presumption of the “special relationship.” This doesn’t do that.