Rand Paul: The Iraq Surge Worked

The senator finds some common ground with Jeb Bush.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) campaigns for Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue (left) during a campaign stop at the McDonough Square on October 24, 2014 in McDonough, Georgia.

Photographer: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

After a short speech and rally outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told reporters how he might filibuster the Patriot Act–and continued his argument with Jeb Bush over the value of the Iraq War. Bush, after a fumbling week of Iraq answers, had told reporters that Iraq was basically stable after the troop surge ordered by President George W. Bush.

Paul had finally found something that he and Jeb Bush agreed on–if only in part.

"Whether or not the surge worked–obviously, it worked," said Paul, responding to a question from Bloomberg. "It was a military tactic and it worked. In fact, some of the ideas from the surge could be used again. In fact, the main problem we have with ISIS is that the Sunni population is either indifferent, supportive, or hates the Shiite government more than it hates ISIS. Now, over time I think that will turn, but I think there are ways that Americans and our interactions can influence the support of the Sunni chieftains. Many will say that the surge's success was in encouraging the Sunni chieftains to be on our side, and I still do favor that."

Paul's assessment of the troop surge was at odds with the one offered by his father in 2007. Former U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas built a following with a hearty anti-war campaign, telling Republican audiences that America never should have entered Iraq. The "success" of the surge, he told libertarian-leaning reporter John Stossel at the time, was "propaganda."

Yet the two Pauls agreed that the Iraq War was misbegotten in the first place. "You can go back 15 years, 20 years, 5 years, and try to find when we were doing the right thing and when we did the wrong thing," Rand Paul said. "I think without question, the objective evidence is that it's less secure, less stable, and that we are more at risk now than we were then."

The senator did offer some light praise of President Barack Obama for some newly announced limitations on military hardware going to domestic police forces, and reiterated that his criminal justice reform agenda would win votes in cities. But when the discussion turned to the Patriot Act, Paul repeated his plans to filibuster the surveillance law while admitting that he might lack the votes to delay or significantly change it.

"People who watch the process realize that they can ultimately beat me if they have the votes," he said. Then he raised his voice slightly, revving up a crowd of at least 100 supporters waving signs or hoping for autographs. "They've got the votes inside the Beltway, but we've got the votes outside the Beltway. We'll have that fight."