The reaction of some hawks on the right to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster suggests a refusal to recognize why Paul was so successful in garnering praise. They are seemingly unable to recognize the deeply held perception of many Americans that Iraq and Afghanistan were unsuccessful and that enthusiasm for the Arab Spring is misplaced. They have lost credibility, and they need to acknowledge that and strive to get it back.
Internationalists like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his policy mavens have not gone back to make the case that Iraq and Afghanistan were "worth it," nor have they devised any course correction or refinement based on our recent experiences. Doing neither of these is a political mistake and has left a vacuum for Paul to step into with gusto.
Conservative hawks sought to divide Paul from the larger GOP on his broader national security vision rather than find some commonality with his insistence on a straight answer from this administration. It is not loony or delusional or irrelevant to require a president who has been so cavalier with the truth and so willing to aggrandize executive power to acknowledge some limit on his authority; it is disturbing that the administration had to be humiliated into providing an answer about domestic drone use against noncombatant Americans.
I have argued for a more sober view of 21st-century democracy promotion. To that, I would add that conservatives should champion a full-scale examination and reform of the Pentagon and of the 9/11 intelligence reorganization, which has proved cumbersome and unwieldy. More than lip service has to be paid to "looking for savings" in defense.
Moreover, the hawks have been fighting the wrong battles. While lambasting Paul, they didn't spend much time or ink hollering that the president had brought Osama bin Laden's son-in-law into the United States for a civilian trial. Why was Sen. Mitch McConnell practically the only elected official raising a rumpus about that one?
And instead of writing editorials decrying Paul's follies, conservatives should have been adding to his demands, insisting the administration come forward with an explanation for its newfound infatuation for negotiating against itself on Iran's nuclear program.
Hawks need to fight smarter and harder on the right things; defending Obama's refusal to answer a colleague's question is not one of those things.