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Rand Paul: Trump should trust his gut on Syria

Editor's Note: (Rand Paul is a US senator from Kentucky. He serves on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.)

(CNN) Just over two weeks ago, at a rally in Ohio, President Trump reiterated his long-held belief that the United States should get out of the Syrian civil war, that it was not in our national interest. We should bring our troops home where they "belong," as he stated clearly.

This was not surprising, since there are dozens of on-the-record statements from the President over the years along these lines, including giving this same advice to his predecessor, President Obama.

Rand Paul

I agreed with President Trump in 2013. I agreed with him two weeks ago. In fact, I led the fight in 2013 to stop President Obama from involving us more in Syria, and I've been saying ever since that we have no mission there.

Yet, last week, we involved ourselves further, bombing multiple targets against the government of Syria. There was no authorization for this strike from Congress, nor one for any involvement in this civil war, and no long-term military mission to be achieved by it. Those facts are increasingly evident in our foreign policy around the world, and it is something we should all be paying more attention to.

In Libya, President Obama bombed on the side of rebels seeking the ouster of a dictator. He did it without congressional authorization and without a clear military mission. Libya is now a mess, a cesspool of radical, violent Islam.

In Afghanistan, we went in after 9/11 with a mission I supported. But that mission ended over a decade ago, and we are still there. Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo, in statements to me last week, reiterated that the administration does not "see a military solution to the war in Afghanistan," instead pointing to President Trump's previous comments that "military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan" but should be used to help bring about a political solution. Yet our authorization for being there is out of date, and nearly as old as the young men and women being sent there.

Our foreign policy is a mess, and it needs to get smarter and better, fast.

One of the things I liked most about President Trump when he ran for office was that he articulated a clearly different foreign policy. He had opposed the Iraq war. He opposed intervention in Libya and Syria, and he wanted to come home from Afghanistan.

Yet, in just over a year, he is now appointing myopic foreign policy advisers who refuse to learn the lessons of these wars and our recent history. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are not the advisers needed for a president who wants fewer wars.

President Trump is listening far too much to the foreign policy swamp that he fought against. Our hawkish, neoconservative foreign policy and wars of the last 17 years have brought us trillions of dollars in debt and made us less safe. We need to rebuild here, not there. We need to rebuild our military, not overuse it policing the world and nation-building.

President Trump knew it when he was running for office. He even knew it two weeks ago when he instructed his foreign policy team to get out of Syria. But he's listened to some bad advice from the same people who created many of these messes in the first place.

Mr. President, trust your gut. Go with what you know to be true. The Afghanistan war should be over; our troops should leave. The Syrian civil war never should have been our fight. Let's end our involvement.

We can and must fight against terrorism when it rears its ugly head. We can do that in a smarter, constitutional way, and President Trump can lead our country in a new direction, as he seems to want to do. But he'll have to stop listening to the people who caused so many problems and so much death and destruction over the past 17 years if he wants to make his goals reality.

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