Foreign-policy speeches by presidential aspirants are usually deadly dull. The standard formula is to say the world has never been more dangerous and complex, praise America’s noble history of global leadership, reject the false division between “realism” and “idealism,” and then pretend to bridge it with some meaningless phrase like “hard-headed idealism” or “principled realism.”
By those, admittedly low, standards, Rand Paul’s address to the Center for the National Interest on Tuesday was pretty good.
It was good for two key reasons. First, Paul approvingly quoted the diplomat and scholar George Kennan as distinguishing “between vital and peripheral interests.” That may not seem significant, but it is. For most of American history, U.S. foreign policymakers had a rough idea of which chunks