Ted Cruz and Rand Paul May Be the Future of GOP Foreign Policy

Newcomers challenge the Republican old guard over how to proceed in Syria.


Senate newcomers Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are challenging the old guard over how to proceed in Syria.

By + More

As scores of Republican lawmakers urge the Obama administration to intervene militarily in Syria, a handful of Republican senators want to keep the U.S. on the sidelines.

Tomahawk cruise missiles are in place and could be launched as early as Thursday against key military targets in Syria, a response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deployment of chemical weapons on civilians.

[READ: Congress Wants to Give Input on Syria ]

Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was among the first to voice his opposition to a possible missile strike in the region.

"The United States armed forces doesn't exist to be a policeman of the world," Cruz told Fox News Monday, "I certainly hope the reaction isn't simply lobbing some cruise missiles in to disagree with Assad's murderous actions."

The statement gives important insight into what kind of foreign policy approach the potential 2016 presidential candidate subscribes to and a clue into how the GOP may be evolving its approach on foreign policy.

His libertarian, anti-interventionist viewpoint is yet another voice among the younger generation of Republicans in the U.S. Senate and in direct conflict with the older longer-serving defense hawks serving there such as John McCain, R-Ariz.

And he's not alone. Another potential Republican candidate for the presidency in 2016 also strays from GOP party leadership on foreign policy.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has long been a thorn in the sides of old guard Republicans, crusading against foreign aid to Egypt and for cuts to the Defense Department. And up until now, he has carried many of his campaigns against the old guard GOP foreign policy, alone.

Paul has also been an outspoken advocate against military intervention in Syria, blasting President Barack Obama for his decision to arm Syrian rebels this summer without a vote of approval by Congress.

[PHOTOS: Alleged Gas Attack Kills Dozens in Damascus ]

He even sponsored bipartisan legislation with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., that would prohibit Obama from using any congressionally appropriated funds to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria.

"The President's unilateral decision to arm Syrian rebels is incredibly disturbing, considering what little we know about whom we are arming," Paul said in a statement about the issue. "Engaging in yet another conflict in the Middle East with no vote or Congressional oversight compounds the severity of this situation."

But Cruz and Paul, while they may be the future of the GOP, are still a small coalition within their party.

A vote for Paul's plan to stop foreign aid to Egypt, while closer than ever, failed by a wide margin 83 to 13 in July.

More Republican lawmakers still take their cues on the party's defense strategy from Senate veterans like McCain, who has been urging the Obama administration to be more involved in the conflict in Syria from the onset.

McCain says America has "sat on the sidelines for too long" as more than 100,000 Syrians have died in the civil war and millions more are fleeing the country as refugees.

"It is not in our national security interest for this conflict to grind on, as some suggest. To the contrary, as we have clearly seen, the longer the conflict in Syria goes on, the worse and worse it gets and the more it spreads throughout the region," McCain said in a recent joint statement with fellow defense hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"Instead, we must work to end this conflict as soon as possible by taking decisive steps that can shift the balance of power on the battlefield against Assad and his forces. Anything short of such actions now would only allow the conflict in Syria to continue."

[VOTE: Should the U.S. Intervene in Syria?]

But Doug Bandow, a senior policy expert at the CATO Institute and former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, says Graham and McCain's dominance on foreign policy may be coming to an end. And a recent Reuters poll showed only 9 percent of Americans approve of military intervention in the conflict.

Bandow argues that in a post Iraq-war world, Republican voters across the U.S. are hesitant to intervene in conflicts in the Middle East because they no longer believe the U.S. has the ability to make a difference in the region.