Invoking Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, he embraced a philosophy of war only as a last resort and reminded attendees that the 40th president called "peace . . . the highest aspiration of the American people."
"Reagan's been hijacked by all different spectrums of the Republican Party," Paul told reporters afterwards. "But I think if you read Reagan carefully . . . I don't think he was eager for war."
Paul said a drawdown from entanglements overseas would allow the country to "do things to make us safer at home and abroad."
To that end, he announced that in the coming weeks he would propose the formation of a task force to produce a plan to "modernize our military and strengthen our defenses." Included in that plan will be a call for an audit of the Pentagon to eliminate waste and focus precious resources on "true defense needs."
The military budget has always been a sacred cow, especially within the Republican Party. But Paul believes public opinion among conservatives is changing on that front, in the wake of two costly, prolonged wars and the country's mounting debt crisis.
"Defense is the most important thing we do, it is a primary constitutional function of the government, but that doesn't mean a blank check," Paul said.
Paul's libertarian-influenced worldview has already drawn the ire of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 rival, who dubbed the approach "dangerous."
But Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, an outspoken second-term House member and Paul ally who has been a thorn in the side of the GOP establishment, said it's Christie, in fact, who now holds the dangerous political position.
"The popular position within Republican districts is the Rand Paul position," Amash said in an interview. "His position is a winning position in a Republican primary."
David Catanese is managing editor of TheRun2016.com.