WASHINGTON - The crisis in Iraq has exposed a growing rift among Republicans on foreign policy, as skeptics of military intervention have more openly challenged the party’s hawkish posture in the post-9/11 era.
Iraq could help shape the fight for the GOP nomination in 2016. Even as Americans take an increasingly dim view of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy, they have generally supported his positions on the Middle East. Their disapproval of his leadership style rather than his policies has further complicated Republican divisions.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a likely candidate, is a leading voice challenging hawkish colleagues who see recent developments in Iraq as a result of the Obama administration’s efforts to wind down overseas conflicts. In a recent “Meet the Press” interview, he said some of the blame lay with his fellow Republicans who supported the U.S. wars during George W. Bush’s tenure.
“What’s going on now I don’t blame on President Obama,” he said. “Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq war on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq war for emboldening Iran.”
A few 2016 hopefuls have gone beyond making broad statements about the importance of projecting strength in the face of terrorism.
“Some of the presidential contenders, this is their moment,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a major in the Air National Guard who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m not expecting everybody to take a hard position because some people, it’s just not in their wheelhouse. But I think that the people that are putting themselves up to lead the free world really need to take a position either way. Stand on it.”