Paul Tries To Wedge Christian Right From Neocons

Rand Paul’s strategy for building a broader base of support within the Republican Party for the non-interventionist views that made his father a pariah took an interesting turn today, as he regaled Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition with a speech arguing that intervening in Syria–or for that matter, supporting “moderate” Arab countries–would involve supporting a “war on Christianity.” The Hill‘s Alexandra Jaffe has the details:

“It is clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East and I believe that must end,” Paul said to a packed luncheon during the three-day Faith and Freedom Conference, an event hosted by the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Paul proposed that foreign aid should be slashed to Egypt, Libya and Pakistan until they meet certain requirements, countries he said are “openly hostile” to Christians.

It’s a proposal he’s discussed before, but one that’s been met with criticism from other members of his party.

On Syria, Paul said he’d continue to oppose arming rebel forces, a position that aligns him with the current status quo and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The Senate is attempting to arm the rebel forces in Syria, many of whom are al Qaeda or affiliates. They do so out of a misguided attempt to stop the violence in Syria,” Paul said. “Instead their actions will bring more violence and more persecution of Christians, who have long been protected in Syria.”

Aside from fanning fears the Syrian rebels are a front for al Qaeda, Paul is exploiting the fact that Syria’s very ancient Christian minority has enjoyed relatively good relations with the Assad family’s Alawite-dominated regime. More generally, the Kentuckian may be trying to convince conservative Christians that they should no longer outsource their foreign policy clout to Israel, and instead focus on the often separate issue of their coreligionists’ welfare in the Middle East.

I don’t know if this will work for Paul, but it is an indication that the neocon-Christian Right alliance on foreign policy has some stress lines, and may not last forever.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.