Those paying attention to Sen. Rand Paul’s efforts to lay the groundwork for a 2016 presidential candidacy are probably aware that he has been gradually and somewhat stealthily distancing himself from his father’s rigorous non-interventionist position–particularly when it comes to enabling himself to join the general Republican assault on Barack Obama for “weakness.”

The first comprehensive analysis of where Rand stands today on foreign policy was written by my friend Will Marshall for Politico Magazine. And the technical term he uses is “a mess,” which has gotten messier as Paul has criticized Obama for an insufficiently confrontational policy towards Russia’s recent behavior (not exactly helped by his father’s question about the Russian acquisition of Crimea: “What’s the big deal?”).

Paul’s mishmash of contradictory ideas for dealing with the Crimea crisis doesn’t bode well for his presidential prospects. It reflects his failure to fuse libertarians’ minimalist conception of the state’s role with “peace through strength” conservatism.

The more attention international affairs receive between now and the decisive phases of the 2016 presidential cycle, the harder it will be for Paul to square circles. So he’s probably the one GOP presidential wannabe who is sincerely praying for peace and stability, and not just in Ukraine.

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.