Marco Rubio, Rand Paul differ on Middle East

Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — in what could be a preview of a 2016 Republican presidential primary showdown — are staking out markedly different positions on U.S. intervention in the world, and particularly on American policy toward the Middle East.

Kentucky’s Mr. Paul, who visited Israel and Jordan in January, is calling for Republicans to adopt a more restrained and less interventionist approach to global affairs, and is embracing the sequester cuts to the defense budget that is sending military hawks into a tizzy.

Mr. Rubio, who visited Israel and Jordan last month, is advocating a more muscular brand of global leadership and observers said it is significant that the Florida lawmaker tapped Jamie Fly, an adviser to President George W. Bush, as a counselor on foreign affairs and national security.

“What you are getting from Rand is really what he thinks,” said James Jay Carafano, vice president of defense policies studies at the Heritage Foundation. “What you are getting from Rubio is in part Jamie, who is more senior, more experienced, and who is more on the side of the offensive realists.”

The battle shaping up between the two Republican senators would be Round 2 of the fight that played out last year between Mr. Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, and the rest of the Republican presidential field. The Texas Republican’s non-interventionist message hit home with some voters — but not enough to give the elder Mr. Paul a realistic shot at the nomination.