Ron Paul applauds Trump for Syria withdrawal

'I think he's doing great'

By ADRIENNE VOGT, CNN
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

(CNN) - Former presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul supports President Donald Trump's widely criticized decision to pull more than 2,000 US troops from Syria, calling his announcement "fantastic."

"I don't see it as a political event as much as he had good defense. He campaigned on it. He said it was a bad war. He wanted to get out," Paul said Saturday on CNN's "Smerconish." "I think he's doing great. I think it's fantastic that he's doing it."

Trump's decision drew outcry from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with one administration official saying "the President's decision-by-tweet will recklessly put American and allied lives in danger around the world."

And a day after his announcement, Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, writing that Trump should have a secretary of defense whose views are "better aligned" with his own. A day after that the US envoy to the coalition to fight ISIS resigned as well, also in part beacuse of the Syria decision.

But Paul said Trump did the right thing.

"I like people who stand out on principle in spite of their personal biases, and I think this is good. I'm so happy that he's going to maybe move it on to Afghanistan," Paul said.

When asked if the planned US withdrawal of troops from the country will leave the Kurds -- who fought ISIS alongside American forces -- vulnerable, Paul said the US needs to determine if it is an empire or a republic.

"This is the whole point: Should we start our debate and our plans from the assumption that we have the moral obligation to run an empire -- that we are the great nation, we spread American exceptionalism and therefore we have this moral obligation -- or should we believe in a republic and we have no business there, which is designed by the Constitution?" Paul said.

Paul, a libertarian and the father of Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said the US needs to "have a clean cut" with military involvement in the Middle East.

"This is a teeny, teeny step away from the militant empire that we operate, and it's so impractical, but it's a step in the right direction," Paul said.

Paul said the decision had more to do with a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan than domestic politics, but that the President's execution and timing "could've been much better."

"Diplomatically, he does a poor job even when he's doing the right thing," he said.

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