After suffering another loss on the national stage in 2012 the Republican Party seemed ready for a period of serious reflection. Thereafter, Republicans in the House of Representatives re-launched their numerous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reassured the American people that any real immigration reform is out of the question. Both political maneuvers call into question the earnestness of that reflective period after the 2012 Presidential Election. A recent squabble between two Republicans concerning national security and personal privacy, however, has resurrected that period for thoughtful contemplation about the GOP’s future direction.

Speaking at an Aspen Institute gathering attended largely by Republican Party donors, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took an impromptu opportunity to remark about his distaste for “this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now.” The Governor added that it is “a very dangerous thought…These esoteric, intellectual debates-I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans [referring to victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11] and have that conversation.” To be clear, the libertarian strain that Christie mentioned calls for a proper balance between national security and individual privacy rights. In the recent NSA surveillance context, Christie comes down on the side that applauds secretly authorized collections of records that belong to millions of Americans. Libertarians, meanwhile, maintain that such data mining is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and should thus be repealed at once.

Rand Paul, the U.S. Senator from Kentucky, represents the libertarian viewpoint and did not shy away from Christie’s attacks. Paul said that using 9/11 victims as a debate or talking point is “kind of sad and cheap” and implied that if Christie “cared about protecting this country, maybe he wouldn’t be in this ‘give me, give me, give me all of the money (mindset) that you have in Washington.” Paul took that moment to conflate Christie’s national security position with the Governor’s requests for federal aid to deal with the damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. Paul went on to say, “The way we defend our country, the way we have enough money for national defense, is by being frugal.” Further, Paul added that Christie is “flippant” about the Bill of Rights and therefore does an injustice to our soldiers.

Whereas this sort of bickering is usually detected on the floor of a school cafeteria, a broader dialogue has allowed the GOP to realize an important issue. Although the dispute between Paul and Christie ignited the fire, the fire itself may be worth examining if the Republican Party wants to reclaim the White House. The Chris Christie arm of the Party will continue to embrace the national security state, including the expansive powers of the NSA. Revelations of the sort that Edward Snowden brought forth, regardless of whether he is a hero or traitor, does not bother Christie. According to these Republicans privacy is a right, but certain rights may need to be restricted in times of war in order to guarantee safety, and this is such a time.

Another branch of the Republican Party, led by the likes of Rand Paul, is the libertarian wing. Although Paul has danced around calling himself an outright Libertarian, on this issue he is perfectly clear. He considers personal privacy to be an uncompromising right that the federal government cannot intrude upon. Concerning the NSA data-mining program, Paul says, “I’m for spying on terrorists, I’m not for spying on every American.” A libertarian federal government, while significantly limited in practice, has the utmost individual freedom. For Governor Christie this reflects “a very dangerous thought.” Although it may be unclear who won this battle of words between Christie and Paul, one thing is for certain. The rift over national security and personal privacy is widening and Republicans are already staking out their positions.

The Christie-Paul back and forth, in addition to raising eyebrows in the media, also speaks to a larger foreign policy debate within the GOP that could shape the future of the Republican Party. In fact, it could be for this reason that so many seasoned Republicans are concerned about the divide becoming too wide too fast. In short, this is a larger battle of ideas between status quo Republican figures like Chris Christie who support American military interventions and arising libertarian figures such as Rand Paul who seek to dramatically scale back the U.S. military. Anyone who watched the primary debates of the last two election cycles knows how important this division within the Party could become. From John McCain to Mitt Romney, the GOP has been a military interventionist party, and Chris Christie does not have any problem supporting that narrative.

Rand Paul, for his part, is trying to change that narrative, and in a major way. A libertarian foreign policy includes, broadly speaking, nonintervention. With a strict definition of national defense, the United States would only go to war if it came under direct attack. To put this foreign policy in perspective, we can rule out the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Further, a libertarian Commander in Chief would abstain from any involvement in Syria. Wars aside, libertarianism also involves a scaling back of foreign aid and drone warfare. A libertarian foreign policy in the GOP would have left the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Gaddafi in power and at large. But, say the libertarians, American lives overseas would have been spared as well, not to mention the collateral damage in the region thereafter.

The rift between Governor Christie and Senator Paul, while childish at first, has spilled into a much more profound moment for the Republican Party. With Election 2016 approaching, both men are positioning their brands and rhetoric accordingly. Even more interesting than this GOP infighting, however, is a potential matchup between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton in a Presidential Election. In this albeit unlikely scenario Paul would have a more liberal foreign policy than Clinton, who initially supported the Iraq invasion and seems to support the Obama administration’s controversial drone program. With almost every other subject of significance, the Republican Party has decided in advance to remain in lockstep with a nationally fading status quo. The Christie-Paul squabble, though, just might bring about a desperately needed wake-up call for the GOP.