Paul Ryan: U.S. Must Show Strength in Foreign Affairs
By Michael Cipriano, Real Clear Politics
Rep. Paul Ryan, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016, made a forceful call for the nation to show stronger leadership -- and thus renew its credibility on the world stage -- in a foreign policy speech Wednesday.
Speaking to the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference in Washington, the 2012 vice presidential nominee expressed concerns about the Obama administration’s foreign policy, contending the president has done “the bare minimum” and has “worn down our credibility” as a result.
He rooted those missteps in a “misunderstanding of what leadership is. Nobody will follow you if you are weak and indecisive.”
The Wisconsin congressman asserted that the president’s lack of action in key hotspots has caused American allies to lose faith in the U.S. He cited Saudi Arabia speaking openly about building nuclear weapons, with South Korea and Japan harboring similar thoughts.
“Our allies are anxious and we aren’t reassuring them,” he continued. “They are calling for help and we are not picking up the phone.”
In his “strategy of renewal,” Ryan said the U.S. must build up its allies, and its own military and economy. He slammed Obama for his handling of what the Bush administration called a Global War on Terror, specifically his plan to pull most U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year and all of them in 2016.
“In other words, we've told our enemies: ‘Wait us out,”' Ryan said. “We should bring our troops home as soon as possible, but not before we finish the job."
He said the best way to honor the sacrifice of the thousands of troops who lost their lives fighting hostile forces is to “complete the work that we started.”
In regard to Russia, Ryan said American allies are concerned by that nation “flexing its muscles” in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
“We need to make clear that the NATO pledge to common defense isn't some paper promise. It's an iron-clad commitment,” he said. “We also need to start talks with our allies, so we can strengthen NATO's permanent military presence on its eastern frontier.”
He went on to discuss China’s entrance into the world economy, contending it has tried to “upend” free-market principles. He added that China’s neighbors, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, need U.S. help to stand up to those practices.
“China isn't trying to bend the rules -- it's trying to rewrite them altogether,” Ryan said. “… If we pull [China’s neighbors] together, we can hold China accountable. And the hope, ultimately, is to pull China in too.”
Ryan also expressed concern with the size to which the military has shrunk, saying the Army is at its smallest since World War II, the Navy at its smallest since World War I, and the Air Force is its smallest size ever.
“We prepare for war so we can keep the peace,” he said. “We renew our strength so we never have to use it.”
The chairman of the House Budget Committee added that to have a strong military, a strong economy is essential, citing the national debt as the country’s biggest factor in this regard. Ryan highlighted his budget proposals, which call for a number of reforms to entitlements.
“We can’t be a good neighbor if we are not the master of our own house,” he said.
“To us, the debt is a liability. To our rivals, it is leverage. To our friends, it is demoralizing. It is hard to trust a country that has maxed out its credit cards and taken out a third mortgage.”