Paul Ryan’s foreign policy vision
By Jennifer Rubin
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gave a speech Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington. If one is looking for clues as to Ryan’s interests beyond chairing the House Budget Committee, a speech, as he put it, to “a room full of national security experts about American foreign policy” would merit attention.
A fair amount of commentary on presidential prospects has been dopey or exaggerated, as was the Democratic National Committee chairwoman’s indictment of the entire GOP field. By contrast, Ryan delivered an above-the-fray talk on the subject of American uniqueness (a less loaded term) and the myth that American decline in inevitable. He posited, “Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power.”
Ryan contends that the debt crisis is not a bookkeeping problem or even simply a domestic problem; it is about maintaining our status as a superpower and about American values. He explained:
He rejects the notion that “exceptionalism” is provincialism or braggadocio:
He is not Pollyannish and readily conceded that principles and immediate strategic interests don’t go hand in hand in all instances; he pointed specifically to Saudi Arabia. “There is a sharp divide between the principles around which they have organized their state and the principles that guide the United States. . . . We should help our allies effect a transition that fulfills the aspirations of their people. About the Arab Spring he said:
He plainly is not with the cut-and-run set on Afghanistan. “Although the war has been long and the human costs high, failure would be a blow to American prestige and would reinvigorate al-Qaeda, which is reeling from the death of its leader. Now is the time to lock in the success that is within reach.” Nor can he be accused of wanting to “go it alone.” “The Obama administration has taken our allies for granted and accepted too willingly the decline of their capacity for international action. Our alliances were vital to our victory in the Cold War, and they need to be revitalized to see us through the 21st century.”
As for China, he bats down the idea that we should go along to get along. “We should welcome the contributions and strengths that over one billion people can offer and push for the government of China to give those people space to express their personal, religious, economic and civil ambitions. A liberalizing China is not only in the interests of the world, but also in China’s own best interest as it copes with the tremendous challenges it faces over the next couple of decades.” He’s clear that China has “very different values and interests from our own.”
And finally on defense spending, he rejects the sort of penny-pinching isolationism of Jon Huntsman or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.):
This should dispel any doubts as to whether Ryan is simply a “budget guy.” He is, rather, one of the few politicians on the national stage who can weave specific policy themes with particulars and can demonstrate the connection (misunderstood or entirely missed by some of the GOP contenders or former contenders) between conservative economic principles and American foreign policy and values. And who else could get the support of the Hamilton Society and Tea Partyers?