Tim Pawlenty gave a major foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today, talking in the broadest terms about support for democracy in the Middle East, criticizing the Obama Administration for not doing more to support the Arab Spring. He was also critical of Republicans who he claimed supported “isolationism”. Pawlenty, who has not exactly projected a tough image on the campaign trail, now seeks to curry favor with the neo-con wing of the Republican Party and show himself to be the foreign policy tough guy in the Republican field. He may be trying to be tough, but if this is the best he can do he is in a bit of trouble. Some of his more interesting assertions:
1) That the Iranian protests over the Presidential “re-election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were ignored by the President, thereby giving tacit support to the mullahs. Pawlenty had no policy alternatives. If he is listening to Randy Scheunemann he probably would advocate immediate invasion. A bit snarky, but he offered no policy alternatives in this area.
2) He strongly criticized the Administration for their lack of early support for the Egyptian democracy movement. He ridiculed Hillary Clinton for indicating friendship with ousted President Hosni Mubarak, pointing to a rebuff of Secretary Clinton by democracy advocates on her post-Mubarak trip to Egypt. Pawlenty gave no indication as to whether he thought that Mubarak’s foreign policy, staunchly pro-American, would be continued under a future Egyptian government. I failed to hear Pawlenty comment on the new Egyptian government’s opening of the Gaza crossing, which was praised by Hamas.
Hamas leaders praised Egypt for opening the crossing and attempted to allay concerns in Cairo that opening the crossing would shift the burden of tending to Gaza’s impoverished population of 1.5 million Palestinians.
Pawlenty failed to comment on the new Egyptian government brokering a deal between the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas to produce a unity government in the West Bank and Gaza, which has caused severe political heartburn for the United States. Pawlenty, while heavily critical of the Obama Administration on Iran, did not comment on the new Egyptian government’s diplomatic opening to Iran, which in the spirit of democratic reform was attributed by Egyptian officials to a desire to more accurately reflect public opinion. From the New York Times:
Egyptian officials, emboldened by the revolution and with an eye on coming elections, say that they are moving toward policies that more accurately reflect public opinion.
And that includes the new relationship with Iran:
At the same time, she said, Egypt is also in the process of normalizing its relations with Iran, a regional power that the United States considers a dangerous pariah.
“All the world has diplomatic relations with Iran with the exception of the United States and Israel,” Ambassador Bakhoum said. “We look at Iran as a neighbor in the region that we should have normal relations with. Iran is not perceived as an enemy as it was under the previous regime, and it is not perceived as a friend.”
Pawlenty described democracy as “a fruit that is ripening” in the Middle East. He said that we need the “pro-democracy, secular parties” to succeed in Egypt. He gave no indication of whether the Muslim Brotherhood fit this description. He leaves us to speculate as to what his policy would be towards a democratically elected government of Egypt that might be run by the Brotherhood. One has to wonder if that policy would be similar to the policy the United States currently employs towards the democratically elected Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Pawlenty issued various non-sequiturs on Syrian policy as well, proposing a recall of the American ambassador to Syria while advocating diplomacy to solve the Syrian problem.
“we should press every diplomatic and economic channel to bring the Assad reign of terror to an end.
Can’t quite figure out how to press the diplomatic channels while withdrawing our ambassador, but T-Paw is not bothered by such contradictions.
Pawlenty did stand with the President on Libya. No word on what the American national interest is in Libya, or what nation building will be required after the Moammar Gadhafi regime is toppled. Not surprisingly, like John McCain, Pawlenty points to an urgent need to maintain all of these foreign commitments, but refuses to ask the American people to pay for them. Urgent or not, T-Paw advocates borrowing the money from China and others to fund these military actions. While we borrow from the Chinese to fund military action the Chinese are striking lucrative business deals with these countries, with one blog saying that “they build and we guard”.
The United States needs to have a foreign policy based on our national interests. Pawlenty’s vacuous policy pronouncements are a recipe for continued foreign policy disasters that will bankrupt this country. It is a complex world that requires American policy to not only reflect our values, but the interests of our people as well. Rebuilding infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan while we fight for crumbs to rebuild our own in America strikes me as foolhardy. Many Republicans are now coming to that realization. Thankfully Pawlenty won’t be on the stage much longer.