Elliott Abrams and Bernard Lewis Tutor Paul Ryan
Even the meager track record that Paul Ryan has acquired so far on international affairs so far is disturbing.
Ryan himself has acknowledged his lack of foreign policy expertise.
“What can I tell you that you don't already know?” Ryan conceded in a speech before the Alexander Hamilton Society last year. “The short answer is, not much.” In 2009, Ryan expressed similar sentiments before the Council on Foreign Relations.
This makes it important to ascertain his intellectual mentors in this arena. The names here are troubling. Ryan is being prepped by the same neocon crowd that led us into one of the biggest U.S. foreign policy disasters ever.
“In recent months, Ryan has been receiving briefings from Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush's former Middle East director at the National Security Council, and Fred Kagan, one of the architects of the military surges in Iraq and Afghanistan,” reports the Daily Beast.
Not surprisingly, Abrams, who was convicted for his role but later pardoned for lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra affair and has played a malevolent part in U.S. foreign policy since his apologies for the Salvadoran death squads in the 1980s, is enthusiastic about Ryan.
“Ryan is chairman of the Budget Committee and knows more about the defense budget than Obama and Biden put together,” Abrams said in reaction to Mitt Romney’s running mate choice. “He has voted on foreign policy issues hundreds of times, so his outlook is not hidden or surprising: He’s a Republican who favors a strong defense and American leadership.”
And Ryan proudly told an interviewer that he has read “all of Bernard Lewis's books.” Lewis is the eminence grise of the interventionist crowd and advised Dick Cheney in the run up to the Iraq War.
Ryan himself supported that war. “On foreign policy, Paul Ryan truly is a product of the era of George W. Bush,” the American Conservative's Daniel Larison has commented.
And so even Ryan’s deficit-cutting fetish falls by the wayside when it comes to the Pentagon.
“Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times—Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford—would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago,” writes David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director, in an evisceration of Ryan in the New York Times. “These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion ‘defense’ budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman. … The Romney-Ryan version of shrinking Big Government is to increase our already outlandish warfare-state budget and risk even more spending by saber-rattling at a benighted but irrelevant Iran.”
No wonder that pooh bahs of the neocon crowd such as Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and Jamie Fly, the head of the Foreign Policy Initiative (successor to the Project for the New American Century), are gushing about Ryan.
On other global issues, Ryan’s record is equally dismal. On the basis of leaked e-mails from a climate change institute in England, Ryan has accused scientists working on the subject of engaging in a vast conspiracy. And in a December 2009 column, he wrote, “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” Wonder if he’s reconsidered after the prolonged heat spell and drought that afflicted us Wisconsinites this summer.
And when it comes to free trade agreements, Ryan, with his Ayn Rand-inspired free market philosophy, has been in their favor, in spite of the damage they’ve done to his once industrially thriving district.
“Ryan consistently supported free trade agreements which send our jobs overseas,” Andy Gussert, the director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, told Progressive reporter Roger Bybee last year.
On other urgent international matters, Ryan seems quite ill-informed. “What we can do is affirm our commitment to democracy in the region by standing in solidarity with our longstanding allies in Israel and our new partners in Iraq,” was Ryan’s knee-jerk response when asked about the Arab Spring.
Cluelessness and recklessness—Ryan’s stances on foreign policy issues oscillate between these two poles.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Homeland Security’s Costly Retreat on the Far Right."
Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter
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