Invoking former Soviet dissident Natan Sharanksy — whose book “The Case for Democracy” significantly influenced former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy — Ryan said America had “a responsibility to speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran.”
Ryan gave the speech just months after the Arab Spring began. While he expressed hope that the revolutions sweeping the region would “result in governments that respect the rights of their citizens,” he cautioned that the outcome could be worse, a situation where “one form of autocracy will be supplanted by another.”
No matter what happened, he said, it was important that America stand by its allies in the region, particularly Israel.
In the speech, which was given before America withdrew from Iraq, Ryan said it was important that the U.S. “remain committed to the promotion of stable governments that respect the rights of their citizens and deny terrorists access to their territory” in those countries. Failure to do so, he said, “would be a blow to American prestige and would reinvigorate al-Qaida.”
Turning to China, Ryan said America “must demonstrate that planning for the post-American era is a squandered effort on their part — and that America’s greatest days lie ahead.”
Ryan also spoke of the importance of free trade and working with allies around the world to achieve American objectives, which he said Obama had failed to do.
While saying that Ryan doesn’t have much experience on foreign policy matters, American Enterprise Institute resident foreign policy scholar Michael Rubin told TheDC that instinct “matters just as much” as experience.
“Joe Biden, for example, could brag about foreign policy experience, but he was still the laughing stock of Baghdad and Kabul, and Tehran’s favorite senator,” Rubin said.
But, Rubin added, a “Ryan VP pick would confirm that Romney seeks to be the president who repairs the economy, not a foreign policy president.”
Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI who has known Ryan since he worked for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback in the 1990s, said that the House budget chairman is a good choice.
“Awesome guy and one of the brightest and most principled people in Congress,” Pletka, whose husband Stephen Rademaker advises Romney on foreign policy, told TheDC.
“What makes a foreign policy leader is judgment and an understanding of America’s role in the world, not frequent flyer status. He knows the issues, and brings the same thoughtfulness to national security that he does to all the other issues that he covers on the Hill.”
Among the foreign policy stances Ryan has taken in Congress over his 14-year tenure are voting to authorize the Iraq war, co-sponsoring legislation to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, voting yes to support U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation and supporting American aid to alleviate poverty and disease in Africa.