Pawlenty’s Foreign Policy
Is he on the John McCain wing of the Republican party?


Andrew C. McCarthy

Tim Pawlenty winced audibly when The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg made the obvious explicit. In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, the columnist posited, “I guess you represent the John McCain-Lindsey Graham foreign-policy wing.”

The former Minnesota governor was troubled enough to go out of his way to deflect the characterization he couldn’t deny. “I prefer that it not be that,” was the initial parry. Later, he tried to lay his self-made burden on the media: “I wish you could think of another way to describe this wing of the party, other than McCain and Lindsey Graham.”

How about the “Incoherent Wing”? At any rate, with visions of Reagan conservatives fleeing for the exits, Governor Pawlenty seemed to grasp that Republicans are not in the market for a McCain-Graham nominee. We’ve had enough of a foreign policy that has us one moment cavorting in Moammar Qaddafi’s tent with promises of aid for his armed forces, then, in the next, insisting that both the dictator and his U.S.-taxpayer-supported military be incinerated by U.S.-taxpayer-supported bombs — the better to usher in a new regime of . . . um, well, we don’t really know what.

Rival Michele Bachmann is suddenly surging in the GOP polls by marketing herself as a “constitutional conservative.” Pawlenty grasps this indicator that his campaign cannot bear the weight of Senator Graham — who, when not lecturing that “Congress should just sort of shut up” about President Obama’s unauthorized instigation of war on Libya, complains that this whole free-speech idea is something we need to rethink. And as Pawlenty himself was chagrined to admit, embracing Senator McCain is “like saying we’re embracing Nelson Rockefeller on economics.”

He is right, of course. Regrettably, though, Pawlenty’s problem is not with his embracing incoherence but with your noticing that he’s embracing incoherence. Mr. Goldberg’s question, after all, was asked only after listening to Pawlenty’s speech at the Council on Foreign Relations — a McCain redoubt where dreams of a progressive world order frequently substitute for the world that is.

Fitting then that, while explaining how we’ve purportedly got Tehran nearly “isolated,” Pawlenty pronounced that “Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally.” This was said with a straight face only two days after the president of Iraq — an Arab country that Americans have sacrificed thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to try to turn into the Incoherent Wing’s fantasy of a pro-American Islamic democracy — proudly reaffirmed his nation’s alliance with Iran.

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani sounded his paean to the Islamic Republic during the “World Without Terrorism Conference.” His hosts were the muckety-mullah, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran’s Holocaust-denying, 9/11 Truther of a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, each of whom has made a career out of railing, “Death to America.”

Nor was Iraq the only Iranian ally on hand. Some 60 nations sent representatives. Prominent among them was Pres. Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, in whose country the United States has about 100,000 troops fighting to prop up his regime against jihadists backed by Iran. Also in attendance was Pres. Ali Zadari of Pakistan, whose country takes billions in U.S. aid while harboring anti-American terror kingpins (like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar) and covertly aiding the Taliban (an organization Pakistan created in the 1990s).

And what antiterror confab would be complete without Pres. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan? He is under International Criminal Court indictment for genocide, though this has not dissuaded the obliging mullahs from their commitment to share with him the fruits of their ripening nuclear program. Bashir’s status as a mass-murdering fugitive certainly did not dampen the mood: United Nations general secretary Ban Ki-moon sent emissaries and issued a statement gushing with praise for Iran and its efforts in “the global fight against terrorism.”

Speaking of terrorism, the conferees ended up concluding that its real causes are — you’ll never guess! — the United States and Israel. Still, Talabani agreed with his Iranian hosts that U.S. power was thankfully in decline, boasting that Iraqis stood united in demanding that Americans get the hell out of their country. What his people really want, the Iraqi president made clear, is deeper ties with Iran, including Iranian aid.