Tim Pawlenty is positioning himself as the tough guy on foreign policy among the GOP candidates. Addressing citizens wearied by the long war in Afghanistan, and dubious about the “kinetic military action” in Libya, Pawlenty will use his speech this morning at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City to argue for the importance of U.S. military intervention when necessary. To Tea Partiers anxious about the Pentagon’s demands on the federal budget, he will argue that preserving military might is a cause worth spending on.
“What is wrong, is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world,” Pawlenty will say, according to excerpts of his speech obtained by National Review Online. “History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item. America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal; it does not need a second one.”
It is a stance that will distinguish him from some of his fellow Republicans contenders, whose views were summed up in recent Fox News headline: ‘Republican Hawks an Endangered Species in Obama Era.’ Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul both criticized President Obama last week for not pushing a more accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Talking of the Arab Spring, Pawlenty will criticize Obama for being “timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles.” He will attack Obama’s handling of the Middle East for its failure in “promoting democracy” and his pushing of the “murky policy he called ‘engagement.’”
“‘Engagement’ meant that in 2009, when the Iranian ayatollahs stole an election, and the people of that country rose up in protest, President Obama held his tongue,” Pawlenty will charge. “His silence validated the mullahs, despite the blood on their hands and the nuclear centrifuges in their tunnels.”
He will accuse Obama’s actions toward Israel of making the date of peace between Israel and Palestine further off. “We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel,” Pawlenty will say.
While Pawlenty’s speech sounds themes generally associated with neoconservatives, that’s not an association Pawlenty looks to promote — or validate. Bloomberg reported yesterday that Pawlenty “winced” when he was compared to “the John McCain-Lindsey Graham foreign-policy wing.”
“I wish you could think of another way to describe this wing of the party, other than McCain and Lindsey Graham,” Pawlenty said. “I love John, but that’s like saying we’re embracing Nelson Rockefeller on economics.”