In a major speech today at the Virginia Military Institute that wasn’t short on criticism, House majority leader Eric Cantor laid out foreign-policy goals for the Republican party and made a surgical critique of much of President Obama’s foreign policy, but left room for jabs at libertarian-friendly isolationists.
Cantor kicked off with a call to buck interwar-esque isolationist sentiments, saying that Americans should reject “the notion that we are one of many or ceding global leadership to others.” He then ran through a laundry list of foreign-policy challenges with proposed responses, including Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s nuclear program, Syrian incubation of radical jihadists, testiness between the U.S. and Russia, unfriendly governments in South America, and what America’s relationship with Afghanistan should look like in coming years.
Iran was at the top of the docket.
“Like all Americans, I hope to see Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations through peaceful negotiations, but hope is not a strategy,” Cantor said, criticizing the agreement with Iran for letting the country keep enriching uranium and improving its centrifuge designs.
“We should lay the groundwork now for additional sanctions in the event Iran violates the terms of the interim agreement,” he said.
He also criticized the president’s handling of the Syrian civil war — especially his response when Assad used chemical weapons, crossing the red line Obama had set — and said that we should “coordinate an international effort to support the moderate opposition.”
And he talked Benghazi.
“Since that deadly day no one has paid a price for this outrageous attack, no one has been brought to justice,” he said. “What message does it send to the terrorists that an American ambassador can be killed with apparent impunity?”
A Cantor aide told the Hill that the speech was designed to present an alternative to Obama’s foreign policy without veering into the kind of isolationism that appeals to the GOP’s ascendant libertarian sympathizers. He described America’s role in the Middle East as that of “a partner to guide the way” to Democracy and said it ought to ally with moderates.