One week ago, Mitt Romney made headlines by selecting Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. Immediately, the media and activists on both sides of the aisle began discussing and dissecting the Congressman’s record, most notably his eponymous budget plan. Yet even in an election dominated by our fragile economy, America remains a nation at war, still struggling to find its footing against the threats of the 21st century, and were his ticket to win in November, Paul Ryan would find himself one heartbeat away from becoming Commander in Chief.
So just what exactly is Paul Ryan’s record on foreign policy?
With Congressman Ryan having focused his career on domestic issues, he has left behind very little record on foreign policy and national security. What little record there is though, is enough to make any progressive very, very nervous.
On the most significant foreign policy decision of his career, Paul Ryan voted to authorize the Iraq War. Congressman Ryan himself offered up this vote as the defining feature of his foreign policy resume declaring “I voted to send people to war.” Rightly viewed over the past several years as a barometer for foreign policy judgment, a vote for the Iraq War is no less damning today than it was in 2008 just because our troops are finally home from Iraq. In fact, in discussing the war in 2007, Ryan, who was in an early supporter of the Iraq surge, explained that the “number one” mistake was that we did not send MORE troops to Iraq.
In fact, when it comes to war, not only did Congressman Ryan vote to send people to war, he’s repeatedly voted against bringing them home. Over the past several years, Congress has had numerous votes on bringing our troops home, first from Iraq and later from Afghanistan. Not once did Rep. Ryan vote to bring our troops home from either war. Perhaps even more troubling, Congressman Ryan appears to be on board with Mitt Romney’s plan for an endless war in Afghanistan saying in Dec. 2011 “[o]ur nation’s troops and resources will continue to support the Afghan people for years to come….”
In reality these votes should not be surprising as Congressman Ryan was a strong supporter of George W. Bush’s foreign policy and continues to champion neoconservative ideals. Alarm bells should go off anytime neocon leader and professional warmonger, Bill Kristol, starts hyping up a candidate, as he vocally did with Ryan. The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison explains, “On foreign policy, Paul Ryan truly is a product of the era of George W. Bush.” Of course one could be a “product” of the Bush era in that they run away from the disastrous policies that bankrupted our nation, cost thousands of American soldiers their lives, and destroyed America’s standing in the world. Unfortunately, Congressman Ryan appears to be embracing, not running, from the Bush years. When Ryan gave his first (and arguably only) major foreign policy speech in front of the Hamilton society, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal declared it a “neocon manifesto.” Perhaps, none of this should be surprising considering he is reportedly being advised by Iran-Contra convicted-criminal turned leading Bush White House official, Elliot Abrams, and Iraq War champions, Fred and Kim Kagan.
Which brings us back to Paul Ryan’s signature policy, the Ryan budget. While more than enough will be written in the coming days and weeks on Congressman’s controversial plans to privatize Medicare, the Ryan budget has another key plank, dumping endless money into the bloated Pentagon budget. Despite recent modest reductions in its rate of growth, Pentagon spending remains at record levels not seen since World War II. Yet earlier this year Congressman Ryan crafted a budget that piles hundreds of billions in additional cuts to vital domestic investments in order to protect the Pentagon from parting with one penny of its wasteful spending. Let’s be clear, those aren’t cuts to reduce the deficit. Its simply another way to make sure that Pentagon contractors keep making record profits as we buy weapons we don’t need for threats that don’t exist.
Over the next several weeks, America is going to get a chance to learn a whole lot more about Paul Ryan as he seeks to become our next Vice President. Unfortunately, when it comes to foreign policy and national security, what we know now is not encouraging.
Photo By: monkeyz_uncle (Flickr: DSC_6842) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons