Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy." Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org
For seventeen of the past forty-eight years, a Texan has lived in the White House. Current Texas governor Rick Perry hopes to make that twenty-five of the past fifty-six years. The favorite son of Paint Creek, Texas announced Saturday in South Carolina that he is all in for the 2012 GOP presidential race. He promises Americans: “I will work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your lives as I can.”
"We are now confronted with the rise of new economic and military powerhouses in China and India, as well as a Russia that is increasingly aggressive and troublesome to its neighbors and former satellite nations that are struggling to maintain their relatively newfound independence. There is no reason to believe that armed conflict with any major power is imminent, but the world is rapidly changing, and the United States must be prepared for the ramifications of shifting balances of power."
"North Korea and Iran, in contrast, are utterly unpredictable and present an imminent threat with their nuclear ambitions…Leftists in Latin America are threatening democracy, and Hugo Chavez is harboring communist rebels in Venezuela. All of these issues require our attention and investment in defense capabilities."
Fed Up! doesn’t say much in the way of specifics about what Perry would do about these threats.
The Bush-Perry foreign policy parallels continue. To prepare for the campaign, Perry met with Doug Feith and William Luti, both of whom held senior level positions in DoD under Bush. Who helped organize the strategy session? None other than Donald Rumsfeld.
Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” spoke with a foreign policy adviser familiar with Rick Perry who said that Perry’s foreign policy will be “hawk internationalist,” and that “he has no sympathy for the neo-isolationist impulses emanating from some quarters of the Republican Party.”
"President Obama’s speech…continues a misguided policy of alienating our traditional allies, in this case Israel, one of our strongest partners in the war on terror. As someone who has visited Israel numerous times, I know that it is impracticable to revert to the 1967 lines. President Obama is asking our Israeli friends to give up too much security and territory as a prelude to a renewed peace process."
Perry has spoken more about foreign policy in recent months. In June, he criticized organizers of a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, he wrote:
"As an American citizen and governor of one of its largest states, I write to applaud your recent efforts to warn and discourage those who have supported or plan to support a flotilla intended to interfere with Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip."
"More importantly, I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your preemptive efforts."
On July 12, just two days after the White House announced that it planned to withhold $800 million in aid money from Pakistan, Perry met with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The two chatted about ways to improve the Pakistani economy as well as the fraught Pakistani-American relationship. Musharraf had requested the meeting in order to “exchange notes” about Texas’s economic success and ways to translate that success to Pakistan.
The 1,241 mile-long border that Texas shares with Mexico has given Perry good reason to worry about the success of Mexico’s war on drug traffickers. Last year, Perry suggested that sending U.S. troops to the border was one possible option.
"I think we have to use every aspect of law enforcement that we have, including the military. Any means that we can [use] to run these people off our border and to save Americans’ lives, we need to be engaged in."
Nonetheless, Perry parts from many Republicans on the question of tighter immigration laws. He generally opposes them. In 2007 he called for completely open borders with Mexico, urging the “free flow of individuals between these two countries who want to work and want to be an asset to our country and to Mexico.” He pushed for building the Trans-Texas Corridor, a toll road that would run from Mexico through Texas and be managed by both governments. Perry has also defended Texas’s policy of giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, opposed building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, criticized Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigration law, and dismissed the prospect that verification systems like E-Verify will substantially reduce illegal immigration.
Perry has traveled overseas numerous times during his governorship, visiting China, Mexico, Iraq, Italy, Qatar, Turkey, France, and Sweden among others. Not surprisingly, most of these trips focused on encouraging trade with and investment in Texas.
Like many other Republican candidates, Perry will make President Obama’s supposed disdain for American exceptionalism a prominent part of his critique of Obama’s foreign policy. Early in his announcement speech Perry declared:
"We don’t need a President who apologizes for America."
A few moments later, he put the point even more bluntly:
"What I learned in my 20’s traveling the globe as an Air Force pilot, our current president has yet to acknowledge in his 50’s - that we are the most exceptional nation on the face of the earth."
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay. For more background on Rick Perry, visit James' blog here.