Rick Perry's Bushian foreign policy
Texas Governor Rick Perry (L) listens as U.S. President George W. Bush makes remarks outside Laredo Border Patrol Sector Headquaters in Laredo, TX, 06 June 2006. (Getty Images)
August 15th, 2011
09:09 AM ET

Rick Perry's Bushian foreign policy

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.”

In his book Fed Up!Perry lays out a world view that may remind some people of George W. Bush:

"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.”

Following President Obama’s May speech on the Middle East, Perry joined other prominent Republicans in slamming what he had to say (and grossly mischaracterizing it along the way):

"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."

He added:

"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 immigrantsopposed building a fence along the U.S.-Mexican bordercriticized 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

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soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. Sam

    All we need: a confederate in a federal position. Rick, if you don't believe in the federal government than why run? Stay in your Mexican, I mean United States Texan state. Mexico did not like slavery so Texas had to join the Union as a slave state.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:22 am | Reply
  2. YoMan

    If Perry wins the GOP nomination, I think Obama campaign slogan will be "No more Bush. No more Bush"

    August 16, 2011 at 7:22 am | Reply
  3. johnjohninla

    Please please please pick Perry..... so President Obama can win by
    a landslide..... please
    please please.... pick Perry..... republicans are dumb enough
    to pick this Bush lightweight minus the blue blood... please
    pick Perry.....

    August 16, 2011 at 8:32 am | Reply
  4. Jordan

    Why Bushian because he sees the threats in the world for what they are unlike left wing liberal pansies who hide their heads in the sand like that wimp in over his head president obama....obama has failed miserably, anyone would be better then him........

    August 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Reply
  5. Cult of Personality


    August 16, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply
  6. JOE

    First of all, let's put foreign policy aside and talk about what Governor Perry said he would do domestically if he were president. What the Governor said is that he would make government less consequential in our lives or something like that. That's fine! But when you're president Obama and you inherited two costly wars and the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression, do you govern passively and let things get worst or rather aggressively and try to stabilize and regrow the American economy and our society as a whole?

    Those to the right argue from day one that president Obama was being too intrusive in the lives of Americans for one because of passage of comprehensive healthcare reform. However, let me remind you that millions of Americans across this country adopted the platform of "Change" and voted for healthcare reform and the reality is that if these Americans didn't wish for healthcare reform from the get-go, then they would have voted for candidate McCain over candidate Obama. But they didn't. So get a hold of your self. Secondly, you don't promise the American people comprhensive healthcare and when you get in office, you weaver because of pressure from the party that lost the election. I thank God for president Obama's sound leadership.

    Then during the debt ceiling debacle, some to the right argue that president Obama's policies contributed to the inflated national deficit. Well, let's review: The lucrative economic stimulus bill that the president passed wasn't passed to buy yachts and private jet planes. No, it was passed out of necessity to stabilize and regrow the broken American economy and prevent it from slipping into a catastrophic depression. It was passed out of necessity to save the jobs of first responders, firefighters, police officers, healthcare workers and teachers and it was passed out of necessity to stabilize the Big Three that helped to build America and helped us win World War II. Furthermore, commonsense would tell you that if there was no economic crisis to begin with, then there would not have been a need for an economic recovery bill but there was a dire need for this bill.

    And finally, as far as the healthcare legislation is concerned, the CBO or Congressional Budget Organization indicated that this bill will reduce our national deficit by several billion dollars over a 10 year period. I call that being fiscally responsible and smart. Not to mention that this bill will make healthcare more affordable for 30 million Americans and if you ask me, I'd tell you that I always felt that a healthier America was simply a stronger America.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:22 am | Reply
  7. Michael

    Hey I am no fan of Obama but he was not lucky enough to inherit the economy that Bush did and I am pretty sure he won't be lucky enough to have Perry as a challenger.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Reply
  8. Toppolina

    I hope this time Americans will be smart enogh not to vote for another dumb Texan

    August 16, 2011 at 9:52 am | Reply
  9. darrenhankins

    BUSH No.3

    August 16, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply
  10. darrenhankins

    crazy Texan

    August 16, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply
  11. darrenhankins

    were is Chenney

    August 16, 2011 at 9:57 am | Reply
  12. Cult of Personality

    Hey America – How Do You Spell ARMAGEDDON !!!! – Vote for a Rick Perry / Michelle Bachmann ticket and find out !!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 9:58 am | Reply
  13. Light In The Black

    Read (PNAC), plan for a new American century.
    The neocons have been planning the destruction of America for years.
    Republicans dont want to hear it because they think they are defending thier "brand".
    The people behind this (Bush 1 & 2, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz...)
    dont care about your "brand", they answer to the elite in a global game of war, money & control.
    Keep voting for your "brand" and help finish this destruction.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply
  14. POD

    Let me touch that 'third rail' of American Foreign Policy.......Why are we CONSTANTLY kissing Israeli Butt.....Sending them....one of the richest countries in the world....billions of dollars.....in foreign aid......what has the ordinary tax paying American EVER got out of this relationship other than high gas prices and endless war in the Middle East!

    August 16, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
  15. hingedlwnb

    Good grief. Yet another reason to hate Dubya - the addition of "Bushian" to the political lexicon. Make it stop.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
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