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Paul Ryan’s Foreign Policy: Neo-Con or Reagan-like?

While the establishment media have focused their attention on Paul Ryan’s plan to curb federal spending and save Medicare and Social Security, we give Michael Barone -- principal author of The Almanac of American Politics and Senior Political Analyst for the conservative Washington Examiner -- a tip of the hat for pointing out another side of Paul Ryan: his thinking on foreign policy.

Paul RyanUnlike presumptive Republican presidential nominee Governor Mitt Romney, whose career has been in business and state government, Ryan, as a member of Congress, has cast many votes related to foreign policy and national defense. As Chairman and a long-time member of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has also participated in many hearings on national defense and foreign policy.

Many of these votes and hearings were about the policies of the George W. Bush administration and its strongly neo-con influenced foreign policy. Many of Ryan’s votes reflect the willingness of House Republicans to support Bush’s policies.

However, if one looks to Ryan’s comments during the Budget Committee hearings and to a significant speech he gave to the Alexander Hamilton Society, it reveals a much more subtle -- and conservative -- approach to foreign policy than Bush’s.

Ryan began his June 2, 2011 remarks to the Alexander Hamilton Society by observing that federal entitlement programs have become unsustainable “In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the budget. Today that number has grown to over 40 percent… Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the federal budget from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent – even as we conduct an ambitious global war on terrorism.”

This, Ryan says, is unsustainable and the fact that it is unsustainable has led some to believe that the choice we face is over how, not whether, to manage our nation’s decline.

Ryan rejects that premise, saying decline is not a certainty for America: it is a choice.

Paul Ryan then developed the ideas, perhaps the most important in his remarks, that an economically strong America was essential to world peace and that we should reject the “realism” of Nixon and Kissinger. Instead, we should adhere to a Reagan-like foreign policy based on advancing the universal principle of human freedom that is our national credo.

Ryan’s essential point, which is not necessarily original to him, but has seldom been advanced with such force, is that, “An expanding community of nations that shares our economic values as well as our political values would ensure a more prosperous world … a world with more opportunity for mutually beneficial trade … and a world with fewer economic disruptions caused by violent conflict.”

In other words – democratic nations don’t typically pick fights with their customers and trading partners and they tend to stick together when outside forces, such as terrorists and rogue nations, disrupt the economic well being of their citizens.

Some conservatives may criticize Ryan’s remarks and record as evidence that he is too willing to go along with the Pentagon on spending, but that is far too simplistic. Ryan’s approach, we think, is the right one – but one too seldom made by other Republicans – and that is that the Pentagon’s budget should be strategy driven based on the threats we perceive, as opposed to the jobs program and gravy train for defense contractors it has become.

Paul Ryan’s foreign policy vision is much more subtle than the neo-con philosophy that informed the recent Bush administration and continues to exert a powerful influence in Republican circles on Capitol Hill. And Ryan’s closing is worth considering, particularly for the contrast that it offers with the incoherent “apologize, and then strategize” policy of Barack Obama.

“Instead of heeding these calls to surrender, we must renew our commitment to the idea that America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen; a country whose devotion to free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty than any economic system ever designed; and a nation whose best days still lie ahead of us, if we make the necessary choices today.”

To read or listen to Paul Ryan’s June 2, 2011 remarks to the Alexander Hamilton Society go to or

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Foreign Interventionism = Military Entitlement

First off, excellent article.

Second re: johnsainsbury's comments... I would have to respectfully and partially disagree with your assessment.  Comparing our military spending to that of other countries or groups of countries is not a sound argument as other countries "fund" their militaries in different ways.  It would be more accurate to compare military spending to other programs in the US budget as stated in the article.  The preamble to the Constitution states the federal government's role very clearly "provide for the common defense" v. "promote general welfare".  The founders picked those underlined words for a reason.

That being said, I agree that military interventionism is not what the founders intended.  They did intend, however, for the military to maintain commerce and trade with other nations as part of the "defense" of the country.  Since we have a worldwide economy, forward-operating bases throughout the world make sense.

What I would like to see from the GOP ticket is a policy of no foreign aid or US troops for the purpose of placating "friends for a day" (e.g. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt) or trying to "buy" friendship (e.g. Palestinians).  Also, defunding the United Nations - an organization that, by its very nature, threatens our Constitution daily - would also be a big budget relief.

One final point... you are correct about the defense contractors.  There has to be a way to get a better bang for our buck... and keep the contractors in the USA.

Hamilton Society

Ryan addressing Alexander Hamilton Society doesn't sound good.  After all Hamilton thought a "little" national debt was a good thing. 

Foreign Interventionism = Military Entitlement

Current US military spending ($711-Billion+) is greater than the next 14 military spenders combined; and, that US military spending represents more than 41% of all nations' military spending combined. First and foremost, as warned by Founding Fathers "large standing armies" warnings, current US military and security spending is the biggest single cause of the loss of American liberty at home. In economic terms, military spending is the most unproductive use of capital. "Affordability" arguments that use alleged low percent of GDP economic theory to justify current military spending ignores the basic right of American citizens to retain their earnings. If we reigned in international military entitlement spending by about 40%, we would still spend more than the next 5 nations(China, Russia, UK, France, and Japan) combined. Also, by reducing desperate "blowback" we would simultaneously reduce counterproductive results of military occupations. Fundamental, original intent of the Constitution is for a military to defend these United States; no other nation's military "needs" should be subsidized by the American taxpayer. Romney talks more war and military Keynesianism. A VP can't change that.


My ONLY complaint with the Romney / Ryan ticket is that it should be the Ryan / Romney ticket .