My Chief Worry about Perry

Like many libertarians and conservatives, I am quite eager to see President Obama in the rearview mirror of American politics.  He has been far worse than I expected.  Although I expected trouble on the domestic front, I figured he’d operate with a lot more restraint in the realm of foreign policy.  Instead, we’ve been given both a fairly ill-managed escalation in Afghanistan and a foolish war in Libya that has been executed in a manner unbecoming of a democracy governed by the rule of law (especially in terms of proper executive-legislative relations). 

Given my hope of seeing the Ryder truck at 1600 Pennsylvania asap, I have been a bit excited about the possibility of Rick Perry winning the nomination since he would be a formidable general election candidate.  However, there are more than a few potential downsides to a future Perry presidency.  Chief among them could be his foreign policy approach. 

Like the last Texan in the White House, Perry seems ready to embrace a very assertive foreign policy that would seem only to add a bit more internationalism to the basic neoconservative approach.  At least that is what Josh Rogin sees in his crystal ball.  And in my opinion, the unilateralism (to a point) was/is one of the few endearing features of  neoconservatism in foreign policy.  

In an interesting but thinly sourced piece at Foreign Policy, Rogin describes some of the elements of Perry’s thinking on foreign policy and notes that the Texan’s approach is basically, as one unnamed source put it, “hawk internationalist.”  Particularly disturbing is that Perry is talking to folks like Douglas Feith and has “called for higher defense budgets, warned about the rise of China, criticized the effort to reset relations with Russia, and said that North Korea and Iran represent ‘an imminent threat with their nuclear ambitions.'”  Wow, John McCain, Jr.!   

But is this really the right course correction to make in the face of Obama’s foreign policy?  Do we really want Bush II, II?  Or do we want to head in the direction we’ve seen many conservatives and libertarians map out in this post-Iraq, budget-constrained world?  Namely, a world in which the United States adopts a more restrained vision of its place in the world and the budget to go along with such a new, more realistic grand strategy.  In an age without a true peer competitor and where U.S. efforts to shape the world are as likely to blow-up in its face or drain its budget at minimal gain as work to America’s advantage, isn’t “restraint” (or “offshore balancing” or “strategic independence”) the recipe for securing core national interests and extending the US’s unique power position as long as possible?

If only Perry would listen a little more to fellow Texans like Chris Layne at his alma mater Texas A&M or Eugene Gholz at the University of Texas!

4 thoughts on “My Chief Worry about Perry

  1. If it makes you feel any better, the only thing Rick Perry believes in is getting elected. And he is good at that because he is the greatest political weathervane in history. He will say anything and do anything to get your vote and be very convincing about it.

    He used to be a democrat, now he’s a republican. Less than a year ago, he was talking about secession on the steps of the state capital building, now he wants to be the President of the same nation he was talking about seceding from? I could go on and on about the series of political contradictions which have defined his career.

    Anything Rick Perry does or says during this primary season is merely pandering to the core constituencies in the Republican party. It will indicate little to nothing about how he will govern as President. On foreign policy, if the trend is towards isolationism and retrenchment then that is the way he will go; if the trend is towards more endless wars, then that is the way he will go.

  2. I can easily see how Perry is a “formidable” GOP primary candidate, but I don’t see how he is a formidable general election candidate. For every right-wringer who salivates about Perry, there are two independent voters who he scares back to Obama’s fold.

    The only reason Perry has a chance in the general is because Obama’s approval is so low (and dropping) and the economy is still likely to be in the tank next November.

    Romney seems to me to be making the right response. Rather than trying to outflank Perry on the right, it looks like he is moving to the center to play the electability card. I don’t think it will work (and I’m no Romney fan, so I don’t much care), but it is probably his only hope.

    So Perry is riding a wave of very good timing, which might take him all the way to the White House (though I doubt it, as I’ve said before). A Perry can beat a very weak incumbent, but no one can beat the bell curve.

  3. The race will go to the candidate who appeals to a majority of voters in certain swing states to win; mainly, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and a couple small ones in the west. The other states are irrelevant. The question is who will get out the vote better in those states, Perry, Romney or Obama?

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