Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tim Pawlenty's Middle East Speech

My first impression when reading stories about GOP presidential contender Pawlenty's speech was negative, and after reading the whole thing I think it's a mixed bag -- with the bad outweighing the good. First, the good:

  • The criticism of Obama's foolish "engagement" policy is on point
  • Recognition that strong U.S. support for Israel gives a better chance for peace than a pretense that we are some sort of neutral broker.
  • Threat to cut off Palestinian aid.
And the bad:
  • a strong fetish for democracy promotion, and a seeming failure to understand that democracy is other countries is not necessarily in the U.S. interest.
  • call to pressure friendly nations over human rights issues
  • a way too optimistic view of Arab uprisings
  • offhand dismissal of realpolitik in favor of what I consider unwarranted optimistic idealism
Overall I'm not thrilled with Pawlenty's ideas as advanced in this speech. What he calls isolationism can be better categorized as realistic assessment of American interests. There was some talk of U.S. interests in the speech, but not nearly enough. In purely political terms, the speech appears to indicate that he has knowledge of Middle East policy and coherent, if unconvincing ideas. But in my opinion various portions of his speech could easily have been spoken by George W. Bush or Barack Obama. And that's not a recommendation.

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