An interesting commentary by Fred Kaplan on what the Ryan choice says about Romney and foreign policy, or rather what it says when taken in conjunction with the governor’s now-legendary implosion abroad. Kaplan isn’t pulling any punches, but I actually think his assessment is optimistic; I’m not so much worried that Romney is ignoring the subject but that his actual plan in that department is so awful that even he’s not reckless enough to talk about it out loud. It’s also secondary in assessing what an actual Romney presidency might mean versus the metagame of the campaign; the Zoellick hire is a much bigger deal in that respect. But first, some of Kaplan’ on Ryan’s token efforts in foreign policy:
[...] on broader issues of foreign policy, Ryan waxed on about George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” and the theme of “American exceptionalism,” stating that a “central element of maintaining American leadership is the promotion of our moral principles—consistently and energetically—without being unrealistic about what is possible for us to achieve.”
Some commentators have taken this passage as a sign of Ryan’s wisdom: the embrace of an idealist agenda, tempered by the realism of our limits. It is no such thing. As the rest of the speech reveals, it is more a sign of his failure to think through the implications of the ideas he’s reciting or to grapple with the tensions—between the nation’s ideals and its interests—that have racked American presidents, diplomats, and political philosophers since the dawn of the Republic.
So by Kaplan’s reckoning, Ryan’s as much a bubblehead when it comes to foreign policy as domestic policy, except that he knows even less about how the world works than about the US. He knows to hit the crowd pleasers about balancing the budget with imaginary money and simultaneously boosting defense spending, while deploying that military capability to “manage” a mass of contradictory impulses towards things the US only has marginal influence over worldwide. I mentioned earlier that I believe this to be an optimistic take on what a Romney presidency might mean for US foreign policy; I think you have to cross reference the Ryan pick with what we know of the team that has led Romney to such great heights on the subject.