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Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) took direct aim at President Barack Obama’s “weak and indecisive” foreign policy approach during a wide-ranging national security speech Wednesday morning in which the budget-conscious lawmaker called for drone strikes against al Qaeda, a continued presence in Afghanistan, and a reversal in defense cuts that have depleted America’s fighting forces.
Ryan, most well known for his attempts to crack down on government largesse, slammed Obama for eroding American credibility across the globe and outlined his vision for a robust military that can confront U.S. enemies wherever they emerge.
“Our credibility is at risk, and with it our security,” Ryan cautioned during remarks before the Center for a New American Security’s Eighth Annual Conference, according to an advanced copy of the congressman's speech obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Ryan also sent direct warnings to Russia, al Qaeda, and the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, he advocated in favor of continued drone strikes on al Qaeda terrorists, a controversial Obama administration policy that has been criticized by some on the left.
“Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers are in nooks and crannies all around the world,” Ryan said, according to the prepared remarks. “And all too often they hide in the shadows of their state sponsors. We should be ready to use every weapon in our arsenal to root them out: drone strikes, direct strikes, economic sanctions.”
“And we should deny weapons of mass destruction to their state sponsors,” Ryan said. This is an apparent reference to rogue regimes such as Iran, which was not specifically mentioned in the speech, according to sources close to Ryan.
Ryan also went after the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. fighting forces from Afghanistan, where the Taliban continues to pose a threat to Western forces and nations.
“We’ve told our enemies: ‘Wait us out.’ The commander-in-chief’s focus should be the conditions on the ground,” Ryan said. “We should bring our troops home as soon as possible—but not before we finish the job.”
Ryan also slammed the Obama administration for stoking tensions with the Israeli government by recognizing a new Palestinian unity government that includes the terror group Hamas.
“The president has recognized a new Palestinian Authority government that includes Hamas, an unapologetic terrorist organization,” he said. “We’ve undermined our ally Israel on a key issue, and that makes them only less likely to trust us.”
Obama has displayed a knack for fostering mistrust among key U.S. allies, Ryan said.
“It’s not that America might go it alone. It’s that our allies might go their own way—because they’re losing faith in us,” Ryan said.
“Our friends think we’re adrift, and our rivals think we’re sinking,” Ryan said.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, “speaks openly of building nuclear weapons. South Korea and Japan harbor similar thoughts. And all the while Russia, China, and a gang of rogue states continue to disrupt international order,” Ryan said. “Our allies are anxious, and we’re not reassuring them. They’re calling for help, and nobody’s picking up the phone.”
Ryan also criticized the White House for doing little as Russia flexes “its muscles.”
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, the president spoke with all the moral outrage of an instruction manual,” Ryan said. “The best he could summon up was ‘deeply destabilizing.’”
“Well, foreign policy isn’t just a matter of norms,” Ryan continued. “It is also a matter of right and wrong. A leader has to propose and explain and defend a course of action—not just ask for a show of hands. And then—once you make a decision—you have to follow through.”
However, Obama’s White House has demonstrated an inability to “follow through” when it comes to tough decisions in the Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East, and elsewhere, Ryan said.
“What I’ve seen is—in far too many cases—the president doesn’t back up his words with actions,” Ryan said. “It’s not that he says one thing and does another. It’s that he doesn’t do enough. The instinct is to go for the bare minimum—just enough to show concern, but not enough to get results.”
This indecisive policy has “worn down our credibility” in the world, according to Ryan, who also spent time outlining ways that Congress can restore the U.S. defense budget without jeopardizing the country’s financial future.
“Every year [Obama] cuts so deeply—and so unevenly—that he’s hurting both our current and our future capabilities,” Ryan said. “Today, if a major threat arose, only a handful of Army brigades would be ready to deploy. That’s not much of a deterrent. We may have both too little today and far less tomorrow.”
America’s military needs “a big upgrade” that includes “a new set of capabilities—like directed-energy weapons and advanced missile defense,” according to Ryan.
Obama’s White House also has failed to assure U.S. allies in Asia, where a so-called “pivot” has taken place in recent years.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Ryan said: “Just under 3,000 Marines are on rotation in Australia. Just four littoral combat ships are to be based in Singapore. With numbers like these, our allies wonder, if they’re in a pinch, will America be there?”
The U.S. Navy, which has suffered greatly from recent budget cuts, could serve a critical role in that region, Ryan said.
“If we refuel the U.S.S. George Washington, we can keep eleven aircraft carriers in the fleet. And that way, we will have about three carriers—including the carrier stationed near Japan—forward-deployed at all times,” he said.
Ryan also spoke in favor of bringing China into the international fold and stopping it from “attacking our companies” and “promoting crony capitalism.”