Jeb Bush will be giving a foreign policy speech, the first of his pre-presidential campaign effort, in Chicago on Feb. 18. For Bush, the temptation may be to tread lightly for fear of looking like a war-monger. Bush, the chin-pullers say, needs to distance himself from his brother. This is hogwash.
If Bush wants the job, he needs to confidently make the case for stronger world leadership and tell us what his foreign policy would look like. I will be listening for a number of things:
▪ Does he make the case that when the United States recedes, bad actors fill the vacuum, and that many of our troubles are traceable to the administration’s abdication of leadership? Given the president’s recent appalling remarks that seemed to suggest Christians, because of the Crusades, can’t deplore radical jihadism, Bush can show some fire in the belly by repudiating that and the rest of President Obama’s moral equivalence.
▪ Does he reject the president’s efforts to accede to Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, and does he without qualification pledge not to abide by any agreement that is not approved by Congress and is not in full compliance with multiple U.N. resolutions?
▪ Does he explain why our current war plan does not match the objective of destroying the Islamic State, and does he reject self-imposed limits on how we should fight the war?
▪ Does he put Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire? She’s escaped hard questions about the president’s Iran policy, about the chaos unfolding in Yemen and Libya, and about the failure to oust Bashar Assad. It would show real grit for Bush to call for her views and make the case that she has been in sync with the president all along.
▪ Does he repudiate the defense sequestration cuts and pledge to fund the Pentagon in accordance with the threats we face, not to make the books balance?
There is one more area that deserves attention: the connection between democracy and national security.
Obama not only scorns human rights activists but also courts their oppressors — which, predictably, is seen as a sign of weakness by the oppressors to be exploited both at home and internationally. We need to advance our interests and our values in ways that reinforce each other.
Bush should not hesitate to address this topic because critics of his brother misrepresent what defense of human rights is about. If he is to be his own person, he must address issues of importance on his own terms.
Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn
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