Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican chairman on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, pushed back on some of the (few) foreign policy points President Obama made in last night's State of the Union address:
Our men and women in uniform, through unparalleled bravery and heroism, continue to achieve victories and successes in Iraq and Afghanistan which are making our nation safer. I fully support the ongoing efforts of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tonight, the President’s speech reflected a strong commitment, which I support, to defeating insurgents in Afghanistan and rooting out al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, I am concerned that the President has placed a timeline beginning in July for the withdrawal of our troops. This sends a mixed message to our troops and to the enemies they face. I steadfastly believe that, going forward, leaders in Washington must look to our commanders on the ground when determining our troop levels.
Islamist extremists take on many forms, from al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and elsewhere, to the theocrats in Tehran. We and our allies must remain unrelenting in addressing all of the threats posed by our nation’s enemies.
I am concerned that even as the Iranian regime draws ever closer to nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, the President’s speech does not demonstrate the sense of urgency needed to stop this growing threat.
The President also did not mention the threat posed by Iran and Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism and efforts to undermine its neighbors, on the very day that the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis took a severe step to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty.
Support for freedom and people yearning to be free must always be at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and I am glad that the President expressed our nation’s support for the people of Tunisia and South Sudan. Yet, the Administration has pursued a ‘reset’ of relations with Russia, which has dismissed the crisis of Russia’s worsening human rights record. It has made concessions to the regime in Havana while the Cuban people remain enslaved. And just last week, China’s leader was honored with a State dinner even as the regime in Beijing continues to imprison those who dare to demand their basic human rights, including the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Turning to the President’s reference to strong support for our ally South Korea, he is right that the free trade agreement with South Korea will create jobs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that it passes Congress as soon as possible. But that is not the only ally that merits a job-creating free trade agreement. The pending agreements with Colombia and Panama will also bring jobs and other economic benefits to the U.S., including to my Congressional district in South Florida. Every day that passes without these agreements in place is another lost opportunity for the U.S. economy.
We must be doing everything we can at this moment to create jobs, and that means the President must work to break through the special interest log-jams that are preventing the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements from going into effect.