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Paul Ryan Foreign Policy Address Preview: 'Decline Is a Choice'

"Decline is not a certainty for America."

3:03 PM, Jun 2, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will lay out his vision for America's foreign policy in an address to the Alexander Hamilton Society tonight in Washington. Crediting Charles Krauthammer's 2009 essay in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "Decline Is a Choice," Ryan will insist the United States maintain its leading role in the world by addressing the growing debt and entitlement spending crises.

Below are a few selected excerpts from the speech:

Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power....

If we continue down our current path, then a debt-fueled economic crisis is not a probability. It is a mathematical certainty. Some hear these facts and conclude that the sun is setting on America… that our problems are bigger than we are… that our competitors will soon outrun us… and that the choice we face is over how, not whether, to manage our nation’s decline. It’s inevitable, they seem to say, so let’s just get on with it… Our fiscal problems are real, and the need to address them is urgent. But I’m here to tell you that decline is not a certainty for America. Rather, as Charles Krauthammer put it, “decline is a choice.”...

A world without U.S. leadership will be a more chaotic place, a place where we have less influence, and a place where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities.  Choosing decline would have consequences that I doubt many Americans would be comfortable with. So we must lead.  …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....

The key question for American policymakers is whether we are competing with China for leadership of the international system or against them over the fundamental nature of that system. It is a debate in which we must demonstrate American strength – economic, military, and moral – to make clear our choice to reject decline and instead recommit to renewed strength and prosperity....

A safer world and a more prosperous America go hand-in-hand. Economic growth is the key to avoiding the kind of painful austerity that would limit our ability to generate both hard and soft power.  A more prosperous economy enables us to afford a modernized military that is properly sized for the breadth of the challenges we face....

Today, some in this country relish the idea of America’s retreat from our role in the world. They say that it’s about time for other nations to take over; that we should turn inward; that we should reduce ourselves to membership on a long list of mediocre has-beens…

Instead of heeding these calls to surrender, we must renew our commitment to the idea that America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen; a country whose devotion to free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty than any economic system ever designed; and a nation whose best days still lie ahead of us, if we make the necessary choices today.

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