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Paul Ryan Embraces American Exceptionalism, Rejects Isolationism in Foreign Policy Speech

7:53 PM, Jun 2, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Paul Ryan defended America's role as the leading defender of freedom and liberty in a foreign policy address this evening. Speaking to the Alexander Hamilton Society, Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out a vision that defended America's exceptional role as a world leader and drew sharp contrast to those who advocate for isolationism and withdrawal.

Paul Ryan

"A world without U.S. leadership will be a more chaotic place," Ryan said. "A place where we have less influence, and a place where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities. Take a moment and imagine a world led by China and Russia."

Ryan spoke at length about American exceptionalism as it relates to America's role in the world. "America is an idea," he said. "And it was the first nation founded as such. The idea is rather simple. Our rights come to us from God and nature. They occur naturally, before government."

This belief in the American idea, Ryan said, should inform the nation's foreign policy. "Now, if you believe these rights are universal human rights, then that clearly forms the basis of your views on foreign policy," he said. "It leads you to reject moral relativism. It causes you to recoil at the idea of presistent moral indifference toward any nation that stifles and denies liberty, no matter how friendly and accommodating its rules are to American interests."

Ryan squarely rejected the position of increased isolationism. "Today, some in this country relish the idea of America's retreat from our role in the world," Ryan said. "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."

He continued, "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."

Regarding the recent civil unrest across the Middle East, Ryan spoke clearly about America's role and human rights. "We have a responsibility to speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran," he said. He later continued, "What we can do is affirm our commitment to democracy in the region by standing in solidarity with our longstanding allies in Israel and our new partners in Iraq."

On the American military efforts both in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ryan said the United States can and must "remain committed to the promotion of stable governments that respect the rights of their citizens and deny terrorists access to their territory." Failure to win, he said, "would be a blow to American prestige and would reinvigorate al Qaeda."

Ryan also called for China to liberalize and become "integrated into the global order." But, he said, Chinese leaders should not count on the decline of the United States as a great power. "We must demonstrate that planning for the post-American era is a squandered effort on their part and that America's greatest days lie ahead," he said.

Here's the full text of Ryan's remarks:

Thank you so much, Rich, for the kind introduction.

Some of you might be wondering why the House Budget Committee chairman is standing here addressing a room full of national security experts about American foreign policy. What can I tell you that you don’t already know?

The short answer is, not much. But if there’s one thing I could say with complete confidence about American foreign policy, it is this: 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.

The unsustainable trajectory of government spending is accelerating the nation toward the most predictable economic crisis in American history. Years of ignoring the real drivers of our debt have left us with a profound structural problem. In the coming years, our debt is projected to grow to more than three times the size of our entire economy.

This trajectory is catastrophic. By the end of the decade, we will be spending 20 percent of our tax revenue simply paying interest on the debt – and that’s according to optimistic projections.

Our fiscal crisis is above all a spending crisis that is being driven by the growth of our major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the budget. Today that number has grown to over 40 percent.

Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the federal budget from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent – even as we conduct an ambitious global war on terrorism. The fact is, defense consumes a smaller share of the national economy today than it did throughout the Cold War.

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