NEW YORK – In the first foreign policy address of his presidential campaign, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty said President Obama has failed by not delivering a clear strategy in response to the Arab Spring and the Iranian “Green Revolution” of 2009.
Pawlenty also went after his own party for “appealing to isolationist sentiments,” positioning himself as a hawk among the GOP presidential candidates during his address Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“What is wrong is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world,” Pawlenty said. “History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item.”
Pawlenty’s speech Tuesday sought to differentiate himself from presidential rivals who have questioned the U.S. mission in Libya and the military drawdown in Afghanistan. He said the U.S. had to show that it had “the moral clarity to lead the world.”
“America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal,” Pawlenty said. “It does not need a second one.”
Pawlenty focused much of his speech on Obama, calling the president’s response to the Arab spring “timid.” Pawlenty said Obama waited too long to stand up to Arab dictators — touting that he called for Syrian President Basher al-Assad’s removal in March as Obama was calling him a “reformer.”
Following his speech, Pawlenty was asked if he was concerned that new democratic governments in the Middle East would harbor greater anti-American sentiment than the dictators who were removed.
“People didn’t ask, ‘What comes after Hitler?’” Pawlenty responded. “Hitler was awful and needed to go.”
On Israel, the former governor claimed that Obama had an “anti-Israel attitude” and saw the country as a problem, not an ally.
“Israeli-Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office,” Pawlenty said.