As had been expected for several weeks, Rick Perry has entered the GOP contest. Of this the Geek is both glad and positive. Governor Perry appears to possess the stomach and head necessary for a down and dirty campaign against the Nice Young Man From Chicago which is singularly lacking with other Elephant hopefuls.
The Geek became a fan of Texas politics during the years necessity compelled him to live and work in the Lone Star Empire. The doings at that model of law making decorum called the "Lege" were and are as fascinating as the inner workings of the Cook County (Ill.) Democratic machine. The emergence of Perry showed him to be a man having a strong, visceral understanding of the political soul of most Texans. Over the past year Perry's performance has demonstrated that this gut level talent is not restricted to the denizens of the LSE but extends to many of We the People.
It is important to enter an important caveat here, a warning of relevance to international politics. Other significant leaders who have exhibited a strong, visceral understanding of their people's national politics such as Vladimir Putin have seen that understanding stop abruptly at the border. They have little if any understanding of the political mood or mode of other people in other countries.
Governor Perry stated strongly in Charleston that he was a strong believer in "American exceptionalism," which places him in very sharp contrast with the relativistic Mr Obama. This posture while laudable in itself demands yet another caveat in the arena of global affairs. The "exceptionalism" part of the phrase consists of characteristics, attributes, and values which are under a permanent export ban. American exceptionalism is not only made in America by dint of suffering, war, political struggles, and endless effort, it must forever stay in the land of its fabrication. It is unique to us for it is uniquely us and ours. No bayonet, no tank, no stealth fighter, no UAV, no aid program, no propaganda effort, no executive order or congressional enactment can force its export to other, foreign soils. As a transplant it must fail.
On his campaign website, Mr Perry avers that his service as a C-130 driver as well as his many foreign trips as governor give him insight into the needs of American diplomatic and national security policy. While it is true that the governor flew Herky birds with numerous RONs and TDYs, the result would be an intimate acquaintance with nocturnal resorts of entertainment and recreation but little contact with the dark doings of foreign chanceries or the gavottes in distant corridors of power. (To this truism any person with a peripatetic military experience can attest.) And, as governor Mr Perry's overseas jaunts were in the interest of the economic development of the LSE not the national interests of the US.
In his speech at Charleston, the Texan was more than kind when he characterized whatever passes as foreign policy within the Obama administration as a "muddle." It is, of course, far worse than that. It is even worse than a collection of blunders wrapped in empty, high sounding rhetoric. Rather, it is an ideologically driven exercise in ad hoc reaction coupled with a set of self-defeating visions of how the world ought to be if only it were designed in Left leaning academic salons located near the University of Chicago campus.
At least implicitly (if Rick "No One Crosses Me and Lives" Perry can ever be merely implicit) the Texas Cyclone of Prayer vowed to change this. He evidently intends to assure the US once again walks tall and proud on the international stage. This would be a welcome change after the years of "leading from behind" but carries with it yet another, larger caveat.
This caveat resides in the coterie Perry has assembled to date as his advisers on foreign and national security affairs. Without notable exception, it is comprised of neocon ninnies out of the years of the Bush/Cheney administration. At the head of the list is the execrable Doug Feith, the top architect of the debacle in Iraq. Other members have an equally illustrious record. From their post administration writings and speeches, it is apparent they have neither learned nor forgotten a single iota. None have seen the failings produced by their own ideologically predicated view of the world and the role of the US in that world.
Unless Governor Perry expands his advisory staff, there is a very grave danger that his understanding of the abilities and limits of American power will be as disastrously off the mark as were those of George W. Bush. Neither the US nor the world can live with yet another ideologically predicated misreading of what the US can and cannot do with respect to the internal workings of other countries.
It is important to note that not since George H.W. Bush left office has the US enjoyed the services of a president who was both internationally focused and relatively bereft of ideological blinders. The many years of Clinton, George W. Bush and His Hindmost, Barack Obama--each with either or both a disinterest in foreign affairs or ideological predicates of overwhelming power--have seen the steady decline of the US as a Great Power with influence and potency. Given that the next president will be laboring under serious budgetary constraints, the question of the relations of the US with the rest of the world as well as the American capacity and will to defend and advance its national interests will be under very severe challenge.
More than ever we will need a president who realistically assesses our national interests and tailors our diplomacy and military to protect and advance those interests regardless of extraneous considerations including ideological preferences and prejudices. The next president will face a world which remains what it always has been--a dangerous place replete with countries which oppose us and our interests and actors both state and non-state who wish to do us harm. The world will also contain countries which share values and norms with us and with which we have coinciding national interests.
The next president must do what the present incumbent has failed to do with striking obviousness--parse between the enemies and the allies. He must be able and willing to cozen and stroke the latter while drawing in a credible manner the necessary lines in the sand regarding the former.
As Perry lacks any significant foreign policy experience and whose direct experience with military affairs and war fighting is limited to the perspective offered from the cockpit of a C-130, he will depend heavily on his foreign policy and national security teams. Given his first picks as advisers, there is, unfortunately, little if any reason to be hopeful in this regard.
In the future national interest as well as his own personal political fortune, Governor Perry ought to fire the present advisory staff. It is the only smart and prudential thing to do. He has to put daylight between himself and George W. Bush, and listening to the old gang of neocon ninnies is not the way to offset the inevitable Obama camp attacks seeking to make Perry look like the much disliked (not to say hated) Bush, Jr.
(Full disclosure in blogging statement: The Geek is not angling for a job with the Perry camp as he is constitutionally incapable of working for anyone.)