- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Wednesday that the United States must get its fiscal house in order if it hopes to rebuild its military and restore the nation’s credibility on the world stage, in a speech that is sure to stoke speculation that the Wisconsin Republican is looking to beef up his foreign policy credentials ahead of a likely 2016 White House bid.

Speaking at a national security conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security, Mr. Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, cast himself as a “heavily armed dove” and said that the national debt is the “greatest threat to American leadership” across the world.

“We can’t be a good neighbor if we’re not the master of our own house,” Mr. Ryan said. “To us, the debt is a liability. To our rivals, it’s leverage. And to our friends, it’s demoralizing. It’s hard to trust a country that’s maxed out its credit cards and taken out a third mortgage.”

The message dovetailed with Mr. Ryan’s work on Capitol Hill, where, as House Budget Committee chairman, he has called on Congress to reduce the nation’s  $17.5 trillion national debt by reforming the nation’s entitlement programs.

In his latest budget blueprint, Mr. Ryan proposed deep cuts to domestic spending that would pare down projected national deficits by $5 trillion over the next decade and bring the budget into balance in 2024.

The 2015 plan would boost defense spending and cut from college loan subsidies, Medicaid, the federal road-building program and seniors’ prescription-drug benefits under Medicare.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ryan likened his approach to foreign policy to that of former New York Republican Rep. Jack Kemp, who “used to say he wasn’t a hawk — he was a heavily armed dove.”

And he criticized the Obama administration on various fronts, saying it lacks a clear foreign policy vision, which has hurt the nation’s global influence and relationships with its allies, including Israel.

“Our friends think we’re adrift, and our rivals think we’re sinking. Our credibility is at risk, and with it our security,” he said.

“So our job, as I see it, is to rebuild our credibility — both our resources and our reputation. We have to develop the full range of our power. And yes, that means we have to develop our military. But we shouldn’t be quick to use it,” he said.

Mr. Ryan said that the nation “will have to spend more on defense” in order to confront the next generation of threats, but the nation “can’t afford a strong military without a strong economy.”

He said that he opposes President Obama’s push to pull every American soldier out of Afghanistan by 2016, arguing that the decision should be made based on the conditions on the ground, not an arbitrary deadline.

“We should bring our troops home as soon as possible — but not before we finish the job,” Mr. Ryan said. “We’ve lost over 6,800 servicemen and women in the War on Terror. And the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the work they started.”

Mr. Ryan endorsed President Obama’s use of drone strikes against al Qaeda terrorists, but said that he opposes the administration’s willingness to recognize a new Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

“The president has recognized a new Palestinian Authority government that includes Hamas, an unapologetic terrorist organization,” he said. “We’ve undermined our ally Israel on a key issue, and that makes them only less likely to trust us.”

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