Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty went on the attack Tuesday against fellow Republican presidential contenders, decrying what he sees as an increasingly isolationist streak on foreign policy within the GOP field.
"Parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments," Pawlenty told the Council on Foreign Relations. "This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party. The stakes are simply too high, and the opportunity is simply too great.”
Aside from Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who consistently has denounced U.S. foreign interventions, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have openly discussed the need for troop withdrawal from the decade-long war in Afghanistan. Pawlenty did not criticize any of the Republican candidates by name.
“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 also accused President Obama of weakness in promoting democracy in the Arab Spring, saying Obama should have called for the ouster of tyrants, such as Syria’s Bashar al Assad, rather than trying to engage them.
“President Obama has failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to [uprisings in the Middle East]," Pawlenty said. "He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles."
The former governor also said Obama maintains an “anti-Israel attitude,” insistent that the solution to stalled Israeli-Palestine peace talks is “always more pressure on Israel.”
Pawlenty’s aggressive rhetoric comes as he tries to gain traction in a Republican race in which he remains well behind in the polls.