As we have remarked many times, world events and President Obama’s inept response to them are pushing issues of national security to the forefront of the political debate. For those looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign, mastery of national security issues will be essential for a serious presidential contender.
I found it interesting, therefore, that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s office sends out an e-mail regarding his “economic development and jobs mission to Germany next month, his second international job-hunting trip as governor.” The advisory makes a few key points.
First, Pence makes the connection between international relations and jobs back at home. (“As the third largest foreign employer in Indiana, German companies recognize the quality of Indiana-made goods. During this targeted jobs mission, we will showcase Indiana on an international stage, meet with German business leaders and learn how Indiana can continue to enhance its reputation as the U.S. destination of choice for their investments.”) Without aggressively seeking out new markets, domestic industries will have limited growth opportunities.
Second, Pence is making a point of stopping at Ramstein Air Base, the U.S. Air Force’s European headquarters and home to the 86th Airlift Wing. Given the concern about the U.S. commitment to Europe and declining defense budgets, it is a revealing choice of locales for the former congressman. Intended or not, the visit should underscore that U.S. military power and the stability it provides are essential for U.S. economic growth.
And finally, the notification underscores that the trip comes “just seven months after Pence led a delegation to Japan where he had more than 20 meetings with Japanese company executives, including the presidents and chief executive officers of Toyota Motor Corp., Honda and Fuji Heavy Industries.” The governor does get around.
It is not unusual for a governor to make overseas trips to drum up business for his state. But Pence’s visit — like Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s travel to Israel recently — underscores that governors can expand their understanding and gain experience on the international stage while still doing their state’s business. They can, with effort, become credible on the international stage. Pence more than other governors is well versed in national security matters from his decade in Congress, including service on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is well positioned, then, to propound on some of the critical national security issues we face: How do we sustain the war against Islamic terrorists? What is the appropriate level of defense spending? How and where can we support democracy movements? What commitments do we make to allies?
These are some of the discrete issues for which serious presidential candidates must develop positions. But more important is to articulate a vision of U.S. foreign policy that incorporates the lessons of the last two presidents and reaffirms the necessity of U.S. leadership — economic, military and moral — in the world. It will require both the ability and willingness to talk honestly to Americans who have either not been engaged or have been sold nonsense (e.g., A decade of war is ending, the United Nations can handle this stuff, the problem is we have been too close to Israel) for five years. And it will require a level of sophistication to indict the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy as well as anti-internationalists in the GOP.
Pence, whether or not in consideration of a potential presidential run, seems to be putting himself in a position to do just that. Other governors with an eye on a 2016 campaign should follow the example.