Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in England, Germany, Poland and Ukraine this week, ostensibly for an economic development mission. However, with major speeches Tuesday at the Royal United Services Institute in London and Thursday at University of Warsaw and visits with world leaders, he plainly is out to demonstrate he has the gravitas to operate on the world stage. If his speech today is any indication, things are looking bright for his presidential resume.
In London (from remarks prepared for delivery) he will sound the call for defense of the West. Beginning with a salute to British generals who served in the Iraq War, he says:
So many people in Iraq knew what fate would be in store for them if the general and his forces were to fail in their mission. Everything depended on the success of that surge of operations. Our troop and all the innocent people they were trying to defend were looking at the prospect of a complete collapse of security with just about every bad actor in the region ready to move in. That’s what the Iraqi people were spared at least for a time. . . . We’re all aware of the scenes unfolding there right now. And for those of you devoted to studying the military disciplines. . .I can hardly think of images that better confirm what a vital and worthy pursuit that is.
Unlike the president Perry is clear about the imperative for victory:
For us, in the present conflict, the difference that [military] superiority makes is the difference between those people the jihadists of ISIS in control or in retreat. We know what they do when they’re in control and they try very hard to make sure we see it. In all of our conduct toward this enemy there can be no illusions, and no compromise of all that we are defending.
Deriding the notion that “the Middle East is ultimately no concern of ours” and denouncing moral equivalency (“this confusion can weaken the confidence we need in our own values – the values of Western Civilization”), he reminds his audience of what unapologetic moral clarity sounds like: “Their twisted version of Islam amounts to a creed of human cruelty – pure sadism, and nothing more. It matters that we understand all of this, for one reason especially: Without confidence in the truth and goodness of our own values the great moral inheritance of our own culture how are we going to deal with the falsehood of theirs?”
After detailing domestic episodes of Islamic violence in Europe he pivots to a subject the president has entirely ignored:
The hatreds of unassimilated radicals only draw further attention to anti-Semitism in general. It’s a familiar problem in a new time. In Europe it ranges as in times past from thuggish abuse to desecration to commentaries on Israel that cover crude dislike in the veneer of respectable opinion. There is a way to deal with anti-Semitism, and it’s not by smiling politely and hoping that it goes away. The full force of law, when people and property are harmed, is only the most obvious response. Just as important is what Chancellor Merkel did a few weeks ago, to her great credit, when she called this sin by its name. She has stated in confident, unmistakable terms that tolerance ends where anti-Semitism begins. It shaped Europe’s past, in ways that everyone regrets and no nation can afford to let it shape Europe’s future.
It is a much overdue and important point, underscoring how little the administration has spoken out on the topic, and how important it is for leaders in the West to shine a light and denounce the world’s oldest hatred.
Perry’s speech is an emphatic and high-spirited call to defend our safety and our values:
But to every extremist, it has to be made clear: We will not allow you to exploit our tolerance, so that you can import your intolerance. We will not let you destroy our peace with your violent ideas. If you expect to live among us and yet plan against us to receive the protections and comforts of a free society while showing none of its virtues or graces then you can have our answer now: No, not on our watch! You will live by exactly the standards that the rest of us live by. And if that comes as jarring news then welcome to civilization.
The speech leaves no doubt Perry is serious about national security, able to express critical ideals and to lay out a compelling message, as well as demonstrating he is capable of putting together a presidential campaign-level team to advise and prepare him for an ambitious trip of this kind. Other presidential candidates should take note: This is what a governor intent on convincing the voters of his national security chops does. And for those in the Senate trying to bob and weave on matters of war and peace: You may look craven and erratic in comparison to Perry.