Perry Demeans Our Allies

by Zack Beauchamp

Andrew Exum gets very angry about Rick Perry's claim (in this speech) that "American soldiers should be led by American commanders."

To the best of my knowledge, U.S. soldiers and Marines have served under the command of Dutch, Italian, Canadian, German and British commanders in Afghanistan. (I'm sure I could add more countries to the list.) Several countries have sacrificed mightily in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and I myself fought under a Canadian battalion commander in 2002 in Afghanistan and under a British special operations commander in 2003 in Iraq.

Most of our allies — and especially our friends in the ANZUS Pact, the 60th anniversary of which we just celebrated — are as blunt-speaking as any Texan and would have rather preferred Gov. Perry come right out and insult them to their faces rather than obliquely insult them while professing to respect them. I'm actually shocked that Gov. Perry's foreign policy advisors allowed this text to make it into his speech, but I can see how this jingoistic populism might prove politically effective in the battle for the Republican nomination. What might make for short-term political gains, though, also amounts to bad long-term foreign policy.

That Ex is right goes without saying. But Perry's ethos demands that America always be set above everyone else (except Texas), policy consequences be damned. In fact, Perry is the perfect vessel for what I call "expressivist politics." It doesn't really appear that Pery thinks through his policy proposals, as all of the original ones turn out to be uniformly awful ideas. What matters are the meanings they convey: repeal the income tax because big government bad! Let states elect Senators because federalism good! Execute people because crime bad! For Perry, policies aren't policies to be really implemented – they're value statements.