Wednesday night was supposed to be “foreign policy night” at the Republican convention in Tampa, and it was: the speeches were conventional.
Neither GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney nor his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are steeped in foreign affairs. For those looking for insights into how a President Romney might handle national security, specifics were MIA. There was some generic bashing of President Obama – that’s what conventions are for, after all, when you’re challenging an incumbent of the other party seeking a second term – but details were scant.
For a country at war, it was surprising to hear the first reference to the nation’s veterans only come in the final moments of the final speech, by Ryan:
The founding generation secured those rights for us, and in every generation since, the best among us have defended our freedoms. They are protecting us right now. We honor them and all our veterans, and we thank them.
Adding up the mentions of assorted nations by Ryan, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul yields the following tally:
Didn’t they learn as kids that you have to finish your vegetables (in this case, Afghanistan) before dessert (Iran and Syria, at least the way some in the GOP are salivating)?
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was perhaps the night’s brightest star. She is the only top Bush administration official slated to speak at the convention, but her Bush 43 comrades weren’t the only things missing: those wars in Afghanistan and Iraq went unmentioned, save for Senator John McCain criticizing the Obama Administration for pulling out of Afghanistan “before peace can be achieved and sustained.” Rice was the lone key speaker Wednesday night to mention Iraq, but only to wonder what Obama is doing in the strife-torn region to preserve the “fragile democracy” she and her Bush colleagues midwifed.
There remain 80,000 U.S. troops fighting, and dying, in Afghanistan, and a couple hundred in Iraq, which just took final delivery of 140 U.S.-built M-1 tanks as part of a $12 billion U.S. arms package. (Paul had the night’s lone provocative line: “Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent.”)
“We will not duck the tough issues,” Ryan pledged, after praising the veterans, but with no acknowledgement of the sacrifices incurred by them and their families. “We will lead.”
Perhaps so. Yet it is amazing that after more than a decade of war, and 6,593 American dead (2,107 in Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom; 4,487 in Iraq), the political party that spearheaded both wars is so silent on them now.