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At VMI, Cantor Argues for Interventionist Foreign Policy

FullTextImage/img/@altHouse Majority Leader Eric addresses the Corps of Cadets in Cameron Hall. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.

LEXINGTON, Va., Feb. 17, 2014 – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor delivered a sharp call for stronger, more interventionist American foreign policy in a speech delivered at Virginia Military Institute earlier today.

Cantor, a Republican who has represented Virginia’s 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives since 2001, entitled his remarks, “An America that Leads.” With that theme in mind, Cantor offered several examples of nations and regions around the globe that he feels are in need of greater leadership by the United States.

In referring to that need for greater presence and authority, Cantor said that U.S. allies currently “see a divided, inward-looking America that is focused on its weaknesses rather than its strengths, and they know this is an America that invites challenges and emboldens adversaries.”

The House GOP’s second-highest-ranking member drew parallels between what he sees as a weak and somewhat isolationist foreign policy by the administration of President Barack Obama and a similar stance taken by presidential administrations in the years preceding World War I and World War II.

Having recently toured the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, Cantor warned that America must not repeat its past mistakes. “Human nature has not changed since World War II,” said Cantor, who formerly chaired the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.

As examples of countries currently ruled by powers with such ideologies, Cantor offered Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, and Libya, among others.

Referring to Iran as a “brutal theocracy,” Cantor argued that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is not nearly the moderate reformer he seems, and that in actuality, Rouhani is less powerful than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“If given the opportunity, Iran’s leaders would make good on their call to wipe Israel off the map,” the congressman said. “Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran would be a threat to all within range of their missiles, which someday soon may include our own shores.”

Cantor called for additional sanctions on Iran as a means of deterring that nation’s nuclear ambitions, and a “big stick” approach that warns of military intervention if changes are not forthcoming.

In the case of Syria, Cantor was sharply critical of Obama’s policy toward that nation, which he said hasn’t dealt seriously enough with President Bashar Assad. In particular, the congressman criticized Obama’s decision to have the United Nations deal with Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

“[Syria] is not merely ‘someone else’s civil war,’ but a regional sectarian conflict that has become a vortex of jihad,” Cantor warned.

Wavering on Syria has undermined the confidence of U.S. allies in Asia, Cantor maintained, as they watch a steadily arming North Korea gain strength.

“An America that leads is an America that must redouble our efforts to stop a nuclear North Korea and stand by and support our ally South Korea,” he said.

Turning his attention to Russia, Cantor said that nation’s president, Vladimir Putin, “is still living in the Cold War.”

As evidence of this, Cantor pointed to Russia’s support for Assad’s Syria, as well as that nation’s provision of asylum for Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and NSA contractor who leaked details of a global NSA surveillance operation to the media.

“An America that leads must have policies based on a clear understanding that Russia often behaves like an adversary,” said Cantor. He advocated a return to the diplomatic policies of former President Ronald Reagan, who set the stage for the fall of communism.

Cantor was perhaps most sharply critical of Obama’s policy toward Libya, where an attack on the American diplomatic compound in the city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, resulted in the death of four Americans, including the American ambassador.

“Since that deadly day no one has paid a price for this outrageous attack,” said Cantor. “No one has been brought to justice. What message does it send to the terrorists that an American ambassador can be killed with apparent impunity?”

Cantor concluded his remarks by mentioning that he’d recently attended a ceremony in which the American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian was renamed for Charles A. Ransom ’01, an Air Force officer killed in Afghanistan.

“We must remember that the international community needs an America that leads in the face of rising threats,” said Cantor. “We honor Major Ransom, and tomorrow’s servicemen and women by having a foreign policy rooted in American strength and humility, with clear purpose and unwavering certainty.”

The congressman’s remarks were greeted with a standing ovation from an audience that included the entire Corps of Cadets; Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, and his wife, Maryellen; George P. “Pete” Ramsey III ’72, president of the VMI Board of Visitors; and faculty and staff.

Cantor’s visit to VMI was part of the H.B. Johnson Jr. ’26 Distinguished Lecture Series.

–Mary Price