Seeking to burnish his foreign policy credentials before a likely presidential run, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lambasted President Barack Obama’s leadership Monday in a speech in Washington as he emphasized higher spending on defense and outlined his competing vision for the nation’s place in the world.
“Today, we see a world in which the Obama Administration has neglected or abandoned America’s longstanding allies,” Jindal said in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute. “Our ‘special relationship’ with Britain is gone, NATO is drifting, Eastern Europe is disaffected, and Israel has been purposefully alienated from the United States.”
“[Foreign policy challenges] are growing because the Obama Administration has repudiated all the operating principles of an effective global strategy, by ‘leading from behind,’ by abandoning our long-time allies, by failing to effectively use the tools of ‘soft power,’ and by cutting the size and capabilities of our armed forces,” Jindal added.
Outlining a defense plan produced by his political group America Next and developed with former Sen. Jim Talent, Jindal accused Obama of abandoning the principle of American exceptionalism. “I wish President Obama had watched The Incredibles, because then he’d know that when everybody’s special, actually nobody is,” he said, referencing the 2004 Disney animated film.
“Military strength should not be the primary means by which the United States executes its foreign policy,” Jindal said, calling for a renewed emphasis on defense spending in the federal budget. “But it is the indispensable element that underpins the other tools. Of all the mistakes President Obama has made, this strikes me as the most dangerous.”
He specifically criticized the Obama administration’s approach to tackling the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria with air strikes, and explicitly ruling out troops on the ground. “I thought it was very foolish to announce unilaterally to ISIS that we would not deploy ground troops,” he said.
Jindal’s plan calls for targeting federal budget outlays on defense at about 4% of gross domestic product, higher than both the current baseline of 2.9% and the 3.5% requested by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2011. His proposal also calls on the Pentagon to open its books for an audit, as well as other steps to control wasteful spending and programs that fall behind schedule.
“Without a strong defense, our allies will not trust our promises, and our adversaries will not believe our threats,” he said.
The two-term incumbent is laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, traveling the country in support of Republican candidates and attempting to carve out a spot as the GOP’s ideas candidate, with policy proposals on healthcare, energy, and now defense. But Jindal, with his low name recognition, has yet to find a following among the Republican electorate, consistently polling near the bottom of potential 2016 candidates.