Wading into foreign policy over the past few weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal has scarcely put a foot wrong.
That bespeaks caution rather than expertise, but only an ambitious governor would strive to demonstrate a grasp of the world beyond the state line in the first place. When Jindal starts holding forth on Syria, Crimea and Russia, it is further proof that he sees the presidency dancing before his eyes.
He does not seek to establish his credentials in foreign affairs with any fresh insights or controversial views. He is too smart for that.
Instead he takes the safest way out for a Republican candidate and bashes President Barack Obama, which, given the imbroglio in the Middle East, is like shooting fish in a barrel.
As for the terrorists who beheaded the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Jindal quotes Obama promising “to do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.” Those words are way too feeble for Jindal, who, in a column on the Fox News website, asked, “How about we offer these people death instead of justice?”
And just in case anyone failed to pick up on his call for swift and bloody vengeance, he added, “Here’s another way the president could phrase it: ‘We will hunt them down and kill them.’ ”
We’d all like to see that. We know that Obama would, because he tried to make it happen, dispatching special forces and SEALs to Syria around July 4. The hostages and their minders had been moved by the time the would-be rescuers arrived, and Pentagon sources have been quoted to the effect that the mission failed because Obama dithered too long before authorizing it.
He evidently was haunted by the memory of Jimmy Carter’s disastrous attempt in 1980 to rescue hostages held at the American Embassy in Tehran. A fear of retaliation also may have caused him to agonize too long for Foley and Sotloff to be saved.
But Obama is clearly not opposed to taking jihadists out. Osama bin Laden might still be with us if he were. But Obama’s “remarks about what America will do” about terrorism are “insufficient, naive and just plain weak,” according to Jindal.
This may not be entirely fair, Obama having shown that his concept of justice embraces assassination, but it will all play well with the GOP faithful. Jindal, moreover, is by no means alone in thinking Obama infirm of purpose in the international arena.
“My blood is still boiling,” Jindal begins his column, but it is hard to imagine him in a fury when he refers to ISIS, twice, as “murderous fools.” Our wonkish governor is out to recast himself as more macho than Obama, and the word that springs to his lips when depraved zealots decapitate innocent men and post videos on the Internet is “fools.”
Still, he gives Obama quite a going-over, averring that he “is disturbingly naive and holds a dangerous, utopian view of the world.” Elsewhere, Jindal has contended that Obama has no “strategy” to deal with terrorists or, indeed, any coherent foreign policy at all.
Jindal also had favored the world with his views on Russian expansionism. “The reality is if we had a Reagan-like president in the White House, there is not a chance in the world that Putin would be in Crimea or causing trouble in the Ukraine,” he has said. He is probably right about that; the feebleness of the Western response to the incursion can only have emboldened Putin. As for which presidential candidate is most Reagan-like, Jindal thought it unnecessary to offer an opinion.
No GOP candidate will get far by taking nuanced position on the Palestinian conflict, and Jindal has wisely come out with the standard pledge. “The people of Israel must know that America stands with them, that their struggles are our struggles and that we completely support their right to defend themselves” he has said.
Maybe Jindal’s pronouncements on foreign policy will lend him some of the gravitas a would-be president needs, and he is clearly too clever to commit any major gaffes.
Bashing Jindal is easy enough, but the question left hanging is, What Would Bobby Do? The only way to find out is to elect him president, so we’ll probably never know.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.