"The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil," Biden retorted. "He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free-fall. And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon." And Romney-Ryan insist that Obama's appearance on The View helped undermine all that.
A bit later, Ryan said, "When--when we see the kind of equivocation that took place because this administration wanted a precondition policy, so when the Green Revolution started up, they were silent for nine days." And he says it without ever seeming to realize that America loudly endorsing the Green Revolution would have undermined it in Iran. He doesn't even acknowledge and attempt to refute the relevant argument, because he's operating on a simplistic level.
A politician who has proved his bona fides on national security could perhaps get away with this. But Ryan has never given any indication that he knows any better. For all we know, he believes his own BS.
Another Ryan claim, this time about reducing the Pentagon budget:
If these cuts go through, our Navy will be the smallest--the smallest it has been since before World War I.
Politifact addressed this back when Romney said something similar:
Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney's comparison "doesn't pass 'the giggle test,' " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia. Consider what types of naval ships were used in 1916 and 2011. The types of ships active in both years, such as cruisers and destroyers, are outfitted today with far more advanced technology than what was available during World War I. More importantly, the U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers (plus the jets to launch from them), 31 amphibious ships, 14 submarines capable of launching nuclear ballistic missiles, and four specialized submarines for launching cruise missiles--all categories of vessels that didn't exist in 1916.
Here's another way to put this. What do you think would happen if the U.S. Navy of 2011 fought the U.S. Navy of 1916? Is that a useful comparison? And if the U.S. Navy had to fight any other fleet on planet Earth?
This graphic gets at what would happen:
Ryan is entitled to critique the Obama administration's desired level of military spending. But the specific comparison he marshaled isn't something any intelligent man would invoke unless he didn't think very highly of the intelligence of his audience, or lacked the capacity to make a serious critique.
All that leaves is a final exchange on Afghanistan. Team Obama and Team Romney both insist that they want American troops gone from the country by the end of 2014. Ryan's core critique of Team Obama:
RYAN: We don't want to stay. We want--look, one of my best friends in Janesville, a reservist, is at a forward-operating base in eastern Afghanistan right now. Our wives are best friends. Our daughters are best friends. I want--I want him and all of our troops to come home as soon and safely as possible. We want to make sure that 2014 is successful. That's why we want to make sure that we give our commanders what they say they need to make it successful. We don't want to extend beyond 2014. That's the point we're making. You know, if it was just this, I'd feel like we would--we would be able to call this a success, but it's not. What we are witnessing as we turn on our television screens these days is the absolute unraveling of the Obama foreign policy. Problems are growing at home, but--problems are growing abroad, but jobs aren't growing here at home.
RADDATZ: Let me go back to this. He says we're absolutely leaving in 2014. You're saying that's not an absolute, but you won't talk about what conditions would justify ...
RYAN: Do you know why we say that?
BIDEN: I'd like to know ...
RYAN: Because we don't want to broadcast to our enemies "put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back." We want to make sure ...
RADDATZ: But you agree with the timeline.
RYAN: We do agree--we do agree with the timeline and the transition, but what we--what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do ...
So by Ryan's logic, announcing the date that the United States will leave in Afghanistan is likely to cause the Taliban to wait us out, when otherwise it would have disbanded or surrendered or something ... whereas it's perfectly OK to announce, Hey, we intend to leave by Dec. 31, 2013, and really want to make it happen, but won't definitely leave. Apparently that little hedge will cause the Taliban to do some unspecified thing that significantly weakens it.
Again, there are serious critiques of Obama's Afghanistan policy.
That is not one of them.
The end of the exchange was even worse for Ryan:
RYAN: What we don't want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more--we don't want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over ...
BIDEN: Martha, that's a bizarre statement.
RYAN: That's why we want to make sure--no, that's why we want to make sure that ...
BIDEN: Forty-nine of our allies--hear me--49 of our allies signed on to this position.
Here's the difference between Biden and Ryan: Whereas Biden has been studying foreign policy for many decades (over which he's made his share of mistakes), everything Ryan knows about foreign policy, or at least everything he's shown us he knows, comes from interventionist ideologues with talking points that test well among the base and bear little resemblance to reality. I didn't quite realize how awful Ryan's performance was until I read the transcript of the debate. Biden did smile too much. It distracted me from Ryan's apparent unfitness to be commander in chief.
He just isn't a credible steward of U.S. foreign policy.
For related analysis of Mitt Romney's recent foreign policy speech see here.
*As David French noted at National Review, "This will be a tough debate for the partisans to evaluate objectively in large part because Biden's derision grates so thoroughly on conservative nerves even as it invigorates liberals."