Image: Tim Pawlenty
Jim Cole  /  AP
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty answers a question during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Monday, June 13.
By
updated 6/28/2011 12:19:45 PM ET 2011-06-28T16:19:45

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty waded into foreign policy in the 2012 campaign Tuesday, warning Republicans not to "shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world."

Pawlenty, speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, leveled a scathing attack on President Barack Obama's handling of the turbulence in the Middle East and said the United States has a vital stake in the future of the region.

Video: Pawlenty talks Afghanistan, Pakistan before speech (on this page)

The former Minnesota governor made the case for robust U.S. involvement in the Middle East. He criticized Obama — saying he lacked a coherent strategy in the region, was slow to embrace the pro-democracy movements there and had coddled mullahs in Iran and dictators like Syrian President Bashar al Assad. And he slammed Obama for treating Israel like "a problem" rather than a democratic ally.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

"We cannot underestimate how pivotal this moment is in Middle Eastern history. We need decisive, clear-eyed leadership that is responsive to this historical moment of change in ways that are consistent with our deepest principles and safeguards our vital interests," Pawlenty said.

But Pawlenty also took aim at rival Mitt Romney, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and others in the party who have suggested the U.S. draw down its military presence in Afghanistan. Without mentioning the former Massachusetts governor by name, he said the GOP must resist pressure to cede U.S. leadership in world events.

Slideshow: The public life of Tim Pawlenty (on this page)

"Parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments," Pawlenty said. "This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party. The stakes are simply too high, and the opportunity is simply too great."

House Republicans voted last week to deny Obama the authority to wage war against Libya but fell short in an effort to cut off funds for the operation. Pawlenty said he understood why they questioned Obama's mission there but said that shouldn't mean retreating from all conflicts.

"America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal. It does not need a second one," he said.

Video: Pawlenty looks for silver lining (on this page)

Pawlenty laid out several goals he said he would pursue as president. He said the U.S. should assist fledgling democracies like Egypt; press monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan on democratic reform; work to oust Assad and boost sanctions on Iran; and stand with Israel in the peace process while working to empower moderate Palestinian leaders.

Pawlenty has struggled to gain traction in the GOP presidential field against Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who formally announced her candidacy Monday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Pawlenty talks Afghanistan, Pakistan before speech

Photos: The public life of Tim Pawlenty

loading photos...
  1. Republican Tim Pawlenty speaks after being elected governor of Minnesota, replacing Jesse Ventura on Nov. 6, 2002. Pawlenty had originally intended to run for Senate, but backed off when Vice President Dick Cheney urged him not to run against St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (who was mounting a campaign against the late Paul Wellstone, a Democrat and critic of President George W. Bush). (Bill Alkofer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, meets with various economic advisors, including Michael Steele, Meg Whitman, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty on Oct. 26, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio. Pawlenty served as national co-chair of McCain's presidential exploratory committee and later became co-chairman of McCain's campaign. Though Pawlenty was considered a major contender for the vice presidential nomination, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin instead. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks on day four of the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 4, 2008 in St. Paul. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is interviewed on the radio at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12, 2010 in Des Moines. (Steve Pope / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signs copies of his new book, "Courage to Stand," at the Family Christian Book Store on Jan. 30, 2011 in Ankeny, Iowa. Pawlenty's book tour also took him through Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Dallas. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is welcomed to the stage by Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Feb. 11, 2011. In a high-energy speech that earned him a standing ovation, Pawlenty hit Barack Obama hard, saying, the president has "done the impossible," by proving that "someone can deserve a Nobel Prize less than Al Gore." (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty addresses the crowd at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit on Feb. 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Laura Segall / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments