Many uber-wealthy people believe they are wise and well-informed on all subjects because they have achieved financial success. Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is a frightening example of this type of hubris.
Born in Cincinnati to Indian-American parents, the 38-year-old Ramaswamy is a perfect example of what can be achieved in America. He became a billionaire as a pharmaceutical executive, hedge fund manager and lobbyist. His success should be applauded.
However, this does not mean he knows anything about history or the importance of the American-led world order. To the contrary, his statements on foreign affairs show gaping holes in his knowledge, if not outright ignorance. His worldview, or lack of it, is a clear and present danger to the U.S.
In February, Ramaswamy tried to babble his way through an interview on world affairs with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Eventually, he had to admit that he is “not familiar” with the nuclear triad. Hewitt pointed out that this has been the core of America’s nuclear strategy since the Cold War. It defeated the Soviet Union and keeps enemies like China at bay. If Ramaswamy wants to have his finger on the button, it would help if he knew where the button is.
Ramaswamy is also a conspiracy theorist. For example, he appears to think 9/11 might have been an inside job. In an interview earlier this month, he told conservative TV host Alex Stein that he does not believe the 9/11 Commission Report.
“I don’t believe the government has told us the truth … I’m driven by evidence and data,” he said. “What I’ve seen in the last several years is we have to be skeptical of what the government does tell us.”
Aside from being fanciful, this is an insult to the memory of those who lost their lives on that day. It is also a slap in the face to our men and women in uniform who defended our nation in the wake of the attacks.
It should be no surprise, then, that Ramaswamy’s policy positions on geopolitical threats are not just flawed, but so poorly conceived that they would lead to the end of the American-led world order.
Not since the 1930s has America faced an axis of evil like Germany, Japan and Italy. Today, however, China leads precisely such an axis with Russia, Iran and North Korea. This axis wants to replace the American-led world order with one dominated by totalitarian regimes. Whether willingly or through ignorance, Ramaswamy seems happy to oblige. His default option is to either appease our enemies or actually side with them.
Ukraine is a perfect example. Ramaswamy is happy to reward Russia for its illegal invasion of a sovereign nation and oversee the end of NATO. “Our goal should not be for Putin to lose,” he said. “Our goal should be for America to win. … I would freeze the current lines of control, and that would leave parts of the Donbas region with Russia. … I would also further make a commitment that NATO will not admit Ukraine to NATO.”
Referring to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ramaswamy said, “As president, I’ll refuse to be bullied by an anti-democratic comedian-turned-leader, and it’s truly mystifying to me that the rest of the West is eating out of this Pied Piper’s hand every day.”
Ramaswamy fails to understand that America wins only if Putin loses. Moreover, Ukraine’s territory is not Ramaswamy’s to give away. Lastly, such a capitulation would sound the death knell for NATO. The eastern flank of NATO, led by Poland, will never agree to such appeasement. Perhaps Ramaswamy does not care.
The best evidence of Ramaswamy’s inability to understand foreign policy is his characterization of Zelenskyy as a “bully” and Putin as a victim. Anyone who cannot see the moral distinction between Zelenskyy and Putin is simply unfit to be the leader of the free world.
Furthermore, capitulation to Putin will convince China’s leader Xi Jinping that he can invade Taiwan with impunity. Ramaswamy has stated that he takes no position on such an invasion. He has said, however, that he will not lift a finger to prevent or repel it so long as China waits until 2028, when he thinks the United States will have achieved semiconductor independence. After that, Taiwan is on its own.
“Do not mess with Taiwan before 2028,” he said, “before the end of my first term … that commitment is only as far as 2028 … and we will not take the risk of war that risks Americans’ lives after that for some nationalistic dispute between China and Taiwan.”
Ramaswamy’s belief that America can achieve semiconductor independence by 2028 is a minority view if not an outright fantasy. He may be the only person alive who believes it. But Taiwan’s significance to the United States transcends its semiconductor industry. Freedom of navigation is at stake.
The Taiwan Strait is the primary shipping route for commercial vessels going to and from China, Japan, the U.S. and Europe. It is also critical to the export of South Korean goods. Giving China the ability to choke off the straits at will would be an existential threat to the world economy. It would also force some of our most important allies to make accommodations with China at America’s expense.
Ramaswamy owes the American people an explanation of how betraying our allies and empowering our enemies benefits the United States. The answer may be simple: He does not know who our allies and enemies are.
His recent statement about cutting aid to Israel—one of America’s most reliable allies in the world—highlights this point. A strong Israel is essential to American interests. That is particularly true when Iran is ascendant and Russia and China are expanding their influence in the Middle East. Cutting aid to Israel would strengthen the axis of evil, weakening not just Israel but our Sunni Arab partners as well.
Clearly, a Ramaswamy presidency would usher in the end of the American-led world order. If that is what they want, Americans might as well reelect Joe Biden. Republican primary voters should pick a candidate who knows the difference between America’s friends and enemies and is willing to defend the former and defeat the latter.