Argument

The Short List

Do Romney's top veep choices know anything about the world?

Speculation is brewing that Mitt Romney may announce his vice presidential pick as early as this week, and while there's still room for a Palin-esque surprise, the conversation has mostly settled on the following six names. While former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was briefly floated as a possibility, her support for abortion rights and association with some of the more controversial legacies of the George W. Bush administration make her a pretty unlikely pick. The names that are left don't have an awful lot of foreign-policy experience, but in recent months some have been taking steps to burnish their international credentials.

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Rob Portman

Ohio Senator

VP Buzz: Portman has reportedly been on the Romney campaign's shortlist since at least April. The former Bush administration budget chief and congressman is reportedly popular among influential Republican insiders and could help the Romney campaign in Ohio, a key battleground state.

Foreign Policy credentials: According to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, Portman "has an immense understanding of the budget, the tax code and trade and foreign policy" and indeed may have more international experience than anyone else on the Romney shortlist -- save long-shot candidates like Condoleezza Rice -- having served as U.S. Trade Representative from 2005 to 2006. Portman sits on the Senate Armed Services committee and is the ranking republican on its Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee. He recently made a high-profile trip to Afghanistan, Israel, and Jordan -- which included meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- in what was widely seen as an attempt to burnish his vice presidential credentials. In Afghanistan, he met with U.S. troops and local officials and expressed concerns about the Obama administration's withdrawal timeline. In a recent CNN interview, Portman stopped short of endorsing military intervention in Syria but called for the United States to take a greater leadership role in assisting the country's rebels. He has co-sponsored a Senate Resolution opposing a "containment" strategy in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.

One potential Achilles heel for Portman may be his time as a lobbyist for Washington firm Patton Boggs in the mid-1980s. The firm's clients at the time included the government of Haiti, which was ruled at the time by dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, though the firm denies that Portman ever worked on behalf of the Haitian government.

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Tim Pawlenty

Governor of Minnesota

VP Buzz: The New York Times reported on July 15 that Pawlenty, along with Portman, is a top contender for the ticket. The governor was also reportedly high on John McCain's list in 2008 and this year launched a short-lived presidential candidacy of his own. Pawlenty was early to endorse Romney and has been an enthusiastic surrogate throughout the campaign.

Foreign Policy credentials: Aside from trade missions and trips to visit Minnesotan troops overseas, Pawlenty's international resume is pretty light. As a candidate in June 2011, Pawlenty gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) which was billed as a rebuttal to Obama's speech a month before on the Arab Spring. In the speech, Pawlenty attacked not only the president but elements of his own party, saying, "Parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to outbid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments."

Though he doesn't describe himself as a neoconservative, Pawlenty seemed, in the speech, to take his queues from George W. Bush's "freedom agenda," criticizing Obama for being too hesitant to call for the overthrow of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and being to slow to use force against Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi. Like Romney, he also called for a more forceful response to the Iranian nuclear program. "From what we can tell, Gov. Pawlenty has decided that the George W. Bush foreign policy is where he's decided to stake his flag," CFR senior vice president James Lindsey told FP after the speech.

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Bobby Jindal

Governor of Louisiana

VP Buzz: Jindal is still best known nationally for his awkward response to Obama's first State of the Union address, but there's been recent buzz that his sterling credentials with social conservatives could help Romney reassure voters unsure about his earlier positions on issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Foreign Policy credentials: During his brief congressional career, Jindal served on the Homeland Security Committee, but his resume is pretty light on international issues. In his book, Leadership and Crisis, Jindal wrote that he opposes cuts to missile defense and doesn't believe foreign terrorists should be read Miranda rights.

Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants and the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history. As governor he has supported legislation cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. With the Obama administration's energy policies in the crosshairs following the controversial Keystone XL pipeline decision, Jindal might make an effective attack dog. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, he opposed the Obama administration's temporary moratorium on offshore drilling.

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Paul Ryan

Wisconsin representative

VP Buzz: A number of reports rank Ryan as the fourth name on the Romney campaign's shortlist. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has been one of the GOP's best-known public figures and the party's leading voice on economic policy.

Foreign Policy credentials: "Path to Prosperity," the alternative budget proposal Ryan put forward in March, contained huge cuts to U.S. development and diplomacy funding, while taking "several steps to ensure that national security remains government's top priority." His budget would have cut the federal government's international affairs account, including State Department and USAID funding, by nearly $10 billion by 2016.

Though best known for his conservative economic policies, Ryan put forward his vision for international affairs in a June 2011 speech at the non-partisan Alexander Hamilton Society. The speech contained a strong defense of American exceptionalism, attacked China's "coercive population controls" and "unsound economic policies," called for closer ties between the United States and emerging economies like Brazil and India, and opposed hasty withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. Ryan was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the "surge" strategy in Iraq.

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John Thune

South Dakota senator

VP Buzz: Thune, who had been considered a potential presidential candidate this year, has acknowledged meeting with the Romney campaign's senior advisors in Boston but says "it wasn't a meeting about what you think it's about." The socially conservative senator and GOP rising star was an effective campaigner for Romney during the Iowa caucuses.

Foreign Policy credentials: Thune spearheaded the GOP response to the Obama administration's New START arms control agreement with Russia, arguing that it "misses one opportunity after another to maintain a stable nuclear relationship between our two countries." Thune pushed for improvements to the U.S. nuclear deterrent to be made as part of the compromise on the treaty, which also brought with it benefits for South Dakota's Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Thune supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a congressman but raised some eyebrows by suggesting the war in Iraq could help the spread of Christianity there. He recently signed on to a letter by GOP senators opposing U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty.

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Marco Rubio

Florida senator

VP Buzz: Rubio was once considered a top contender for the job, but has been conspicuously absent on recent shortlists, perhaps due to his somewhat lackluster endorsement of Romney and questions about Rubio's campaign finances during his 2010 race?. All the same, Rubio's youth, popularity, and the fact that he would be the first Hispanic (a key demographic in the upcoming election) on a major party ticket, could make him a potential surprise pick.

Foreign Policy credentials: Rubio may have come to power with the 2010 Tea Party wave, but he doesn't share the isolationist tendencies of classmates like Rand Paul. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio has often found himself more in agreement with Democrats like John Kerry and Bob Casey than some members of his own party -- particularly on issues related to humanitarian intervention.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution in April, which seemed calculated to position the freshman as a new congressional leader on foreign policy, Rubio repeatedly invoked the neoconservative scholar -- and Romney advisor -- Robert Kagan, in calling for a more aggressive push to force Syria's Bashar al-Assad from power, and a greater emphasis on human rights in Russia and China.

Though Rubio has been a frequent and prominent critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy, he also has some notable differences with Romney, particularly on cuts to foreign aid and Arab democracy-building programs. The child of Cuban immigrants, Rubio has proposed a GOP alternative to the DREAM Act that would allow some children of illegal immigrants to study and work in the United States -- a measure that would likely be opposed by Romney.

Recent Vice Presidential picks like Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, and George H.W. Bush were experienced foreign-policy hands, perhaps making up for the perceived shortcomings of the names at the top of their tickets. But the names of Romney's list seem to indicate that foreign policy won't be a major focus of his campaign.

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Argument

The Era of Oil Abundance

Meet the winners and losers of the coming age of plenty.

We are suffering whiplash: For nearly four decades, OPEC -- the cartel formally known as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- has been a major economic and geopolitical force in our collective lives, driving nations to war, otherwise self-respecting world leaders to genuflect, and economists to shudder. The last half-dozen years have been especially nerve-wracking as petroleum has seemed in short supply, oil and gasoline prices have soared to historically high levels, and China has gone on a global resource-buying binge. Russia's Vladimir Putin has strutted the global stage, bolstered by gas and oil profits, and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has thumbed his nose at los Yanquis.

Yet now we are hearing a very different narrative. A growing number of key energy analysts say that technological advances and high oil prices are leading to a revolution in global oil. Rather than petroleum scarcity, we are seeing into a flood of new oil supplies from some pretty surprising places, led by the United States and Canada, these analysts say. Rather than worrying about cantankerous petrocrats, we will need to prepare for an age of scrambled geopolitics in which who was up may be down, and countries previously on no one's A-list may suddenly be central global players.

One primary takeaway: North America seems likely to become self-sufficient in oil. "This will be a huge potential productivity shock to the U.S. economy," says Adam Sieminski, director of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal agency. "It could grow the economy, grow GDP, and strengthen the dollar."

OK, we get it -- we will need to relearn our basic geopolitics. But how so? Last week, the New America Foundation gathered six leading energy analysts to take a guess as to the winners and losers over the next few decades from the unfolding new age of fossil fuel abundance (video here). Here's what they told us:

WINNERS

The United States: Jobs increase, wages and productivity go up, the dollar strengthens, the current account deficit becomes negligible, and America has a new day as an economically dominant superpower. It is far and away the biggest winner of the new age, the analysts agreed. As far as Americans are concerned, what's not to like? Citigroup's Ed Morse waxed rhapsodic: "We will no longer be kowtowing to despotic rulers and feudal monarchs whose oil supply lines are crucial to other aspects of foreign policy. Those tradeoffs will be eliminated." Perhaps a bit Pollyanna-ish, but we get the general idea.

New petrostates: Aren't we forgetting those unsung nations that, depending how they manage the new age of plenty, can also very well end up with far more robust economies and as geopolitical players? The following 10 countries -- all of them burgeoning new petrostates -- make the winner's list because, even if they ultimately botch the moment and send most of the profit into private Swiss bank accounts, the coming energy boom gives them a much greater chance at big economic prosperity: Cyprus, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Israel, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Cooperation: Western suspicion of China has been fueled by its aggressive acquisition of natural resources around the world, especially oil and gas fields. But "in a world of plenty," said Ed Chow of the Center for Security and International Studies, "the zero-sum nature of the discussion could come out of the equation." Chow thinks we are already seeing the first stages of this more relaxed future in the U.S. attitude toward billions of dollars in recent Chinese investment in U.S. shale gas and oil fields. That is far different from 2005, when public and political opinion aborted China's attempt to buy Unocal almost before it reached a serious stage. Chow likes this new atmosphere. "It was never a very healthy phobia that we had to begin with," he said. Looking ahead, Chow wonders whether the United States might end up collaborating with China and India in patrolling the Persian Gulf.

LOSERS

Unenlightened petrocrats: Oil prices could be lower and volatile in a world of surplus. So for states relying on a single economy such as oil or gas, "it is not a pretty picture," said Morse. He forecasts much political turmoil, and a struggle to keep market share. That includes Chàvez for sure, but could also jostle Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the allegedly corrupt president of Equatorial Guinea, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini.

Russia: Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations led the panelists, plus many audience members, in singling out Russia as a key loser since Putin shows no sign so far of genuine economic diversification. For his state budget to break even, Putin requires an estimated oil price of $117 a barrel. Right now it is 12 percent below that threshold, or about $103 a barrel. Struggling to make up the difference but with no tools other than oil and gas to do so, Putin seems headed for a tougher political experience than in his previous tenure as president in the 2000s, when he rode a wave of public popularity based on a growing and optimistic middle class. When Russians realize their living standard is static or diminishing, they will not be happy. (On the plus side, a Putin shorn of the emboldening force of petrodollars might be friendlier with the rest of the world.)

The green edifice: The movement to slow or stop global warming could be derailed as winning nations focus more on getting rich than cleaning up their carbon footprint, concluded Robin West, CEO of PFC Energy, an energy research firm. The bar was already high for green-tech companies to compete against the economics of fossil-fuel energy; with lower oil and gas prices, the bar rises higher. There is a ray of hope, though: Rather than driving green-tech companies out of business, lower energy prices could create a new consumer choice. "Depending on how you value the environment and [what you think about] global warming," you can choose to run your life on fossil fuels or on cleaner technology, said Chow. Who knows? Policymakers may reverse their current ambivalence, too, and decide that, even though fossil fuels are plentiful, it is better to go clean.

OPEC: With prices dropping and competing supplies flowing from numerous new producers, OPEC will lose much relative influence, and may simply cease to be a pivotal economic player. "OPEC will descend into chaos as an organization," said John Hofmeister, former president of Shell USA. "They don't know now how much they are hated by the entire world. But they will find out as things unfold." One litmus test for this new era of abundance will be if there is some form of repetition of Saddam Hussain's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Two weeks ago, a senior Middle East diplomat asked PFC Energy's Robin West whether, a decade from now, the American public would get behind the deployment of tens of thousands of troops if Kuwait's oil were threatened. "I said, ‘I don't think so,'" West said.

So there you have it: OPEC gone, Putin flat on his back, Iran's theocracy seriously undermined, and suspicion of China tamped down. What will we worry about?

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