First off, let me say that I was very impressed by tonight’s GOP-presidential candidate foreign policy debate in terms of both form and content. I was expecting a true knee-slapper, with one statement more ridiculous than the next, cascading into each other until eventually there was nothing but laughter left. That said, some folks still did better than others, and foreign policy being my specialty (it’s true, ask around) I decided I’d try to sum it up for you.
Herman Cain – did nothing to either hurt or help his legitimacy as a candidate.
Mitt Romney – earned a point for suggesting we exert market influence on China. Access is what they want, let’s make them work a little harder for it.
Ron Paul – same net outcome as Cain.
Rick Perry – cemented his place as a complete waste of podium space. His comments below are followed by my reflections, sometimes shared by others on the panel.
’Must secure Afghanistan’ – Can't be done
‘Should cut foreign aid to zero and re-evaluate on a case-by-case basis, incl. Israel’ – Great sound bite, but practically difficult and potentially dangerous. How ‘bout managing the current aid system better?
‘I have hands on commander-in-chief experience’ - ….do what?
Re: China – ‘We faced a similar situation in the 80s with Russia’ Umm, no we didn’t. That was a military struggle. Russia had a giant army and was in near economic ruin (which is how we ended up prevailing). This is an economic struggle. I really thought he was going to say ‘with Japan.’ That at least would have been in the right ballpark, but no. Oops.
Newt Gingrich – acquitted himself reasonably well. He acknowledged that we would not beat the Taliban on the field of battle and voiced the need to make Afghanistan part of a larger strategic discussion and policy including Iran and Pakistan. He also echoed Perry’s ‘zero foreign aid’ position but it sounded much better coming from him. It sounded like a lucid, thought out statement instead of the rant of some half-cocked moron. Like it or not, that matters. Less appealing, however, was his eagerness to cast our current relationship with the Middle East as Christian v. Muslim. Last I checked this was a secular country. You can stretch our duties to include defending democracies worldwide, even protecting capitalism if you want to start talking in real terms. But the second you start telling me that part of what we’re here to do is protect the globe’s Christians, I check out. The Arab spring might indeed end up being an anti-Christian movement in balance. That doesn’t have to mean it’s an anti-American movement unless we insist on making it one.
Rick Santorum – definitely elevated his standing, noting that we must maintain constructive relations with Pakistan if only because they are an already existent nuclear power. He also cautioned against condemning even the Pakistani government as a whole, comparing the situation to our post-9/11 relationship with Saudi Arabia despite our knowledge that the attackers were Saudi nationals.
Michelle Bachmann – almost escaped into the Cain-Paul zero loss or gain category until she declared that the ‘table is being set for a worldwide nuclear war against Israel.’ This is no more or less true than ever. Certain factions have been trying to wipe Israel out since the moment it was founded. The vast majority of both the world’s nations and Arab individuals do not have this as their agenda. To suggest otherwise is reckless beyond even being able to get a whiff of the Oval Office.
John Huntsman – aside from sounding like he knew what he was saying in general and making sense almost all the time, he earned particular points by stating that it was time to stop nation-building in Afghanistan and instead use our energies to prepare for whatever happens next by strengthening ourselves. He also noted that we diminish our value to the world as a nation when we engage in torture.
The final scorecard:
Winners – Santorum and Huntsman
Middlers – Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Cain
Losers – Perry and Bachmann