Tonight, Ask About Foreign Policy

February 22, 2012

With intense focus on tonight’s GOP presidential debate, the candidates have moved to bring national security back into the headlines. This weekend, Newt Gingrich made news by saying, “Defeating Barack Obama becomes, in fact, a duty of national security.” This flies in the face of bipartisan experts’ views and public opinion. But it does offer another opportunity to examine the GOP candidates’ positions on key national security issues:

Foreign Policy and Oil Prices

Your campaigns have spoken critically this week about the high cost of gas. Yet industry experts say a key factor pushing up prices is war talk with Iran – which three of you also support. National security and economic experts have warned about the economic consequences of a military confrontation with Iran. General Anthony Zinni, a former CENTCOM Commander said, “you can imagine what is going to happen to the price of oil and economies around the world.” Is this rhetoric hurting our economy? Military leaders such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey say an attack now would be unwise. Do you disagree with the military leaders you’ve so often pledged to consult?

Negotiating with Adversaries

This week marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China to meet with Mao Zedong, establishing relations for the first time after the communist revolution. Similarly, President Reagan negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. And George W. Bush negotiated with Muammar Gaddafi to obtain the end of Libya’s nuclear program. Under what conditions would your administration talk to adversaries such as Iran or the Taliban?

Trade with China

Governor Romney, in previous debates as well as last week in the Wall Street Journal, you promised to get tough on China when it comes to trade. But in your book, you criticized similar actions by both President Bush and President Obama as “bad for the nation and our workers.” And your trade advisors, such as Carlos Gutierrez, have previously lobbied against labeling China a currency manipulator. What explains your change in position, and why are your advisors wrong?

Paying for Spending Increases

Governor Romney, you have called for setting a floor for defense spending at four percent of GDP, which experts estimate would add $200 billion in additional federal spending in 2016. You have also advocated  dramatically increasing shipbuilding and adding 100,000 soldiers to the Army and Marines. Even conservative defense wonks are asking: How are you going to pay for all this?

Investing in America’s Role in the World

Governor Romney, at CPAC, you reinforced your support of Paul Ryan’s budget plan. That plan guts the budgets of the State Department and USAID. How will the next century be, as you say, an American century, without the civilian tools of U.S. power?

Strengthening America’s Alliances

Governor Romney, you have criticized President Obama for abandoning our allies abroad. However, according to Dan Drezner of Foreign Policy magazine and Tufts University, who examined your foreign policy white paper, “you don’t actually talk about America’s treaty allies much at all… NATO is not mentioned once in this entire document. Neither is the European Union.  Japan and South Korea get perfunctory treatment at best. Turkey is a major treaty ally but you treat it like a pariah state. For someone who’s claiming that the U.S. will reassure its major allies, you didn’t seem to give them much attention at all. This is a really important problem, because Japan and Europe have been crucial allies in a lot of major American initiatives.” What would you do differently toward Europe and Japan?

Preventing a 100 Year War in Afghanistan

Governor Romney, you have said you will not talk to the Taliban and pledged to defeat the group before U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. How long are you willing to stay in that country, and at what cost, to achieve that goal? Is a decade not enough?

What We’re Reading

An American and a French journalist were killed in the Syrian city of Homs in the midst of brutal shelling from government forces.

The International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged that two days of talks with Iran have not resulted in an agreement on how to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.

Violent protests continued for a second day over the burning of Korans at a NATO base and have spread across Afghanistan’s capital.

The Obama administration maintains that “additional measures” may be considered if President Bashar al Assad continues to ramp up his military assault on civilians.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigned amid reports that the prime minister was going to fire him.

Saudi Arabia named its first ambassador to Iraq in more than two decades.

A visit to Turkey this week by China’s vice president signaled the growth of a tie between the two nations, though both clash over how to end the violence in Syria.

After six months of hearings, the trial of Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak has reached its final day.

Foreign diplomats and top Haitian politicians have been rushing to prevent a political confrontation that could lead to the removal of Prime Minister Garry Conille.

A UN Security Council resolution will increase the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia by more than 5,000 soldiers.

Commentary of the Day

Jacob Stokes and Nina Hachigian contrast hostile conservative rhetoric on China with the administration’s results-oriented approach.

Dalia Dassa Kaye explains why a strike on Iran could yield a worst-case scenario for Israel.

Gordon Brown claims the Greek rescue plans are bound to fail.

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