- By Robert ZeligerRobert Zeliger is News Editor of Foreign Policy.
What a difference four years makes! The new order of the day when it came to foreign policy and national security at last night’s New Hampshire GOP debate was caution. On both Afghanistan and Libya, candidate after candidate urged an end to military adventurism — sounding more like Ron Paul than George W. Bush or John McCain.
"We’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation," front-runner Mitt Romney said. "Only Afghanis can win Afghanistan independence from the Taliban."
"Our policy in Libya is substantially flawed," said Michele Bachmann, who just announced last night she was running. "We were not attacked, we were not threatened with attack, there was no vital national interest."
"We need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region," Newt Gingrich said. "I think we should say to the generals we’d like to get out as rapidly as possible…we have got to have a totally new strategy for the region."
"Is it in the vital interest of the United States of America? If the answer is no, then we don’t go any further," said Herman Cain, the businessman turned candidate, summing up his thinking on national security questions overseas. He quoted his mother on Libya: "It’s a mess. There’s more that we don’t know than we do know. So it would be very difficult to know exactly what to do until we learn from the commanders in the field."
Ron Paul went further than the other candidates, not surprisingly: "I’d bring them home as quickly as possible. And I’d get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn’t start a war in Libya. I’d quit bombing Yemen and I’d quit bombing Pakistan…our national security is not enhanced by our presence over there."
Despite the candidates’ general agreement, foreign policy played a very small role in the debate — taking up all of eight minutes at the end of the CNN-hosted event.