Vegas debate highlights: Ungrateful Iraqis, negotiating with terrorists, and the fallible Ronald Reagan
There was a lot more bickering at last night’s debate than in previous rounds, and the short section on foreign policy was no exception. To the highlights! MICHELE BACHMANN decscribed 100 non-combat U.S. miltiary advisors in Uganda as a historic "fourth conflict in a foriegn land." She might want to have a look at this ...
There was a lot more bickering at last night's debate than in previous rounds, and the short section on foreign policy was no exception. To the highlights!
There was a lot more bickering at last night’s debate than in previous rounds, and the short section on foreign policy was no exception. To the highlights!
MICHELE BACHMANN decscribed 100 non-combat U.S. miltiary advisors in Uganda as a historic "fourth conflict in a foriegn land." She might want to have a look at this list. We’re at war with Diego Garcia!:
And don’t forget, this was a historic week when it came to American foreign policy. We saw potentially an international assassination attempt from Iran on American soil. That says something about Iran, that they disrespect the United States so much that they would attempt some sort of a heinous act like that.
Then we saw the president of the United States engage American troops in a fourth conflict in a foreign land. This is historic.
Then on Sunday we heard the reports that now that in Iraq that the 5,000 troops that were going to be left there won’t even be granted immunity by Iraq. This is how disrespected the United States is in the world today, and it’s because of President Obama’s failed policies. He’s taken his eyes off the number-one issue in the world. That’s an Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That makes all of us much danger — (applause) — and the president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran.
NEWT GINGRICH made some sense on defense cuts and had a good line:
Now the idea that you’ll – the idea that you’ll have a bunch historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget tells you everything you need to know about the bankruptcy of the current elite in this country – in both parties.
The fact is, we ought to first figure out what threatens us. We ought to figure out what strategies will respond to that. We should figure out what structures we need for those strategies. We should then cost them.
I found – helped found the Military Reform Caucus. I’m a hawk, but I’m a cheap hawk. But the fact is – (laughter) – the fact is, to say I’m going to put the security of the United States up against some arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.
RON PAUL did his Ron Paul thing. The crowd liked it:
There’s a lot of money spent in the military budget that doesn’t do any good for our defense. What — how does — how does it help us to keep troops in Korea all these years? We’re broke. We have to borrow this money. Why are we in Japan? Why do we subsidize Germany, and they subsidize their socialized system over there because we pay for it. We’re broke.
And this whole thing that this can’t be on the table, I’ll tell you what. This debt bubble is the thing you’d better really worry about, because it’s imploding on us right now; it’s worldwide. We are no more removed from this than the man in the moon. It’s going to get much worse.
And to cut military spending is a wise thing to do. We would be safer if we weren’t in so many places. We have an empire; we can’t afford it. The empires always bring great nations down. We’ve spread ourselves too thinly around the world. This is what’s happened throughout history.
And we’re doing it to ourselves. The most recent empire to fail was a(n) empire that went into, of all places, Afghanistan.
HERMAN CAIN: Yes, I stand by what I said and what I believe is the opposite of that thing I said (By the way, good question from the Twitter guy):
ANDERSON COOPER: We do have a Twitter question. Given that Israel has just negotiated with Palestine for a soldier, would any of you negotiate for a hostage? Herman Cain, let me ask this to you. A few hours ago you were asked by Wolf Blitzer, if al-Qaida had an American soldier in captivity and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would you release them? And you said, quote, "I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer." Can you explain?
MR. CAIN: The rest of the statement was quite simply you would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first: I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first. (Applause.)
Now, then you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I’m sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that. So on the surface, I don’t think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything.
MR. COOPER: But you’re saying you could – I mean, in your words, you said that, "I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer." Isn’t that negotiating with, in this case, al-Qaida?
MR. CAIN: I don’t recall him ever saying that it was al-Qaida- related.
MR. COOPER: Yeah, he did. He said –
MR. CAIN: Well, I don’t – I – my policy would be we cannot negotiate with terrorists. That’s where we have to start as a fundamental principle.
I’d seriously like to hear RICK SANTORUM provide an example of a war that didn’t have political objectives:
It is the first duty of the president of the United States, is to protect us. (Applause.) And we should – we should have the resources and we should have all the resources in place to make sure that we can defend our borders, that we can make sure that we – we – when we engage in foreign countries, we do so to succeed. That’s been the problem in this administration. We’ve had political objectives instead of objectives for success, and that’s why we haven’t succeeded.
And as Michele said and correctly said, the central threat right now is Iran – the disrespect, yes, but it’s more than that. They sent a message. The two countries that they went after was the leader of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the, quote, "secular world," the United States. This was a call by Iran to say: We are the ones who are going to be the supreme leader of the Islamic world.
We are going to be the supreme leader of the secular world. And that’s why they attacked here. And by the way, they did it in coordination with Central and South Americans, which I had been talking about and writing about for 10 years.
RICK PERRY: We should de-fund the United Nations because of the Palestinian membership bid. (Despite the fact that U.S. membership is what’s preventing Palestine from being recognized.):
I think it’s time for this country to have a very real debate about foreign aid. Clearly, there are places – as a matter of fact, I think it’s time for us to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations. When you think about – when you think about the Palestinian Authority circumventing those Oslo accords and going to New York to try to create the conflict and to have themselves approved as a state without going through the proper channels, it is a travesty. And I think it’s time not only to have that entire debate about all of our foreign aid, but in particular, the U.N. Why are we funding that organization?
MITT ROMNEY: Get the Chinese to pay for foreign aid:
Foreign aid has several elements. One of those elements is defense, is to make sure that we are able to have the defense resources we want in certain places of the world. That probably ought to fall under the Department of Defense budget rather than a foreign aid budget.
Part of it is humanitarian aid around the world. I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give it to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are – that are – and think of that borrowed money (today ?).
And finally, there’s a portion of our foreign aid that allows us to carry out our – our activities in the world, such as what’s happening in Pakistan, where we’re taking – we’re supplying our troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan.
But let me tell you, we’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending.
BACHMANN: Make the Iraqis pay us back:
No, we should not be cutting foreign aid to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally. The biggest problem is the fact that the president – (applause) – the biggest problem with this administration and foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty put daylight between the United States and Israel. That’s heavily contributed to the current hostilities that we see in the Middle East region.
Cutting back on foreign aid is one thing. Being reimbursed by nations that we have liberated is another. We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for part of what we have done to liberate these nations.
PAUL, SANTORUM, and GINGRICH get into a snappy argument about Ronald Reagan that the candidates who have a shot at the nomination wisely stay away from:
REP. PAUL: As a matter of fact, I don’t want to make a statement, I want to ask a question. Are you all willing to condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We all know that was done.
MR. SANTORUM: Well, that’s not – Iran was a sovereign country, it was not a terrorist organization, number one. That’s –
REP. PAUL (?): Well, they were our good friends –
MR. : They’re a sovereign country – just like the Palestinian Authority is not good friends of Israel.
REP. PAUL: He negotiated for hostages.
MR. SANTORUM: There’s a role – we negotiated with hostages – (inaudible) – the Soviet Union. We’ve negotiated with hostages, depending on the scale. But there’s a difference between releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in response to terrorist demands than –
REP. PAUL: But they’re all suspects, they’re not terrorists. You haven’t convicted them of anything.
MR. SANTORUM: – than negotiating with other countries where we may have an interest.
And that is certainly a proper role for the United States – (inaudible).
MR. COOPER: We’ve got to take a quick break. I do want to give Speaker Gingrich thirty seconds and then –
MR. GINGRICH: Just very straightforward. (Inaudible) – did a film on Ronald Reagan, there’s a very painful moment in the film when he looks in the camera and says: I didn’t think we did this; I’m against doing it. I went back and looked. The truth is, we did. It was an enormous mistake. And he thought the Iranian deal was a terrible mistake.
The first foreign-policy-centered debate will be held on Nov. 15. The other Josh has some great suggestions for questions over at The Cable.
Update: Almost forgot this low blow from BACHMANN:
Well, I think the person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama. It’s his uncle and his aunt who are illegal aliens who’ve been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact that they’re illegal.
Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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