Sunday, November 13, 2011

Republican foreign policy debate: If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon

Another debate, which CBS calls the Commander in Chief Debate, which would be appropriate if the subject were confined to military issues but is not because it was also about foreign policy.

Transcript part 1, part 2.

Twitt Romney said Iran’s nuclear program (which he calls “their nuclear folly”) is “of course, President Obama’s greatest failing, from a foreign policy standpoint”. He should have encouraged Iranian dissidents with covert aid and threatened military action against Iran. “Look, one thing you can know-- and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney... they will not have a nuclear weapon.”

Gingrich agrees that Obama “skipped all the ways to be smart” about Iran. Maybe Gingrich shouldn’t talk about skipping. In fact, I want everyone to close your eyes and picture Newt Gingrich skipping.

Anyway, Newton says that the smart thing to do is “maximum covert operations,” including murdering their scientists – Republicans just do not like science – “covertly, all of it deniable,” to team up with Israel, undermine Iran’s government and if it fails to collapse, go in militarily.

Ron Paul is against going to war with Iran.

They weren’t going to ask Perry about Iran, but he insisted on telling them anyway. He would “sanction the Iranian Central Bank right now and shut down that country’s economy.”

Santorum says we should work with Israel to let them bomb the nuclear program out of existence “before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and then the world changes.” Sounds familiar.

Huntsman wants to bring US troops home from Afghanistan, because we’ve won.

Romney says he would never negotiate with the Taliban.

Gingrich, playing the history professor, badly, says, “the Taliban survives for the... very same reason that historically we said guerillas always survive, which is they have a sanctuary. The sanctuary’s Pakistan. You’re never gonna stop the Taliban as long as they can sort of hide.” Which is why Nixon bombing Cambodia defeated the Viet Cong, right Newt?

Major Garrett, who is not a major, quotes Herman Cain that the US needs to be clear about who its friends and foes are. Are you clear about which one Pakistan is, Mr. Cain? No, Herman Cain is not. Because bin Laden and because Karzai said he would side with Pakistan in a US-Pakistan dispute (which actually raises questions about Karzai, not Pakistan, obviously). “Will they make commitments relative to the commitment of their military, if we have to make commitments?” I’m guessing Newt Gingrich squirmed each time Cain used the word commitment.

Asked about Afghanistan, Rick Perry talked about foreign aid instead. And “The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars. Zero dollars. And then we’ll have a conversation. Then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries. And Pakistan is clearly sending us messages, Mitt.” Are you sure that’s not the voices in your head sending you messages? “It’s clearly sending us messages that they, they don’t deserve our foreign aid that we’re getting, because they’re not bein’ honest with us.”

Bachmann says Iran is plotting a “worldwide nuclear war” against Israel.

Gingrich agrees about starting foreign aid at zero “and say, ‘Explain to me why I should give you a penny.’” Clearly the problem with foreign aid is that foreign countries aren’t made to humiliatingly beg President Newt nearly enough. And Egypt should be cut off too, if “the Arab Spring become[s] an anti-Christian spring”.

Santorum says we have to give aid to Pakistan because they have nukes. Oddly, this statement is being treated as a sign of his relative sophistication. He is, admittedly, the only one willing to suggest that the US has to work at friendship with other nations, rather than seeing every other nation on earth as supplicants for our favor.

Gingrich says for the second time that he would “adopt the Reagan/John Paul II/Thatcher strategy towards Iran.” And towards North Korea.

Asked to demonstrate his famous outside-the-box thinking, Gingrich says he would repudiate Agenda 21 and apply Lean Six Sigma to the Pentagon. Okay then.

Asked when he would overrule his generals, Cain says he would surround himself with the right people. “You will know you’re makin’ the right decision when you consider all the facts and ask them for alternatives. It is up to the commander in chief to make that judgment call based upon all the facts. And because I’ll have mult-- a multiple group of people offering different recommendations, this gives me the best opportunity to select the one that makes the most amount of sense.” Isn’t a leader supposed to set the agenda, not tick a box?

Drink it in, ladies, drink it in.

Ah. Asked the same question, Santorum says he’d come with a clear agenda, just like I said, and, will only hire people who share his approach. Suddenly Cain listening to different recommendations and ticking a box sounds more appealing than the ideological bubble Santorum plans to live in. The American people, he says, would be “electing someone who’s gonna be very crystal clear.” Not just crystal clear. Very crystal clear.

Speaking of being very crystal clear, Santorum says about the murdered Iranian nuclear scientists: “I hope that the United States has been involved with that.”

Perry says being “commander in chief” of the Texas National Guard is just like being president. “I’ve dealt with generals.”

Cain: “I do not agree with torture, period.” Please no one tell Cain about his little tell until I get a chance to play poker with him. Cain: “Wow, look at these cards, I’ve got a really great hand here, period.” Me: “Raise.”

“However, I will trust the judgment of our military leaders to determine what is torture and what is not torture.” And waterboarding isn’t torture, it’s enhanced interrogation, and he’d bring it back.

Bachmann also loves her some waterboarding. She says “I think it was very effective.” And Obama “is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA,” adding “according to the voices in my head which are running my mouth.” Indeed, “when we interdict a terrorist on the battlefield, we have no jail for them.” Um, what? “It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the War on Terror under President Obama. That’s not my strategy. My strategy will be that the United States will be victorious in the War on Terror.” See, and you didn’t think she had a strategy.

Ron Paul says waterboarding is torture, illegal under international law, and immoral, and uncivilized, and doesn’t work. Huntsman agrees.

Can a president simply order the killing of an American citizen suspected of terrorism? Absolutely, says Romney. Then he says that “this century must be an American century where America has the strongest values, the strongest economy, and the strongest military.” Nice to invoke “strongest values” right after advocating lawless executions. And a couple of seconds after that he said, “And I will stand and use whatever means necessary within the law to make sure that we protect America’s citizens and Americans’ rights.” Law? Rights?

Gingrich denies that Awlaki was a “terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans. ... He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.” He even says that that is the rule of law. “Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law.”

Perry says China needs “to change their virtues.”

Romney calls for a trade war against China, because there’s a trade war going on now.

Huntsman points out that Romney is wrong that we can take China to the WTO on currency manipulation charges.

A question for Perry from Twitter. Would Israel also start at zero? Yes, but they’d jew us up (as they say in Texas).

Cain says the Arab Spring has “gotten totally out of hand” because the protesters were really the Muslim Brotherhood in disguise. Obama “has been on the wrong side in nearly every situation in the Arab world”.

Gingrich complains that Mubarak “was dumped overnight by this administration”. He also says he would defeat Syria through covert means. You know, Newt, it’s not covert if you guys keep talking about it. He thinks getting rid of Bashar al-Assad is simply a matter of will: “if the United States and Europe communicated clearly that Assad was going to go, I think you would find Europe, there’s a very tiny faction. And I think you would find him likely to be replaced very rapidly.”

And then, the questioning is turned over to South Carolina’s senators Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint, because the debate took place in South Carolina and they wanted to remind us why South Carolina is awful.

Graham (“Three-part question. I hope I can remember all three parts”) asks about torture and Guantanamo. Cain is in favor of both because “pampering terrorists isn’t something that we ought to do.” Ditto Santorum. Paul says “We’re pretending we’re at war. We haven’t declared the war, but we’re at war against a tactic. And therefore, there’s no limits to it.” Perry says “these techniques” help save American soldiers’ lives, and “that’s what happens in war” and “I will be for it until I die.”

DeMint asks what programs they’d cut. Bachmann says the entire Great Society: “If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps.” Well, sure, because an hour later you’d want food stamps again (sorry). “If you look at China, they’re in a very different situ-- they save for their own retirement security. They don’t have pay FDC. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with The Great Society, and they’d be gone.” That’s why China built the Great Wall: to keep out Americans fleeing to China to escape from the Great Society.

Romney says we don’t need to invade Pakistan to clear the safe havens, because Pakistan is “comfortable” with our using drones. I’d make fun of that word choice if it weren’t sadly appropriate.

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