It’s been mentioned here before that foreign policy has largely taken a back seat during the GOP debates. To a certain degree, it is understandable. Our nation is currently facing dire domestic problems from the economy, unemployment, political paralysis, and social discontent. In addition, foreign policy usually isn’t at the top of voters’ lists in selecting their candidate. In fact, foreign policy is usually the least partisan issue for Americans, when compared to domestic affairs. In international affairs, paradigms are set soundly and usually last. Perhaps this has a lot to do with structural realism, the rise of NGO’s and IGO’s, strong trade agreements, etc. However, a lot has happened just in the past year. The paradigm appears to be shifting, and the US seems to have been caught off guard.
The US and the free world and cannot continue to coast along on past accomplishments. Holding useless summits and calling for peace and cooperation does absolutely nothing for those who do not want them. The US and the free world must reinforce the vision they have fought and sacrificed to achieve.
There will always be those regimes that are looking for a third way, to undo the status quo and challenge US influence. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Middle East, Iran, and China. Each of them has specific questions that need answering. Each of them has their own set of critical issues. More importantly, these challenges are coming at a time when the US must contend with defense spending and military posture in the face of out of control debt. Interest payments on our national debt grew 16 percent from FY2010. That makes it the fastest growing category of federal spending. Meanwhile, military spending grew 2 percent from FY2010.
We have yet to hear a clear and articulated path the GOP hopefuls would take aside from reiterating ready-made policy positions that can be found in any college text book.
However, there have been a few shining moments. Back in November during the GOP’s foreign policy debate, Newt Gingrich did not mince his words towards Iran when he flatly stated he would take the fight to them by targeting their scientists, research facilities, and important military leaders, and that he was in favor an Israeli strike. These weren’t just hawkish musings. Gingrich explained it’s much easier to go to war and topple a regime before they have a nuclear weapon. There is needed urgency from our nation’s leaders over the prospects of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. If not, the ramifications throughout the Middle East would be unprecedented.
More recently, Gingrich declined to coddle the Palestinian people. He called them an invented people that the Muslim world and leftists use to delegitimize Israel. Furthermore, he called Palestine what many people see it as, a Middle Eastern terrorists’ trade school.
While this is not exactly foreign policy/national security talk, it certainly reveals from Newt that he understands the nature of things presented, even if he didn’t mention specific policies. Maybe there are no concrete policies to give on the information he can access. Maybe a clear direction and an agenda is all that is available at this time. Is that not, at least, a crude interpretation of Reaganism?
Romney said he supports tight sanctions on Tehran. That is just talk. Unilateral sanctions do not work in today’s world. Without Europe, Russia, China and Japan’s cooperation, American-led sanctions against Iran would produce minimal results and certainly not enough to endanger the regime. Responding to Gingrich’s comments on the Palestinian people, Romney said Newt’s remark was irresponsible. Just a few days before that, he harkened back to “compassionate” conservatism when he said Islam or its adherents are not inherently evil. That’s correct, of course, but people are far more concerned over the millions who are inherently evil and use Islam as inspiration for that evil. Right or not, it leaves the impression that Gingrich gets it and Romney doesn’t.
None of this is to suggest the GOP field is weak on foreign policy; in fact, any candidate would be a welcome departure from the current administration (excluding Ron Paul). However, the GOP cannot solely rely on its reputation as America’s strong national security party and expect the usual results.
Someone must cut a streak away from the pack. Lead the fight and remind our allies that the US will be back in business come 2012, while reminding our enemies and antagonists that the party will soon be over.