The GOP Stance on Foreign Policy
by RYAN MAURO
January 3, 2012
As I explained in my last column, the importance of foreign policy and national security can change with the single decision of an adversary. The American president is, first and foremost, the commander-in-chief so people have a responsibility to understand how he views matters of national security. For the benefit of readers, and to place issues in perspective, I have summarized the GOP positions below, in no particular order.
On the Middle East, Romney wants to put one official in charge of overseeing U.S. aid in the region so that the Arab Spring can be steered in a positive direction. This indicates a belief in the need for an ideological offensive, which is a very pressing matter. Encouragingly, he has Dr. Walid Phares as a foreign policy advisor.
On Iran, he wants to support “insurgents” pursuing regime change, but doesn’t offer much detail. He is the only candidate to support indicting Ahmadinejad on genocide charges, but that wouldn’t make much of a difference. On Syria, he wants to support the Free Syria Army fighting the regime and says the U.S. should use Turkey and Saudi Arabia to pressure the Assad regime. Hopefully, Romney does not want to “lead from behind,” as President Obama would say, because those two countries would promote the Islamists within the Syrian opposition.
Like Gingrich, his stance on Libya is unclear and seems influenced by politics. He favored a no-fly zone but then when it expanded to target Qaddafi’s ground forces, he warned of “mission creep and mission muddle.” If the NATO intervention was limited to a no-fly zone, then we’d be stuck in Libya for a long time, stopping the rebels from losing but not helping them to win.
Romney speaks well on China. He wants to label China as a currency manipulator, potentially punish it with tariffs and report it to the World Trade Organization. When he was criticized by Jon Huntsman for advocating a “trade war,” he responded, “We’re already in a trade war.”
Romney is vulnerable on Afghanistan and it is shocking to me that his rivals haven’t used it to their advantage. He tries to position himself as a hawk by slamming President Obama’s decision to bring home the additional troops sent as part of the “surge” by September. He would bring them home in December—a mere three months difference, while supporting Obama’s timeline to withdrawal by 2014. It’s as if he chose the minimal difference he needed to not be accused of sharing Obama’s position. He claims that the generals support the 2014 timeline, but there are various reports that this is not true.
He believes that there is “no evidence” that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, dismissing the IAEA report with damning evidence that the regime is doing just that. After his clash with Bachmann on the issue, he accused her of “hating Muslims.” He ridiculed President Obama for having a stealth drone over Iran. How can you be tough on foreign policy if you even oppose overhead surveillance of threatening countries?
Paul is fighting accusations that he is against Israel, but as I recently wrote in FrontPage Magazine, the record is clear. His book upholds the American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist group that does not believe in Israel’s legitimacy. In an interview with Iranian state television, he said “To me, I look at it [the Gaza Strip like a concentration camp, and people are making homemade bombs, like they are the aggressors?”
Rick Santorum has been the loudest voice on Iran and called for supporting the Iranian opposition long before it became a popular position. He often talks about how the Bush Administration fought him on the issue, instead dithering as Iran pursued a nuke, sponsored terrorism and helped kill our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gingrich and he are on the same page when it comes to Iran, except that Santorum specifically calls for developing an Iranian workers’ strike fund. That would presumably be a part of the Gingrich policy as well.
Santorum has done an excellent job in the debates of characterizing the nature of the Iranian regime. He explained how Mutually Assured Destruction won’t work because the regime values “martyrdom.” He’s the candidate who has most clearly stated that if Israel decides to bombs Iran, the U.S. should jump in on Israel’s side. He has also spoken about the alliance of “radical socialists and Islamists” in Latin America and supported the intervention in Libya, criticizing President Obama for not acting decisively and quickly enough.
Santorum has one weakness and that is Pakistan. He went after Rick Perry hard for talking about ending foreign aid to Pakistan, saying that we face common foes and allies “work through their problems.” In one debate, he was asked what he’d do if he learned that a nuclear weapon got loose in Pakistan and he said he’d ask the ISI intelligence agency for help—the same one that sponsors the Taliban and other terrorists.
The former House speaker has displayed a great depth of knowledge and offers an overall strategy to handle them. On the issue of radical Islam, he argues that the intelligence community needs to be “liberated” so it is not dependent upon foreign services and the State Department needs to be revamped to exercise soft power in a long-term ideological war. Gingrich would promote women’s rights, entrepreneurship and modernity in the Islamic world so that the next generation “understands something other than Sharia.” This would include translating particular books into Arabic, offering scholarships to American universities and other creative programs. When an activist group called the United West asked Gingrich if he’d prosecute the Muslim Brotherhood fronts in the U.S., he agreed to.
On Iran, Gingrich says he would use a modernized version of the Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher-Pope John Paul II strategy that brought down the Soviet Union. Non-military aid like communications equipment would be given to “every dissident” and covert operations would target Iran’s gas refinery, nuclear program and other pillars of the regime. Otherwise, he argues, Iran will have to be bombed every 4 years to stop it from getting the bomb. If military action is required, he would want it to target the regime as a whole, instead of just its nuclear facilities.
On defense spending, he believes cuts can happen if more cost-effective solutions can be found. He often gives the example that Apple puts out new technology every 9 months, but it takes 10-15 years to develop a new weapons system. Gingrich feels our military posture around the world must be reformed as it is based on the Cold War model. He also deserves credit for emphasizing the threats from a potential Electro-Magnetic Pulse strike and cyber and space warfare.
Gingrich has two weak points. He was an early supporter of Sharia-Compliant Finance, which is now used as a way of financing extremism and terrorism, as the Center for Security Policy’s Shariah Finance Watch follows closely. His position on Libya is still contradictory, unclear and reeks of political posturing. He supported the no-fly zone but says that as president, he wouldn’t have intervened because he would have been using covert operations to get the job done. He slams the justification for the war, but says that President Obama’s performance on Libya made the U.S. look weak. He then supported cutting off funding for the war, something that the Republicans understandably went after the Democrats for doing in Iraq.
She has demonstrated a deep understanding of national security issues in the debates, throwing out numbers and facts. She’s talked the recruiting of Somali-Americans in her home state by Al-Shabaab and mentions the part of the Iranian constitution that legally requires the regime to pursue jihad around the world. In discussing the withdrawal from Iraq, she wisely explains how that gives Iran a bridge to the Mediterranean Sea through Iraq and Syria. I have written about how one Hezbollah official publicly said that the “Shiite crescent” would destroy Israel after Iraq is absorbed into the Iranian-Syrian bloc.
Bachmann has spoken out about the dangers of Sharia law in America and how some Middle Eastern governments are raising up a new generation of extremists. In one debate, she told a powerful story about how she confronted Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad over Palestinian schools’ use of anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist textbooks. He said that they had been taken out of circulation and he’d send her copies of the new textbooks. They never arrived.
Bachmann has not offered detailed solutions and she opposed intervention in Libya at all. Many people view that latter position as an asset, but as I’ve written for Family Security Matters, we have since discovered that Qaddafi had WMD. When NATO intervened, Qaddafi’s forces were on the verge of carrying out a major massacre. If she opposed intervening, what would she have done? If President Obama stood by and let it happen, his critics would say he made the U.S. look weak and uncaring. She also stood against Perry’s call for suspending aid to Pakistan.
Rick Perry ducked tough foreign policy questions in the early debates, but since then he has made a point of emphasizing national security, but we cannot forget that he came into the presidential race unprepared on this issue. Since brushing up on the issue, he has made some strong comments.
He favors immediately enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria, which Romney criticized him for since the Assad regime is using ground forces. However, the term “no-fly zone” was used in Libya but it really was much more. Perry is probably envisioning the same thing. On Iran, he focuses on sanctioning the Iranian Central Bank, which he believes would “shut down the Iranian economy.” He, like all the others, wants to support the Iranian opposition but like Bachmann and Romney, does not offer much detail.
Perry wants to revive the Monroe Doctrine to keep Iran out of Latin America, but the fact is that Iran is already in Latin America. It is unclear how he would kick Iranian influence out. He uses the most hawkish language on China, referring to the country as “Communist China” and predicting that it will enter the “ash heap of history” as the Soviet Union did. Again, little detail is offered. Perry has some good positions, but has not laid out how to implement them.
Huntsman showed an impressive knowledge of foreign affairs in his Lincoln-Douglass-style debate with Gingrich. He favors an immediate drawdown in Afghanistan to 10-15,000 troops to train Afghan security forces, gather intelligence and engage in special operations. I have serious doubts as to whether even this limited mission could succeed with that level of forces.
He supports defense cuts as part of his “economics-first foreign policy” and opposes the U.S picking sides in the Arab Spring. He opposed the Libya intervention but is open to possibly intervening in Syria and promises to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. He is fiercely critical of Romney’s stance on China. He instead wants to reach out to the 500 million Chinese with Internet access and the country’s 80 million bloggers. He doesn’t deny that China is a growing threat, explaining that the new leadership coming into power believes China’s “time has come,” but says the country has significant internal troubles ahead.
Ryan Mauro is Family Security Matters' national security analyst. He is a fellow with RadicalIslam.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at email@example.com.