April 26, 2018
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Republicans and foreign policy

By Fred Hill, Special to the BDN

The watchwords for the 2012 presidential election may well be “the economy.” But, with one exception, the Republican candidates exhibit a near total lack of knowledge and judgment required of a president in a complex, nuclear world.

In fact, all six GOP candidates in Iowa are just about ignorant on matters of national security and the leadership it takes to conduct an effective foreign policy.

Less than four years after the end of the worst presidency in American history, if one bases that analysis on the stakes and costs of the catastrophic errors made by George W. Bush, a half dozen of his fellow Republicans are bidding for the most powerful position in the world with scary, not to say downright irresponsible, policies on the world’s most

critical issues.

All six know next to nothing about the most volatile and unpredictable region of the world — the Middle East.

One candidate, Newt Gingrich, displays his lack of intelligence by saying the Palestinians are “an invented people.”

Another, Mitt Romney, does not even disagree with that statement. Romney says he would have at least checked with the Israeli prime minister before uttering such a comment. As if American foreign policy were not already too heavily influenced by Israel, Romney should be asked if he would check with Israel before he made any decisions on foreign policy.

A third candidate, Rick Santorum, has said he would bomb Iran if it did not bow to his demands, and Rick Perry also expressed a readiness to attack Iran and initiate another war in the Middle East without much resort to diplomatic pressure, let alone recognition that it was one of their party, Bush, who pursued such disastrous, unilateral policies in Iraq.

It seems reckless and hawkish statements are their only way to attack President Obama — who is applying full-court — and multilateral — diplomatic pressure to dissuade Iran from the nuclear path.

All of these candidates expressed opposition to President Obama’s successful policy on Libya. Rejecting the shortsighted unilateralism of his predecessor, Obama worked with European nations in an effective multilateral campaign to defeat the Libyan dictator — leaving the Republican candidates tongue-tied again on empty gestures and threats.

All of the candidates ignore Obama’s success in antiterrorism, with Perry even disclaiming that Obama had much to do with the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Only Ron Paul has a superficially rational position on foreign policy. And while he has steadfastly opposed Republican policies on Iraq and many GOP positions, his stance is so simplistically isolationist, he would reduce the United States to the throw-weight of Italy if he had his way in scaling back American military power.

So what are we left with after Iowa on national security issues — which, after all, are important? Unfortunately, all six of these foreign policy lightweights can not lose in a beauty contest where the American electorate’s knowledge of history is not called into play.

Despite plainly unrealistic stances, Paul’s candor on a less militaristic face to American foreign policy should generate a decent debate as the primary campaign turns to New Hampshire.

In New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman, will have an opportunity to display his experience, and more balanced attitude toward the world’s critical issues.

A former governor of Utah, Huntsman served as U.S. ambassador to China for half of President Obama’s first term. As such, he earned respect for his intelligent stewardship of his country’s single most important diplomatic post.

Unlike his opponents, Huntsman has shown respect for the President of the United States.

Notably, he is the one candidate who has courageously admitted that science is a serious subject, that climate change is real, that candidates do not have to say “no new taxes” to get elected.

Huntsman has a long road to travel to gain attention and sufficient media traction. But having served his country in a critical national security role, his candidacy could instill serious consideration of the world’s very tough global challenges. And, along with the nation’s economy and troubling social issues, those are matters the next president will have to be smart enough to tackle, and resolve, in a pragmatic, bipartisan manner.

Fred Hill, of Arrowsic, served as a foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and subsequently worked on national security issues for the Department of State.

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