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NSN Policy Paper 2012 Candidates Nov2011 FINAL

NSN Policy Paper 2012 Candidates Nov2011 FINAL

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Published by: NatSecNet on Nov 09, 2011
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National Security Network www.nsnetwork.org(202) 289-5999 1
THE TUMULT OF THE LAST YEAR reminds us that the president is not only legislator-in-chief and chief executive. He or she is also commander-in-chief, head of state and lead diplomat.Those roles
require a facility with the complexity of world affairs, a vision for America’s role in
the world that squares with global realities and a capacity to exert leadership that advances ournational interest.The conservative candidates running for president are, as a group, characterized by a lack of knowledge, vision and experience on foreign policy. From a failure to learn basic facts to a largerfailure to examine the roots of recent foreign policy blunders and understand the sources of American power, the 2012 conservative candidates have jettisoned a tradition of nonpartisanleadership in foreign affairs. In place of leadership, they have tried to turn ignorance on foreignpolicy issues into an asset or simply adopted party-line positions aimed more at rallying thefaithful than laying a foundation for steady, strategic leadership once in office.As candidates have explained their views more fully and chosen campaign advisors, they havesought to blend two traditions of conservative thought
an inward-looking isolationism andmuscular unilateralism
not always in logical ways. Muscular unilateralism seems to be winningthe day, as candidates look to the neoconservative foreign policy establishment for advice,support and legitimacy.
That dynamic portends a return to the George W. Bush era of foreignpolicy, as many shapers and acolytes of the neoconservative policies that characterized the Bush43 presidency have begun to advise conservative candidates. It also marks the further decline of the realist establishment that dominated conservative foreign policy for a generation, and with it,apparently, the possibility of viewing policy issues through a bipartisan lens.
The Challenge:
“Build the Sourcesof American Strength”
 The U.S. National Security Strategy statesthe goal broadly:
“At the dawn of the 21
 century, the United States of America facesa broad and complex array of challenges toour national security. Just as America helpedto determine the course of the 20
century,we must now build the sources of Americanstrength and influence, and shape aninternational order capable of overcomingthe challenges of the 21
Jacob StokesNovember 2011
National Security Network www.nsnetwork.org(202) 289-5999 2
National Security Advisor for StrategicCommunications Ben Rhodes summed upthe practical challenges facing the countrywhen the Obama administration took office
in 2009: “Wind down these two wars, re
-establish American standing and leadershipin the world, and focus on a broader set of priorities, from Asia and the global economyto a nuclear-
nonproliferation regime.”
 Opinion polls suggest that Americansbroadly
support the Obama administration’s
strategy and its results, as well as the ideasabout marrying strength, cooperation andburden-sharing that underlie it.
Over the last three years Americans haveseen the deaths of Osama bin Laden andmore than three dozen other key figuresweaken but not destroy the terrorists whowould threaten us. They have seen successin locking down nuclear materials aroundthe world and in reducing both the U.S. andRussian arsenals. At the same time, concernspersist about nuclear programs in Iran,North Korea and elsewhere. Americanscheered the struggle for freedom in the ArabSpring and watched with concern as the
region’s political dynamics have grown
more complex. Washington successfully ledan effort to stop a meltdown of the globaleconomy but has not yet seen recovery athome
nor has Congress yet risen to thechallenge of tending the domesticfoundations of our global power througheducation, infrastructure and economicrevitalization.The public continues to seek above allleadership that reinvigorates the U.S.
economy by boosting America’s role in the
global economy; keeps the country safefrom terrorism and war; and plays a role,with U.S. allies and partners, on globalissues that is commensurate with ourinterests and values.Even as the U.S. economic recoverycontinues to lag, a Gallup poll from earlierthis year showed that by a 2-to-1 margin,66% to 32%, Americans prefer that theUnited States be a major rather than a minorplayer on the world stage in trying to solveinternational problems.
There’s also strong
support for diplomacy before resorting tomilitary force. According to a Pew poll fromearlier this month, 58% of Americans saythe best way to ensure peace is through gooddiplomacy, versus 31% who say militarystrength is the best way to achieve peace.That Pew poll also showed that 53% of thepublic said that in foreign policy the U.S.should take allies
interests into accounteven if it means making compromises,versus 36% who said America should followits own interests no matter how it affectsallies.
Ideology Over Policy: “Bad
alysis and Worse Solutions”
Against that backdrop, a growing chorus haslooked to the 2012 contest for fresh thinkingabout the challenges we face
and comeaway disappointed. Recently, the New York 
Times editorial board wrote that, “Certainly,
the Republican hopefuls have put to rest anylingering notion that their party is the one to
trust with the nation’s security.” In a time of 
persistent, complex global challenges, the
Times opined, “the candidates offer largely
bad analysis and worse solutions, nothingthat suggests real understanding or new
Even conservative columnist Marc
Thiessen bemoaned that, “You would not
know it from the GOP debates so far, but thenext president of the United States will also
 be the next leader of the free world.”
 Front-runner Governor Mitt Romneydisappointed on October 7 in what his owncampaign billed as a major foreign policyspeech at the Citadel. Michael Tomasky of 
National Security Network www.nsnetwork.org(202) 289-5999 3
The Daily Beast/ 
called it
“not a
serious speech. It was all rhetoric and buzzwords a
nd politics.”
James Fallows of 
The Atlantic
called the speech “a bunch of nothing.” Fallows wondered at the time:
 [I]f there is going to be a "big"policy speech, shouldn't it containsome actual policy? Check out thisone and see what you can detect,apart from the "we should begreater" theme, plus "we are Israel'sfriend." The name "al Qaeda" doesnot appear in the speech. (Hmm, Iwonder why.) The name "Pakistan"appears, but not with the slightestsuggestion of what to do about it."Iraq" does not appear at all, otherthan to acknowledge Citadel alumsfor their service there. "Israel," forbenchmarking purposes, appears sixtimes.
 The rest of the field has not demonstrated aconsistent knowledge of basic facts aboutworld affairs. Conservative Washington Postcolumnist George Will has chided the
candidates, saying they “have someexplaining to do” on foreign policy issues.
 Some embrace this shortcoming. Pizzabaron
Herman Cain’s joke about his lack of 
knowledge about world leaders
that he
didn’t know the leader of “Ubeki
is now infamous.Michele Bachmann has insisted that theLebanese militant group Hezbollah is settingup shop in Cuba, and Rick Perry argued forselling F-16 fighter jets to India in the caseof Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into thehands of militant groups. Attempting to one-up Perry, Rick Santorum suggested allyingourselves with former Pakistani dictatorPervez Musharraf.
The single-digit pollnumbers of Jon Huntsman, President
Obama’s former ambassador to
China, makehim the exception that proves the rule.
Results Versus Rhetoric:Opposition as a Guiding Principle
The contenders’ failure to mount a
substantive critique of the Obamaadministration foreign policy reflects a lack of ideas and experience. In response, thefield has tried to build agreement where itcan: on reflexive opposition to theadministration
’s policies. In the parlance of 
 Herman Cain, it is the strategy of asserting
that all the president’s policies are“dumb.”
Often that requires adhering toideological positions that have little supportor basis in fact and run counter to the adviceof military and national security experts.The debate among the candidates on fiveissues specifically illustrates this trend:
New START Treaty.
Mitt Romney choseto oppose the New START treaty withRussia, which enjoyed a level of bipartisansupport from experts and experiencednational security figures that is practicallyunheard-
of in today’s politics.
Nuclearweapons expert and Slate magazine
columnist Fred Kaplan excoriated Romney’scolumn on the subject, saying, “In 35 years
of following debates over nuclear armscontrol, I have never seen anything quite asshabby, misleading and
let's not mincewords
thoroughly ignorant as MittRomney's attack on the New START
No less than Brent Scowcroft, astaunch Republican who was nationalsecurity advisor for Presidents Gerald Fordand George H.W. Bush, called the
opposition “baffling” and noted that “to play
politics with what is in the fundamental
national interest is pretty scary stuff.”
The “Apology Tour.”
The notion of 
Obama’s alleged “apology tour” serves as a

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