As the world passes through what is arguably the greatest period of instability since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Republican presidential contenders are providing Americans with a clearer idea of how they believe America should navigate these rough seas.
You can bet that our allies, as well as our adversaries, were watching last night’s CNN/Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute foreign policy debate.
At the top of the list of the most unpopular states among Republican Presidential contenders are Iran and its satellite Syria. Newt Gingrich called for regime change in Iran while Governor Perry advocated for a no-fly zone over Syria. Perry spent the most time explaining, accurately, the link between the Syrian regime and the mullahs in Tehran.
There was little love shown for Pakistan’s government as well. Michelle Bachmann correctly pointed out, although somewhat awkwardly, that Pakistan is “too nuclear to fail.” Governor Perry took a particularly hard line on foreign aid to Pakistan, given the country’s pattern of not fully cooperating with the war on the Taliban.
Governor Romney argued for a gradual draw down of US forces in Afghanistan, clashing with Governor Huntsman, who argued for a “declare victory and let’s get out of there” strategy that is fairly consistent with Ron Paul’s view.
No one likes the job the TSA is doing. Rick Santorum advocated for profiling people based on religion (an idea which thankfully no one else supported). Governor Romney articulated the better approach to profiling: identifying the lowest risk travelers and speeding them though the process. The Department of Homeland Security already offers such a program for international travelers called Global Entry.
So what would a post-Obama foreign policy look like?
- Most of the Republican presidential candidates argue for a tougher approach toward Iran, and stronger support for Israel.
- While there is no admiration for the Pakistani government, there is begrudging acceptance that the United States needs to deal with Islamabad in order to preserve our progress in Afghanistan and to prevent Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists if the country were to collapse.
- No one wants to put the US on the hook for any bailout of Europe in the midst of its Euro crisis.
- Direct foreign assistance to other countries in general remains unpopular, although specific programs such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and our initiative to combat AIDS in Africa have support.
- Every Republican Presidential candidate articulated support for immigration while advocating for greater security at the border. Differences clearly exist in how to deal with those who are in the country illegally.
- There is no interest in having the United States rely more heavily on international institutions such as the United Nations for anything.
Ron Paul, of course, continues to provide the exception to many of these principles, arguing rather dogmatically for strict isolationism.
In sum, Republicans are showing voters here and leaders abroad they are prepared to face the challenges of today’s world and provide an alternative to President Obama in both style and substance.