The GOP’s Cleveland debate was spirited, but shed little light on foreign policy. There are important differences among the participants, but few were exposed.
For instance, elsewhere Donald Trump opined that Crimea was Europe’s problem and asked why Washington still defended South Korea. These sentiments deserved discussion.
No multi-candidate forum can delve deeply into such complex issues, however. Even those Republicans giving formal foreign policy addresses have come up short. The GOP contenders have been largely captured by a reflexive, even rabid interventionism which ignores consequences and experience.
Leading the hawks is Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate’s unabashedly pro-war caucus. In the interventionist middle some candidates demonstrate hints of reluctance, such as Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Sen. Rand Paul brings up the rear, uncomfortably gyrating between his father’s views and the GOP conventional wisdom.
Chris Christie delivered a formal foreign policy address in which he easily staked his claim to being most committed to violating Americans’ civil liberties through surveillance of dubious value. He charged that his critics were “ideologues,” yet opposed any restraints on the new, far-reaching presidential powers that he demanded.
His foreign policy views are even worse. At age 52, Christie declared: “I don’t believe that I have ever lived in a time in my life when the world was a more dangerous and scary place.”
This is nonsense. As I pointed out on Forbes online: “Christie barely missed the Cuban missile crisis. During his life the Cold War raged, the Vietnam War was lost, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, and China’s Mao Zedong unleashed the bloody Cultural Revolution. People talked about the potential for a ‘nuclear winter’ from a nuclear exchange. Today the U.S. vastly outspends its potential adversaries and is allied with every major industrialized power save China and Russia.”
“Building stronger alliances” is a “pillar” of Christie’s foreign policy. U.S. foreign policy is based on “partnership with the people and nations who share our values,” he explained. Like the totalitarian Saudis, brutal Egyptian military, and dictatorial Central Asian states?
Moreover, America’s friends can defend themselves. For instance, South Korea has 40 times the GDP of the North; Japan possesses the world’s third largest economy. Europe has a larger GDP and population than America and multiple of those of Russia.
Many so-called allies are security black holes, making America less secure. Why would Washington wish to confront nuclear-armed Moscow over interests the latter considers vital by defending nations such as Georgia and Ukraine, which always have been irrelevant to America’s security?
Christie argued that “We didn’t have to be a global policeman who solved every problem.” But that’s what Washington has done with perpetual social engineering through foreign aid, military intervention, war, and more.
In Christie’s view squandered U.S. credibility is why Russia grabbed Crimea, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad used force against his opponents, and “Iranian-backed militias are rampaging across Yemen.”
In fact, Washington never was going to go to war over Crimea with nuclear-armed Russia. Assad was determined to remain in power and therefore had to fight, irrespective of Washington’s view. Yemen’s Houthis have been in revolt for decades and have never had much connection to Iran, let alone America.
Of course, Christie demanded more military outlays. But it would be easier “to keep our edge” if Washington didn’t constantly squander Americans’ resources defending other nations and rebuilding failed states.
Christie insisted that “What happened on 9/11 must never happen again.” But he failed to understand that promiscuously supporting authoritarian regimes, aiding foreign combatants, dropping drones and, most important, bombing, invading, and occupying other lands creates enemies determined to do America ill.
Rubio and Bush also have given formal speeches, but sound no better than Christie. Most GOP candidates promise brave new interventions and wars.
If Republicans really believe in limited government and individual liberty, they should promote peace. It is time for a real Republican debate over foreign and military policy.