Tonight the 2012 presidential hopefuls convene again to debate foreign policy and national security issues. Democracy in Egypt, defense spending, financial meltdown in Europe - the news is full of challenges to U.S. interests and to governments' very ability to meet their citizens' basic needs. But, as commentators from conservatives Marc Thiessen and George Will to the New York Times Editorial Board have noted, the debate is unlikely to produce new wisdom on America's role in the world or how to best keep Americans safe and prosperous in the 21st century. Following recent patterns, we can expect instead reflexive attacks on the Obama administration as well as a return to the neoconservative framework that defined the Bush administration, thanks to the presences of many of its architects among the candidates' advisors.
Today, Mitt Romney gave his "major foreign policy address" at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. The National Security Network compared his policy suggestions against the experts in a fact-check and a press call.
The international scene is buzzing this week. Leaders from around the world are meeting at the UN, a political assassination rocked Afghanistan and Congress continued to debate the federal budget, which will play a significant role in determining America's strength, both at home and abroad. Tonight, candidates for the presidency will have a chance to articulate a coherent view of America's role in the world at a debate in Orlando hosted by Fox News. Below are five questions - pulled from this week's headlines - that will gauge whether candidates agree with nonpartisan security experts about how America should lead in a rapidly changing world.
Opinion polling shows the American public groping for an approach to foreign policy that protects U.S. interests and values without bankrupting our nation financially, militarily or morally. An extreme version of this debate is playing out around the 2012 Republican primary. While Representative Ron Paul gives full voice to the tradition of American isolationism, Governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have taken tentative steps away from GOP orthodoxy by calling for significant troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. This isolationism-minded position has also found some support from Republicans in both houses of Congress. That has garnered strong pushback from Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the dominant conservative national security voices in Congress, as well as the party’s neoconservative intellectuals. Poll numbers suggest the public is looking for a sober, pragmatic, collaborative approach. With tempers getting heated – this weekend Senator Graham suggested that Congress should “sorta shut up” and former White House speechwriter Marc Thiessen described the 2012 candidates’ views as “flirtation with retreat” – they don’t seem likely to get it from the conservative political debate.
As events move quickly in Pakistan, Georgia, and elsewhere, Republican convention-goers heard nothing but more of the same – vigorous defenses of Bush administration policies and little or no mention of critical issues: Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden, and global warming. The New York Times concluded that “McCain cannot escape the burdensome shadow of President Bush because his policies offer no real change.”