National Security Network

Governor Palin’s Shaky Foreign Policy Performance

Print this page
Report 3 October 2008

Afghanistan election 2008 iraq Joe Biden Nuclear Sarah Palin


At last night’s debate Governor Palin failed to distinguish Senator McCain’s foreign policy from the failed approach of George W. Bush.  Like Bush and McCain, Palin could not enunciate a clear strategy and endgame for how to effectively end the Iraq War.  When asked about critical issues like Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan she repeatedly returned to Iraq – another prominent feature of the Bush-McCain foreign policy.  Her claim that we just need another surge in Afghanistan was discounted just the day before by our commander on the ground, and earlier this week by General Petraeus.  Moreover, Palin consistently failed to answer questions – most importantly on the issue of the use of nuclear weapons. Overall, Governor Palin relied heavily on talking points and did not demonstrate that she has a deep understanding of the critical issues of national security.

Like Bush and McCain, on Iraq, Governor Palin could not describe what an endgame would look like.  When asked what the plan for an exit strategy in Iraq should be Governor Palin offered no substance, instead replying:  “I am very thankful that we do have a good plan and the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that has proven to work, I am thankful that that is part of the plan implemented under a great American hero, General Petraeus, and pushed hard by another great American, Senator John McCain.”  [International Herald Tribune, 10/3/08]

Governor Palin, when invited to address other national security priorities, instead mimicked McCain and George W. Bush by returning the conversation to IRaq.  Responding to a question on the nuclear threat posed by Pakistan and Iran, Governor Palin shifted immediately to Iraq: “Both are extremely dangerous, of course. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, both leaders there and it's probably the only thing that they're ever going to agree on, but that it was a central war on terror is in Iraq. You don't have to believe me or John McCain on that. I would believe Petraeus and the leader of al Qaeda.”  The Iraq fixation has left little time to address other foreign policy challenges such as Pakistan, Iran, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Though Governor Palin suggested that this issue would rate near the top of a McCain-Palin administration’s agenda, comments from one of McCain’s advisors, who said two weeks ago that it would not be a “top priority,” indicated the opposite. [Sarah Palin, 10/02/08. JTA, 9/21/08]

Top general in Afghanistan says Iraq surge strategy will not work in Afghanistan- but Palin disagrees.  On Wednesday, General David McKiernan said flat out, "Afghanistan is not Iraq" and "The word I don't use for Afghanistan is 'surge.'"  Yet despite the fact that the argument for an Iraqi-style surge has been discredited by the commander on the ground, Sarah Palin continues to push for such a plan.  In last night’s debate she said, “The surge principles, not the exact strategy, but the surge principles that have worked in Iraq need to be implemented in Afghanistan, also.” [Washington Post, 10/2/08.  International Herald Tribune, 10/3/08]

Quick Hits

The House of Representatives is set to vote on the bailout plan today
.  The French Prime Minister said that the world is on the “edge of the abyss,” while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the era of U.S. leadership is ending and its “egoism” is to blame for the financial crisis.  Latin America also begins to feel the crunch.

Iraq’s presidential council approved the provincial election law
, paving the way for elections in January 2009.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill left North Korea but “declined to indicate whether he had made progress” in the negotiations over the North Korean nuclear program.

Syria said that it is accommodating the U.N. inquiry into its nuclear activities but will not allow the IAEA to investigate its military sites.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the Ukraine of aiding Georgia
with arms and military personnel.

Pakistan is a war zone in the struggle against extremists in its own tribal areas.  Refugees are fleeing to Afghanistan and public opinion is shifting against the government.  A Pakistani official warns that war against the extremists will continue until Pakistan is “terror-free.”

The Defense Department awarded a $300 million contract for the production of pro-American entertainment and news stories for the Iraqi media.

The New York Times profiles the re-building of the once-violent Iraqi city of Samarra.

Richard Clarke has an op-ed on the possibility of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden attempting to influence the presidential election.