By Katie Kieffer
I predict that President Obama runs for reelection on his foreign policy record. He told us as much when he bookended his State of the Union address with his foreign policy “wins.” Unlike his economic record (non-existent), Obama has brag-worthy talking points on foreign policy. I think GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul could throw the most effective darts at Obama’s puerile attempt to police the world.
Certainly, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney can argue that he has more business experience than Obama. But his weakness in a general debate will be foreign policy. Romney can’t say that he has more presidential foreign policy experience than Obama. He can’t say he has more active-duty military experience than Obama. And Romney will struggle to attract war-weary voters because he’s criticized Obama’s highly interventional foreign policy as “timid.”
Let’s run through the six key foreign policy “wins” Obama touted during his 2012 State of the Union address—and the darts Paul could throw in a general debate.
Obama point #1: I love our troops! I “went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.”
Paul counterpoint #1: I served the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon. I understand that our troops are weary and we’re broke and we should bring them home and utilize them on the U.S.-Mexico border where violent drug cartels are threatening Texas ranchers and farmers and the U.S. food supply. This is why I receive more individual contributions from active duty military men and women than any other major candidate.
You, on the other hand, never served in the military. And, you’ve childishly ignored Gov. Rick Perry’s call for more boots on the Texas border.
Obama point #2: “For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.”
Paul counterpoint #2: Why did it take you three years to bring the troops home from Iraq? You broke the promise you made on March 19, 2008: “When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war [in Iraq]. – I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove one to two combat brigades each month.”
You didn’t successfully manage your elongated intervention in Iraq because she is now becoming a chaotic police state. And despite the fact that our country is broke, you’ve committed the U.S. to billions in ongoing aid in Iraq.
Obama point #3: I’m effectively fighting terrorism: “For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken.”
Paul counterpoint #3: Why do you continue to spoil Pakistan? Our “ally” helped us by (likely wittingly) harboring bin Laden in a fortified compound several hundred yards from the Abbottabad military academy. Then, Pakistan ignored the CIA and let China examine SEAL Team Six’s stealth copter tail technology. You gave the orders to kill bin Laden from the Situation Room but his capture and kill was the result of a cumulative effort over many years by many talented people.
You failed to negotiate with the Taliban and distinguish between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Senior Diplomat Richard Holbrooke believed in negotiating with the Taliban. For, the Taliban used to be our allies and they are primarily concerned with keeping foreigners off their land. When you took office, you undercut Holbrooke’s authority and threw away his opportunities to broker peace with the Taliban and potentially ouster al Qaeda’s top lieutenants quicker and with minor loss of U.S. blood, treasure and military technology.
President Obama, after initially promising to veto it, you signed the unconstitutional National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), authorizing the U.S. military—not local police or the FBI—to arrest and indefinitely imprison American citizens without a fair trial and a lawyer. This act violates the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
As I’ve explained, Mr. President, the NDAA “institutionalizes and codifies martial law …[such that] everybody in this country is [now] a potential terrorist. …if you happen to visit a website, happen to attend a meeting …you can be accused of being a terrorist and the bill says you have no right to a lawyer. They’ve been abusive of this for many years but now it’s been codified. …We should be consciously aware of terrorism and deal with it, but to say that we’re at war with the world … is very, very dangerous.”
Obama point #4: “From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.”
Paul counterpoint #4: You are responsible for the troop surge in Afghanistan. Only 22,000 troops are set to come home this fall and you have no time table pacing the return of the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops.
Since 2008—the year you were elected—the U.S. has sustained nearly two-and-a-half times the number of fatalities in Afghanistan as the six previous years combined. While Americans faced a double-digit unemployment rate and Standard and Poor’s downgraded our triple-A credit rating, you blew about $2 billion a week in Afghanistan.
You’ve approached Afghan President Hamid Karzai like a trusted ally—even after reports leaked in 2010 that Karzai’s closest aide, former ambassador to Iran Umar Daudzai, receives bagfuls of cash in $1-, $2- and $6-million lump sums every other month from Iran.
You even sided with Karzai over your own senior general in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller; Fuller simply voiced frustration when Karzai made ungrateful and disloyal statements suggesting that, despite receiving $11.6 billion in aid from the U.S. to train Afghan security forces, Afghanistan would side with Pakistan against the U.S. if Pakistan felt threatened.
Obama point #5: “A year ago [Libyan dictator Muammar] Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators—a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone.”
Obama point #6: I support Israel. I have levied “crippling sanctions” on Iran and “I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”
Paul counterpoint #6: Your foreign policy undermines Israel’s sovereignty and also jeopardizes her safety. The U.S. gave $1.5 billion in annual military and monetary aid to Mubarak’s Egyptian regime despite Egypt’s aggressive animosity toward Israel. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are also Israel’s foes, yet you pushed for $11 billion in Iraqi military training and helicopter, weapon and tank sales to Iraq. In December, you brokered a $30 billion deal to sell sophisticated U.S. fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. How does it help Israel to pump her enemies with cash and military technology?
On May 24, 2011, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told Congress: “My friends, you don’t need to do nation-building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel; we’ve already got it! And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel; we defend ourselves!”
Your actions toward Iran are particularly dangerous to both American and Israeli interests. Iran blames the U.S. and Israel for the 2010 malicious Stuxnet cyberstrike and the ongoing assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Middle East expert Vali Nasr argues in Bloomberg that Iran perceives American economic sanctions as the last straw—effectively an act of war—because sanctions will break Iran’s oil-dependent economy and send its citizens into the streets.
Your intentions are probably good. And Netanyahu praised American sanctions on Iran. But I’m concerned about blowback against America and Israel. Plus, our own DOD has shown Iran’s nuclear program to be defensive and deterrent in nature.
This month, TIME published an investigative report on Iran’s nuclear program by Karl Vick in Jerusalem. Vick’s report shows that Israel’s air force is incapable of meaningfully taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Even if the U.S. were to aid Israel militarily, the evidence shows that it would be a long shot, could motivate Iran to build deeper, more secretive operations and could incite asymmetric attacks against the U.S. and Israel.
TIME writes: “The potential targets are scattered and hidden all over Iran …In 1981, Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in a daring surprise strike. …One forgotten lesson of Osirak is that, as a consequence, Saddam Hussein took his nuclear weapons program into the shadows and got much closer to a bomb before the rest of the world caught wind of his intentions. An attack on Iran, even one led by the U.S., might produce only a temporary halt in its nuclear program—and a greater resolve to develop weapons out of sight of international inspectors, if only to buttress Iranian security in years to come.”
Obama closing remarks: “We have made some incredible strides together. Yes we have! … Precisely because we were inheriting so many challenges… we knew [change] was gonna take time.”
Paul closing remarks: Mr. President, please don’t blame your predecessors for your failures. You’ve even said that of all the Presidents, you most admire the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush.
“Freedom brings people together!” We’re broke. Our troops are weary. The U.S.-Mexico border is porous. I think we can better defend ourselves and our allies, like Israel, by revising our foreign policy.
I’ll leave it up to you, my reader, to decide who won this theoretical foreign policy debate.