Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The CNN GOP Debate Was the National Security Debate. Too Bad the GOP Knows Nothing About Foreign Policy.

C'mon, Kerry, punch him in the nose! The Republicans would.

After Tuesday's GOP debate, it's increasingly clear that the Republican candidates for president are ignorant -- perhaps willfully so -- of the conduct of foreign policy. Threats to "bomb the shit out of them" is not foreign policy, it's, I don't know what it is.

Reaction, though, to the know-nothing rhetoric during the debate is spreading. Here's TPM offering us the AP's takedown of the candidates' performance:
In addition, Chris Christie pledged to make common cause with a Jordanian king who's actually dead and Rand Paul wrongly stated that all terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 2001 have come from the hands of legal immigrants.
It gets worse, so read the whole post.

Next, we have reliable foreign-policy columnist Fred Kaplan at Slate dissecting the foreign-policy ignorance:
Donald Trump, the front-runner, was asked to elaborate on his proposal to shut down the Internet to keep ISIS from recruiting on social media. First, he affirmed that this was still his position, saying, “I don’t want them using our Internet” (as if the Internet has a nationality), then added that he was “not talking about closing the Internet,” just “those parts” of the Internet in Iran and Syria (as if each country occupied a sector, some digital latitude and longitude, of the World Wide Web).
Sen. Ted Cruz, who seems to have signed a nonaggression pact with Trump, was asked about his hair-raising proposal to “carpet-bomb ISIS to oblivion.” Did this mean, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, that he’d kill thousands of civilians in towns like Raqqa, Syria? Cruz explained that he would “carpet-bomb where ISIS troops are, not a city”—ignoring (not knowing?) that ISIS formations mainly are in cities. They don’t hang around campfires at night in the desert, forming nifty targets for bombers flying above.
Cruz also outlined his plan for defeating ISIS. “My strategy is simple,” he said. “We win, they lose.” How would he translate this bold idea into action? “We will utterly destroy them by targeting the bad guys.”
Why didn’t Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton think of that?
Why not indeed. Again, read the whole article. The candidates are blood-curdlingly ignorant.

The Washington Post joins those dismantling the structure of Republican know-nothingism as Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, tries to decide if they're ignorant or insane:
One of the things that was said repeatedly by numerous GOP candidates — particularly Ted Cruz — is that the real problem with current American foreign policy is that there is just too much political correctness. Apparently, if politicians, policymakers and pundits were less afraid to speak the truth, our country would be more secure.
Okay, here goes: The overwhelming bulk of what the GOP candidates had to say last night was pure, unadulterated horses***.
Were I in a different humor, I might focus on how there was an interesting axis of Donald Trump, Cruz and Rand Paul advocating against greater military intervention in the Middle East but more draconian border and homeland security measures. But truthfully, that would be missing the forest for the trees. No, what was startling about the debate was just how so many candidates could say so may wrong things about American foreign policy in two hours.
Again, read it all. Though I do want to share Drezner's witty finishing remarks:
When I came of political age, the Republican Party had a surfeit of smart, tough-minded foreign policy folk: Brent Scowcroft, Robert Gates, James Baker, Bob Zoellick, Richard Haass, and Lawrence Eagleburger. I pity these people having to listen to what was said on the GOP main stage last night.
Because when it comes to American foreign policy, what was said in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
Ooh, snap!

I'm not a fan of the fact-checkers of WaPo, but they do pile on nicely here.

There's no end to the critique of the general ignorance of the candidates on foreign policy. So I'll end with a link and a quote from NYTimes' David Sanger from his article entitled "At Republican Debate, Straying Into Mideast, and Getting Lost":
At times during the two-hour debate, several of the candidates seemed uncertain about America’s past military and diplomatic interventions in the region, and did not acknowledge Mr. Obama’s continuing attempts to negotiate a cease-fire in Syria. And for most of them – Jeb Bush seemed an exception – the strategy to defeat the Islamic State largely seemed to boil down to this: Drop your bombs first and figure out the diplomacy later, if at all.
In their efforts to show that they were skilled at realpolitik, putting national interests ahead of ideals, almost all of them dismissed the stated goal of Mr. Bush’s brother, the last Republican president. It was George W. Bush who declared in his second inaugural address that “the calling of our time” was to support “the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”
But to some in this generation of Republicans, democracy building is out; supporting dictators, perhaps including Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who are willing to fight the Islamic State, is in.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the debate was long on the need to use military force, and short on the question of how one gets at the roots of radical Muslim jihadism – or engages the Muslim community in the United States and abroad in that effort. That discussion began with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas defending, and expanding on, his recent vow to carpet-bomb the Islamic State, wherever it may be.
Reminiscent of John McCain's "Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran" ditty in 2008, don't you think? That assured him of victory. Wait, I guess it didn't. Somebody in the GOP apparently didn't learn anything from back then or from Bobby Jindal's warning not to be "the party of stupid."

One thing is likely for certain. Their base was entertained. The rest of us? Reaching for the Pepto.

Pass that bottle over here...
Note. On links to NYTimes and WaPo articles, right-clicking and choosing private (Firefox) or incognito (Chrome) windows helps get past the paywalls.

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