On Oct. 18, when the Republican candidates debated in Las Vegas, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul were asked about cutting national security spending. Gingrich gave one of his vintage wonky responses: “The fact is, we ought to first figure out what threaten us, we ought to figure out what strategies will respond to that. We should figure out what structures we need for those strategies. We should then cost them.
“I’m a hawk, but I’m a cheap hawk. But the fact is, to say I’m going to put the security of the United States up against some arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.”
Paul, meanwhile, has proposed a 15 percent cut to the national defense budget, though he justifies it by saying a less ubiquitous military presence globally will reduce the risk of attacks against Americans at home or abroad.
War on terror
Bachmann has been hawkish on the ongoing mission in Afghanistan and the winding-down American presence in Iraq. She’s frequently said “General [David] Axelrod,” an adviser for President Obama’s re-election effort, has influenced the president’s Middle East strategy more than generals on the ground.
She said Thursday that she would make her military decisions based on conditions on the ground, and she offered no hard timetables for troop withdrawl.
“As president, my decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan or Iraq would be based on military considerations and not on turns helping my personal political fortunes. We must and we can win in Afghanistan and we must provide General [John] Allen the resources he needs to win,” she said. “And we must return to the negotiation table with Iraq so that the peace is preserved there [instead of withdrawing remaining U.S. forced by the end of this year], and to seek repayment for the heavy price we paid in liberating the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator.”
Most of the Republican pack jumped on Obama when he announced the final withdrawal timeline in October, nearly all of them expressing doubt that the conditions are the ground warrant American forces leaving the region.
Perhaps the most outspoken advocate for leaving troops in the region is Rick Santorum, who’s had lively back-and-forths with other candidates (mainly Paul) on the issue. In September, he was emphatic about leaving a fighting force in Iraq.
“I’m not for taking them out of the region,” he said at a debate in Orlando. “I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection. We need to have anywhere — I’m hearing numbers of 20,000, 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition.”
The GOP candidates have been pretty unanimous in their support for Israel. Herman Cain and Mitt Romney, the two candidates leading in most polls, were asked about Israel at the candidate’s September debate and they both propped up America’s ally.
“The right course is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them,” Romney said.
“If you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America,” Cain said. “We will stand solidly behind Israel.”
• The United States should “utilize our facilities at Guantanamo Bay,” Bachmann said, and she would rescind Obama’s executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques.
• Some topics she did not address: Iran, Libya, China or relationships with American allies, including those dealing with the debt problems in Europe.
• America “faces an enemy within as well,” Bachmann said: the national debt. The deficit super committee has improperly used defense funding as a “pawn,” and “Obamacare” will drain the nation of resources it could be putting into national defense, Bachmann said.
She ended her speech on that note: “While jobs and the economy are the most important issue in this election, we must never forget that we are at war. We can win the war against our debt that is threatening our national security. We can win the war on terrorism. But we must win this war by convincing the world that freedom is better than rule by terror.
“Ours will be a long and difficult task; a war that will not be won easily, but we will win it. We must win it if we are to keep America free, safe and sovereign.”