What Was Left Unsaid
Posted by Jacob Stokes
Tonight’s GOP debate contained much blog fodder, but the most interesting aspect of the discussion was the topics that weren’t covered:
China, Asian security. There were passing mentions of China in the context of trade, debt and Rick Perry’s repeated assertion that China’s communists were headed to the “ash heap of history.” But there were no comments about the importance of Asia more generally in American grand strategy. This is an egregious oversight in the wake of President Obama’s trip there this month, where he announced a new basing agreement with Australia, rolled out a big new trade initiative and chastised China for aggression in the South China Sea and for holding down the value of its currency. The “pivot” to Asia is a quiet but steady and central component of the administration’s national security strategy. Especially given the field’s concern about our allies, this should be front and center. No real engagement on the wisdom of such a "pivot" from the candidates.
Iraq. Although the question about the Middle East was left until the end, it’s pretty clear why the candidates didn’t bring it up or really bite once the question was asked: Seventy-seven percent of Americans support bringing the troops home and the administration was fulfilling the terms of a Bush-era security agreement. Not a lot of room to run there, at least politically.
Arab Spring. The field is split on whether the Arab Spring is a good thing and should be supported, but they didn’t engage any questions on the subject, despite a live feed from Tahrir Square. They should have asked Gingrich about his "anti-Christian Spring" comments directly.
European Financial crisis. The connection between the economy and national security was widely asserted tonight, so it’s a shame nobody discussed the European financial crisis. Here again, not surprising though. Dan Drezner has shown why talk of the euro crisis would end up with allies trying to scrape bus treads off their backs.
Russia. It’s actually rather surprising that this wasn’t talked about, given recent moves by Vladimir Putin to reassert formal power in that country. That said, in general, the reset has been smart policy -- not that such concerns have really mattered in these debates.