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February 22, 2012

What the Candidates Didn’t Talk About Tonight
Posted by Jacob Stokes

Tonight’s GOP debate featured a longer discourse on Arlen Specter than it did on America’s relationship with the rest of the world. It’s become something of a lost cause to lament the lack of discussion of foreign policy issues in the GOP debates, but tonight once again confirmed that trend. Here are several of the most important topics that didn't get talked about:

China. The U.S. recently hosted the next president of China, Xi Jinping, in an effort to build personal relationships between leaders of our two countries. And this week marks the anniversary of Nixon’s visit to China, one of the most important pieces of diplomacy in American history. What are the candidates' plans for managing this extremely important relationship? Mitt Romney wrote a big op-ed on it last week. Where’s the follow-up?

Afghanistan. As I’ve written, Romney’s plan for Afghanistan has all the makings of a 100 years war. He’s pledged not to talk to the Taliban and to fight them until they’re defeated militarily. That would require a dramatic escalation for an unspecified period of time. Do his fellow candidates agree with that position, and how would justify such an expenditure against other interests?

Real defense budget plans. Romney’s plans for the defense budget call for massive increases in addition to the increased war funding he’d need to fight the continued escalation in Afghanistan. How will Romney pay for that? We heard false claims about Obama's plan "cutting $1 trillion from the defense budget," but no talk about what candidates' suggestions would be. To be fair, Santorum mentioned it at the beginning, but only said he would not cut spending on defense.

Europe. This week Greece got a deal from the European Union on their debt. But it will impose draconian austerity measures on the Greek economy. Two questions here that weren’t answered: How important is the Transatlantic alliance to U.S. security, does the U.S. have a role in resolving the European debt crisis and what will it take to sustain that alliance in the face of budget pressures? And a bigger question: Austerity is failing Europe, why would it work in the U.S.?

Cybersecurity. The threat from cyber is real and growing. A bill is being debated in the Senate that would address a lot of key holes in America’s defenses, but it faces Republican opposition. Where do the candidates stand on the importance of cyber security? As president, would they be willing to back such a bill?

Instead of answers to those questions, Americans got Gingrich insulting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and pushing a foreign policy narrative that amounts to essentially Neocons 2.0. I wrote about this back in November, and it has proved more or less accurate (with Ron Paul as the exception, of course).

Sad, sad night for U.S. foreign policy and America's role in the world.

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