Foreign policy received some attention overall, but not as much as I would have expected with the candidates that were on the stage. Syria, the Iran deal, and ISIS were the main foreign policy issues that the moderators asked about, and the answers confirmed that the field is filled with knee-jerk hawks that don’t have a very firm grasp on the issues. . . .What really irritates me about Republican Middle East blather is their reduction of a hugely complicated situation to "fight our enemies, the evil radical Islamic terrorists, and help our allies." Bobby Jindal in particular keeps saying that Obama's big weakness is his refusal even to call our enemy "radical Islamic terrorism."
Walker was asked about his pledge to renege on the nuclear deal, which prompted him to invoke the hostage crisis as proof that “Iran is not a place we should be doing business with,” and then he endorsed reimposing sanctions and “convincing our allies to do the same.” Since we all know that the allies aren’t going to do that, this is a very foolish position to take, and it will come back to bite Walker in the general election if he happens to be the nominee. The P5+1 governments are currently pleading with members of Congress not to reject the deal. Walker is promising to take actions that would horrify our major allies in Europe while pretending to “restore” American leadership. Huckabee’s answer on the deal was predictably no better, and was as dishonest as possible when he insisted that “we got nothing” from the agreement.
When Bush was pressed on another question on Iraq, he gave a muddled response that ended with this statement: "To honor the people that died, we need to — we need to — stop the — Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their hands, and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal." How it honors the dead from an unnecessary war by scuttling a negotiated agreement that makes another such war less likely is anyone’s guess, but I suppose Bush felt that he needed to remind everyone that his foreign policy judgment was just as bad as everyone else’s on that stage. Bush continues to be an underwhelming candidate, and in spite of the enormous resources that he has I still don’t see how he becomes the nominee.
Oddly enough, Rubio was not given the chance to say anything about foreign policy, which was all the more noticeable when you consider that his Foreign Affairs essay was published just a few days ago. Normalization with Cuba never came up as a topic, which also deprived him of an opportunity to tout his dead-ender pro-embargo views.
But in the Middle East there is no clear line between our enemies and our friends. We have several enemies there who are also enemies of each other, and a couple of friends (Turkey and the Kurds) who are on the verge of war. Plus not all of our "allies" care much about fighting some of our enemies, viz, Saudi Arabia has no interest in fighting the Islamic State, and their actions in Syria and Yemen are helping al Qaeda in a big way. In Iraq, our biggest ally against the Islamic State is our "enemy" Iran. I have to think that the smarter Republicans (Bush, Rubio, Paul) understand this, and therefore that their idiotic statements are calculated to appeal to Republican voters. Is such cynicism better than plain ignorance, or worse?
And speaking of allies, our most important actual allies -- Britain, France, Germany, Japan -- are all lobbying big time for Congress to approve the Iran deal, but Republicans seem perfectly willing to toss all of them under the bus out of loyalty to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Which I think is both wicked and stupid; in what moral or political universe are Israel and Saudi Arabia more important to us than Britain and France?
The whole situation is very depressing to me. I worry that a Bush, Walker or Rubio administration would be filled with mad hawks who would find some way to drag us into a war with Iran, and I believe that such a war would be a catastrophe ten times worse than the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. Since I have no great confidence in Hillary as the Democratic champion, this election makes me very nervous.