In the race to be viewed as America’s “toughest” defender of U.S. interests abroad, GOP candidates are tripping over their tongues for Republican votes.
The recent debate over foreign policy merely highlighted an ongoing trend of misinformed, potentially disastrous positions staked out by GOP contenders. President Barack Obama’s own positions towards Iran and China are frequent targets, leading to repeated missteps over Tehran’s nuclear program. Mitt Romney, for instance, believes that America’s Iranian policy is cut-and-dry: "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”
As comprehensive sanctions and a regional military campaign don’t guarantee the destruction of Iran’s suspected nuclear program, Romney must consider himself to be Superman.
The Associated Press captured many errors after fact-checking last night’s GOP debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Candidates cannot legally criticize Obama’s level of covert activity in Iran (particularly Michele Bachmann, who serves on the House intelligence Committee), given the inherent level of secrecy involved. Military action also provides an incomplete safeguard against Iran’s nuclear weapons - and may yield a world war. Noticeably absent, however, are the fallacies lobbed at the Arab revolutions.
According to Herman Cain, “This president has been on the wrong side in nearly every situation in the Arab world, which has basically done nothing except to put that entire thing at risk.”
Although Cain’s assessment is correct for misguided reasons, he’s eager to explain how he would lead America on the wrong side of history. Worried that “our relationship with Egypt may not survive,” Cain bashes the Obama administration for backing an opposition that was “more of the Muslim Brotherhood,” when the administration initially resisted regime change with the MB in mind. He must be temporarily satisfied with Washington’s support for Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which stands accused of colluding with the MB against Egypt’s civil movement. Yet he still demands more - that White House actively suppress millions of Egyptians!
Clearly articulating himself as a man with negligible knowledge of foreign policy, Cain moved to Yemen’s revolution and proceeded to embarrass himself by supporting another dictatorship. Bashing the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring has become frequent sport for GOP officials and aspiring presidential candidates alike, but some criticism flies further off the cliff. Perhaps the moderator should have inquired into the exact number of dictators that Cain plans to support.
"This president has already said that the president of Yemen should go,” he told CBS’s Scott Pelley. “He is our friend. He has been helping us fight Al Qaeda.”
Western media has failed to objectively report on the Arab revolutions, so the GOP’s fear-mongering in Yemen is likely to go unchecked throughout the campaign. Every candidate would have eliminated Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric and operative within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and some exaggerated his status (only Glenn Greewald seemed to notice). Many downplayed the significance of extrajudicial killings, a valid debate that happens to block a debate on Yemen itself. When Bachman claimed that Yemeni refugees left a “state sponsor of terror,” media corrected her figures and reported that Yemen is not a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the U.S. State Department.
Of course not, Saleh is America’s “friend.”
Ask many Yemenis and they will tell you that Saleh’s regime has sponsored terror for years. If he isn’t arresting his political opponents without due process and beating them, he’s allowing AQAP to maintain a visible presence for terror’s sake. Some Yemenis believe that he funds his own “jihadists” as proxies in southern Yemen’s battleground. Saleh has leeched off of U.S. military aid (applied to his political opponents) and politically shields himself by stimulating new chaos. Western and Gulf states have cooperated with his regime throughout Yemen’s revolution, yet the GOP is obviously unsatisfied with the administration's current strategy.
"The standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain,” Newt Gingrich said in late March. “This isn't a serious standard... I would not have intervened.”
In reality the administration has tried everything short of direct military action to stop regime change in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. At the time Gingrich issued one of his few comments on Yemen, Obama oversaw a military imbalance within U.S. policy (complete with hidden drone base) and called for “reform” after the March 18th sniper massacre. No intervention has occurred in Yemen or Bahrain - the administration is attempting to rescue these regimes by manipulating the Saudi-bankrolled Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). A GOP president wouldn’t have changed their targets, only the level of force applied to suppress these uprisings.
Gingrich must be talking about America’s usual double-standard.
Such massive lies on Yemeni policy are gulped down by the AP and mainstream media in a binge of low awareness. One cannot politically blame the GOP for taking “the people’s side;” a recent CBS poll found that 65% of respondents support unilateral military action in Pakistan and Yemen. The majority of their memories of Yemen begin in December 2009, when a U.S. airstrike targeted al-Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a plane to Detroit days later. The American people have been led to believe that Saleh “is a friend,” or else “the only option” against AQAP, but his decrepit regime is neither.
Rather than construct a sustainable policy built on outreach with the Yemeni people, the Obama administration decided to support an opportunistic tyrant with a short lifespan. That Egyptians and Yemenis would make better partners than murderous tyrants remains a hard sell to Americans.
Administration officials would never admit that the White House reacts to GOP mudslinging. Given the outrageous charges and unwanted attention towards the Arab revolutions, Obama may try to soften his stance towards the protesters he’s alienated. More likely, the administration’s policy will remain unchanged in order to appear “firm” but practical. This stance conceals the White House and Pentagon’s existing manipulation while refusing to “bow” to the GOP.
Rick Perry claims "the Obama administration has appeased the Arab street at the expense of our national security,” but he means “the Obama administration has appeased Arab dictators at the expense of our national security.”