May 4, 2011

Palin on Foreign Policy


I've criticized the Republican 2012 field on numerous occasions for their lack of foreign policy heft and a profound unwillingness to weigh in on difficult decisions they would have to make as Commander in Chief. It's only fair, then, to share one potential candidate's attempt to frame a coherent approach to foreign policy in the public square - in this case, Sarah Palin in a speech in Colorado this week. Here's the relevant portion:

There’s a lesson here then for the effective use of force, as opposed to sending our troops on missions that are ill-defined. And it can be argued that our involvement elsewhere, say in Libya, is an example of a lack of clarity. See, these are deadly serious questions that we must ask ourselves when we contemplate sending Americans into harm’s way. Our men and women in uniform deserve a clear understanding of U.S. positions on such a crucial decision. I believe our criteria before we send our young men and women—America’s finest—into harm’s way should be spelled out clearly when it comes to the use of our military force. I can tell you what I believe that criteria should be in five points. First, we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.

Second, if we have to fight, we fight to win. To do that, we use overwhelming force. We only send our troops into war with the objective to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. We do not stretch out our military with open-ended and ill-defined missions. Nation building is a nice idea in theory, but it is not the main purpose of our armed forces. We use our military to win wars.

And third, we must have clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into harm’s way. If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly and concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period.

Fourth, American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. We will fight side by side with our allies, but American soldiers must remain under the care and the command of American officers.

Fifth, sending in our armed forces should be the last resort. We don’t go looking for dragons to slay. However, we will encourage the forces of freedom around the world who are sincerely fighting for the empowerment of the individual. When it makes sense, when it’s appropriate, we will provide them with material support to help them win their own freedom.

We are not indifferent to the cause of human rights or the desire for freedom. We are always on the side of both. But we can’t fight every war. We can’t undo every injustice around the world. But with strength and clarity in those five points, we’ll make for a safer, more prosperous, more peaceful world because as the U.S. leads by example, as we support freedom across the globe, we’re going to prove that free and healthy countries don’t wage war on other free and healthy countries. The stronger we are, the stronger and more peaceful the world will be under our example.

Some of these principles may sound familiar. A few of them were first expressed back in 1984 in President Reagan’s cabinet. They were designed to help us sharply define when and how we should use force, and they served us well in the Reagan years. Times are much different now, but I believe that by updating these time-tested principles to address the unique and changing circumstances and threats that we face today, they will serve us well now and into the future. Remember, Reagan liked to keep it simple, yet profound. Remember what he would say to the enemy? He’d say, “we win, you lose.”

It's not sophisticated, and it's more passion than policy, closer to campaign rhetoric than thorough commentary. But this expression of a framework from Palin is a vast improvement over the stated remarks from other candidates thus far. It is unacceptable, a year and a half before election day, for serious individuals to still mark foreign policy as "TBD."

A side note: the mission that killed bin Laden ended up hinging on an area where Palin explicitly parted ways with John McCain during the 2008 campaign, siding with Obama on the question of sending a unilateral mission into Pakistan. Obama's major vindication on this is also a minor vindication of Palin on the point, who was slammed internally by McCain campaign staff at the time for expressing this view.

(AP Photo)

December 18, 2010

Protecting American Allies

In urging Senators to vote down the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Sarah Palin suggests the treaty would put U.S. allies at risk:

There are many other problems with the treaty, including the limitation on the U.S. ability to convert nuclear systems to conventional systems and the lack of restriction on Russian sea launched cruise missiles. In addition, the recent reports that Russia moved tactical nuclear weapons (which are not covered by New START) closer to our NATO allies, demonstrate that the Obama administration has failed to convince Russia to act in a manner that does not threaten our allies.

Presumably if the treaty left American allies exposed to Russian predations, we'd see a huge outcry from our European friends. But that hasn't happened. In fact, just the opposite: Europe's foreign ministers have all signed onto an op-ed urging ratification.

July 27, 2010

The Tea Party's Foreign Policy

It's taking shape. Josh Rogin reports:

Almost two dozen Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers cosponsored a new resolution late last week that expresses their support for Israel "to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force."

The lead sponsor of the resolution was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, one of four congressmen to announce the formation of the 44-member Tea Party caucus at a press conference on July 21. The other three Tea Party Caucus leaders, Michele Bachmann, R-MN, Steve King, R-IA, and John Culberson, R-TX, are also sponsors of the resolution. In total, 21 Tea Party Caucus members have signed on, according to the latest list of caucus members put out by Bachmann's office....

Last week, a Tea Party-affiliated grassroots organization launched a nationwide campaign to build popular opposition to the administration's nuclear reductions treaty with Russia, called New START. The group is led by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Ginny and it dovetails with similar efforts by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

The resolution also continues a theme among Tea Party leaders, such as Sarah Palin, who are seeking to separate the movement's domestic policies, which call for small government and fiscal restraint, from libertarian views on foreign policy, promoting instead an aggressive, unilateralist view of world affairs and unchecked military spending.

The cognitive dissonance of this view is staggering: you cannot have a small government at home if you insist on an interventionist, activist government abroad.

April 12, 2010

Karzai, Blind Squirrels and Blithering Idiots


Responding to Sarah Palin's defense of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Andrew Exum writes:

Oh, and by the way, if you think using leverage to affect the political choices made by the Afghan leadership is not a good thing right now, then you are a) Liz Cheney, b) Sarah Palin, c) a blithering idiot or d) some combination of the previous options.

Well, then I suppose I'll take "c) blithering idiot" for $1,000, Andrew.

However, keeping my blithering idiocy in mind, I wonder if Exum could perhaps clarify what he means by "using leverage." I don't think anyone - not even Governor Palin, for that matter - is arguing that Karzai should be exempt from any and all forms of diplomatic pressure. What she and other critics of the Obama administration's handling of Karzai seem to be taking exception to is the very public belittling of the man.

Larison suggests that Karzai's latter-day defenders are simply adding this to a continuum of mostly hollow attacks on Obama's foreign policy. I'm sympathetic to this argument, and he's probably right, but so what? Obviously, the president is going to make policy mistakes, and if your fallback position is to simply attack everything that he does, eventually, you're going to get one right! Blind squirrel ---> nut.

But if the United States is truly invested in securing and nurturing Afghanistan's fragile young democracy, what then is the point in publicly humiliating the democratically elected-ish leader of said investment? There's nothing wrong with pressuring Karzai behind closed doors; publicly equivocating when asked if Karzai is even a U.S. ally is another matter entirely.

If he is an ally, well then the answer should be simple. If he isn't, then what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan? As a critic of the Afghan surge, Karzai's legitimacy never really mattered as much to me as did eradicating al-Qaeda's presence in the region - and we're doing that. Exum, on the other hand, supports a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan, and yet, for some reason, also supports publicly undermining the democratically elected-ish leader of the country.

American legitimacy in Afghanistan is pegged to the legitimacy of Karzai and the Afghan government. Should it come as a surprise then when Karzai chooses to do photo ops with Ahmadinejad and, even more absurdly, threatens to join the Taliban after Washington publicly exposes him to be a contrivance or puppet of the West? Such marching orders place him in a rather untenable spot, no?

I don't know the answers to all of these questions, but I'm just a blithering idiot . . . or perhaps Liz Cheney. Is it too late to change my answer?

(AP Photo)

March 30, 2010

Palin for Pakistan?

Londonstani pokes fun at the governor.

February 7, 2010

Palin on Iran

Governor Palin certainly isn't the first to suggest a strike on Iran, so that's not really news. But there's a puzzling flippancy in the governor's foreign policy rhetoric that I think deserves some more nuanced attention.

I think - and hope - the governor will expand upon her foreign policy vision in the coming weeks and months, especially if she's truly considering a presidential bid in 2012.

(h/t Think Progress)