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Dunsmore: Foreign Policy Follies

12/16/11 7:55AM By Barrie Dunsmore
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(Host) As Republicans choose their presidential nominee, the candidates’ positions on foreign policy do not appear to be terribly important. As commentator and retired ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore tells us this morning, this is something different.

(Dunsmore) In most elections in the past sixty years, Republicans have presented themselves as strong on national security and hard-nosed in conducting the country’s foreign affairs. The Republican playbook, which once portrayed Democrats as being soft on communism, was revised after 9/11 to make that soft on terrorism.

There is still a residue of this attitude. This past week, Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter, attacked President Barak Obama’s conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Speaking on FOX News, Ms. Cheney said that by withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by the end of this month, Obama was “about to snatch defeat from what was victory in Iraq.”

Given that her father was a principal architect of that war – a war based on a false premise, and which for eight years was mismanaged by the Bush/Cheney administration and was never even remotely close to being won – Ms. Cheney’s opinions may be understandable. Among other neo-conservatives who championed the invasion of Iraq there has been grumbling about Obama cutting and running. But considering that he has taken three years to manage an orderly withdrawal; that he significantly increased the American footprint in Afghanistan; and that he ridded the world of Osama Bin Ladin - Obama has considerable credibility on national security issues, even among some Republicans.

The fact is, right now the over-riding issue for nearly all voters is the troubled state of the economy. That’s just as well for the Republican presidential hopefuls because in foreign policy they are demonstrably lacking in experience or expertise, as has been amply illustrated in their debates and campaign statements.

Last month’s frontrunner, businessman Herman Cain, at one point worried about China becoming a nuclear power – apparently unaware that China joined the nuclear club in 1964.

Libertarian Ron Paul, who new polls suggest might just win the January 3rd Iowa caucuses, is opposed to any American military intervention and to most foreign aid. He wants U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Europe, Korea and Japan. While some liberals might take this as reason to support him, Rush Limbaugh said of Paul’s foreign policy – “it’s just nutty.”

Mitt Romney repeatedly says he would take this country to war again to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon – without any apparent thought of the consequences of another war with another Muslim country that, among other things, controls a big piece of the world’s oil supply.

Newt Gingrich, who is this week’s front runner, outdid his opponents in pandering to Israel’s supporters by cynically declaring that the Palestinians are an “invented people” – suggesting they have no legal or moral standing in their dispute with Israel. By his definition both Americans and Israelis would also be considered "invented” people, but such nuances matter little to Newt. However, if any candidate with such apparent ignorance of the Middle East should be elected President - it will matter a lot.
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