5 Worst Foreign Policy Moments of GOP New Hampshire Debate

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The New Hampshire GOP debate’s most charged moments were probably more domestic, as with Chris Christie putting Marco Rubio in his place as not having actually done anything and as overly reliant on his single script. But inevitably with this gang, war, torture and sundry mayhem did make an appearance. Here are the five most cringeworthy moments:

1. Virtually the only good thing anyone knows about the sleazy Ted Cruz is that he came out against torture. Last night he took it all back. Muir asked him if waterboarding is torture (it is):

“CRUZ: Well, under the definition of torture, no, it’s not. Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems, so under the definition of torture, it is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.

MUIR: If elected president, would you bring it back?

CRUZ: I would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use. And indeed, I joined with Senator McCain in legislation that would prohibit line officers from employing it because I think bad things happen when enhanced interrogation is employed at lower levels.

But when it comes to keeping this country safe, the commander in chief has inherent constitutional authority to keep this country safe. And so, if it were necessary to, say, prevent a city from facing an imminent terrorist attack, you can rest assured that as commander in chief, I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe.”

But the European Court of Human Rights has found that Bush-era ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as waterboarding are indeed torture. Moreover, the US Senate found that it hadn’t even worked.

2. Then Muir turned to the one person on stage who is worse than Cruz. Another even worse cringeworthy exchange took place:

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you. Mr. Trump, you said not only does it work, but that you’d bring it back.

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what. In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before — as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now.

The medieval times — I mean, we studied medieval times — not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

First of all, that some fringe group somewhere behaves barbarically does not require us to behave barbarically. In fact, the American advantage over the fascist mass parties of the 1930s and 1940s is precisely that for the most part we refused to become fascists to fight fascism. How could you defeat Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in the eyes of the world if you are just as bad?

Second, what Trump is promising is to commit crimes . Promising to commit crimes against people even in the absence of practical action can be the basis for an arrest and for punishment. The Allies executed a Nazi newspaper owner who spread around horrible anti-Jewish propaganda. But that was all that he had done. Trump is in his league.

3. Then Ted Cruz was asked about his widely panned argument for carpet-bombing Iraq and Syria, which would kill perhaps tens of thousands of innocents.

“As you know, in the first Persian Gulf War, it was 1,100 air attacks a day. Obama is launching between 15 and 30. Now, when I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate.

That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command and control locations. It’s targeted at infrastructure. It’s targeted at communications. It’s targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa. It’s using overwhelming air power.”

Carpet bombing does not, of course, actually refer to precision bombing. And in the Gulf War the US for the first time used a significant amount of “smart” weaponry, so that wasn’t carpet bombing. Cruz just wants to impress his Republican audience with his bloodthirstiness and willingness to deploy massive force against enemies. But the officer corps has over-ruled him on his terminology and his plan, so he had no choice but simply to lie and mischaracterize his own argument so as to foil the critiques.

4. Then Rubio was asked about fighting Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). The fact is that Barack Obama is doing pretty much everything against it he can practically do, and all the plans put forward by his critics are basically just iterations of his plan. Rubio said,

“RUBIO: Well, first, we need to understand who they are. ISIS is not just a jihadist group, they’re an apocalyptic group. They want to trigger a showdown in a city named … [Dabiq] between the west and themselves which they believe will trigger the arrival of their messianic figure.

And I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen. The reason why it’s important to understand that is because these are not groups that are just going to go away on their own. They are going to have to be defeated. And I believe they need to be defeated on the ground, by a ground force, made up primarily of Sunni Arabs.

It will take Sunni Arabs to reject them ideologically and defeat them militarily. That will require a coalition of Iraqis and Syrians, that are also Sunnis, but it will also require the cooperation of Jordanians, Egyptians. We should ask more of the Saudis.”

That Daesh is an apocalyptic group tells us absolutely nothing about their longevity. Some apocalyptic groups collapse abruptly.

The Sunnis don’t want to fight Daesh. Jordan is a tiny country and can’t afford to get involved militarily with infantry in Syria, because the stuff would blow back on Amman. Bernie Sanders keeps talking about Jordan, too. If Jordan, which has a border with Daesh, were going to take military steps, it would already have done so.

Obama tried to recruit Syrian Sunnis to fight Daesh, and most of them turned out to want to fight Bashar al-Assad more. The program collapsed because of this. Iraqi Sunnis were already screwed over by the ‘Sons of Iraq’ program and are reluctant to take the lead again, because Bush hung them out to dry by agreeing to leave Iraq without making any provision for them.

So it is nice that Rubio knows about Dabiq and that it would be good to have some Sunnis in the fight, but there is no way on God’s green earth that his vague imagining of an actual multi-country Sunni army marching on Daesh will become a reality. And anyway, this is just an element of the current Obama plan, not something new.

5. When Ohio Governor John Kasich was asked about North Korea, he suggested unleashing Japan on them:

“KASICH: We’ve gotta to be very tough on this. And frankly, I think we could have — I think we could have let the Japanese know that if you want to take action on that — on that missile that’s rising, you want to take action — you will have our support, if that’s what you think is the best thing to do. We cannot continue to be weak in the face of the North Koreans, or, frankly, in the entire rest of the world.”

Even with the small changes in the legal interpretation of the pacifist Japanese constitution instituted last fall by PM Shinzo Abe, it would not be constitutional for Japan to simply go to war against North Korea. The Japanese public wouldn’t put up with it. Kasich seems completely unaware of what talking about Japanese taking military action against N. Korea looks like to Asia, including to Beijing. All this is not to mention that North Korea has an atomic bomb, whereas Japan does not. Kasich is often forced by the bloodthirsty war cries of his rivals to pledge to do something completely unrealistic.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

ABC News: “Republican Candidates Take on ISIS at ABC News Debate”

25 Responses

  1. Do Americans know just how stupid this parade of know nothing windbag mouthpieces for their finance houses make them look?

    We watch them on TV and think of insurrection

    Yankee Go Home!

  2. “…a city named Tibet”…?! Say what? It should obviously be Damascus, but is this some kind of misprint, or is Rubio really that confused?

  3. Christie is deceptive and dirty
    He’s a political nightmare and so are his corupt buddies George greedy Norcross and Senator slimeball Sweeney

  4. Seems like having the first primaries in Iowa and NH forces the GOP candidates to play “who’s the most feral cat in the alley?”. Then it’s hard to shake off the alleycat image as the campaigns progress.

    And why don’t any of the candidates jump Trump (great name for rhymers) when he brags about his intent to be a serious war criminal when he takes office? At least Kasich and Bush have the creds to do this. That alone should disqualify him for consideration.

  5. Add to the list Christie’s saying he would allow US law enforcement agencies to operate inside Mexico without approval of the Mexican government. Maybe he can exhume General Pershing to show him how to organize it.

    • And let’s not forget that the Pershing raids were basically a failure which also had the effect of turning the Mexicans against us, even those who didn’t like Villa. The raids did, however, give Patton (I think he was a major then) a chance to brandish his pearl handled revolver. so there is that.

    • Pershing also was opposed to the armistice that ended the First World War. He and MacArthur and, most likely, Colonel George Patton wanted to continue the war on to German soil despite the fact millions of people had already died because of the war. Pershing continued the fighting up to the last minute at 11:00 am on 11/11/1918 even though the armistice was agreed on at dawn that day.

  6. Are you actually making excuses for Jordan Mr. Cole?
    So what if Jordan is a tiny country, it has an army trained and equipped by America and Israel. True, it is not battle tested, but it is far better equipped and organized than any Syrian opposition groups or the still-being-reconstructed Iraqi army. And if Jordan can send its fighter jets all the way to Yemen, it can certainly send them to Raqqa.
    The truth is that Jordan, like America’s other Sunni Arab ‘friends’, is a complete coward that does not understand what the word ‘friend’ or ‘ally’ means.

    • Perhaps the Jordanians have the good sense to not get involved in a bloody civil war in another country. I think they are to be congratulated for that, not criticized.

  7. Thanks Juan…it is surely sick how Trump seems giddy to want to commit massive war crimes and sick how Cruz now wants to do plain torture since he thinks it will help his numbers and Cruz is still willing to do carpet bombing.

    Kasich seems like a reasonable guy sometimes but he is talking very irresponsibly regarding his comments on Japan.

    So sick what people who want to be president are willing to do.

  8. These bully, irresponsible politicians resemble gang members, or vice-verse.

  9. What is really cringe worthy is the number of proto-barbarians both parties are offering the voters for the next president of the American Empire. To make matters worse it appears a sizable portion of the American people, perhaps a majority, want another warmonger in the White House.

  10. The Democratic-Republican axis of (captured) constituencies are, in the end, going to want a contest between Clinton and Cruz I predict. Hillary Clinton is using a strategy of divide and conquer of the Democratic subconstituencies to defuse the Sanders’ threat, and in this I think she will succeed. Ultimately her intent is to be unchallenged servatrix of Wall Street against both the “bewildered herd” that are supposedly the “masses” and the less ideologically sustainable–she believes/maintains–(because more precipitous) pro-plutocracy promises of the Republicans, especially those of the Tea Party-wing.

    Ted Cruz, for his part, almost seems to be using a strategy taken antithetically from Denis de Rougement or some other worthy scholar of all that is good and beautiful in the Western religio-humanistic tradition and doing with it something reversely based on the following:

    “If we shut our eyes after gazing at a white statue we shall have the image of a black. In the some way, the eclipse of the myth conjured up the exact opposite of Tristan. If Don Juan, historically speaking, is no invention of the eighteenth century, the period nevertheless played in relation to this character the very part assigned in Manichean doctrine to Lucifer as regards Creation. The period gave shape to Tirso de Molina’s (Don Juan) Tenorio, and endowed the hero of that play with two thoroughly typical features–noirceur and rascality. Nothing could be more directly the reverse of the twin virtues of chivalrous love–candour and courtesy!…

    …The repression of the myth by an all-embracing irony and the applauded triumph of ‘felons’ soon excited some curious reactions. Amid so much pliancy, so much intellectual and sensual refinement, so much satiation, one most profound human need was left ungratified–the need of suffering. If the body social encourages this need, it grows enfeebled, as is shown by the waning Middle Ages; but if the body social remains unconscious of this need or imagines that the need can be ridiculed, it quickly dries up and grows enervated. Thereupon the mind proceeds to invent in the guise of cruelty the sufferings it has forbidden the heart to undergo. Kindness is a stranger to those who have not suffered: their fancies lose all vital touch and all capacity for being in sympathy…”–Denis de Rougemont, ‘Love in the Western World’

    Ted Cruz may very well be the paragon–best reflecting and educating in the ‘ethos’–of an evermore precarious American age, which in its ever increasing urgency for security and strength (empirically individual and suppositionally statal) misappraises the lasting value and instrumentality of what may be described as a psycho-political strategy of ‘immurement’ and ‘inurement’: of erecting (against), protecting, fortifying, conditioning, accustoming, the mind, the body, the state against anything that would cause it to feel weak, insecure, disprotected, even unsure, and, in so doing, repressing or even vacating the psyche (all that it touches and encounters) of the sympathetic urge in emulation of a sort of imagined Übermensch: never vacillating, never susceptible to error (or rather the consequences of it), never infirm (at least in the literal sense), never injured (at least emotionally), but forever embodying and enacting the danger and harm (the spiritual injury; the psychological loss, for those who once possessed it) of having let irretrievably atrophy the capacity for sympathetic human comprehension and, by extension, the discernment of honesty in oneself as well as others; so that all that remains is a labyrinth of lies, even if it seem a dais of power.

  11. “And in the Gulf War the US for the first time used a significant amount of “smart” weaponry, so that wasn’t carpet bombing………”

    Actually, the U.S. Department of Defense first extensively utilized “smart bombs” in conjunction with Operation Linebacker II against North Vietnam in December of 1972 – this included laser, LORAN, and radar-guided weaponry as part of an air offensive that focused upon civil infrastructure in and near Hanoi and caused heavy damage.

    These smart weapons were able to knock out many Communist targets that were unsuccessfully targeted in prior years as part of the Rolling Thunder program.

    The USAF emerged from the Linebacker air offensive operations with a certain degree of satisfaction and patterned the Gulf War smart weapons assault against Baathist Iraq after the Linebacker II program that had concluded 18 years earlier.

    • While you are correct in that the first use was in Vietnam, I recall seeing the figure of 10% of the bombs dropped in that war were “smart” bombs, 90% weren’t. Also, laser guided bombs were hampered by clouds and dust. With GPS and other methods, bomb technology has advanced greatly since 1972 so that a bomb can literally be put through a window in a large multi-story building from 10,000 feet.

  12. You can’t really expect a dollop of sense from these clowns when the only measure of authenticity or toughness from the base base is: How many Muslims would you kill, and how would you do it?? Rubio’s overweening ignorance and arrogance while getting fawning press is most annoying- I reveled in Christie’s takedown. How can anyone like him or Cruz, both anti-immigrant immigrants. When we all were immigrants, at some point. Only the soon-to-be disappeared megafauna were actually natives.

  13. I thought we executed Japanese officials for waterboarding in WWII. Either that was wrong or it is a settled question and we don’t have to use the EU’s findings to decide it!

  14. Juan Cole has some valid points on Cruz, but his point about Rubio wanting to enlist Sunnis is quite simplistic. In Syria, Sunni rebels have fought ISIS more than the regime has (Jane’s have done an analysis on this showing how Bashar has ignored them for the most part) and have done this without air power like the Kurds. He is right that they want to fight Assad more, but that is the point! Once you get rid of Assad rebels can fight their second enemy. And Rubio’s analysis implies a very obvious point – ISIS and Assad have a symbiotic relationship. Assad committing genocide with the world not doing anything to stop it creates a flourishing area for extremists.

  15. FIVE worst moments? I detected only one very long one that started when the first candidate entered the stage and the last left.

    Honestly, at what point will an adult step up and put the GOP collectively over its knee and soundly thrash its fat probuscidian ass? Let’s see they doubled down on torture, carpet bombing, repeal of health care for millions, and let’s not forget the vague discomfort of the audience caused by Donald Trump when he stated that under him no one would die in the street (let us not forget that for this party compassion is weakness); they honestly did not know, it appeared to me, whether to cheer or hiss.

    Atrocious, horrific, blood-thirsty, cruel, sadistic, carnificious, policies should disqualify you from running for office, and frankly from voting as well. Hey assholes (yeah, I’m looking at you Muses of Discord and your attendant fellating Myrmidons), how about funding research for cancer, or money for hungry kids, or for resettling the refugees we created in no small part through our ghastly, ghoulish, grotesque Middle East “policy” (such as it is)?

    What a bunch of half-penny purse empty wits! And, as always, pars Republicana delenda est!

  16. If there was just some way for Trump to build his wall between his America and my America without any innocent victims being trapped on his side, it would solve the foreign policy problem, because his America would have no coastline, no Navy, no allies to provide forward bases, and eventually no embassies. Same for Ted Cruz. America would look like a doughnut, with a wall ringing its inner wasteland.

    However, it would still have oil (and earthquakes) so I’m afraid we’d still do business with it, and allow it to buy control of our politicians.

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