Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was interviewed yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation. He clearly does not think much of current and prospective presidential candidates, most of whom are, like Mr. Gates, Republicans.
The big problem is that foreign policy is set to play a big role in next year’s presidential election, sharing priority with the economy.
And this is the problem – none of the Republican candidates have had any experience in foreign policy. The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was a former Secretary of State and, therefore, has had more experience. Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton overlapped so know each other well.
This has always been a big weakness in the American political system, that somebody can come from seemingly nowhere, with little or no experience, and become “the leader of the free world” and is immediately eyeballing world leaders who have had twenty or more years experience in government, including foreign affairs. The current president and his two predecessors illustrate this well.
A prominent US politician in the 1950’s put it well when he said: “It is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president. This is something we’re going to have to learn to live with!”
What makes it matter more this time is that the US and its allies are facing greater danger now than ever before. This is the warning from former Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, whose book The Great War of Our Time has just been published. Mr. Morrell writes about the danger from ISIS, but also warns that there are three terrorist groups in the Middle East that are an even bigger threat to the West. It’s only a matter of time, warns Mr. Morrell, before a major attack is launched. We have already seen relatively minor attacks.
In the 1930’s Great Britain was constantly being warned by Winston Churchill of what was happening in Germany and the threat it posed to Britain and the rest of Europe. When war came, Churchill was asked to lead the country in its long struggle for survival. Today, there is no Churchill.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote on May 8th that steps should be taken immediately to halt immigration from Iraq and Syria, home to ISIS. People from those countries pose a huge security risk to the US and other western nations. You can guarantee that not one presidential candidate will touch on this issue. If immigration is discussed at all, it will be to fast track the path to citizenship for illegals already in the country, so that they will be ready to vote for the Democrats in time for this or the next election. Nothing will be said about keeping people out, especially those from ISIS influenced areas.
Politicians lack knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world. Some time ago, it was revealed that less than one third of US Congressmen even had a passport. Perhaps this is why candidates, trying to make up for this, are already starting to fly around the world spending a day in London, 12 hours in Paris, 6 in Berlin, etc., etc. This is in order to impress, sending a not-so-subtle message that “I understand the world – I’ve been there, done that!”
But, under pressure, they show little if any understanding. Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the two latest to put their foot in their mouth and say the wrong thing.
When Mr. Bush was asked a few days ago whether he would have chosen to send troops into Iraq like his brother did, he answered in the affirmative, also claiming that Mrs. Clinton would have done likewise. Shortly afterward he backtracked, claiming he did not understand the question. Later still he said he would not have sent troops into Iraq.
Surely the correct answer should have been to say, “Based on the intelligence we had at the time, I would have chosen to go into Iraq; but now, in hindsight, it was clearly a big mistake.”
Marco Rubio went a bit further claiming that the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone. It is??? I would not have liked to have lived under Saddam, but I would have preferred living there under him than living there now. And that goes for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled the country.
The bigger picture is even worse – by invading Iraq, we set off a chain of events that have given us ISIS and a growing Shia-Sunni conflict that threatens the peace and security of the world.
These two men are no more ignorant than many others. John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group (PBS) read a statement at the weekend from a senior member of the Obama Administration justifying an agreement with Iran. The statement expressed the hope that, through the pending agreement, Iran would be able to return fully to the family of nations and would turn its back on terrorism and conflict. The spokesman added the hope that it would lead to a healing of the historic schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.
What? Did somebody really write that? Are they serious when they think that a short-lived US Administration can bring about peace between Shia and Sunni and end a 1400-year-old conflict? Next, they will be thinking they can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — oops, I forgot, more than one Administration has already tried that!
Doesn’t anybody know history any more? Don’t they stay awake during history class at school? Come to think of it, history and geography are hardly taught in schools. Perhaps that explains everything – presidential candidates went to school like everybody else. It’s not surprising they know so little about history and can’t even find most countries on the map!