Daniel Garza: GOP Candidates Tackle a World in Peril

With just six weeks before the first primary contest is to take place in Iowa, the Republican candidates for president of the United States met at the historic Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Hall located a mere stone’s throw from the White House South lawn.

The event took place against a background of calamitous global strife occurring in just about every corner of the globe. Notably though, last night’s debate would make anyone think the Western Hemisphere is not really part of foreign policy - as it was largely ignored.

There are the current wars being fought by the American military which are both slated to draw down; Iran’s nuclear intractability which has provoked threats of conclusive action by European nations and Israel; Syria’s ongoing disregard for human rights which many say is creating a growing moral imperative to intercede; and most recently, the Egyptian unrest - made more explosive since three American students were arrested on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails.

In other parts of the world, the debt crisis has debilitated the countries of Spain, Italy, and Greece;  China’s military and economic rise poses serious consternation; and conflicts in nations like Pakistan, Yemen and various African nations continue to test American diplomatic relations.

And yes, there is also Mexico’s protracted war on drugs, which has resulted in around an estimated 40,000 deaths in the past five years and whose violence has begun to creep over the U.S. border. Adding to this is the bend towards centralized government command in Latin American nations such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia which has gone largely ignored.

But the first question out of the blocks mentioned none of this and instead dealt with the candidate’s opinion regarding the Patriot Act passed by the Bush Administration after the 9/11 attacks.

"All of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives,” former Speaker Newt Gingrich said, before vowing to extend the controversial law. Representative Ron Paul of Texas spoke out in opposition with his patented libertarian viewpoint declaring the Patriot Act was “unpatriotic” and undermined the individual liberties of every American.

U.S. Congresswoman of Minnesota, Michelle Bachman retorted “We have to realize we’re in a very different war with very different techniques that are used for that war,” and she added “terrorists don’t have rights.” To this, former Utah Governor and Ambassador John Huntsman sought common ground stating, “We need to protect our individual liberties, but also try to find that balancing act between our liberties and our security.”

Bachman’s “Pakistan is too nuclear to fail” assessment caused Texas Governor Rick Perry to respond in opposition asserting that until Pakistan proved it was a true U.S. ally he would cut off financial aid saying, "I would not send them one penny” he said, adding, “That is the way we change foreign policy." But it was Gingrich who had the pithiest line again stressing “We were told, a perfectly natural Washington assumption, that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low. To which my answer is, it should have, because we should be furious."

In response to a question offered by former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz regarding funding for development projects in Africa, Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum stressed these funding programs were “absolutely essential” arguing that zeroing out “foreign aid was absolutely the wrong course”. Congressman Paul was next to respond by plainly maintaining “Aid is worthless. We should focus on exporting principles of free markets and sound money.” The response provoked a loud applause from the audience.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney seemed worried when referring to pending defense reductions as a result of the Super Committee’s failure to achieve the targeted budget cuts, “They are cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget” adding, "We need to protect America and protect our troops and our military and stop the idea of Obamacare. That’s the best way to save money."

Paul evidently didn’t share Romney’s anxieties noting, ‘They are not cutting anything out of anything… They are Nibbling away at baseline budgeting” essentially saying that despite all the talk, lawmakers would only make reductions in anticipated military growth, not actual cuts.

When the topic turned to entitlement reform, Gingrich pointed to the Social Security reforms implemented by the Chilean government and the city of Galveston, Texas as model solutions - “The result in Chile is they have 72 percent of GDP in savings” he affirmed.

Probably the most notable news from the debate came in answer to a question regarding illegal immigration. Gingrich, who seemed to express support of certain immigrant classes, felt he should be seen in a sympathetic light, saying we shouldn't "adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter century… and I'm prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law." There is little doubt his comments are sure to reverberate for some time.

And although there were plenty of hypothetical questions offered up by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, I suppose his team felt these other real challenges did not merit discussion:

-The Egyptian Uprising

-Foreign Trade

-The Devaluation of the U.S. Dollar

-Italian, Spanish and Greek debt crisis

-Latin American Relations

-Copyright Issues

-Corporate Taxes

-Energy Independence

-Fast and Furious Gun Program

Disappointedly, it wasn’t until very late in the debate when a candidate, Rick Santorum, addressed neighboring Central and South America, stating his concern for “militant socialists bonding together, the spread of socialism, the delay of the trade agreements, and the rule of law.” And although Romney expressed his agreement; there would be no other discussion on the matter.

I guess that’s to be expected in a “Blitz” style debate.

Daniel Garza was formerly Associate Director at the Office of Public Liaison for The White House. He is currently the Executive Director of www.TheLibreInitiative.com

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