I felt that Quin Hillyer's piece for the main site, welcoming back Scooter, could use a slight addendum.
First of all, I wholeheartedly agree that the current crop of Republican candidates would advantage themselves with a crash course on foreign affairs. However, I would caution against giving them outdated counsel that doesn't prescribe any solutions. Way back in April, Scooter Libby and Hillel Franklin identified the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt. They certainly weren't alone in that concern. While their article may have appeared prescient at the time, I'd strongly caution any Republican candidate from reading either report as gospel -- given what I can only assume denotes a deliberate disregard for policy perscription. However, Quin's assertion that Egypt is "probably going Islamist" suggests the Libby/Franklin brain-trust has still failed to identify the following.
Since that initial April report was published:
1. Bloody, internecine clashes emerged and were quashed by the police state
2. The fragile economy exists on the life support of a three billion dollar loan from the IMF
4. Government tanks have swapped places with protestors in Tahrir Square
5. Democratic parliamentary elections have been pushed back, time and again
6. Israel was forced to evacuate its Egyptian ambassador
7. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces has rolled out plans to maintain power until 2013
8. The military attacked and killed dozens of peaceful Coptic Christians, before denying it
9. Egyptian bloggers and human rights activists have been put on trial for criticizing the ruling junta
10. The military has reactivated the country's "emergency law," thereby suspending the constitution to impose martial law.
The Muslim Brotherhood isn't really a factor. No political organization is. The military, quite literally, holds "supreme" command of the country. The original Libby-Franklin piece completely misses the mark, with respect to the current status of the Egyptian state. In fact, it merely offered a misplaced target on the Muslim Brotherhood, and still manages to omit a policy solution for what to do about their ascendance -- which clearly failed to launch.
So while Quin Hillyer is absolutely correct that America deserves a president that can steer this ship of state through hazardous international waters, reading outdated, misguided and impotent policy statements ain't gonna get us there.
Perhaps Quin would agree that, in fact, Turkey is no longer a firm ally because they were "dissed" by our pals over in Europe? That Egypt is not likely to go Islamist, because it remains a police state? That President Obama couldn't undermine eight years of "solid effort" in Iraq, because the Iraqis simply didn't want us there; not to mention the fact that our maintenance of an atrophied, and archaic, millitary force would have done little but further fracture a fragile state? That Iran stands virtually unchallenged as a regional power -- except for our ally Israel and its nuclear arsenal? (I'll grant you Lebanon.)
Doomsday predictions make for great campaign fodder, but they solve next to nothing. We can criticize Obama until we're blue in the face but that doesn't get us anywhere. Armchair hawks are going to find themselves on the endangered species list unless they prescribe some policy answers. And I'm not talking about soundbite solutions like "Get tough on Iran."
I'd prefer my candidate be able to navigate the hard questions...and offer the necessary elucidation on matters that extend beyond the negative impact of an Arab Spring and the usual "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what your country can do for Israel" boilerplate.
Do we reset policy with Russia? How much longer are we going to stay in Afghanistan? How would we deal with a rogue, nuclear armed Pakistan? How do we develop a strategic dialogue with China? Is our involvement in the United Nations worthwhile? And if we pull out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan what the hell will the world look like next?
In his press release, announcing the debate, Arthur Brooks hoped that the conversations "will illuminate the candidates' positions on national security and foreign policy at a critical time for America and the world." Let's hope so.
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