Republican presidential candidates have woven their war plans into their jobs plans in speeches during the past week, even as foreign policy prescriptions have taken a backburner to economic issues for most of the primary season.
From troop levels in Afghanistan to ballistic missile-defense systems, the GOP candidates have donned their commander-in-chief hats to present their plans for how they would oversee the U.S. military.
Herman Cain makes no secret of his qualms with Iran. If elected, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank chairman said he would upgrade America’s missile-defense system, load those missile defenses on naval ships, strategically position the ships and then tell Iranian President Ahmadinejad to “make my day.”
The underpinnings of Cain’s idea are echoed in those of Mitt Romney, who also wants to increase naval and missile-defense spending. Romney said that if elected, he would “reverse the hollowing of our Navy” by increasing the number of Navy ships built each year from 9 to 15.
“God did not create this country to be a nation of followers,” Romney said in a speech at South Carolina’s military college the Citadel Friday. “America must lead the world, or someone else will.”
Jon Huntsman too would focus on Iran as an example of when U.S. force might be necessary.
“I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran,” Huntsman said in New Hampshire today, according to prepared remarks. “If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that.”
Huntsman and Texas Gov. Rick Perry would accelerate the departure of troops from Afghanistan, while Romney would “order a full review” of troop levels and make a decision “free from politics.”
Huntsman said his military expenditures would be counter-terrorism based.
“Simply advocating more ships, more troops, and more weapons is not a viable path forward,” Huntsman said, making an obvious reference to Romney’s plan to build more Navy ships. “We need more agility, more intelligence and more economic engagement with the world.”
Texas Rep. Ron Paul would bring the troops home. All of them.
He said Saturday that war is “one of the greatest threats to the family.” Instead of the United Nations or NATO being the “proper authority” for going to war, Paul said the United States should look to the golden rule.
“I would like to suggest that possibly we should be thinking about having a foreign policy of the golden rule and not treat other countries any way other than the way we want to be treated,” he said.
But Perry said he is “not going to compromise when it comes to our national security.” And the first step in making America secure is securing the border, he said, a task that might include taking on Mexico.
“Make no mistake about it, what we are seeing south of our border is nothing short of a war being waged by these narcoterrorists,” Perry said at a social conservatives conference Friday. “To face this threat, we shouldn’t take any options off the table, including security operations in cooperation with the Mexican government as we did with Colombia some years ago.”
And as for threats in the Middle East, Perry would call Pakistan at 3 a.m. to build better relationships, he said in a rambling response to a question at the Florida debate.
And speaking of that 3 a.m. phone call, Rick Santorum vowed to be “up and waiting” before the phone even rings.
“When that phone call comes at 3 in the morning, ladies and gentlemen, I will be up and waiting for the call because I will know what is going on in the world around us and they won’t have to get me out of bed,” Santorum said.
Except for Paul, the GOP candidates have unanimously criticized Obama for not emphatically supporting Israel and expressed robust support for America’s Middle East ally.
“If you mess with Israel, you are messing with the United States of America,” Cain said Friday.
Under the “Cain Philosophy,” America must “clarify” which countries are “friends” and which are “enemies.”
“And as we clarify who our friends are, he said, “then tell the rest of the world who are our friends that we are going to stand by so they will know not to mess with our friends, like the nation of Israel.”