Tuesday, April 19, 2011

US Presidential 2012: Among GOP Leaders, No One Thinks of Europe

The Huffington Post ran this piece on the foreign policy ideas of the United States' Republican leaders for the 2012 presidential race. European and transatlantic issues are glaringly absent from the party's foreign agenda.

Also called the GOP (for "Grand Ole Party"), Republicans constitute the other half of the US political party system, with Obama's Democratic party seen as more aligned with European-style ideas on the role of the state, social welfare and other issues. These Republicans, who after the President's rough two-and-a-half years in office, are sure to give Obama a serious run for his money. European observers following the early maneuvers of the 2012 campaign should know these names and judge who might toe the line against Obama, who as the incumbent will surely be nominated again as his party's leader.

Here are EurAmerican's picks for the three best and worst GOP hopefuls when it comes to foreign affairs. At best, the top dogs present a balanced and respectful attitude toward America's involvements abroad, a condition that is not always a given, with a certain focus placed on trade and high-skilled immigration. Among the worst candidates, several posture around imbalanced policy considerations that range from myopic to unrealistic, on such issues as support for Israel and what to do against the threat of Islamic extremism. A casual reading of the HuffPo article reveals that, in a party overwhelmed with either domestic or at least non-European foreign policy questions, few take the time for pronouncements specific to the Old Continent.

The Best Three

1) Mitt Romney

HuffPo says, "in an effort to make the U.S. a more competitive economy -- particularly with China -- Romney has proposed enforcing looser immigration laws to take advantage of highly skilled workers. (...)
"Romney also believes economic sanctions and other strategies will ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear arsenal, and has also proposed a "three-pronged" approach to tackling jihadists."

2) Jon Huntsman
The recently resigned US Ambassador to China, Huntsman is the only GOP hopeful with an Asian focus. He desires to "move foreign policy forward by easing tensions with Asian nations such as North Korea." Huntsman may emerge as a stand-out moderate alternative for young conservatives disenchanted by a Tea Party-driven agenda, and his roots as the former Governor of Utah -- and as a Mormon -- may funnel some the staunch conservative right into his camp.

3) Tim Pawlenty
The former Minnesota governor seems to have a pragmatic and balanced grasp of the state of global affairs; he's the only one in the article to mention Europe via the President's cancellation of the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. That won't matter, though, if he continues to trail in polls and can't clinch the GOP party nomination. He has slammed Obama's foreign policy as " "incoherent" and "dangerous," and calls for a hard line against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Worst Three

3) Newt Gingrich
Gingrich's tenure as Speaker of the House -- and the architect of the 1994 mid-term Republican landslide during the Clinton administration -- makes him seem a solid and credible force in the fickle world of Washington power play. His preoccupation with Islamic extremism smacks of demagoguery -- even fear-mongering -- but as a political guru, Newt knows that a tight race could yet necessitate a swing toward the center.

2) Mike Huckabee
As recently as 2007, Huckabee estimated in his own words that he had "no foreign policy credentials." And his foreign affairs statements thus far suggest a fixation on the Islamic extremist threat. Striking a very similar tone on Islamic issues as Gingrich, he believes that a  "more successful U.S. foreign policy needs to better explain Islamic jihadism to the American people... If [extremists] are willing to kill their own children by letting them detonate suicide bombs, then they will also be willing to kill our children for their misguided cause."

1) Sarah Palin
Palin voices a classic if watery refrain from within conservative American policy circles. She argues for friendlier relations with Israel, which many have argued are too friendly (or unaccountable) as it is. She pledges unconditional support, arguing that "we shouldn't second-guess their efforts." On the Arab Spring, she has offered little more than a simplistic view that supporting democracy in the region constitutes a "task from God." If the global response to her vice-presidential candidacy during the 2008 election is anything to go by, Palin will inspire neither respect nor a will to collaborate from America's foreign friends and enemies.


  1. From the point of view of American strategy, other than the fact that they are virtually always a spoiler, obstacle, and an impossible hydra-headed dwarf to deal with, there are very few reasons to think of Europe.