Republican candidates

US foreign policy, Republican style

What are the common themes and divisions among Republican presidential candidate front-runners on US foreign policy?

If there is one common theme emerging in the Republican presidential field on US foreign policy, it is that Barack Obama, the US president, is not tough enough.

The candidates have lined up to criticise the troop withdrawal from Iraq. They say it is too early and leaves the country at the mercy of Iranian influence.

Clearly the biggest mistake that President Obama has made, and there are many when it comes to foreign policy, has been the decision that he made regarding Iraq. He has essentially given on a silver platter, victory in Iraq and he’s choosing intentionally to lose the peace.

– Michele Bachmann, US Republican presidential candidate

When it comes to Iran itself, Republicans recount a long list of mistakes and argue that Obama has put too much faith in sanctions. Several leading Republican candidates even say they might have considered military action just to recover a crashed US drone.

The Republican party also criticises Obama’s plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan, arguing that the war against the Taliban is unfinished and the pull out just gives the enemy the upper hand.

And all the candidates say Obama has not been vocal enough in his support for Israel. Mitt Romney has gone so far as to say he has “thrown Israel under a bus”.

And there are many more foreign policy challenges awaiting whoever wins the election in November 2012.

Relations with Pakistan have worsened since NATO troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a checkpoint.

“Why do we have to bomb so many countries? Why do we have 900 bases, 130 countries and we’re totally bankrupt. How are you going to rebuild a military when you have no money?

– Ron Paul, US Republican presidential candidate

Trade disagreements with China are heating up, with Beijing recently announcing new import tariffs on some US vehicles. The US is also becoming increasingly concerned about the buildup of China’s military.

And then there is the euro crisis, which threatens to destabilise the global financial system.

Despite all these challenges, foreign policy is not a priority on most voters’ minds. But while many voters may not think foreign policy is as important as the economy, it is a topic no candidate for the US presidency can avoid. So where do the leading Republican candidates stand on foreign policy? 

Inside Story Americas presenter Shihab Rattansi discusses with guests: Retired Colenel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state; Faiz Shakir from the Center for American Progress, a Washington DC-based think-tank; and Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post.