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The Debates Ahead: Time for the National Security Questions

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

There are at least five debates scheduled for the entire GOP field in the balance of November, and one “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain as well, set for tomorrow in Texas.


While the Newt-Hermanator appearance will be interesting, the key conversations will occur when former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Ricky Perry are on the same stage and when questions and answers turn to foreign policy and national security.

This is a two-man race, and Herman Cain’s rough week just confirmed that basic fact. Cain is a man of estimable qualities, but it is a huge task in itself to run for president, one requiring the sort of campaign experience that Romney and Perry have and that the rest of the field doesn’t.

Here are the ten questions which ought to be put on the table in the foreign policy/national security debates, with plenty of time given to each candidate to answer.

Was President Obama’s decision to pull all forces from Iraq a good one? If not, will you attempt to reopen talks on stationing a significant number of troops there if you are president?

Do you approve of President Obama’s troop draw-down schedule in Afghanistan?

Do you approve of the use off drones to kill, among others, Anwar al Awalki, an American citizen, in Yemen?

If Israel strikes at Iran’s nuclear program while you are president, what will your reaction be?


Turkey appears to be sliding into an increasingly hard-line Islamist state. Should NATO be concerned and if so, how should it react?

China’s currency is held to an artificially low value vis-à-vis the dollar. Given the enormous amount of U.S. debt that China holds, how will you persuade the Chinese to adjust their policies?

Please describe your understanding of Russia and its role in the world today.

What should the size of the United States Navy be?

What should the size of the United States Marine Corps be?

Is the era of American exceptionalism and global leadership over, and if not, how is the perception of decline to be reversed?

These are not trick questions, and they are not easy questions. What they are are the most important questions, and they deserve to be asked in a level tone of voice with ample opportunity provided each candidate to answer them.

The dynamic of television and the past experience of television producers pushes them and the hosts they control towards a needlessly frenetic pace and contrived collisions, often over the silliest of issues.

These are the big issues, the “3 o’clock in the morning” issues, and they cannot be rushed through like a Double Jeopardy round. It is likely that they would not lead to much direct sparring between the candidates, but these questions would produce a clear view of the readiness of each individual to serve as Commander-in-Chief while also providing a reliable guide to those candidates’ core convictions on the minimum military strength necessary to maintain American security in the increasingly dangerous world.


These are not the sort of questions that will earn moderators cheers from the Occupy Wall Street protesters or even from their Manhattan-Beltway media elite tribe.

But they are the key questions facing a new president, the sort of questions that President Obama avoided answering with candor and precision, much to the regret of the friends of Israel, national security and America’s position in the world.

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