James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Campaign 2012 Roundup: Perry on Iran

by James M. Lindsay
November 9, 2011

Rick Perry speaks during a visit to plastics manufacturer. (Mary Chastain/courtesy Reuters)

Rick Perry is making his media rounds. He discussed defense and foreign policy with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour. The veteran foreign correspondent asked if a President Perry would advocate a preemptive American strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Perry pointed out that the United States has few good options:

Well, here’s where we find ourselves with two really bad—positions. We’re either going to allow this madman to have become—a in control of a nuclear device or we are going to have a nuclear strike, or excuse me—a military strike—a to keep that from occurring, either the Israelis unilaterally, or—in a bilateral—or multilateral way— with their allies.

When Amanpour pressed for a yes or no answer, Perry said:

I never would take a military option off the table when it comes to dealing with this individual.

So count that as “maybe.” That’s the position the Obama White House has taken.

Perry went on to argue that Obama missed an opportunity to oust the current Iranian regime in 2009, and that the United States should be “actively involved” in removing the regime from power. Perhaps Perry will expand on how he would do this at Saturday night’s debate.

Perry similarly criticized Obama’s foreign policy when he sat down with Bill O’Reilly. The Texas governor is not giving the president credit for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden:

I promise you, those Navy SEALs that took out bin Laden, they knew what they were doing a long time before the president of the United States took office. So please don’t come in here and say, ‘I inherited all these problems and over here, I did all this.’

No thank you, Mr. President. We know how those things were done. It was because of the dedication and the focus and the professional of the military men and women of this country, not because he ended up being the president.

Perry may not think that Obama deserves some foreign policy credit, but the American public begs to differ. Gallup released a poll today showing that 63 percent of Americans give the president a thumbs up in handling of terrorism. And more Americans approve than disapprove of his handling of Iraq, Afghanistan, and foreign policy more generally.

Those numbers have to make the White House happy. But the fact that French journalists inadvertently overheard Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably didn’t. GOP presidential candidates have been quick to wave a finger. Michele Bachmann called on Obama to apologize to Netanyahu:

Today we learned in word what we have already seen from President Obama through his actions, his lack of commitment to the nation of Israel. When the president complains about his relationship derisively with the prime minister as ‘Having to deal with him every day,’ it is apparent that he is not committed to our ally Israel.

I call on the president to immediately apologize to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he should demonstrate leadership and demand that the French president do the same.

Bachmann also tied the incident to new reports about Iran’s nuclear weapons activity:

President Obama has been leading from behind in the Middle East and has put daylight between the United States and Israel in asking them to retreat to their 1967 indefensible borders. And now he has put Israel further at risk, but allowing Iran the time to get closer to obtaining nuclear weapons as we learned from the IAEA just yesterday. The President shouldn’t be complaining about ‘dealing’ with the Israeli’s every day, he should be fostering our relationship with the country that has been our longstanding ally and the one true democracy in the region. From the day I am elected president, I will stand with Israel and will make it clear that the United States will have Israel’s back.

In an opinion piece for CNBC, Jon Huntsman argues that economic policy and foreign policy are interdependent:

We need a 21st Century foreign policy that expands our economic engagement in the world through free trade agreements.

As a former governor and 3-time U.S. Ambassador, I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous opportunities of free trade.

95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and with the U.S. party to only 17 of more than 300 trade agreements worldwide, opening more markets for American businesses will be a priority of my administration.

We will pursue new trade opportunities, particularly across the Pacific, with Japan, India, Taiwan and Brazil. We will make completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership a priority, as well as support the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization Negotiations, which will benefit both developed and developing nations.

Tonight, the GOP presidential candidates meet at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan at 8 p.m. to discuss economic policy. In advance of the debate, Bloomberg News discusses the impact of the debates so far in this primary season.

Congress’s super committee now has precisely two weeks to strike a deal on a long-term deficit reduction plan. The Wall Street Journal offers some reason for optimism, the New York Times offers some reason for pessimism, and the Washington Post offers both.

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