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FOREIGN POLICY DOSSIER: Rick Santorum FOREIGN POLICY DOSSIER: Rick Santorum

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Election 2012

CAMPAIGN 2012

FOREIGN POLICY DOSSIER: Rick Santorum

The former Pennsylvania senator, having spent eight years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been touting his foreign-policy and national-security experience on Capitol Hill in his presidential campaign. He’s talked up his sponsorship of both the 2003 Syria Accountability Act, which led to economic sanctions against Damascus, and the Iran Freedom Support Act, authorizing funds for opposition groups in Iran. And he has plenty of words for what he calls President Obama’s “confused foreign policy in the hottest spots in the world.”

He's particularly hawkish on Iran, and has said he'd work with Israel to determine the "proper military response" after the latest report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog cites evidence alleging Iran is working clandestinely to build an atomic bomb.

 

I HAVE "EXPERIENCE" WITH IRAN. Santorum said the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “could fundamentally change this world.” During his time in the Senate, he “focused like a laser beam” on Iran, introducing sanctions on its nuclear program in the form of the Iran Freedom Support Act.

PREPARED TO AUTHORIZE MILITARY ACTION. Santorum, in a CNBC blog post, argued that the U.S. must work with Israel to determine the "proper military response" needed to stabilize the region, protect our allies and protect this country. "If that includes targeted airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, then I am prepared to authorize that action," he writes. "In response to this latest revelation outlined in the IAEA’s report, I would work with Israel to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat immediately and put provisions in place to assist any pro-democracy uprising in the Iran."

SYRIA ACTION SHOULD BE STEPPED UP … BECAUSE OF IRAN. While Santorum said he wouldn’t suggest sending U.S. troops into the country where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is cracking down on his own people, he advocated for working “vehemently and vigilantly with the people in Syria” and going after the strongman “covertly or otherwise.” This, he said, would show the Iranians that “we are going to stand up to them.”

 

IRAQ: 30,000 TROOPS TO KEEP COUNTRY STABLE. Like many other GOP hopefuls who have criticized Obama for pulling out virtually all 43,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, Santorum said he’s “not for taking [U.S. troops] out of the region.” The administration needs “to listen to our generals—and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq,” he said. “The Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection." While American commanders had reportedly been requesting a presence of roughly 10,000 to 15,000 troops to remain in the country, Santorum said: "We need to have anywhere—I'm hearing numbers of 20,000, 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition."

GETTING "BOGGED DOWN" WITH AFGHANISTAN. Santorum was grilled in the media for giving a major foreign-policy address for more than a half hour that mentioned many countries—like Iran and Venezuela—but made no mention of Afghanistan. When pressed after the speech at the National Press Club, Santorum said he didn’t want to get "bogged down” but rather “paint more of a larger vision of our overall policy.” He then criticized Obama’s plan to withdraw surge troops from Afghanistan, objecting to the administration setting limits on time and resources in the war effort.

STEP UP ENGAGEMENT WITH PAKISTAN. Santorum said the U.S. has to step up its engagement with Pakistan and pressure the country to rout out militants in its lawless border areas. “We have tolerated a lot of bad behavior on the part of Pakistan, particularly in the area of Waziristan, and we have not done what President Bush did originally, which said you are either with us or you were against us,” he said in a May debate. The U.S., Santorum said, needs to issue an ultimatum to Islamabad: Side with the U.S., or not receive American aid.

NOT AN ISOLATIONIST IN LIBYA. Santorum blasted his GOP rivals’ “very isolationist view” of U.S. engagement when it comes to Libya. “We could have been a source for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning,” Santorum said in a June debate. “He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to, which is something that Ronald Reagan would have melted like the Old Wicked Witch of the West before he would have allowed that to happen.” Fact: Amid division within the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pushed for a resolution that went even beyond establishing a no-fly zone, introducing a resolution authorizing members to deploy all necessary actions.

 

WAR WITH CHINA? In one of the bigger foreign-policy gaffes in the debates so far, Santorum told rival Mitt Romney in October he doesn’t want to go to a trade war with China. Instead, he said, “I want to beat China. I want to go to war with China and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business." Santorum may not have specified exactly what kind of war he’s envisioned, but headlines like “Rick Santorum Declared War On China” ensued.

ISLAM HARD FOR U.S. TO "DEAL WITH." Santorum caused a ruckus at Bates College in March when he told students that Islam is stuck in the seventh century and that people who try to modernize Islam “get killed.” When pressed on these remarks during a May debate, Santorum insisted he’s not “anti-Islam,” but recognizes the “reality” that the spreading “version of Islam” practiced in the Middle East “is not going to be one that we can deal with very easily.”

STANDING WITH ISRAEL. Santorum, like many other GOP contenders, slammed Obama for “turning his back on Israel” and “complaining about settlements in Jerusalem, the capital of the country.” During an appearance on C-SPAN, he called for the U.S. to stand by Israel “especially at a time when it increasingly appears to be standing alone.” Referencing the Arab Spring, Santorum said the “recent dislocation of the old order in the Middle East will usher in a new one and anti-Israel elements are working overtime all across the world to take advantage of this opportunity.”

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CALLS FOR DEFUNDING OF UNITED NATIONS. Santorum says he has been a longtime advocate of defunding the United Nations “because evidence shows the organization to be corrupt.”

DEFENSE BUDGET CUTS "WRONG SIGNAL." Santorum has criticized Obama for advocating $450 billion in defense cuts over the next decade—though Pentagon leaders say they have accepted these planned cuts and are working to find reductions. In April, Santorum said reductions to the military budget sends the “wrong signal, wrong effort at the wrong time,” arguing that “now is not only the time to be increasing our military preparedness but to finish the task of comprehensive missile defense systems. Nothing is more helpful [to negotiations] toward peace, as Ronald Reagan showed, as overwhelming strength and defense.”

Rodney Hawkins contributed contributed to this article.

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