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What Insiders Want to Ask the Candidates for the Nov. 12 NJ/CBS Debate What Insiders Want to Ask the Candidates for the Nov. 12 NJ/CBS Debate

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National Security / NATIONAL SECURITY

What Insiders Want to Ask the Candidates for the Nov. 12 NJ/CBS Debate

photo of Sara Sorcher
November 7, 2011

National Journal and CBS News will host a Republican debate focusing on foreign policy and national security on Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. We asked our National Security Insiders, a pool of defense and foreign policy experts, to give us some suggestions on what questions to ask the Republican contenders. Separately, our experts are blogging about how they would rate the candidates' performances on these issues during their respective campaigns so far.

ASIA

The U.S./China relationship is one of the most complicated in the world, and headed to become more so. As president, what are your expectations for it and how would you manage it?

 

Our allies in the Asia-Pacific theater (Japan, Phillipines, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia) are being challenged more and more by China with territorial disputes or other forms of diplomatic bullying. What should the U.S. do diplomatically and militarily vis a vis China to buttress and support our friends in the region?

What will a "Pacific century" mean in terms of U.S. defense spending in an age of austerity? Is it reasonable to cut our ground forces at the expense of our naval and air forces to better position ourselves for the security challenges of Asia?

How would you describe the relationship with China? What will the relationship look like at the end of your administration?

IRAQ

Knowing what you know now, was the Iraq War a mistake? Specifically, was it a mistake for the United States to have invaded Iraq in March 2003? Did any of you speak out against the war before it started? If you did not, but now have doubts, why should Americans trust you to exercise good judgment as president if you failed to do so when in a position of power and influence in late 2002 and early 2003?

What lessons have you taken away from the war in Iraq, and how would they inform your conduct of foreign policy as president? If you believe that we should have invaded, should we have sent more troops? Should we have planned to stay there longer?

Did President Bush make a mistake when he negotiated an agreement with the Iraqis to remove all forces by the end of 2011? Do you believe U.S. troops should have remained in Iraq even if the Iraqi government refused to extend them conventional legal protections that we enjoy in other countries, including the right to be tried in U.S. courts? Or would you have subjected U.S. troops to Iraqi laws and Iraqi courts?

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Why are we in Afghanistan and do you think we should stay?

Should we leave Afghanistan in 2014?

How does your policy for Afghanistan differ from the administration's?

What will you do about terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan?

IRAN

Do you believe the military option should be kept "on the table" in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue? If so, what consequences do you believe would result from initiating a war with Iran? How would U.S. interests be affected?

As a last-resort option, would you support an Israeli attack upon known Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?

There is much speculation about an impending unilateral strike by Israel against Iran's nuclear-related sites. What is your position on this? Should the U.S. support Israel in this action, or should we intervene to prevent such a strike?

DEFENSE BUDGET

[The Defense Department] spends more on health care than all of its weapons systems combined. Current cost projections are not sustainable in today's budget environment. What would you do to rein in military and veterans health care expenses while still honoring their service?

The last three defense build-downs have lowered defense budgets an average of 30 percent in constant dollars over 10 years. The Budget Control Act would lower projected defense budgets 8 percent; a trillion-dollar reduction over 10 years would be a 17-percent reduction in projected budgets. Isn't this a relatively modest change, compared to our past experience?

At a time of budgetary stringency, how much should the U.S. national intelligence budget be cut and should the Director of National Intelligence have greater control than he now does over those cuts?

GLOBAL ECONOMY

Is it in the U.S. interest to have China involved in rescuing Greece and the rest of Europe from their debt and euro crises? Do you believe it better to avoid new taxes, triggering the legal requirement for mandatory cuts in defense programs, or to compromise on the tax issue in order avoid such cuts?

Do you consider economic security the basis of national security? If so, how should we be reinforcing our economic position in the world?

We are part of a global economy. What are your views on the eurozone crisis and what should the U.S. position be?

U.S. LEADERSHIP

How can the United States orchestrate international solutions to transnational problems without maintaining a leadership role in the U.N.?

When, where, and why should the United States seek regime change in unfriendly countries?

Herman Cain says that he would strengthen national defense. What, specifically, does he mean by that? More ground troops? More ships? More airplanes? More wars? What?

Do you support a broad-ranging democracy agenda? If so, how should we relate to Saudi Arabia?

Will you be willing, for the sake of the country, to put aside the campaign rhetoric and partisan differences to find the middle ground where the real progress occurs?

How involved should the U.S. remain in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank, NATO, Organization of American States? In an age of austerity, how should we be rethinking our contributions and commitment?

LIBYA

Was Libya a prototype for future activities, or an aberration? Why Libya but not Syria?

What do you believe is the proper role of the U.S. now in Libya?

ISRAEL

Should the United States take a different approach to the Israel-Palestine peace process? If so, what should it be?

Do you believe the policies of the current Israeli government, including policies toward the occupied territories, are fully consistent with U.S. interests? On any matters on which they are not consistent, how do you intend to advance and protect U.S. interests?

MEXICO

How should the U.S. address the "war on drugs in Mexico" and threats from transnational criminal organizations in the Americas?

Is Mexico a threat to our security? In April, President Obama meets with all of his hemispheric colleagues except Cuba at the Summit of the Americas; what should he say to them?

TERROR

What would you do with captured terrorists—try them in U.S. courts, allow CIA agents to question them, or hold them in Guantanamo Bay?

MISCELLANEOUS

What do you view as the greatest security threat to the United States, and how do you plan to address it?

What are the principal external threats facing the United States today?

What policies of President Obama would you continue?

America has made regrettable foreign-policy decisions during the past 50 years, from expansion in Vietnam to justifications for Iraq intervention to backing for autocrats from Marcos to Duvalier to Hussein to Mubarak. Why do we believe we are somehow exceptional? Isn't humility a better approach to viewing and presenting our country?


    National Journal’s National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of defense and foreign-policy experts. They include:

    Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Kit Bond, Paula Broadwell, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Richard Danzig, Andrew Exum, Eric Farnsworth, William Fallon, Jacques Gansler, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Donald Kerrick, Lawrence Korb, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, James Lindsay, Trent Lott, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Kevin Nealer, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Dov Zakheim.

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