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Defense / NATIONAL SECURITY

What the Experts Want to Ask the GOP Presidential Candidates

November 7, 2011

Meet the Experts

Nicholas Burns

Nicholas Burns

Quick Bio: Harvard professor, former diplomat
Key Question: "Are you willing to put your money behind the rhetoric of American exceptionalism?"

Dean Cheng

Dean Cheng

Quick Bio: Research fellow at Heritage Foundation
Key Question: “What new, non-military measures would you ... employ to counter China's influence around the world?"

William Courtney

William Courtney

Quick Bio: Former ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan
Key Question: "Is Afghanistan another Vietnam?"

Patrick Cronin

Patrick Cronin

Quick Bio: Senior fellow at CNAS
Key Question: "What have we failed to do to promote real trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific or elsewhere?"

Kori Schake

Kori Schake

Quick Bio: Hoover Institution fellow, West Point professor
Key Question: “I would ask the candidates to be specific about the policies they would endorse to manage the rise of China.”

As Republican presidential candidates prepare to square off in the NJ/CBS Foreign Policy debate on Saturday, we asked five foreign policy experts questions they would ask the candidates. After the debate Saturday, the experts will evaluate how the candidates performed in this space. Here's a look at the experts' questions: 

Nicholas Burns is an international policy and diplomacy professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. He served in the foreign service for 27 years and was the State Department's under secretary for political affairs during the George W. Bush administration. 

  • "I would ask them are they willing to invest in U.S. global leadership, which means robust funding and a big government approach to both the State and Defense Departments. The rhetoric defending the United States as exceptional is fine, but the fact is you cannot sustain U.S. leadership and cut $5 billion from the State Department budget, as House Republicans propose doing. Nor can you sustain U.S. leadership by making Washington irrelevant. So are you willing to put your money behind the rhetoric of American exceptionalism?
  • Also, how committed are you to preserving America’s critical alliances in terms of NATO, and our Asian alliances with Japan and South Korea. Preserving them will also require a lot more than just promises. It will require a spending on defense and diplomacy. Are you willing to make those investments in U.S. leadership?"

Dean Cheng is a research fellow in the Asian Studies Program at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. He is also a former senior congressional analyst on Asia issues.

 
  • "Although we have just finally signed the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea free trade agreements, this administration has yet to clearly state a trade policy. If you were elected President, what would be your top free trade priorities?
  • The debt-ceiling deal requires defense cuts, should the Super Committee fail to reach an acceptable budget-cutting plan. But [Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta and [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton have said that we will "pivot" towards East Asia and also maintain commitments to the Middle East. As President and Commander-in-Chief, where would you rank commitments to Asian security, relative to Europe, to the Middle East, and to South America?
  • China has been using more than military power to gain influence around the world, including economic investments, diplomatic pressure, and political engagement from Africa to South America. What new, non-military measures would you ... employ to counter China's influence around the world?"

William Courtney is the former senior director of the National Security Council staff for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. He also served as ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan.

  • "Is Afghanistan another Vietnam? In both cases America sends large numbers of troops to fight and train local military forces, but corrupt governments fail to gain wide political legitimacy. Will the government in Afghanistan collapse when Americans are pulled out, just like in Vietnam?
  • Arctic ice is melting faster than earlier predictions, and this will raise sea levels. What will you do to protect low-lying areas in America, such as much of Florida?
  • The Bush Administration sharply increased foreign aid, a valuable tool to stabilize impoverished, ungoverned spaces where terrorists can find safe haven. Is the current Republican initiative in the House to slash foreign aid going to make America less safe?"

Patrick Cronin is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former top official at USAID and the National Defense University 

  • "Secretary Clinton has written recently that America needs to pivot from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a deeper engagement across a dynamic Indo-Pacific or Asia-Pacific region. Do you agree or disagree and why? 
  • For the past decade U.S. military forces have focused on counterinsurgency and prevailing in the current wars; as we draw down from Iraq and Afghanistan, against what threats or potential threats should our military forces be designed and procured?
  • Debt, trade imbalance and economy are reducing our security. What have we failed to do to promote real trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific or elsewhere? What would you be doing differently?"

Kori Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of international security studies at West Point. She served in both the State Department and on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

  • “I would ask the candidates to be specific about the policies they would endorse to manage the rise of China. There has been a consensus across several administrations that we must engage China constructively. Do the candidates think that it is strictly a U.S.-China bilateral issue, or do they think the United States needs to build stronger alliances with India, Australia, Japan, and other nations in the region to counter-balance a rising China? 
  • Governor Perry had a hard time with a question of how to handle a Pakistan that has a growing nuclear arsenal, and that simultaneously acts as both a friend and adversary of the United States. That requires a sophisticated strategy towards Pakistan, and I haven’t heard any of the candidates articulate one yet.
  • I would ask their view of the Obama administration’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons, particularly since it would seem to offer incentives for threshold nuclear states to actually acquire a nuclear weapon to reach near-parity with nuclear states with rapidly declining arsenals."

(RELATED: How the Experts Rate the GOP Presidential Debaters)

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