“Oh my God” was the refrain that kept going through my mind as I watched the Republican presidential candidates talk about their positions on foreign policy at their debate over the weekend.
I did not expect the surprises that I heard. At least two candidates supported torture, saying it was necessary to acquire information to protect America.
Oh my God.
Rick Perry advocated a reduction of aid to Pakistan. Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum did not agree and argued in favor of foreign aid, but Santorum still spoke most about military aid.
Foreign aid, especially non-military aid, is important because it helps meet the basic needs of human beings, and allows the recipient country to strengthen its civil society so that it can become more stable, thereby allowing it to contain the forces of violence and confusion. This is known as soft power. I call it positive power, and it walks hand in hand with the hard or negative power of military force to create smart power. The candidates are clueless regarding this aspect of peace theory.
Oh my God.
Later in the debate, Michelle Bachmann suggested the United States emulate China and end the food stamp program, social security, and aid to poor families.
Oh my God.
Mitt Romney seems to think that it is a good idea to keep a military presence in Iraq, as if the United States has not already spent enough time, treasure and blood in that country. Moreover, Romney’s rhetoric of American exceptionalism, of the United States leading the free world and thus leading the whole world betrays an utter lack of understanding about the character of the post-imperial, post-colonial, post-cold war world.
Oh my God.
Emerging powers such as Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa will not simply genuflect before any American pronouncements. None of the candidates spoke of the importance of a rapprochement between India and Pakistan as an important element of making peace in that region. The 21st century will not be an American or Chinese century; it will be a century of international cooperation.
But the most stunning thing I heard was a proposal that the United States spur regime change in Iran through covert action as a way to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon. This is utter nonsense given the history of the U.S. meddling in Iran. In 1953, popular Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mossaddeq’s rule came to an abrupt end because of a coup funded by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
After Mossaddeq came the Shah of Iran and his brutal regime that was friendly to the United States. Then came the Islamic revolution. Similarly, it is possible that the CIA had its fingerprints on a series of coups in Iraq that led to Saddam Hussein taking control of that country. And the United Sates supported Hussein for many years.
If history teaches us anything, it is that when the U.S. meddles in the internal affairs of another country through secrets, lies, murder, and war, it more often than not has ugly unintended consequences. The way to stop Iran’s nuclear program is through patient and persistent diplomacy that will persuade the international community to isolate the current Iranian regime.
Time is not on Iran's side. The young Iranians will change their nation for the better, and if Newt Gingrich, the historian and the intellectual among the candidates does not recognize this. . . . Oh my God.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com . She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.