STEIN: Well, we already are taking a side in Yemen.
Q: But should we be?
STEIN: Yeah, we certainly should not be taking a side in Yemen. We are party to the war crimes that are being committed by Saudi Arabia, who's using cluster bombs made by us. And we've supplied $100 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis, who have been massively committing human rights abuses. It's against our own laws. The Leahy bill requires that we not sell weapons to human rights abusers. So just in accord with our own policies, we should not have anything to do with Yemen.
Q: What happens if the Houthis take over Yemen? If the U.S. disengages in Yemen, how does ISIS respond?
STEIN: Well, the point is, ISIS needs to be deprived of its nutrition and its life-blood. That's why we need to start an arms embargo, that's why we need to cut off the funding that flows through our allies, in particular.
CLINTON: With respect to Libya, there's no difference between my opponent and myself. He's on record extensively supporting intervention in Libya, when Gadhafi was threatening to massacre his population. I put together a coalition that included NATO, included the Arab League, and we were able to save lives. We did not lose a single American in that action. And I think taking that action was the right decision. Not taking it, and permitting there to be an ongoing civil war in Libya, would have been as dangerous and threatening as what we are now seeing in Syria.
TRUMP: She made a terrible mistake on Libya. And not only did she make the mistake, but then they complicated the mistake by having no management once they bombed the you-know-what out of Gadhafi.
TRUMP: She made a terrible mistake on Libya. And not only did she make the mistake, but then they complicated the mistake by having no management once they bombed the you-know-what out of Gadhafi.
USA TODAY Fact-Check: This isn't the first time Trump has ignored his past support for the U.S. intervention in Libya. During the 10th GOP debate, Trump said he had "never discussed that subject" when Sen. Ted Cruz called him out on supporting U.S. action in the country. But Trump said in a February 2011 YouTube video that the U.S. should go into Libya "on a humanitarian basis" and "knock [Gadhafi] out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively and save the lives."
I am totally prepared. But remember this. I found this subject and these subjects of interest all of my life. This hasn't been over the last 14 months. I've found these substantiates of tremendous interest. That's why they were asking me about Iraq 14 years ago. They were asking me these questions. They don't ask businesspeople those questions.
Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to. I'm doing a lot of different things. I am studying. You see General Flynn and you see some of the folks that we have, and they're scattered throughout the audience. So we have admirals, we have generals, we have colonels. We have a lot of people that I respect.
STEIN: Well, criminal? Does it violate international law? Yes. I think it does violate international law.
Q: What violates international law?
STEIN: For example, sending in the troops to Libya. Sending in the troops to Iraq for that matter. I think the criteria for invading other countries is that we need to be under imminent threat. And I think it would be hard to establish that we were under imminent threat, say, in Libya. Or in Iraq for that matter. I would argue that this is not consistent with international law or human rights, and that that should be the basis of our foreign policy going forward. We're proposing essentially a weapons embargo, a freeze on the bank accounts of countries who continue to fund terrorist enterprises and also we call on allies like Turkey to close their borders to the movement of jihadi groups.
Q [to Kasich]: Would you put ground troops in Libya?
KASICH: We absolutely have to be -- and not just with special forces. I mean, that's not going to work. We have to be there on the ground in significant numbers. We do have to include our Muslim Arab friends to work with us on that. And we have to be in the air. It should be a broad coalition, made up of the kinds of people that were involved when we defeated Saddam. Now, you've got to be on the ground and in the air both in Syria and Iraq. And at some point, we will have to deal with Libya. I am very concerned about ISIS getting their hands on the oilfields in Libya & being able to fund their operations. The fact is cool, calm, deliberate, effective, take care of the job, and then come home. That's what we need to do with our military foreign policy.
RUBIO: That's correct, and Libya.
Q: Because military commanders say the biggest ISIS threat to Europe now is coming from Libya, not Syria?
Q: So if you're for putting more U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria, are you also ready to send U.S. ground troops on the ground in Libya?
RUBIO: Well, what I've argued from the very beginning is that in order to defeat ISIS, you must deny them operating spaces. Today that operating space has largely been based in Iraq and Syria, but I've been warning about the Libyan presence for the better part of two years. So they need to be targeted wherever they have an operating space. They can only be defeated if they are driven out and the territory is held by Sunni Arabs. But it will require a specific number of American special operators, in combination with an increase in air strikes.
TRUMP: I was in favor of Libya? I never discussed that subject. We would be so much better off if Gadhafi were in charge right now. If these politicians went to the beach and didn't do a thing, and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gadhafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, at least they killed terrorists, all right? And I'm not saying they were good--because they were bad, they were really bad--but we don't know what we're getting. You look at Libya right now, ISIS, as we speak, is taking over their oil. As we speak, it's a total mess. We would have been better off if the politicians took a day off instead of going into war.
CLINTON: Libya is a little different [than Syria]. Libya actually held elections. They elected moderates. They have tried to piece together a government against a lot of really serious challenges internally coming from the outside with terrorist groups and other bad actors. Let's remember what was going on at the time. This was at the height of the Arab spring. The people in Libya were expressing themselves, were demanding their freedom, and Gadhafi responded brutally. Now, they had an election, and it was a fair election, it met international standards. That was an amazing accomplishment for a nation that had been so deprived for so long. This doesn't happen overnight. And, yes, it's been a couple of years. I think it's worth European support, Arab support, American support to try to help the Libyan people realize the dream that they had when they went after Gadhafi.
CLINTON: [After the Arab Spring revolution in 2011], we formed the first coalition between NATO and Arab nations. Arab nations actually ran a lot of the air campaign and other support systems. It made sense for us to bring our special assets to the table to help the people of Libya. [Now in 2016] they're working to try to unify the different factions inside Libya so that they can take united action against the terrorists and try to get the east and the west of the country working together. I know the United States has taken some actions against terrorists inside Libya, particularly ISIS training camps, and I support that, because I want to give the people of Libya a chance to actually form a government and realize the promise of getting rid of Gadhafi, who had so oppressed the country for more than 40 years.
SANDERS: Where Secretary Clinton and I disagree is the area of regime change. We can overthrow dictators all over the world. The point about foreign policy is not just to overthrow a dictator, it's to understand what happens the day after. In Libya, Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, working with some other countries, did get rid of a terrible dictator named Gadhafi. But what happened is ISIS came in and now occupies significant territory in Libya. But this is nothing new. This has gone on 50 or 60 years where the United States has been involved in overthrowing governments.
CLINTON: I do not believe a vote in 2002 [for the Iraq war] is a plan to defeat ISIS in 2016. It's important we focus on the threats we face today. When people vote, they are voting for the commander-in- chief. It's important that people look at who is best prepared for dealing with them. Senator Obama, when he ran against me, was against the war in Iraq. Yet he turned to me, trusting my judgment, my experience, to become secretary of state.
GRAHAM: I want to talk to General Keane first. I want to find out, what do we need militarily to keep them contained and eventually destroy them in Libya? They're in nine countries. You want to deal with Libya, go to Iraq and Syria. You want to prevent another 9/11, take the caliphate headquarters away from ISIL. There is no other way to do it without a ground force going into Syria.
The list goes on and on. Our ill-advised attempts to shape the outcomes of civil wars and replace bad guys with slightly less bad guys have not only failed, but have created vacuums that are today being filled by the politics of Sharia.
The cost of those interventions has been tremendous, with too many of our young men and women of the military killed and wounded... and trillions of dollars spent ineffectively.
The Egyptians are asking us to share intelligence, we are not, I will. The Kurds have asked us to arm them for three years, we are not, I would. The Egyptians, the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Bahrainis, the Emirati, the Kurds--all of these understand ISIS is their fight, but they must see leadership support and resolve from the United States of America. We have the strongest military on the face of the planet, and everyone has to know it.
TRUMP: Assad is a bad guy, but we have no idea who the so-called rebels--nobody even knows who they are.
Carly FIORINA: Governor Bush is correct. We must have a no fly zone in Syria.
TRUMP: So, I don't like Assad. Who's going to like Assad? But, we have no idea who these people, and what they're going to be, and what they're going to represent. They may be far worse than Assad. Look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Look at the mess we have after spending $2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place--we have nothing. And, I said, keep the oil. And we should have kept the oil, believe me. We should have kept the oil. And, you know what? We should have given big chunks of the oil to the people that lost their arms, their legs, and their families, and their sons, and daughters, because right now, you know who has a lot of that oil? Iran, and ISIS.
CRUZ: Of course, it would.
Q: Gaddafi, Saddam, Assad, if they're strongmen, they keep stability?
CRUZ: It wasn't even close that Libya under Gaddafi was better for US interests than the chaos now that is allowed jihadists to gain strength.
Q: What about Iraq under Saddam?
CRUZ: It wasn't even close.
Q: Do you think Iraq would be more stable today under a strong man like Saddam?
CRUZ: Based on what we know now, should we have gone into Iraq? No, of course not. It was based on the belief that they had weapons of mass destruction that they would use against us.
He's trying to destroy NATO. He is exploiting a vacuum that this administration has left in the Middle East. The Russians will begin to fly combat missions in that region, not just targeting ISIS, but in order to prop up Assad. Putin will say, "America is no longer a reliable ally, Egypt. America is no longer a reliable ally, Saudi Arabia. Rely on us."
FIORINA: We could rebuild the Sixth Fleet [the US' main force in the Mediterranean Sea]. I will. We haven't. We could rebuild the missile defense program. We haven't. I will. We could also, to Senator Rubio's point, give the Egyptians what they've asked for, which is intelligence. Bombs and materiel. We have not supplied it.We could arm the Kurds. They've been asking us for three years. All of this is within our control.
Bernie is against the expansion of NATO because it provokes unnecessary aggression from Russia. Moreover, he believes European nations should fund more of the costs of an alliance primarily intended to protect their continent.
Q: What is Bernie's opinion on NATO expansion?
A: He's against it, claiming it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and not geo-politically sound. In 1997, Bernie said: "After four decades of the cold war and trillions of taxpayer dollars allocated to compete in the arms race, it is not the time to continue wasting billions helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming any costs associated with expanding NATO eastward." Bernie opposes eastward expansion because he's not interested in revisiting the Cold War era when Russia and the US were constantly pitted against each other.
WALKER: We need to focus on the ones we have. You look at Egypt, probably the best relationship we've had in Israel, at least in my lifetime, incredibly important. You look at the Saudis--in fact, earlier this year, I met with Saudi leaders, and leaders from the United Arab Emirates, and I asked them what's the greatest challenge in the world today? Set aside the Iran deal. They said it's the disengagement of America. We are leading from behind under the Obama-Clinton doctrine--America's a great country. We need to stand up and start leading again, and we need to have allies, not just in Israel, but throughout the Persian Gulf.
JINDAL: I think a bad deal is worse than no deal. I fear this administration could start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Sunni countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are likely going to want their own nuclear capabilities This would be a threat to Israel, to Europe, to America. We're talking about an existential threat to the region, to the United States. Never mind the fact that we're not even asking Iran to recognize Israel, to cut off ties to terrorism, to release American prisoners. I'm just talking about giving up enriched uranium, giving up all their centrifuges, anytime, anywhere inspections. Those are the basic tenets of a basic deal. And it doesn't look like we're getting any of those things.
The administration's feckless response to Benghazi was emblematic of President Obama's long-standing approach to radical Islamic terrorism--three words that almost never enter his vocabulary in the same sentence. In his worldview, the real root problem behind terrorism is disaffected youth who have been antagonized by American and Western imperialism. He and his administration dogmatically refuse to call terrorism "Islamic" or "Islamist," nor will they reference "jihad."
Our nation was not founded on fear, or on revenge, or on retribution. Freedom, justice, equal rights before the law, and a fierce belief in the dignity of every human being--these are the foundational notions of what it means to be American. Our values are our treasures, and the death penalty is incompatible with them.
Nevertheless, advocates of the death penalty will argue that the death penalty is firmly rooted in our legal tradition, extending to its roots in England. But just as our notions on equality and civil liberties have rightfully changed since the early days of the republic, it is time to reconsider the place of the death penalty in our criminal justice system--and whether we should, as a nation, replace the death penalty with life without parole.
PAUL: Interestingly, many of the hawks in my party line right up with President Obama. The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her. Their only difference was in degree. They wanted to go into Libya as well. Some of the hawks in my party, you can't find a place on the globe they don't want boots on the ground.
Q: And that's their point, that you're to the left of all them.
PAUL: No, my point is, is that they are actually agreeing with Hillary Clinton and agreeing with Pres. Obama that the war in Libya was a good idea. I'm not agreeing with either one of them. I'm saying that that war made us less safe, that it allowed radical Islam to rise up in Libya. There are now large segments of Libya that are pledging allegiance to ISIS, supplying arms to the Islamic rebels in the Syrian war.
HUCKABEE: Well, a lot of people don't know my first trip to the Middle East was in 1973, 42 years ago, when I was all of 17. I have been to the Middle East several dozen times. Just got back from Israel last month, was there three times just last year. I have been to virtually every country that we talk about, whether it's Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Turkey, Pakistan, India. This is a part of the world with which I am familiar firsthand. And as a governor, I also met with many world leaders, as well as CEOs of multinational corporations. And, frankly, most governors do. I think it's sometimes perceived that governors don't have much of a world view. I would tend to take issue that that is not always the case.
Paul said Hillary Clinton was to blame for what he described as foreign-policy failures: she was a proponent of interventions during popular uprisings against the ruling regimes in Libya and Syria. "Hillary's war in Libya has been an utter disaster," Paul said. "There are now jihadists roaming all across Libya. It's a jihadist wonderland."
The US was part of an international coalition to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power in 2011. "Gadhafi was a secular dictator," Paul said. "Not the kind of guy that we want to have representing us in country, but he was secular. He didn't like radical Islam, and he kept them down because they were a threat to him. What happened when we toppled the secular dictator? Chaos. More radical Islam."
In Syria, Paul said that Islamic State--a militant group operating in Syria and Iraq that is also known as ISIS--was essentially created by the US aid program under the Obama administration. "I think we have to do something about ISIS," he said. "But, you know why we're doing something and why we have to be there again? Because of a failed foreign policy that got us involved in a Syrian Civil War. By supporting the Islamic rebels, ISIS grew stronger and stronger. And now we have to go back."
Hillary's war in Libya is a prime example of acting without thinking. In Libya, jihadists swim in our embassy pool, and we are now more at risk from terrorist attacks than ever before.
Unfortunately, both parties too often seek military intervention without thinking through the possible unintended consequences. Many Republicans complain that we didn't send US ground troops or we didn't stay long enough.
The Middle East is in the midst of a 1,000-year war between Sunni and Shia--superimposed on a century-old war pitting a barbaric aberration of Islam against civilized Islam. We are foolish to believe we will solve this puzzle. We must defend vital American interests, but we must not be deluded into believing that we can remake the Middle East in an image of Western Democracy.
FIORINA: Yes, it is fair. Because American leadership matters in the world. American strength matters in the world. And it particularly matters when things are going wrong. I think President Obama has made two crucial errors. First, he confuses ending a war with securing the peace. And unfortunately, the way he ended the wars in Iraq and is attempting to end the war in Afghanistan are making both of those situations very, very troublesome. Secondly, he continues to believe that his words matter. And his words matter less and less because both our friends and our allies as well as our enemies have figured out that words do not signal intention. There is no execution behind them. And that creates a situation in which our allies believe they cannot count on us and our enemies believe they can ignore us.
"Like many other young people around the world, some of President Obama's aides in the White House were swept up in the drama and idealism of the moment as they watched the pictures from Tahrir Square on television. I shared the feeling. It was a thrilling moment. But along with Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, I was concerned that we not be seen as pushing a longtime partner out the door, leaving Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the region to an uncertain, dangerous future. (Pages 339-340)
"The President called me to express his unhappiness about the 'mixed messages' we were sending," she writes. "That's a diplomatic way of saying he took me to the woodshed."
There are some other instances throughout the book in which Clinton was in a different place than Obama, but this is the one of the only times in which she describes the president as genuinely unhappy with something that the State Department did.
On the President's actions during the Benghazi attack: Obama "gave the order to do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya. It was imperative that all possible resources be mobilized immediately. When Americans are under fire, that is not an order the Commander in Chief has to give twice. Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives--and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand."
RUBIO: Yes. No one has been accountable. I mean, who has been accountable for what happened in Benghazi? This administration has a tendency on foreign policy issues in particular, not to worry nearly as much about what to do, and to worry more about what to say. And they decided not just to mislead the American public, but to mislead the families of these victims as to exactly what had happened.
Q: But you have the Republican Party raising money off this investigation. Is that appropriate?
RUBIO: I would prefer that we would focus not on the fundraising elements or the political elements of it, because I think it takes away from the reality of how serious a situation this is.
Q: How big a problem is this going to be for Hillary Clinton?
RUBIO: She's going to have to be held accountable for the State Department's failures.
In a recent interview, Graham tied together different areas where he believes Obama has failed: "When you tell the world we're gonna find the people who killed our four Americans in Libya, including the ambassador, and you do nothing about it; whether you agree with his policy in Syria, Egypt, whether you agree with his policies, when he tells people there will be consequences, and there are none, it sets in motion exactly what you see."
Graham argued he wasn't harping on Benghazi for political reasons: "Everything I've done has been about what I think is best for the country. I think it's best to find the truth about Benghazi, when my primary's over, I'm gonna still be on Benghazi," he said.
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.
American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve--a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.
Benghazi will be the go-to bludgeon for Republicans if and when Clinton tries using her experience at State to run for president. Republicans are liable to use Benghazi as a wedge to pry back her stately exterior, goading her into an outburst, once again revealing the polarizing figure who saw vast right-wing conspiracies.
This denial of reality by the Administration must stop. To continue to receive American aid, Egypt must, at a minimum, adhere to its peace agreement with Israel and address the ongoing security situation in the Sinai.
Santorum said he has no "doubt" chemical weapons were used, but he is not sure which side used them, differing from the administration and most voices weighing in on the issue. "It wouldn't be a surprise to me that both sides were using them or that the radical Islamists are using them," Santorum said. "While I agree it is very clear that chemical weapons were used--the idea that we need to be punishing Assad and doing things to tip the balance in favor of al Qaeda who are running the rebel forces to me is a very questionable tactic of itself.
But Bolton said his view is the only one that works for the long term. "If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, say good-bye to the peace treaty with Israel and stability in Sinai," Bolton said. "Egypt has not yet succumbed to civil war, as Syria has, but it's getting close."
Bolton wrote: "The Muslim Brotherhood is not a normal political party as Westerners understand that term. It is an armed ideology--a militia that fires on its opponents and burns down churches. The Brotherhood, therefore, shares full blame for the continuing carnage. Should it ever regain power, whether through free elections or otherwise, it will never let go."
Today, Christians in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria are on the run--persecuted or under fire--and yet, we continue to send aid to the folks chasing them. While they burn the American flag and the mobs chant "Death to America," more of your money is sent to these haters of Christianity.
Even if all the atrocities to Christians were not occurring in these countries, we simply don't have the money to engage in this foolishness. We must borrow the money from China to send it to Pakistan.
It is clear that American taxpayer dollars are being used to enable a war on Christianity in the Middle East and I believe that must end.
"The president's He's trying to do his fair share," Paul said. "But within a few days, the president finds an extra $250 million dollars to send to Egypt." Paul was referring to money appropriated by Congress to help the new government in Egypt where protests against the US have included burning the America flag, and "where mobs attacked out embassy and chanted 'Death to America,' [but Obama] found an extra $250 million to reward them," Paul said.
All these pressures put enormous pressure on the State of Israel. We understand that. And we especially understand that if we make a mistake, it's not a threat to our existence. But if Israel makes a mistake, it could be a threat to its very existence. And that's why, from the moment the President took office, he has acted swiftly and decisively to make clear to the whole world and to Israel that even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not: our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel. That has not changed. That will not change as long as I and he are President and Vice President. It's in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.
A: I think that post the Arab revolutions that took place in Egypt and Libya and Tunisia, and elsewhere in the region, there was always going to be a period of adjustment. What we have to work for, along with the international community, is not to see these revolutions hijacked by extremists, not to see the return of dictatorial rule. It's hard going from decades under one party or one man rule, as somebody said, "waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy."
Q: Is President Morsi with us or not? He's said that the Holocaust didn't exist.
A: You have to look at the fact that the people now in power in these countries have never been in government, never had a chance to really learn how to run agencies or to make decisions. We don't condone what a lot of these leaders are doing, or failing to do. But we also know how important it is that we try to avoid even more extreme elements taking control of territory, even threatening a regime.
The very next morning, I told the American people that heavily armed militants assaulted our compound. I vowed to bring them to justice, and I stood with President Obama in the Rose Garden as he spoke of an act of terror.
It's also important to recall that in that same period, we were seeing violent attacks in our embassies, as well as large protests outside many other posts where our thousands of our diplomats serve. So, I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world with particularly scrutiny for high threat posts.
CLINTON: I had no knowledge of specific security requests. With regard to the situation in Libya, there were a number of meetings about this transition to elections.
RUBIO: At the Oct. 2011 & March 2012 meetings, did this issue come up with regards to the inability of the Libyan government to protect our diplomatic institutions?
CLINTON: We talked a great deal about th deteriorating threat environment in Libya.
RUBIO: Was there a specific conversation with regards to the inability of Libya to meet their obligations to provide security?
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely--a constant conversation. And what I found with the Libyans was willingness, but not capacity.
RUBIO: Before the attack, what had we done to help them build their security capacity?
CLINTON: Well, there's a long list, filled with training, with equipment, with planning that they had not done before.
STEIN: I think the priority is that we do not bypass the American people who have been routinely bypassed in most of the interventions in recent decades including Iraq and Libya. This is being done without the explicit permission from Congress and is a critical check and balance that has gotten lost in the shuffle and is a violation of the US Constitution and the war powers act. It is very dangerous when politicians declare war and exhaust economic resources and spill the blood of Americans and civilians overseas. Most of the conflicts of the last decade would not have happened had there been a national conversation and discussion about what the true risks and benefits of our national security were.
ROMNEY: With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation. But instead we've seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events.
OBAMA: With respect to Libya, [I said that] we would go after those who killed Americans, and we would bring them to justice. But I think it's important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. Now, keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to--without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq--liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, got rid of a despot who had killed Americans. And as a consequence, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marching and saying, "America's our friend. We stand with them." Now that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of.
OBAMA: No, I don't because I think that America has to stand with democracy. But now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities--and we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they're doing that--to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region. These countries can't develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need. They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us.
Q: [to Romney]: Would you have stuck with Mubarak?
ROMNEY: No, I supported the president's action there. I wish we'd have had a better vision of the future.
ROMNEY: This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a complete change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead we've seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in Libya an attack apparently by terrorists. Northern Mali has been taken over by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president. So what we're seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region.
Gary Johnson: Though we should leave all options on the table, drone strikes are a dangerous tool. There are unintended consequences from using them to kill targets in Pakistan and Yemen. We may get our target, but we can also create new enemies due to collateral damage. Drone strikes should be used with caution, and understanding that they may create more adversaries than they eliminate.
STEIN: It's very clear that there is blowback going on now across the Middle East, not only the unrest directed at the Libyan embassy. 75% of Pakistanis actually identify the US now as their enemy, not as their supporter or their ally. And, you know, in many ways, we're seeing a very ill-conceived, irresponsible and immoral war policy come back to haunt us, where US foreign policies have been based, unfortunately, on brute military force and wars for oil. Under my administration, we will have a foreign policy based on international law and human rights and the use of diplomacy.
OBAMA: When I went to Israel as a candidate, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable. And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that's how I've used my travels when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region.
STEIN: The tragedy in Libya, I think, is a very good case in point that really shows how this "get tough" international policy has really been extremely unproductive, has really produced the opposite effect of what was intended. And we're seeing this now not only in Libya, but in the demonstrations against U.S. embassies across the Middle East, in the fact that the Afghanistan army is shooting at U.S. soldiers. The war effort really is not being turned over to an Afghan army. The Afghan army itself has a very high desertion rate. We need a foreign policy based not on "tough guy" militarism, but on international law and respect for human rights, not on wars for oil.
Pres. OBAMA: As soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I gave my national security team three instructions:
Click for Gary Johnson on other issues. Source: 3rd-party response to Second Obama-Romney 2012 debate
RYAN: Oh, gosh, yes. What we should not be apologizing for are standing up for our values. What we should not be doing is saying to the Egyptian people, while Mubarak is cracking down on them, that he's a good guy and then the next week say he ought to go.
BIDEN: It's a different country. It's a different country. It is five times as large geographically. It has 1/5 the population that is Libya. It's in a part of the world where you're not going to see whatever would come from that war. If it blows up and the wrong people gain control, it's going to have impact on the entire region, causing potentially regional wars. And all this loose talk of [Ryan and] Romney, about how we could do so much more there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground? The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East.
RYAN: Nobody is proposing to send American troops to Syria. But we would not be going through the UN.
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East--that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability--and the regional instability that comes with it--is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
All these issues are ones that the region is going to wrestle with. The one thing we can't do is withdraw from the region, because the US continues to be the one indispensable nation. And even countries where the US is criticized, they still want our leadership. And so we're going to continue to work in these regions.
A: Well, we're still doing an investigation. The natural protests that arose were used as an excuse by extremists to harm US interests. We have to remain vigilant. Look, when I came into office I said I would end the war in Iraq--and I did. I said that we would begin transitioning in Afghanistan. But what I also said was we're going to have to focus narrowly and forcefully on groups like al Qaeda. Those forces have not gone away. We've decimated al Qaeda's top leadership in the border regions around Pakistan, but in Yemen, in Libya--increasingly in places like Syria-- what you see is these elements that don't have the same capacity that a bin Laden or core al Qaeda had, but can still cause a lot of damage, and we've got to make sure that we remain vigilant and are focused on preventing them from doing us any harm.
A: We mourn the loss of the Americans who were killed in Benghazi. But that's not representative of the attitudes of the Libyan people towards America, because they understand because of the incredible work that our diplomats did as well as our men and women in uniform, we liberated that country from a dictator who had terrorized them for 40 years. We've seen this in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is used as an excuse to carry out inexcusable violent acts. We told the [Libyan & other] leaders, that although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, but we will not tolerate violence, and we will bring those who carried out these events to justice.
Due to a near criminal degree of corruption, abuse, and waste on the part of many recipients--not to mention the fact that we can't afford it--I had long been in favor of eliminating foreign aid altogether. But since the aid existed, I thought it gave Congress the perfect tool to help the detained Americans.
I attempted to freeze aid to Egypt. We had sent Mubarak's regime over $60 billion and now a member of that same regime was responsible for arresting and holding American citizens against their will--19 US nationals. I proposed an amendment to end ALL foreign aid to Egypt--economic aid, military aid, all aid--in 30 days unless the American citizens were released. We give over $1.5 billion to Egypt annually.
Indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see when the friends or foes alike don't know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place. Since world war II, the US has had an answer to that question. We stand for free peoples and free markets. We will defend and support them.
She singled out Tunisia and Egypt, but the country to which Clinton devoted the most attention in her speech was China. Later, Google publicly threatened to pull out of China because of cyberattacks on its email system and the targeting of Chinese dissidents and human rights activists. Clinton's response was swift and pointed: She called on the Chinese government to investigate the attacks on Google. Countries that engage in such attacks "should face consequences and international condemnation," she said.
One certainly sees this pattern being repeated in American society today, and if we continue to follow the course of other pinnacle nations prior to us in history, we will suffer the same fate. The question is, "Can we learn from the experience of those nations that preceded us and take corrective action, or must we inexorably follow the same self-destructive course?"
Growing up, I heard many complaints from those around me about poverty, but visiting such places as India, Egypt, and Africa has provided me with perspective on what poverty really is. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in the world live on less than $2 a day. Many of those living in poverty in this country, in fact, would be considered quite wealthy by poor people in other countries. Also, here in the US, there is no caste system to determine one's social status, so there are many opportunities for people to escape poverty without resorting to a life of crime. You are much more likely to be judged in this nation by your knowledge and the way you express yourself than you are by your pedigree. I'm not sure we realize how good we have it on this point.
SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't right now, but we need someone who has a strong vision for the region and we have not had that with this president. He has been making mistakes at every turn in Iran, in Egypt, I would argue, Libya, Syria, Israel. All of these places, he has made mistakes on the ground that have shown the people in that region that we are the weak horse. That is something that cannot happen because it will cause events like you're seeing in the Straits of Hormuz. There will be push. America is soft and so they can be pushed around. That's what this administration has done. They did it by withdrawing from Iraq, and [the same] if we get out of Afghanistan. Let's just wait and see how things turn out when the United States isn't there and see how consequential our efforts were for the stability of that region.
HUNTSMAN: So how long do you want to wait?
SANTORUM: Until the security of our country is ensured.
A: We're going to see it's not over in Libya . You don't solve problems, you don't promote international stability and democracy by bringing in the army and the bombs. That does not create national stability. The humanitarian concerns were legitimate but those humanitarian aims were really cast aside very early. After NATO entered the fray it quickly morphed from protecting civilians to regime change. There was no legitimate international justification for that.
I would give Libya as an example. It was clear that Moammar Gadhafi was really not a good guy at all. But what did the president do? We spent several billion dollars, but we didn`t lose one American life. We didn`t put one boot on the ground. And we had a shared responsibility with the rest of the world, including Arab nations as well as NATO to deal with that issue.
And now, there`s a shared responsibility to the world to help them establish a democracy. That`s very different than going it alone. I hope we`ve learned the lesson that, unless our immediate vital national interest is at stake, going it alone should be the last option.
Imagine the amount of oil we could have secured for America. Our policy should be: no oil, no military support.
Rubio has not been shy in pushing for that sort of muscular foreign policy approach. He has been an outspoken voice for intervention in Libya, and aggressively questioned what he called the Obama administration's "troubling" response to the rising violence within the country. "Is the message that we're sending that when future conflicts arise, the United States' actions are difficult to predict? There may be none? That, basically, the way to repress and bring down resistance like this is to be brutal? What are we going to do if there's a bloodbath after this?" Rubio asked, his voice rising.
In other places, our friends--particularly the monarchs of the region--still have a chance to reform now before it's too late. The United States can coax these monarchies to adopt constitutions and reforms that give greater voice to their people. The changes will strengthen moderate voices across the region. And to our enemies, the Syrian and Iranian regimes, we should say, "Your time has come. Whatever follows you is unlikely to be worse, for your people and for the world, than who you have been."
BACHMANN: I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. There was no American vital interest in Libya. We didn't know who the rebel forces were in Libya.
SANTORUM: I'm hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view. Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We could have been a force for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the UN told him to. This is a very important issue for our party. Are we going to stand in the Reagan tradition, or are we going to go the isolationist view that some in this party are advocating?
A: I do. In all three cases, I don't see a military threat. I initially thought the intervention in Afghanistan was warranted--we were attacked and we attacked back--but we've wiped out Al Qaeda and here we are; we're still there.
Q: Isn't there evidence that we merely drove Al Qaeda from Afghanistan into Pakistan?
A: Let me suggest this is a good example of a "gotcha" question. Two weeks earlier, I said we should go in covertly, use Egyptian and other allies not use American forces.
Q: But Mr. Speaker, you said these two things.
A: That's right. I said [the first] after the president announced gloriously that Gadhafi has to go. And I said if the president is seriou about Gadhafi going, this is what we should do. The [second] came after the same president said, well, I really meant maybe we should have a humanitarian intervention. I was commenting about a president who changes his opinion every other day.
Santorum: We need to focus our military on OUR national security not UN or humanitarian efforts, the first being to defend our borders.
Bachmann: No. There is no vital US interest in Libya. Worse, we might be aiding terrorist groups by supporting the Libyan opposition.
Santorum: I would not go anywhere unless our national security was at stake. It seems clear that was not the case.
Cain: I've said many times before that US intervention in Libya is inappropriate and wrong. The US does not belong in this war.
Gingrich: Not with conventional forces.
Cain: Pres. Obama did not make it clear what our mission was in Libya, what the American interests were or what victory looks like. We cannot risk our treasury or national treasures (brave men & women in uniform) without knowing those answers.
Johnson: Absolutely not.
McCotter: The Administration shouldn't have commenced its ill-defined Libya mission; however once committed, we can't abruptly withdraw & further harm our diminishing credibility in the world. Now, in solely a support role to prevent further involvement--no US boots on ground.
Johnson: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya--Get out now!
A: I went on record immediately saying, "Let's not do this." There was no congressional authorization, no military threat. Where in the constitution does it say that because we don't like a foreign country's leader we should go in and topple the dictator?
GINGRICH: Sure. The price tag is always a factor, because that's part of the decision. But ten years after 9/11, our intelligence is so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are, in fact, al Qaeda. Libya was the second largest producer of people who wanted to kill Americans in Iraq. I think that we need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region. I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved. And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat. We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don't today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we're doing.
Michele Bachmann's position on Libya distinctly contrasts with Obama's position. Bachmann is against American involvement in the civil war in Libya. Her view is that no one really knows who the rebels in Libya are, nor how they intend to change Libya. She further explains that there are terrorist groups assisting the rebels. Obama's position is that the US must be involved in Libya for "humanitarian" reasons. As the Libya situation drags on, people will realize that if NATO and the U.S. had never intervened in Libya, the civil war would have been over in a few weeks. The rebels would have been driven out long ago, and thousands of deaths would have been prevented. Americans will demand that Obama answer "Why Libya?" just like they demanded that Bush answer "Why Iraq?"
What followed was equally disturbing after he was captured. He was questioned for only 50 minutes. We have a choice in how to do this. The choice was only question him for 50 minutes and then read his Miranda rights. The administration says then there are no downsides or upsides to treating terrorists like civilian criminal defendants. But a lot of us would beg to differ. For example, there are questions we would have liked this foreign terrorist to answer before he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent.
A: If we are doing this right, if we have a phased redeployment where we’re as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, then there’ not reason why we shouldn’t be able to prevent the wholesale slaughter some people have suggested might occur. And part of that means we are engaging in the diplomatic efforts that are required within Iraq, among friends, like Egypt, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but also enemies like Iran and Syria. They have to have buy-in into that process. We have to have humanitarian aid now. We also have two-and-a-half million displaced people inside of Iraq and several million more outside of Iraq. We should be ramping up assistance to them right now. But I always reserve the right, in conjunction with a broader international effort, to prevent genocide or any wholesale slaughter than might happen inside of Iraq or anyplace else.
Although we cannot export democracy as if it were Coca-Cola or KFC, we can nurture moderate forces in places where al Qaeda is seeking to replace modern evil with medieval evil. Such moderation may not look or function like our system--it may be a benevolent oligarchy or more tribal than individualistic--but both for us and for the peoples of those countries, it will be better than the dictatorships they have now or the theocracy they would have under radical Islamists.
I despise terrorism and the nihilism it represents, and I was incredulous when the NY Republican Party and Lazio campaign insinuated that I was somehow involved with the terrorists who blew up the Cole. They made this charge in a TV ad and an automatic telephone message directed to NY voters 12 days before the election. The story they concocted was that I had received a donation from somebody who belonged to a group that they said supported terrorists--“the same kind of terrorism that killed our sailors on the USS Cole.” The phone script told people to call me and tell me to “stop supporting terrorism.” This last-minute desperation tactic blew up, however, thanks to a vigorous response by my campaign and with help from former NYC mayor Ed Koch, who cut a TV commercial scolding Lazio.