The GOP Debate: What Candidates Showed The Most Wisdom On World Affairs?

Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 7/8/2015 en:

It’s true that the economy of the United States—which represents between 16 and 17 percent of the global economy—is of tremendous importance for the rest of the world. But with 80 percent of the world’s production being created beyond our borders, those aspiring to lead the country can’t neglect the foreign scene. Most candidates answered questions about the three difficult “I” topics: immigration, ISIS, and Iran. China and Russia also appeared in the discussions. Mexico was mentioned mostly on the immigration front and, briefly by Donald Trump, as a competitor—but not as the important trade partner that it is. What was not discussed is also relevant to understanding how key players in the United States see the world scene. The debate did not include discussions on trade and monetary issues. The trade pacts with Europe and the countries in the Pacific are not moving forward due to distrust more than to anti-trade feelings. Trade, even if the administration can’t move forward, is not moving backwards. In the monetary arena, the U.S. dollar has strengthened considerably against the Euro, gold, and many commodities, especially oil. Today the U.S. dollar is 20 percent stronger against the Euro and gold than one year ago, and buys twice as much oil than a year ago. The only purely economic topic addressed—with implications for the world economy—is the 18 trillion dollar debt. Much of that money is owed to foreigners and foreign governments. While Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson focused on the destructive potential of this debt and cited it as an example of the betrayal of voters’ trust, Sen. Rand Paul connected the debt to one of his foreign policy stances: “Do you borrow money from China to send it to anyone? Out of your surplus, you can help your allies, and Israel is a great ally. And this is no particular animus of Israel, but what I will say, and I will say over and over again: we cannot give away money we don’t have. We do not project power from bankruptcy court. We’re borrowing a million dollars a minute.” Looking beyond economics, the absence of questions on Cuba is also telling. In my view, there are three main reasons that Cuba was not addressed: 1) location: if this debate had been held in Florida, rather than Cleveland, the recent policy change towards Cuba’s tyrannical regime would not (could not) have been neglected; 2) economic relevance: given the small size of the Cuban economy, this recent policy change cannot compare to the tremendous impact of Immigration, ISIS, and Iran; 3) with the exception of Venezuela, Latin American countries with large economies might flirt with Cuba, but will not be overrun by it. Immigration was covered by all the candidates. Except for Trump, who repeated his conspiratorial theories that Mexico authorities plan to send the worst of the country’s inhabitants north, the candidates sounded very similar: legal Immigration yes, illegal no! Sen. Marco Rubio correctly pointed out that today, “the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico. They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, [and] Honduras.” Yet the overwhelming majority of extra-legal immigrants today are from Mexico. Requiring them to leave, a take most candidates seem to support, only seems realistic if there is a fast way to invite those who can find a job to return legally—much like the Krieble Foundation’s Red Card proposal holds. This would require bringing the capabilities and strength of the private sector as a powerful collaborator in this essential but thorny issue. Gov. Scott Walker had a chance to speak about foreign policy, which was very important for a candidate from a state which is seldom mentioned in the international scene. He focused on the importance of having allies “not just in Israel, but throughout the Persian Gulf” mentioning Egypt, the Saudi leaders, and the United Arab Emirates. When he asked them, “What’s the greatest challenge in the world today? Set aside the Iran deal,” they answered “it’s the disengagement of America.” All of the candidates disparaged U.S. foreign policy and the Iran deal. Donald Trump did not hold back, declaring brashly, “what’s happening in Iran, is a disgrace, and it’s going to lead to destruction in large portions of the world.” Sen. Ted Cruz was not so different: “We have abandoned and alienated our friends and allies, and our enemies are stronger. Radical Islam is on the rise, Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon, China is waging cyber warfare against America.” Cruz stood by his criticism of General Dempsey, who argued that ISIS could be defeated by jobs and ideology alone. Jeb Bush piled in and criticized Barack Obama for abandoning Iraq: “He left, and when he left, Al Qaida was done for. ISIS was created because of the void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of Indiana. To honor the people who died, we need to—we need to—stop the—Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their hands, and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.” Dr. Carson shared similar concerns: “Our friend can’t trust us anymore. You know, Ukraine was a nuclear-armed state. They gave away their nuclear arms with the understanding that we would protect them. We won’t even give them offensive weapons.” Gov. Walker endorsed arming Ukraine and went one step further: “I would work with NATO to put forces on the eastern border of Poland and the Baltic nations, and I would reinstate, put in place back the missile defense system we had in Poland and the Czech Republic.” The feisty exchange between Gov. Christie and Sen. Paul on how to conduct proper surveillance of potential terrorists was one of the highlights of the debate—yet their focus is more on internal freedom and security than world affairs. In his closing statement, Donald Trump, leader in the polls, focused on other countries but spoke about the U.S. the way someone who is trying to become the coach of a team speaks about his team and its competitors, “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade. We can’t beat Mexico, at the border or in trade. We can’t do anything right. Our military has to be strengthened.” The first debate is over, voters will continue to watch—and so will the world.   Alejandro A. Chafuén es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), es miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Fue profesor de ESEADE.

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