9 Craziest Foreign Policy Statements from Saturday's Republican Debate

By Max Fisher

It's not hard to see why the first GOP debate on foreign policy was held on a Saturday night and only partially broadcast nationwide

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Reuters

Whatever you think of the Republican presidential candidates on domestic issues -- which are, so far, at the heart of the 2012 race -- their collective performance on foreign policy has been a bit softer. The candidates tend to agree more than they disagree, prefer the general (Israel good, Iran bad) to the specific (don't ask about Pakistani nukes), and can occasionally make some real blunders when discussing America's role in the world. The scheduling of the first foreign policy debate of the race says it all: Saturday night at 8pm, with only an hour broadcast nationally; many viewers had to watch the last 30 minutes online.

Maybe because the attention was so low relative to other debates, maybe because the candidates are focusing so much of their energy on domestic issues, or maybe for some other reason, the GOP presidential candidates were once again gaffe machines on foreign policy. To be fair, they also made a number of reasonable and even insightful comments: Mitt Romney suggested working through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to pressure Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (which sounds an awful lot like "leading from behind"), Newt Gingrich warned about our intelligence agencies becoming overly reliant on quasi-allies such as Pakistan for information, and Jon Huntsman warned about U.S. exports dropping if the eurozone crisis worsens, for examples.

Still, the breadth and depth of the bloopers in this debate are telling: foreign policy does not appear to be an area where the GOP candidates are expending a lot of energy. Maybe that's smart politics, but it can be a bit scary for observers -- in the U.S. and around the world -- wondering how the next leader of the world's most powerful nation might steer America's place in the world. Here are some of the biggest goofs from Saturday.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/11/9-craziest-foreign-policy-statements-from-saturdays-republican-debate/248448/