The List

Fighting Words

From Gingrichian Red-baiting to Palinian Tea-Partyism, a quick primer on the GOP's foreign-policy punch lines.


"The left's refusal to tell the truth about the Islamist threat is a natural parallel to the 70-year pattern of left-wing intellectuals refusing to tell the truth about communism and the Soviet Union. If you go back and look at all the years of disinformation, all the years of denial, that were the left's response to communism, why would you think that the next threat to Western civilization will be more accurately studied? This is why the secular-socialist system is itself such a threat."

-Address at the American Enterprise Institute, July 29, 2010

Gingrich, who officially declared his candidacy on May 11, wasn't particularly known for his foreign policy views as Speaker of the House during the 1990s -- he opposed the Clinton-era interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo -- but since Obama took office he has emerged as an outspoken critic what he sees of the "secular-socialist" administration's failure to take the threat of radical Islam seriously. In particular, Gingrich has often linked the threat of terrorism abroad to the encroachment of Sharia law in the United States. Gingrich's stance on the intervention in Libya has been inconsistent: he criticized the Obama administration for not intervening in early March and then attacked it for intervening in late March.


"Given President Obama's glaring domestic policy missteps, it is understandable that the public has largely been blinded to his foreign policy failings. In fact, these may have been even more damaging to America's future. He fought to reinstate Honduras's pro-Chávez president while stalling Colombia's favored-trade status. He castigated Israel at the United Nations but was silent about Hamas having launched 7,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip. His policy of 'engagement' with rogue nations has been met with North Korean nuclear tests, missile launches and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, while Iran has accelerated its nuclear program, funded terrorists and armed Hezbollah with long-range missiles. He acceded to Russia's No. 1 foreign policy objective, the abandonment of our Europe-based missile defense program, and obtained nothing whatsoever in return."

-Washington Post op-ed, July 6, 2010

In his 2008 run, the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy views tracked closely with those of the George W. Bush administration, frequently describing radical Islam as America's most pressing security threat. Sometimes he even seemed more Bush than Bush: during one debate, he suggested that the United States "double Guantanamo." This time around, Romney has attacked the Obama administration's foreign policy for being "unprepared and without direction," particularly evident in the decision to "[follow] the French" into Libya. In the Washington Post op-ed, he argued that the New START arms control treaty with Russia was the administration's worst foreign policy mistake.


"Please make up your mind, Mr. President. You can't vacillate when spending America's human and fiscal resources in yet another foreign country without good reason. You said that Libyan leader Gaddafi has got to go. Many of us heard that as your call to action and agreed, 'Okay, you're right. He's an evil dictator who kills his own innocent people, so enforce a no-fly zone so he can't continue an aerial slaughter.' But then you said our mission in Libya isn't to oust Gaddafi after all. (Or vice versa on the order or your statements. Between you and your advisers the public has been given so many conflicting statements on why we're intervening in Libya that I apologize if I can't keep up with the timing and rationale of your murky foreign policy positions.)"

-Facebook message, April 26, 2011

The former governor will probably never escape the infamous 2008 Katie Couric interview during which she suggested that Alaska's proximity to Russia could substitute for foreign policy experience, but there are some signs she's working to develop an independent voice on foreign policy. ("Squirmishes" notwithstanding.) Palin recently cut ties with two neoconservative foreign-policy advisors, interpreted by many as a sign that she is embracing the Tea Party's skepticism about intervention abroad. She has been an outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in Libya.    


"So when the United States of America projects its national security interests here and around the world, we need to do it with strength! We need to make sure that there is no equivocation, no uncertainty, no daylight between us and our allies around the world. The current administration doesn't seem to understand this principle. We undermine Israel, the U.K., Poland, the Czech Republic, and Colombia, among other friends. Meanwhile, we appease Iran, Russia, and adversaries in the Middle East, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. President, with bullies, might makes right. Strength -- makes them submit. Get tough on our enemies -- not on our friends. And, Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country. The bullies, terrorists and tyrants of the world have lots to apologize for. America does not."

-Speech at CPAC, Feb. 12, 2011

Pawlenty boasts that "For a governor I've got an unusual amount of foreign policy, or at least international and security, experience." This includes five trips to Iraq and three to Afghanistan to visit troops from his home state of Minnesota -- as well as trade missions to Asia and Latin America. Pawlenty has attempted to make up for his perceived lack of international chops by emphasizing foreign policy in his appearances prior to declaring that he would run on April 13. He has criticized the administration for an "incoherent" response to Libya that he says is aimed more at appealing to European allies than ensuring America's security. 


"The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur," Huntsman said. "We do so not because we oppose China but, on the contrary, because we value our relationship."

-Farewell speech in Beijing, April 6, 2011

If, as expected, the Mandarin-speaking Utah governor-turned-ambassador to Beijing enters the race, he could credibly claim to have the most foreign policy experience in the GOP field. But it remains to be seen whether his service in the Obama administration and work to promote U.S.-China ties will taint him in the eyes of Republican primary voters. Huntsman's time in China was not uncontroversial, with disputes over the Dalai Lama, Internet freedom, and arms sales to Taiwan; nonetheless, Huntsman was given a vote of confidence, as he departed, by Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping.


When asked if he is ready to debate President Obama on foreign policy: "Probably not."

-Meeting with journalists, May 3, 2011

Daniels, a darling of fiscal conservatives, is the first to admit that foreign policy is not his strong suit. The Indiana governor even seemed reluctant to issue a statement on the killing of bin Laden. He has said that "it cannot be illegitimate to ask" if the United States should scale back on its military commitments, though he didn't specify which commitments he was referring to, and has said that he defers to the president on matters pertaining to the war in Afghanistan. Daniels, who is partially of Syrian heritage, received an award this year from the Arab American Institute which praised him as "the adult in the room" for not pandering to anti-Muslim sentiment.


"As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined."

-Foreign Policy, Aug. 27, 2010

The libertarian Texas* congressman favors a noninterventionist foreign policy. He opposed the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, favors cutting the military budget, and wants to significantly cut U.S. foreign aid. Most recently, Paul pushed an amendment in the House that would have cut all foreign assistance to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Pakistan. Paul's views still don't have much support among his GOP colleagues, but with a host of new Tea Party-supported arrivals -- including his son, Rand -- favoring a less expensive, less interventionist brand of conservative foreign policy, they may become a more prominent part of the party's discourse in the future. 

*Correction, May 12, 2011: The original text misstated Ron Paul's state as Arizona.


"Iran is the trouble maker, trying to tip over apple carts all over Baghdad right now because they want America to pull out. And do you know why? It's because they've already decided that they're going to partition Iraq. And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And I'm sorry, I don't have the official name, but it's meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There's already an agreement made. They are going to get half of Iraq and that is going to be a terrorist safe haven zone where they can go ahead and bring about more terrorist attacks in the Middle East region and then to come against the United States because we are their avowed enemy."

-Interview with St. Cloud Times, 2008

Bachmann describes herself as a "student of foreign policy," though the statements of the Minnesota congresswoman and intelligence committee member can sometimes seem pretty far outside the realm of normal discourse, such as the above description of a potential "Iraq State of Islam" or her recent echoing of Muammar al-Qaddafi's talking points, when she suggested that "The only reports that we have say that there are elements of al Qaeda in North Africa and Hezbollah in the [Libyan] opposition forces." Bachmann's foreign-policy positions are often motivated by her religious beliefs: She has suggested that "as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play."


"There are vast amounts of territory that are in the hands of Muslims, in the hands of Arabs. Maybe the international community can come together and accommodate [the Palestinians]."

-Speech in Israel, Feb. 2, 2011

Several of the potential GOP candidates have made trips to the Holy Land in recent months in an effort to demonstrate their pro-Israel bona fides, but few have taken the issue quite as seriously as the former Arkansas governor. Part of the attachment for the onetime evangelical preacher is religious: He has described Israel's struggle for existence as one that "goes back to Isaac and Ishmael, and it's not going to be changed by a couple of presidents or prime ministers." But Huckabee's opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and suggestion that Arabs living in the territory should live elsewhere have been a bit more controversial.


"But now we have caused two very dangerous things on the world stage: confusion and doubt. We now have a confused foreign policy in the hottest spots in the world: especially in the Middle East. And we have allies and freedom fighters all over the world who doubt our time tested and time honored commitments to them."

-Speech at the National Press Club, April 28, 2011

Better known for his conservative views on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, the former Pennsylvania senator laid out his foreign policy positions in an April 28 speech in which he lambasted the administration for not doing enough to combat "militant socialism" (according to the AP, an earlier draft of the speech called it "godless socialism") -- referring to Hugo Chávez's growing influence in Latin America and China's "saber rattling in the South China Sea." Santorum argues that the U.S. should have intervened more forcefully in the early days of the Libyan uprising and armed the rebels. He also proposes increasing foreign aid to Africa as part of what he calls a "pro-life foreign policy".


"If there's a clear genocide somewhere, don't we really want to positively impact that kind of a situation. Isn't that what we're all about? Isn't that what we've always been about? But just this notion of nation building -- I think the current policy is making us more enemies than more friends."

-Interview with the Weekly Standard, Dec. 6, 2010

The former New Mexico governor is, after Paul, the most prominent libertarian in the race. He told the Weekly Standard in December that he was open to cutting the defense budget, favored withdrawal from Iraq and Libya, and doesn't see Iran's nuclear program as much of a threat. He breaks with Paul on his theoretical support for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide and his belief that the United States has a "vested interest in Israel."


"Politics have had too big a part to play in how we handled working in Afghanistan. General [David] Petraeus and the other generals should decide on the rules of engagement, not politicians and that has been part of the problem.... He [President Obama] is not qualified to write a military strategy. That's not leadership. Listen to the military experts. That's my approach to handling war and international conflict."

Interview with the Daily Caller, Oct. 11, 2010

The pizza magnate -- declared by many pundits as the winner of the first GOP presidential debate in South Carolina on May 5 -- may be an unconventional candidate, but his foreign policy views are traditional GOP talking points. He credits the Bush doctrine with making the Mideast revolutions possible, faults the Obama administration for being unprepared to handle them, and voices strong support for "helping Israel defend itself, whatever that takes."  He has suggested that Obama was "very weak and timid" and waited too long to commit additional troops to Afghanistan, a decision that may have prolonged bin Laden's run from justice.


"It's so easy. I drop a 25 percent tax on China. I said to somebody that it's really the messenger, the messenger is important. I could have one man say, [High-pitched voice] ‘We're going to tax you 25 percent.' And I could say another: 'Listen you motherfuckers, we're gonna tax you 25 percent.' Now, you said the same exact thing but it's a different messenger."

Speech in Las Vegas, April 29, 2011

Many of Trump's (often profanity-laced) statements on foreign policy consist of ideas that would be considered gaffes if voiced by any other candidate. Consider his views on Libya: "Either I'd go in and take the oil or I don't go in at all ... in the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation is yours." Trump's rhetoric on China has been particularly aggressive, urging Americans to stop buying "crap" produced in that country, presumably not including his own line of clothing.

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The List

Cultural Revolutionaries

Ai Weiwei isn't the only contemporary Chinese artist pushing the boundaries -- and making Beijing nervous.

On June 22, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was released on bail after nearly three months in prison. Ai was charged with tax evasion, though supporter believe his arrest was motivated by his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government.* Ai's imprisonment shocked the international art world and highlighted the increasingly repressive tactics of the Chinese state's censorship regime, which has clamped down on even the faintest hint of protests in the wake of the democratic revolutions in the Arab world. Ai's politically confrontational work is something of an outlier in China, where most high-profile artists steer clear of explicitly political material. But he's not the only one who has pushed the boundaries with his work -- and paid the price.

*This article was updated on June 22.


Art: The 57-year-old Beijing-based performance artist Cheng Li was little known internationally until March 20 when he shocked the sensibilities of Chinese authorities and earned himself a year in a labor camp with a provocative performance at Beijing's Museum of Contemporary Art. During the performance, titled Art Whore, Cheng had sex with a woman on a balcony and in a basement of the exhibition hall while patrons looked on. According to Cheng, the piece was meant to show that "the popular trend of commercializing art is nothing but a trade of sex for commercial benefits." 

Another performance artist who viewed the performance said that Cheng was "using his art to criticize the current situation in the art circle, where people seem to lose their principles. It is his way of expressing irony that art today is overcommercialized."

Consequences: Cheng was arrested on March 24 and sentenced in May to one year of "re-education through labor" for his performance. The fate of the woman, who was also arrested, isn't known. In the formal charge against Cheng, the Administrative Commission for Re-education through Labor wrote that his act had "attracted multiple people to look on and caused public [dis]order in chaos." His supporters have countered that the audience was made up of other artists and critics who were "prepared mentally for what they were going to see and were very quiet during the process."

Cheng's lawyer has filed an appeal and demanded that legal scholars "clearly define the relationship between the arts and the law." As for Cheng himself, he tells his lawyer that he is being treated well so far but is "a little bored these days." 



Art: If Mao Zedong is something of an obsession for the two Jinan-born brothers -- both in their 50s -- they certainly have their reasons. Their father, a factory worker, was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and sent to the countryside for "re-education." A short time later, the family was told he had committed suicide.

The brothers have exacted a certain level of revenge on the Chairman, depicting him in their work alternately as a kneeling penitent, with giant breasts, a detachable head, and in one of their most famous works, as a firing squad of clones about to execute Jesus Christ.  

"It's something I hope all Chinese people will one day be able to accept and understand," Gao Zhen told the New York Times in 2009. "We wanted to portray him as a human being, a regular person confessing for the wrongs he's committed."

Consequences: Not surprisingly, while the brothers have won a devoted following overseas, it's not easy for them to show their work in China. Over the years, authorities have raided their exhibitions, confiscated their work, and turned off the electricity to their studio. Until 2003, they were forbidden from leaving mainland China.

Prohibited from showing in gallery spaces and museums, the Gaos hold several "parties" every year where fans can come view their work in private homes. The locations of the exhibitions are revealed several hours beforehand and spread via word of mouth and text message.

Despite their incendiary reputation, the Gaos insist their work is more personal than political. "I don't consider myself a dissident at all," Gao Qiang told the Los Angeles Times last year. "I never even think about this question. I just use art to express what I want to express."  



Art: Guo Gai's body of work in photography, sculpture, and performance comments on what he sees as the increasing materialism and spiritual decline of Chinese culture as the country transitions from communism to an authoritarian form of capitalism. According a statement accompanying the work, the set of photographs, Chinese Jesus Triptych, is a commentary on how "faith in communism" has eroded in China thanks to the pursuit of materialism, while at the same time "Christian faith, and religious faith in general, has been developing rapidly."

A new work which will be displayed in August at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a ten-part vocal performance using only "expressive syllables and feelings outpoured in sound" to comment on 10 incidents in China in 2008, including the Beijing Olympics and the Tibet riots, during which 12 people were killed. The piece aims to "comfort the souls that suffered, and to voice complaint about the lot of ordinary people."

Consequences: Guo was arrested by Beijing police on March 24 at the Beijing Museum of Contemporary Art -- just a few days after Cheng Li's controversial performance there -- for taking photos at an exhibition that included work commenting on the crackdown on freedom of expression following the stillborn Chinese pro-democracy movement dubbed the "Jasmine Revolution." Guo was released a month later in "reasonable health" but has been legally barred from leaving China -- or Beijing -- for any reason, meaning he won't be able to attend the exhibition of his work in Minneapolis this summer. The exact reason for his detention remains unclear. 



Art: Ou's best-known works consist of photographs of himself doing push-ups naked in front of famous Chinese landmarks. "I love my country. I also love my body," blogged the artist, who has described the photos as an effort to "mark events of historical importance and to link these events, which may seem random, to make people aware, and to help them understand that critical thought about these events is very important."

Ou's work includes well-known monuments like the Forbidden City and the "Bird's Nest" stadium in Beijing, but others are a bit more politically touchy. He photographed himself in front of Tibet's Potala Palace on the anniversary of the 2008 riots and near the Wangjialing coal mine, where 38 workers were killed in a flood in 2010.

There has also been speculation that Ou's push-ups may refer to the highly publicized death of a teenager in the city of Weng'an in 2008. The police report into the case, which the authorities described as a drowning but the victim's family says was a rape and murder, included a seemingly non-sequitur reference to the victim's friend -- with her at the time, so the report claims -- doing push-ups. The phrase became a kind of codeword for Chinese Internet users to discuss the case. Despite the speculation, however, Ou has never explicitly referenced the matter in any of his public statements about this work.   

Consequences: Ou, whose work has been exhibited alongside Ai Weiwei's, has been arrested several times for public nudity and had his cameras confiscated, but has never been held for an extended period of time. It may help that he was already something of a celebrity as a television host in Guangdong before he became an artist and that he intentionally leaves the significance of his work open to interpretation, as opposed to more blatant provocations like Ai's.    

Nonetheless, Ou is aware that his art is risky in China and takes precautions, telling China Daily in 2009: "Every time I go out to shoot, my family worries about me. ... I write 'help' messages on my cell phone beforehand and inform my friends they should get ready to rescue me if I get into any trouble." 



Art: Over the last decade, Sun and Peng have emerged as enfants terribles of installation art, not just in their own country, but internationally. They first gained notoriety in 1998 for an installation called Honey in which a (real) cadaver of an old man was buried beneath a bed of ice, with the corpse of an infant lying next his exposed face. In another piece, the two gave blood transfusions to infant corpses. They've also constructed a column out of human fat and chained pit bulls to treadmills.

Their work occasionally verges on the political. Old People's Home featured realistic-looking sculptures of decrepit old men resembling world leaders puttering around the gallery in motorized wheelchairs. In a 2009 work called "Freedom," a gushing fire hose flails about in an empty room -- a piece that some critics interpreted as a reference to the Tiananmen Square crackdown, 20 years earlier.

Consequences: Despite the deliberately confrontational (and gruesome) nature of much of their work, Sun and Peng haven't yet fallen afoul of the Chinese legal system. In their late 30s, the two are seen as part of a new generation of Chinese artists who came of age after the era of rigid censorship during which figures like Ai Weiwei and the well-known contemporary artist Zhang Huan cut their teeth. Authorities have been far more willing to tolerate boundary-pushing material that would have earned a jail sentence during the 1980s, so long as the content is not explicitly political. With contemporary Chinese art exploding as one of the most profitable commodities in the international market, most artists have been willing to take the deal. 


Lead photo: MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images