Special Report

Newt Gingrich's Foreign Policy

Former speaker of the House

Foreign-policy credentials: As House speaker, Gingrich weighed in on the U.S. interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti and was a key supporter of North American Free Trade Agreement and other major Clinton-era trade deals. Since leaving politics, he has researched, as an independent scholar, the roles of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in the closing days of the Cold War. He holds a Ph.D. in modern European history.  

Overview: Gingrich is often referred to in the media as the intellectual of the GOP field, owing to his post-speakership years as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and his numerous works of historical fiction. Gingrich is probably somewhat closer to the neoconservative, "national greatness conservative" end of the spectrum than the more isolationist strain favored by some members of the Tea Party. Gingrich takes his foreign-policy cues from the 1980s, particularly the "Reagan-John Paul II-Thatcher strategy" of aggressive, rhetorical democracy promotion.

Gingrich consistently uses Cold War rhetoric to describe current threats, for instance, comparing the influence of radical Islam within the United States to the domestic threat once posed by communism.

Advisors: Gingrich's foreign-policy team is led by Herman Pirchner, the American Foreign Policy Council, a Washington D.C. think tank. Other advisors include AFPC Vice President Ilan Berman and AFPC Senior Fellow for Asian Studies Stephen Yates, a former staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace and former Central Command head Gen. John Abizaid are also reportedly advising the campaign.

On the issues:

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Gingrich has been downbeat on the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, predicting that it "is not going to end well." He believes that "we consistently underestimate how hard" it is to deal with an "Afghan culture that is fundamentally different" than America's and that counterinsurgency doctrine is ill-suited to a situation as complex as Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he opposes the withdrawal timetable proposed by Barack Obama's administration because it's "signaling to the world we are getting out."

Gingrich favors cutting aid to Pakistan and accuses the country's government of having "hid [Osama] bin Laden for at least six years in a military city within a mile of their national defense university."

Military spending: Gingrich characterizes the current budget debate as "historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget." He has also, somewhat inaccurately, described current military spending as being at historically low levels. Nonetheless, Gingrich is open to cuts if waste and unnecessary spending can be found. "I'm a hawk, but I'm a cheap hawk," he said at the Oct. 18 debate in Las Vegas.

Immigration/borders: Unlike many of his opponents, Gingrich has suggested that some illegal immigrants "may have earned the right to become legal" and has suggested a modified draft system as a process of granting citizenship. He has also proposed relocating "one-half of the 23,000 Washington-area Department of Homeland Security bureaucrats to the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona borders" in order to secure the U.S. southern border and supports a law mandating English as the national language.

Israel/Palestine: Gingrich supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He has described Obama's suggestion that a peace process should begin with Israel's moving back to the 1967 borders as "suicidal" and believes that negotiating a peace deal with Hamas would be impossible.  

China: As speaker of the House, Gingrich was strongly supportive of measures to promote increased trade with China, but critical of its human rights record. Although Gingrich has been less vocal on China's economic policies than other candidates have, he has warned that if Beijing owns "trillions of dollars of our debt and they have a superior manufacturing system and a superior military, then our range of independence will be within the framework the Chinese tolerate."

Foreign aid: At the Nov. 12 candidates' debate, Gingrich agreed with Rick Perry that the default position on foreign aid should be giving countries nothing. "You ought to start off with zero and say, 'Explain to me why I should give you a penny,'" he said, though he somewhat overestimated the amount of aid received by Egypt. According to President Bill Clinton's memoir, Gingrich, as speaker, was "passionately in favor of helping Russia, saying it was a 'great defining moment' for America and we had to do the right thing."

Iran/nukes: Gingrich favors "maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian [nuclear] program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems." He has compared the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to the Soviet threat during the Cold War, writing, "It's worth pondering how the history books will treat Obama's handling of a similarly apocalyptic Iranian nuclear threat."

Trade: Gingrich is a staunch free-trader since his time in Congress and is on the record supporting the recent U.S. trade deals with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama. He is sharply critical of EU trade policies, noting that the European Union has "layers of bureaucracy that scheme every morning for ways to rig the game against the United States." He has vowed to appoint an aggressive trade representative who would "kick in doors for the United States every day."

War on terror/detainees: Gingrich supports the extrajudicial assassination of terrorist suspects, including U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki, arguing that "the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you." Gingrich also supports the continued use of the Guantánamo prison facility for terrorism suspects. Gingrich has stated his concern that the United States is on the road to becoming "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists."

Environment: Gingrich has disavowed the commercial he once co-starred in with Nancy Pelosi, then the Democratic House speaker, calling for urgent action to address climate change, describing it as the "single dumbest thing I've done in recent years." He opposes cap-and-trade laws, supports increased nuclear power, and wants increased domestic drilling. In 2007, Gingrich co-wrote a book proposing market-based solutions for environmental problems.

Russia/reset: Strongly supportive of aid to Russian democracy programs in the early days of the post-Soviet era, Gingrich is harshly critical of Vladimir Putin, saying he represents a "dictatorial approach that's very violent."

Arab Spring: Gingrich has said, "The degree to which the Arab Spring may become an anti-Christian spring is something which bothers me a great deal," referring to the attacks on Coptic Christians since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. He also worries that a new Egypt could "go the way of Iran," falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists thanks to the Obama administration's "amateurish" handling of the situation.

Other issues: Gingrich has repeatedly warned of the danger of the imposition of sharia law in the United States and said that radical Islamists are waging "a cultural, political, and legal jihad that seeks the same totalitarian goal even while claiming to repudiate violence." This stance became particularly evident during the debate over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, the backers of which he compared to Nazis.

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Special Report

Jon Huntsman's Foreign Policy

Former governor of Utah and Obama's previous ambassador to China

Foreign-policy credentials: The two-term Utah governor embarked on a two-year Mormon mission to Taiwan at age 19 and has since served as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush, deputy U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, and U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.

Overview: Huntsman is a moderate realist on international affairs and arguably has the most foreign-policy experience of any Republican candidate. "You're not going to find any other candidate who has spent any time overseas -- maybe, you know, a trip here or there -- who has been a practitioner of foreign policy," Huntsman told students at George Washington University in October.

Advisors: Randy Schriver, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, is serving as Huntsman's foreign-policy director. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union C. Boyden Gray are also advising Huntsman on foreign policy.

On the Issues:

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Huntsman advocates speedily withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan while leaving behind some special operations forces and military trainers. "This nation has achieved its key objectives in Afghanistan," he says. "We've had free elections in 2004. We've uprooted the Taliban. We've dismantled al Qaeda. We have killed Osama bin Laden." This century's challenges, he says, involve competing on economics and education with the Asia-Pacific region. "I don't want to be nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built," he declares. Huntsman wants to condition further aid to Pakistan on how much the country has helped the United States with counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and the war in Afghanistan. He has described the U.S.-Pakistani partnership as a "merely transactional relationship."

Military spending: In a break with many of his fellow Republican candidates, Huntsman recommends cutting defense spending by eliminating waste. "We still have remnants of a top-heavy, post-Cold War infrastructure," Huntsman said in a speech at Southern New Hampshire University. "It needs to be transformed to reflect the 21st-century world and the growing asymmetric threats we face."

Immigration/borders: Huntsman suggests the United States first secure its borders and then offer illegal immigrants already in the country -- who he thinks can't realistically be deported -- a pathway that "brings them into some safer status" if they pay fines and learn English. Although he recommends erecting a fence, he's not thrilled about it. "For me, as an American, the thought of a fence to some extent repulses me because it is not consistent with … the image that we projected from the very beginning to the rest of the world," he notes.

Israel/Palestine: The U.S.-Israel relationship, according to Huntsman, has "suffered under mismanagement by President Obama." He thinks the United States should redouble its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that is consistent with Israel's security interests, and he criticizes Obama's proposal for an agreement based on 1967 borders with land swaps. Those types of decisions are "best left up to both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government," he says. "When we start defining … pre-'67 war borders, we're probably pre-empting discussions that may get them there eventually."

China: Huntsman opposes waging a trade war with the Chinese, which he says will hurt America's small businesses, exporters, and agricultural producers. He has been critical of human rights abuses in China and predicts that China's Internet generation will soon be "bringing about change, the likes of which is gonna take China down." Like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huntsman argues that America is entering a "Pacific Century" in which the "center of gravity of global human activity" shifts to the Asia-Pacific region. He doesn't think "any single nation will supplant the United States as the premier power in the world," but he does think Washington should apply a mix of "engagement and hedging" to its escalating competition with Beijing. Oh, and Huntsman speaks fluent (or is it conversational?) Mandarin.

Foreign aid: Huntsman contends that foreign aid must be allotted based on "what kind of return we get on our national interests. So when you've got aid money that goes to Israel that's balanced to somewhat with the Palestinian Authority, that's important for the ongoing peace process." He adds that though "it's fair enough to say we have got to start with a zero-based budget approach," as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich advocated in Nov. 12's debate, "let's also be smart enough to say that we do as people get a certain return through foreign aid."

Iran/nukes: "I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran," Huntsman says. "If you want an example of when I would consider the use of American force, it would be that." He favors sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and military deterrence to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. He has said little, however, about what would trigger him to use force instead of those tactics and whether he would support a pre-emptive Israeli strike.

Trade: Huntsman argues that free trade deals can foster tremendous "economic and political goodwill" between the United States and partnering countries. The United States, he says, needs to "pursue free trade agreements as aggressively as China."

War on terror/detainees: Huntsman envisions a future in which counterterrorism -- in the form of special operations forces and intelligence gathering -- constitutes a larger part of U.S. foreign policy. "We must be prepared to respond to threats -- from al Qaeda and other terrorist cells -- that emanate from a much more diverse geography, including Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, and the Asia-Pacific," he explains. On waterboarding, Huntsman submits that "we diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty, democracy, human rights, and open markets, when we torture."

Environment: Huntsman implemented a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse-gas emissions as Utah governor and even appeared in a 2007 Environmental Defense Action Fund ad that encouraged Congress to do the same on a national level. But he has reversed course in the campaign, stating that "cap-and-trade ideas aren't working; it hasn't worked, and our economy's in a different place than five years ago." Instead, Huntsman wants to enhance U.S. energy security through, as his website puts it, an "all of the above" energy policy. In August, Huntsman caused a stir by tweeting that he "trust[s] scientists on global warming" and cautioning the Republican Party against becoming the "anti-science party." He has held firm to that conviction since.

Russia: Huntsman says the Obama administration's reset of U.S.-Russia relations is like a "Potemkin village in which we pretend the Kremlin is more of a partner than it is, more of a democracy than it is, more respectful of human rights than it is, and less threatening to its neighbors than it is." He wants to work with Russia on issues such as arms control, U.N. Security Council action against Iran, and the war in Afghanistan, but he argues the relationship should be viewed "with more objective eyes." He warns that Obama's plan for a missile defense system in Europe "will remain the thorn in the side of the U.S.-Russian relationship" and might give Russia a reason to suspend the New START arms-control agreement. "The U.S. must be prepared for this worst-case scenario and back our Central European partners (Romania, Poland) who continue to support U.S. missile defense policy," he adds.

Arab Spring: Huntsman criticized the military intervention in Libya as a costly endeavor that didn't serve U.S. strategic interests. But he still believes the United States "should support the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring while maintaining continued Middle East stability," though he doesn't specify what that support or stability would look like under his leadership. He warns that governments may emerge in the Middle East that "are less receptive to U.S. interests than might be hoped" and that Israel will face a "host of new challenges brought on by the Arab Spring."

Other issues: Huntsman argues that the United States should focus more on Latin America as the region becomes increasingly important for U.S. trade and national security. He would apply the model of the U.S.-backed counternarcotics campaign known as "Plan Colombia" to countries such as Mexico and Guatemala.

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