Election 2012: GOP Foreign Policy Debate

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

This phrase played over and over in my mind as I watched Saturday’s Republican Presidential debate. Dubbed “the Commander in Chief debate” by its hosts, CBS and the National Journal, the 90-minute back and forth provided the first deep examination into the candidates’ views on national security and foreign policy.

It was scary.

Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich want to bring back torture. Rick Perry wants to eliminate foreign assistance. Michelle Bachmann believes the ACLU is running the CIA. Most frightening of all Mitt Romney and nearly everyone else on stage appears ready to go to war with Iran.

It was left to Ron Paul to sum up what we were all hearing: this sounds an awful lot like the run up to the war in Iraq.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It was startling to listen to the GOP hopefuls each try to outdo one another on who would bomb Iran quicker. The lessons of Iraq were nowhere to be found. There was no discussion of the unintended consequences of war, no consideration of alternatives to military action, no concern over what happens after regime change. It was as if the Iraq War had never happened.

In fact, perhaps the most striking thing about Saturday’s debate was how little the Iraq War was mentioned. Many of us have spent the past 9 years fighting against George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to wage this unnecessary and costly war. The mistakes of Iraq will be taught for decades, yet here were the Republican candidates ignoring all of those lessons, once again beating the drums of war, only this time for Iran.

A day after Veterans Day, there was scant mention of the over 4,400 Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, save for Michelle Bachmann’s strange belief that their loss should be compounded by staying in Iraq longer. In the midst of a national debate over how to pay down our debt, there was no discussion of the trillions put on the nation’s credit card to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while America continues to spend nearly $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, only Jon Huntsman argued that money could be better spent rebuilding our own nation and economy.

Over the next few months, the 8 candidates who want to be our next Commander in Chief will have several more opportunities to lay out their vision of American foreign policy. Americans overwhelmingly support the decision to finally end the Iraq war, want our troops home from Afghanistan too and certainly do not want to start a new war with Iran. Only time will tell if the Republican Presidential hopefuls listen to these voters or if they continue to ignore the tragic lessons of our recent history.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.