By Karl Gotthardt
CNN hosted the GOP Presidential debate, last night, from Constitution Hall in the nation’s capital. The moderator was CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. While the debate covered a myriad of subjects and issues, overall the two hour debate was shallow and lacked in depth. While Europe is dealing with the biggest financial crisis in our time, the subject was never addressed. There were discussions on Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, but nothing jumped out as a game changer.
Energy independence should have been on the radar. The United States continues to consume approximately 21 million barrels of oil each day, yet the subject was almost brushed over. With the powder keg in the Middle East, especially Iran’s obsession to get nuclear weapons, one only has to take a look at a map to see how the supply of oil could be curtailed in the event of a conflict.
The XL Keystone Pipeline has been in the news recently, with protests in the nations capital for months. The pipeline would deliver oil from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, Texas and provide a reliable source of oil to the United States from a friendly country. A report just released by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB), estimates that the production of the Oil Sands would triple by 2035.
The NEB says the massive growth in oilsands development, coupled with a moderate increase in Canadian energy demand, means the amount of net crude oil available for export will more than triple over the next 25 years – good news for a federal government eyeing new energy export markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
Indeed, unconventional energy production – including development of the Alberta oilsands and shale gas – will emerge as the “dominant source of supply growth” over the next quarter-century, according to the NEB, Canada’s energy regulator.
But the growth in oilsands production is sure to spark additional criticism about developing the so-called “dirty oil” and its impacts on land, air and water.
Although the XL Keystone Pipeline has been studied by the State Department for almost two years, with environmental impact statements stating that the impact is minimal, the Administration has decided to delay the decision, for yet another study, until after the 2012 election.
The point is that Canada should have been a part of the discussion, especially when it comes to the national security aspect and oil supply. No matter how environmentalists want this project to go away, people continue to drive cars, use plastic products and alternate affordable energy sources are still decades from replacing oil as a cheap fuel for the economy.
The debate, once again, spend a fair bit of time on the Southern border. Although all the candidates seem to realize that there is a problem, no one had a clear path on how to get there and what to do with the 11 million plus illegal aliens. Rick Perry made a commitment that he would close the border within 12 months of inauguration. Good luck. While most candidates are against any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry struck a more compassionate approach. Both would look for a way to make illegals legal, without rewarding them with a path to citizenship. For both candidates amnesty is out of the question.
To say the least, illegal immigration is a major problem. States, in most cases, are stuck with the funding of health care costs and education for illegals. The Obama Administration has been loathe to do much about it and is fighting States that are trying to enforce the law. If and when the Mexican border is shut down, the problem of 11 million illegals will be around the next day. What is clear, is that 11 million illegals cannot just be put on buses and returned to Mexico. No one seems to know the solution, nor do any of the candidates appear to want to address it.
The candidates seemed on the same page overall when it came to dealing with Iran. All of them would leave all options on the table, including military force. Ron Paul was the exception. He wants the US to get out of all wars and mind its own business. Most would look at a mixture of intelligence, covert operations, including crippling sanctions and support Israel, if it decided to strike nuclear facilities in Iran. Again, an attack by Israel could endanger oil supplies exported from the region. One of the solutions that stood out, in my opinion, was Herman Cain’s. He seemed to worry about the mountainous terrain in Iran and would only sanction an attack on nuclear production facilities if success was guaranteed. A recommendation for an attack would never be made without the accompanying intelligence and supposedly the target would be well defined, regardless of mountainous terrain. The only question would be what to engage the target with.
There was a lot of humming and hawing when it came to Pakistan. Perry advocated not sending a single penny to Pakistan until they fall in line, while Michelle Bachmann said that funding is needed because of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. She said that the US gets a bang for the buck in intelligence information provided by Pakistan. The discussion of this subject again lacked depth and there were really only peripheral discussions on sound bytes that most of us can get in the news. Pakistan is a complicated country, which still fears a conflict with India. There really needed to be a more in depth discussion on how to handle this difficult problem. Pakistan is the key to success in Afghanistan. This requires close collaboration with both Pakistan’s government and military. There are no simple solutions.
There were split views on Afghanistan. Mitt Romney disagrees with the timetable of the Obama Administration and advocates maintaining strength in Afghanistan until the Afghan Security Forces can take over. This appears to be in line with the military assessment. Jon Huntsman, who has lived outside the country four times, and has been an Ambassador to China, sees it a little different. He strongly disagreed with Romney and said that the US could do with far fewer troops and the money spent could be used to rebuild the U.S. economy.
Special Operations and air support may very well be all that is needed in support of Afghanistan. This again is a delicate issue that has to be coordinated with NATO partners. It is also imperative that the gains made against the Taliban are not wiped out within months of NATO’s departure.
While a national security debate is useful, it deserves a lot more time for questions and answers. One on one debates between candidates would also be useful to determine the depth of their knowledge. It is easy to get the impression that candidates read fact sheets and seldom get beyond the obvious surface of an issue.
Romney and Gingrich held their own, Perry had no senior moments and Cain, although not convincing on national security, had no major GAFs. Expect more attacks on Romney and Gingrich by the main stream media and the Obama campaign machine.
Debate Transcript Part 1
Debate Transcript Part 2
Debate Transcript Part 3
Debate Transcript Part 4