Daniel Larison has his questions, all, as he admits, vanishingly unlikely to be asked. And, if they were asked, I think he knows what answers he would get: Venezuela is a rogue state and an enemy of America; you can never trust the Iranians; Iran is to blame for the war in Yemen; war crimes are extremely serious but the worst crimes are committed by the Iranians; and Britain is too loyal a friend to America to elect an America-hater like Corbyn.
Here’s my pointless foreign-policy five:
1. There have been reports of late that intelligence analysts believe their pessimistic assessments of the fight against the Islamic State are being distorted before being presented to the President and cabinet officials so as to make it look like the President’s policies are working better than they actually are. Similar allegations were made during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and during the Vietnam War before that. How will you, as President, assure yourself that you are getting accurate and not rosy-scenario assessments from those responsible for executing your policies? And how will the uncertainty that you are, in fact, getting good information affect your decision making process when it comes to war and peace?
2. You have said that, when America fights, we should fight to win, and not engage in open-ended nation-building exercises. [I’m sure they’ve all said something like this.] You’ve also criticized this administration for squandering hard-won victories (in Iraq, in Libya) by leaving rather than remaining engaged on the ground to secure the peace. [Most of them have said something of that sort as well.] How do you reconcile that apparent contradiction? If you were President, and faced with a war that was not going well, are there any circumstances where you would say that it was worth redefining our objectives so as to be able to end the conflict? If not, what would you do?
3. Is it possible for other countries to have legitimate interests that do not align with America’s own interests? If so, can you give some examples, involving both of allied and adversarial countries, that have such divergent interests, and discuss how you would manage those divergences as President? If not, could you elaborate on why such divergence is impossible, and whether you think other countries have a similar view of the question?
4. In meetings with your national security team, what percentage of time on average do you anticipate spending on security issues and other foreign policy questions involving each of the following regions: the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, East Asia, Russia and the former Soviet bloc, Western Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America? Be mindful that your numbers must total no more than 100% (and may total less than 100% if you anticipate ever talking about Australia or Canada).
5. The United States has long refused to adopt a no-first use policy towards nuclear weapons. This policy originated in a period when America faced an opponent in Europe (the Soviet Union) with substantial conventional superiority. Today, the United States enjoys overwhelming conventional superiority against any plausible opponent that might attack us, but has not changed this policy. Under what circumstances, if any, would you, as President, use nuclear weapons first in a conventional conflict?
I threw in that last one because it’s a personal bugaboo. But I do think it’s one of those policies that most Americans are unaware of.