Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations (where he blogs), co-author of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy" and a former director for global issues and multilateral affairs at the National Security Council.
By James M. Lindsay
Michele Bachmann made some news at Monday night’s GOP presidential debate. For those of you who are curious, here's some more information about her foreign policy views.
Bachmann is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She says that foreign affairs is “an area of fascination and study for me”:
"I think a person is well served to be perennially a student of foreign policy because we live in an interconnected world. It’s important we understand each other."
Bachmann thinks that President Obama needs to be tougher on foreign policy:
"Our Peace Prize-winning president is very busy bowing these days to kings. He is bending down to dictators, and he is brown-nosing the elites that are in Europe, and he’s babying the jihadists who are following Sharia-compliant terrorism… And he’s accomplishing something nobody thought even possible: He’s making Jimmy Carter look like a Rambo tough guy."
But Libya was not the right place to get tough in Bachmann’s view. The day before Operation Odyssey Dawn began, she said:
"There’s no question that Gadhafi is not a great guy, that the people of Libya would be better off without him. However, on that score I’m reluctant to go in, and I’ll tell you why: We don’t know who the opposition is. We have no idea, and no intelligence community will tell you that we know who the opposition is."
Earlier this month, Bachmann was one of eighty-seven Republicans who voted for the resolution that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced to require President Obama to end U.S. involvement in Libya within fifteen days. The measure failed 148-265. Bachmann also voted for the resolution that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced to ban the use of ground forces in Libya and scold President Obama for intervening without congressional approval.
Bachmann is skeptical of the value of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq:
"I’m tired of Afghanistan and Iraq, too. I think we need to get out. I think Afghanistan is — on many, many levels, it doesn’t seem we’re gaining any ground. I want to reduce U.S. exposure in Afghanistan. So, let’s get them out as quickly as we can. But at the same time, I don’t want to tell the generals when they’re going to get out. That [sic] really needs to be the experts."
So what criteria would a President Bachmann use when deciding when to intervene militarily overseas?
"My view of foreign policy is that we need to be careful and circumspect about United States intervention in any foreign nation. Number one, does that nation pose a threat to the United States? Number two, have they attacked the United States? Number three, are there vital American national interests at stake? Number four: the security of the American people."
Bachmann spent a summer working on a Kibbutz in Israel after high school. She summarized her support for Israel at last year’s AIPAC policy conference:
"I have been a long time supporter of Israel…I have a tremendous love for Israel, and great admiration for the Israeli people. I am a Christian, but I consider my heritage Jewish, because it is the foundation, the roots of my faith as a Christian."
Bachmann thought Obama’s speech last month on U.S. policy in the Middle East constituted “a shocking display of betrayal towards our ally.” She added:
"America has stood with Israel since President Harry Truman recognized Israel a mere eleven minutes after Israel became a state in 1948. But during his tenure as President of the United States, President Obama has initiated a policy which shows contempt for Israel’s concern and safety. In an era dubbed the “Arab Spring” we have seen increased volatility in the Middle East region, and President Obama has only added to the heightened hostility by calling on Israel to return to the 1967 borders. I disagree with President Obama and I stand with our friend Israel 100 percent. I am saddened and disappointed deeply by President Obama’s statement."
Bachmann has sometimes gotten her foreign policy facts mixed up. In 2007 she told a Minnesota newspaper that the United States should stay the course in Iraq because:
"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."
Bachmann later said that her comments had been “misconstrued.” Northern Iraq is dominated by Sunni Kurds, and western Iraq by Sunni Arabs. Neither group has much interest in allying with Shiite Persians.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.